The New York Times found exactly the right guy to explain Silicon Valley's bro culture
"Jerks and the startups they ruin!"
So blared the headline of a New York times op-ed this past weekend, above an essay about the problem of bro culture in the Valley.
The op-ed’s author, a veteran of startups himself, articulates the realization that Silicon Valley is having post-Uber: “ the real problem with tech bros is not just that they’re boorish jerks. It’s that they’re boorish jerks who don’t know how to run companies.”
Uh huh. So true.
Also true is the author’s assertion that "This poisonous state of affairs will get fixed only when investors start getting hurt.” In other words that bro culture will persist as long as the worst, most boorish, misogynistic dispshits continue to be handed large chunks of cash by people who don’t seem to care that they are… well… boorish, misogynist dipshits.
Here at Pando, we have covered our fair share of boorish, misogynistic dipshits. Of course we were somewhat (dramatically) ahead of the pack on Uber, but we’ve also written about Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel and Tinder’s Sean Rad and other high profile examples of bro culture.
We’ve covered some slightly lower profile bros too -- like the time Gawker decided to hire Dan “Fake Steve Jobs” Lyons to edit its struggling Valleywag tech vertical.
Lyons’ hiring, which came after Sam Biddle was removed from the post for promoting cyberbullying, was a disaster from day one. Never mind that Lyons failed to actually break any stories (he later admitted that almost all of his insight into the Valley had been wrong), he also quickly attracted criticms for the way he wrote about women in Silicon Valley, including Laurene Powell Jobs, tech blogger Shanley Kane, and even our very own Sarah Lacy, who Lyons described as a “harpie” and a witch. (He later deleted that particular post and published a pouty update about how terribly unfair it is that men can no longer use such language about chicks.)
All of which came as no surprise to anyone familiar with Lyons’ previous writing. As I pointed out at the time, Lyons has long been obsessed with Sarah and with objectifying and insulting women in tech. Back in his Fake Steve Jobs days, he frequently wrote posts obsessing about Sarah’s breasts…
Or about the relationship status of women he believed were attractive…
Or whatever the hell this is…
Or, for that matter, this simile which could have been ripped straight from a men’s rights subreddit…
Shortly after I first dug up and republished those clips, Gawker quietly axed Lyons from his post -- although he later claimed that the decision had been mutual to allow him to focus on writing a book.
And yet. As former Pando writer Erin Griffith pointed out in her review of that book, Lyons doesn’t seem to have learned much. In fact, he appears to be an almost perfect caricature of the bro’d up tech exec the New York Times op-ed writer correctly excoriated …
[W]hen Lyons shares his ideal company culture, it’s clear he loves juvenile and fratty stuff—he just happens to prefer a slightly different flavor of juvenile and fratty. He is the sort of person who giggles at euphemisms for pooping, like “dropping anchor” and “loaf-pinching.”
When one of HubSpot’s co-founders started bringing a teddy bear to meetings, Lyons couldn’t believe none of his coworkers would ridicule the move with him…. He declares that in any other place he has ever worked, “the teddy bear would be kid-napped and hung from a noose, photographed in a flagrante delicto with other stuffed animals, dressed in bondage gear and sodomized by a Smurf.” Step away from the bear, Dan.
In another meeting (many of Lyons’ jokes revolve around him being a jerk in meetings), he talks about wanting to strangle a fictional person. It makes the meeting awkward, which disappoints him. “If this were a room of journalists,” he laments, “people would now be joining in, talking about various ways to kill the guy without getting caught.”
As Griffith puts it: “he doesn’t realize his spitball-throwing class clown act is no better than the silly startup antics he’s mocking.”
That line about Lyons thinking it’s hilarious to act like a jerk rang in my ears as I read this weekend’s Times op-ed about bro culture in the Valley. For example, this line where the Times cites Quirky founder Ben Kaufman:
One indication that Mr. Kaufman is a bro? Well, the first reference he lists on his LinkedIn page is: “He’s a dick … but hilarious.”
In fact, by the Times’ own criteria, never mind those hideous quotes above, ex-Valleywag Dan Lyons would seem to be the perfect example of the kind of boorish jerk who is paid large amounts of money to ruin companies (Lyons was the last Valleywag editor before Nick Denton shuttered the site) while simultaneously making the world more toxic for women and… pretty much everyone else.
Why then, I wonder, didn’t Lyons merit inclusion in the Times’ rogues gallery of tech bros. Why wouldn’t a guy who calls women “harpies” and writes fantasy fiction about their breasts, not to mention joking in meetings about anally raping stuffed animals be equally or more worthy of criticism than the dude from Quirky?
That’s a good question, and one we’d have to ask the author of the Times op-ed.
Dan "boorish, misogynistic dispshit" Lyons.
Rewarding bad behavior indeed.