Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spitting incident prompts Arrington "time off" from TechCrunch

Ok...the stuff we worried about a couple of years ago with the Kathy Sierra incident has crossed over into Real Life: Mike Arrington--good guy to some, really bad guy to others in the tech media space--has decided to take some time off from TechCrunch after being spat on:
Yesterday I was battling the flu, jetlag and little sleep, and had been battered for three days straight with product pitches from entrepreneurs desperate for press. The event was over and I was on my way back to my hotel. The last thing I wanted was another product pitch as I hurried to the car that would drive me to Davos for the next event. So when I saw this person approach me out of the corner of my eye, I turned away slightly and avoided eye contact. Sometimes that works. But in this case all it did was make me vulnerable to the last thing I expected.

In the past I’ve been grabbed, pulled, shoved and otherwise abused at events, but never spat on. I think this is where I’m going to draw a line.

Honestly, I like Arrington. Not in that fanboy way that so many in the Silicon Valley gush about him. I like what he does. I admire his tenacity and the way he's built up TechCrunch. I like the way he brought some great people to TechCrunch like Duncan Riley, who, unlike some others, never ignored my comments and actually came here and commented on posts.

And it frightens and saddens me that not only would someone spit on him, but that someone else would threaten him and his family....

Lots of people believe that it's the blogosphere that brings out the unbalanced. But is it the blogosphere, or is it something else? Murders of journalists, according to the CPJ, totals 136 since 2003. Most of those murders were politically motivated. In the U.S., murders of journalists have been connected to investigations into organized crime.

Usually, it's entertainment celebrities who suffer the wrath of unbalanced individuals, and in the past few years, it's been both male and female celebrities who have had to fear for their lives from the unbalanced.

So is it more that the blogosphere breeds a type of "celebrity" and that this is what brings out the unbalanced rather than organized crime or political opponents? Maybe it's not that the blogosphere is full of the unbalanced any more than movie theaters or the average American tv-loaded home breeds the unbalanced, but that the empahsis on "celebrity" in the blogosphere brings out the crazies....

As for Arrington, taking some time away may be helpful for him overall. At times the guy has sounded so physically and emotionally drained that I just wanted to give him a bowl of chicken soup and a warm blanket....

Yet, as in the Sierra incident, maybe we need to look at how we in the blogosphere use our words. As for me, I've begun to back off from slinging zingers. Not for disagreeing--I'll always disagree when it's there. But not to be mean. Not all disagreement is mean, even though it may look that way for the person who's theory is being picked apart. We bloggers (and jouranlists) need to learn to tolerate criticism. But we don't need to attack unjustly. "I want them ("opponents) to compete hard with us, but fight clean." said Arrington towards the end of his post. And there's a big difference between fighting hard and clean, and fighting by character assassination.

Maybe we in the blogosphere need to realize that we are dealing in a level of celebrity as much as we deal in a form of journalism. And that we have to watch our words because of the celebrity--that it shouldn't be "open season" on prominent bloggers any more than it should be "open season" on celebrities.

Maybe it isn't that Arrington has to suck it up and just deal with someone spitting on him. Nobody should "just deal" with that. Maybe we need to torque down the celebrity quotient out here. I don't know how we can do that, but we could try...

Meanwhile, Mike--if you need a place to go where nobody knows you, think about Western Mass. If you like snow, we've got it. We've also got broadband.

Just a thought...

Update Duncan Riley shares his thoughts about the incident. He says the types of things that only someone who really cares would say about a person. Despite the way he was treated by Mike. And maybe Riley has a very good point.


Seth Finkelstein said...

1) The Kathy Sierra incident was not a commonly reported. See my _Guardian_ column:

Accusations of sex and violence were bound to grab the headlines

2) It's all about hopes and dreams, which is what blog-evangelists prey on. That has a dark side.

Tish Grier said...

Seth--you're very right about the darker side of hopes and dreams. Now that I think about it, that's what I believe prompts the violence against celebs. They become people we want to be, or the personifications of the prince/princess/god/goddess. Some people want to tear down those they "love." It's weird, but it's also human.

and thanks for the link, too. very important points in it.