Medley 248: Censorship, News, Companies, Building, Bilzerian, Clubhouse...

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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Happy Monday!

I published a short piece on my blog last week: "Seek Buyers, Not Followers." The things you focus on to build a big social media following might not be the same as where to focus to build a business.

And on the Creator Towns blog, a post on "Returning Life to Main Street." With the impact of Walmart, Amazon, and now Remote work, we can radically rethink how we organize and commercialize our small town main streets.

Alright, on to the Medley!

The World of Journalism, Censorship, and Tech

🖊 The top section of the Medley has slowly been turning into an essay, so I'm just going to lean into it.

📰 I've been fairly anti-news-media for a while now. I have this old article from 2014 about how the news is a waste of your time. I feel like that's gotten more true since then.

🕵️ The latest embarrassment to respectable reporters everywhere is what Glenn Greenwald eloquently described as a classic example of "hall-monitor reporting":

"A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance... These hall-monitor reporters are a major factor explaining why tech monopolies, which (for reasons of self-interest and ideology) never wanted the responsibility to censor, now do so with abandon and seemingly arbitrary blunt force: they are shamed by the world’s loudest media companies when they do not."

🤯 What inspired his piece was Taylor Lorenz's meltdown over the weekend in which she accused Marc Andreessen of, I kid you not, using the word "retarded" on Clubhouse.

🤦‍♂️ Worse, he didn't even say "retarded," it was said by Felicia Horowitz in the context of discussing the WallStreetBets subreddit where the word is used almost non-stop. Nothing insulting or inappropriate about it.

🚨 Now it'd be one thing if Lorenz worked for BuzzFeed, but she writes for the New York Times! There are actual NYT reporters who think it's appropriate to police chat groups and then tattle on people for saying words that might offend someone. And then to throw fits on Twitter when they're blocked from joining the chat rooms they want to tattle on.

👋 It's this apparently growing desire for hall-monitoring at the NYT and elsewhere that has led to some journalists leaving the paper, most notably Bari Weiss (that's an incredible resignation letter if you haven't read it).

👮‍♂️ Where I disagree with Greenwald is I don't think that journalists are the reason tech companies are censoring their platforms and banning apps like Parler. I think it's the same hall-monitoring philosophy gaining a foothold in many companies and industries at the same time.

⚔️ If the hall-monitoring cancel culture continues, I suspect we'll see an increasingly explicit rise in "woke" vs "free" organizations of all type. A company will need to position itself as aligning with Woke values, or what I'll call for lack of a better term "Free" values. Is this the kind of place where new employees learn the proper etiquette for sharing their pronouns? Or the kind of place where someone might make an off-color joke you can't tattle on them for?

🏔 Coinbase made the first move with their phenomenal "mission first" statement. I suspect more companies will do the same, and they'll move it earlier in the funnel. I know of at least one company that asks deliberately un-woke questions in interviews to disqualify hall-monitor candidates so they can prevent that culture from fomenting in their company. It seems ridiculous to have to do that, but the tyranny of the minority with the hall-monitoring philosophy is very strong and it can creep in quickly.

🧠 But depending on what big tech companies do around censorship moving forward, we might see even more advanced forms of this political schism play out. Amazon banning Parler was one of the biggest things that could have happened for motivation to build some kind of decentralized, blockchain based Internet. If it becomes clear that any app or website can be taken down for not aligning with the philosophies of large tech companies, the only smart thing to do will be to build on freer territory.

💪 In the meantime, I'm really enjoying seeing so many journalists move to Substack where they have much more control. I think it's a no-brainer for good journalists to quit the old papers and just go off on their own.

The World of Building

🏗 There's definitely something in the air this year around the whole need to build things.

🏢 The "It's Time to Build" essay from last year was fantastic, and I previously shared this good post on "cultures that build."

📧 Trevor McKendrick (whose "How it Actually Works" newsletter is quite good and touches on many of the same themes I do), made his whole 2021 theme "building". From his post:

"Build 2021 is about prioritizing the people in the arena and making the arena sacred. The people in the arena shouldn’t have to ask permission to do their work, and the critics in the stands shouldn’t each be able to veto the work of those in the arena."

I love it. Let's all focus on building in 2021.

The World of Just for Fun

🎥 I stumbled on this "Fall of Dan Bilzerian" YouTube video and was pretty fascinated by the story. I also love that YouTube has enabled all of these indie documentary makers to have a platform to share stories like this.

The World of Clubhouse

🎙 In other news Clubhouse is slowly growing on me, and I've done a couple chats in the last week. Follow me (@nateliason as usual) if you want to join in!

End Note

As always, if you're enjoying the Medley, I'd love it if you shared it with a friend or two. You can send them here to sign up. I try to make it one of the best emails you get each week, and I hope you're enjoying it.

And should you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way! I love finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.

Have a great week,
Nat

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