SYNDICATED COLUMN: Good Reasons to Hate Big Tech

We love computers and other electronics, but — not unlike an addict’s opinion of his dealer — we hate the companies that sell them to us. Now our contempt for Silicon Valley is expanding to include tech workers.

In San Francisco, where locals know the techies best, 30-year-old worker bees are taking as much heat as their billionaire CEO overlords.

Geographical familiarity breeds political contempt.

Just as Zuccotti Park gave birth to Occupy Wall Street’s clarion cry against the predator class henceforth to be known as the Banksters, San Francisco bus stops have become ground zero in a backlash against Big Tech. Oversized SUV-like buses that ferry Google staffers down the Peninsula provoke anger by clogging public transit stops in a city whose crumbling fleet of city vehicles is starved of funding. Private tech company buses have been blocked by protesters who object to gentrification fueled by the soaring rents paid by deep-pocked tech workers. A bus window got smashed. Across the bay in Berkeley, demonstrators even showed up at the home of a Google engineer to hold him to account for his dual role as tech dystopian (he runs Google’s creepy robot car project) and real estate developer.

Save for a window and a few Google worker tardy notices, nothing has been harmed. Days of Rage this ain’t.

Despite the relative mellowness of it all, any hint that American leftism is livelier than a withered corpse prompts establishmentarians into anxious fits that the streets will soon run red with the blood of fattened-on-organic-veal-and-green-smoothies technorati. In Salon, the usually steady Andrew Leonard lectured San Francisco’s dispossessed that street actions like slashing bus tires are “bullshit,” opining that “delivering passionate rhetoric at a public hearing on city policy toward private shuttles is part and parcel of how a democratic society operates.” (Or doesn’t operate, by his very own account.)

“This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking,” Tom Perkins, an 82-year-old venture capitalist who helped fund the initial launch of Google, wrote in an instantly infamous letter to the The Wall Street Journal, comparing dislike of 1%ers to Nazi attacks on Jews. “Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?” (Note to Perkins: You’re old enough to remember that Nazism was a right-wing movement.)

“With spokesmen like Mr. Perkins,” David Streitfeld responded in The New York Times, “the tech community will alienate the entire country in no time.”

Gallup’s 2011 poll of public perceptions found that Americans view the tech sector more positively than any other industry but that, I think, is not going to last. Because there are lots of good reasons to hate Big Tech.

The root of our contempt for the tech biz is that all our economic eggs are in their basket. Manufacturing is never coming back. Whatever chance the U.S. economy has of recovering from the 2008-09 collapse (and, for that matter, the 2000-01 and 1989-93 recessions) lies with the tech sector. But the technies don’t care. And they’re barely employing anyone.

Facebook has 6,300 employees, Twitter has 2000, Instagram has 13.

The Big Three auto companies each employ between 2.5 million and 3 million workers directly or through subsidiaries and contractors.

It’s not like Facebook couldn’t use more American workers. Because Mark Zuckerberg can never grab enough loot for himself, Facebook does without the basics, like customer service reps. They don’t even have a phone number.

It’s hard to feel warm and fuzzy about companies that don’t hire us, our neighbors or, well, anyone at all.

Or answer the phone.

Fair or not, we feel vested in tech. The average American spends thousands of dollars a year on electronics and tech-related services, including broadband Internet. Objectively, we spend more on housing, food and energy — but those expenditures feel impersonal. Unlike our devices, we’re not constantly reminded of them.

Smartphones, tablets and desktop computers are central to our minute-by-minute lives, serving as a constant reminder of our material support to the digerati.

Every time we pick up our iPhone, we recall the $400 we spent on it. (And the $300 on its once cool, now lame, two-year-old precursor.) This makes us think of historic, extravagant profits pocketed by their makers. We can’t help but remember the over-the-top paychecks collected by their makers’ CEOs, including the incompetent ones. Also popping to the front of our consciousness is the despicable outsourcing of manufacturing to slave labor contracting firms like Foxconn, where abused Chinese workers attempt suicide so often that the company had to install netting around dormitory windows. Charmingly, Foxconn began requiring new hires to sign an agreement releasing the company from liability if they kill themselves.

Few industries gouge consumers as ferociously as wildly profitable tech outfits like Microsoft, Adobe and Apple.

Not only have Americans been reamed by Big Tech — they know they’ve been reamed. Which sets the stage for big-time resentment.

In the past, wealthy companies and individuals mitigated populist resentment by paying homage to the social contract — i.e., by giving back. Henry Ford paid assembly line workers more than market rates because he wanted them to be able to afford his cars. 19th century robber barons like J.P. Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt built museums and contributed to colleges and civic organizations. These gestures helped keep socialism at bay.

Whether it’s due to the influence of technolibertarianism, pure greed or obliviousness, tech titans are relative skinflints compared to the manufacturing giants they’ve supplanted. Yes, there’s the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (though its “philanthrocapitalism” model is staggeringly ineffective). But Steve Jobs kept almost every cent. Facebook and Twitter are basically “non-players” in the philanthropy world. Google doles out roughly 0.02% of its annual profits in charitable grants.

Some say the techies aren’t cheap — just skittish. “A lot of the wealthy in Silicon Valley are newly wealthy,” said E. Chris Wilder, executive director of the Valley Medical Center Foundation in San Jose. “That money still feels a little too tenuous; still feels fleeting. And the economic downturn has reinforced that feeling.”

Whatever the cause, underemployed and overcharged Americans expect tech’s 1% to start stepping up.

(Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

38 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Good Reasons to Hate Big Tech

  1. Ted, that story of Henry Ford instituting the so-called five-dollar day due to a desire to have them buy Ford automobiles is a nice tale, but it seems to be based upon a misunderstanding of his motives, As noted in this Forbes article (http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/03/04/the-story-of-henry-fords-5-a-day-wages-its-not-what-you-think/) by Tim Worstall, the main reason for the decision seems to have been to reduce the very large turn-over among his factory workers, which was extremely costly for the company….

    Henri

    • Henri, interesting. That certainly makes a lot of sense. Actually, I never really understood why so many companies seem to be okay with high turnover considering all the negative ramifications it has for their bottom lines.

      • I think “Companies” aren’t okay with it as much as those managing those companies are okay with it. Shedding high priced senior employees for lower priced new employees looks good in the short term, but when the medium-long term effects are felt, the decision makers are long gone; along with their bonuses.

        That said, considering I’m writing this two and a half years after the original article, it is starting to look like the tech landscape is attempting to position itself to PREFER new, less experienced employees by rolling through technologies at an alarming rate. Today’s next best thing is almost completely overshadowed in 6-12 months.

  2. One last thought from me on this (and first, kudos to the many comments. I was shocked, shocked I say by the high level of the discussion. Nothing crazy-batshit. Good points raised. I might not agree with a lot of them, but I’m not here for the echo chamber of “Alex, you’re so wise.”)

    Check out the Vietnam War. One of the reasons we declared victory and left? The on-the-ground leaders kept getting fragged by their own troops.

    That’s what’s coming. Some guy in San Fran who hasn’t gotten a raise in three years will start hunting geeks.

    • > Some guy in San Fran who hasn’t gotten a raise in three years will start hunting geeks.

      … and quickly find out just how wrong those stereotypes are. We aren’t all pencil necks with pocket protectors. My boss is a fifth degree black belt. The guy down the hall competes in quick draw competitions. (and can afford the GOOD guns) And don’t forget we’re omniscient, we know where you live. Cross one of us and your paltry little bank account will disappear out while your mom gets a vid of you whacking off to internet porn. (You really need to unplug that camera when not in use)

      I was reading a homophobe the other day expounding on the Gay Agenda. According to him, gays are responsible for everything from the national debt to the war on Christmas. It quickly became obvious that he doesn’t actually know any gay people. If he did, he’d learn that they are just people like any other people. Some good, some bad, most just kinda mediocre.

      I see no appreciable difference between you and him. You obviously don’t know any of these people personally, yet you’re going to sit there & denigrate them wholesale.

      So, what do you do for a living, ass hat?

      • I will have to revisit my comment about the high level of discourse.

        You avoid the fundamental points I make:

        1. The “tech crowd” isn’t inventing cures for cancer. They’re coming up with marvelous ways to waste time. SnapChat? Oh, thank God. I can now send dirty pictures that will disappear right away. Except for the NSA archive that Google, Facebook, etc. insist, up and down, they’ve been resisting. Which is, of course, complete nonsense.

        2. The IT revolution has allowed outsourcing and the threat-of-outsourcing to destabilize income and job security. As I mentioned, we’ve got soaring unemployment and more people than ever clinging to the cliff-edge of survival. Oh, but the Internet creates 2.6 jobs for each single job it destroys. Yes, 2.6 McDonald’s workers with college degrees for every middle class stable job with benefits destroyed.

        3. Your 5th-degree black belt friend? Your quick-draw buddy? They’d be the first two to tell you: None of that means shit. If some whackjob in SF decides he’s had enough of conspicuous consumption by the Googlers, that person isn’t going to go up and challenge one of them to a duel. He will step out from an alley, put the gun to the back of the person’s head, pull the trigger, and walk away. Every martial arts person I’ve known knows that the skills have limited (but useful) value. In a bar brawl? Absolutely useful. When you’re trying to avoid being killed by a maniac? You’re in the same boat as the non-martial artist. Ditto on the gun enthusiast. The gun is only useful if it’s in your hand.

        4. The point about homophobes and the stereotypes about the tech geeks? Here. Let me show you what your crowd is:

        ” And don’t forget we’re omniscient, we know where you live. Cross one of us and your paltry little bank account will disappear out while your mom gets a vid of you whacking off to internet porn. (You really need to unplug that camera when not in use)”

        You threaten me three ways in single paragraph. First, you’re all knowing. Second, you’ll economically ruin me. Third, you’ll drag my family into this.

        Sure, you are probably kidding. But possibly you aren’t. But that’s how your crowd rolls, innit? Threat, intimidation, bullying. I talk about what could be coming because of real, actual income disparities and the warpage caused by having a bunch of people invade a city and drive rent through the roof so that the people who were there first can’t survive there anymore, and THAT is what’s really burning you, isn’t it? That someone, some hoi polloi has the temerity to call bullshit on your high-powered oft-recited sense of social perfection.

        What do I do for a living? I type. Same as your geeksquad. But I don’t go around threatening to destroy people’s lives for challenging my highly inflated sense of self.

      • Alex,

        I would have thought you were aware of ‘CrazyH’s sophistication, but perhaps not since this is your first time being a target of it. I, otoh, know very well his ‘wit’ as he thinks of it. He has a compulsion to take and make discussions personal. It is plain to me that he is an employee like any of us except he is a smarty-pants employee. If he really were as great as he thought, he would own his own company, which might impress me. But with such a hardcore worker mentality, he would never succeed. He is fear-based, and people like that will never leave job security behind. A smart, highly-paid employee is still just an employee, no better than the rest of us. With little exception, if you are employed in corporate America, you aren’t really at the top. Industries and companies fail; tech is not immune to change.

      • 1) What? You’ve never heard of CT scans? Medical modelling? The genome project? Take a walk around a hospital someday, look at all the blinky lights, what do you suppose they’re for? *ANY* medical research nowadays is highly computerized, including cancer research.

        2) Outsourcing is my fault? Read my lips: I’m not driving the train I’m a passenger, just like you. For that matter, my job is much easier to outsource than most.

        3) uh-huh, yeah, sure. Pick a fight and see what happens.

        4) Essay question: “Define sarcasm” – fifty words or less. According to you, I’m omnipotent & omniscient., I’m merely using your own idiocy against you, . (btw you drug MY family and MY friends into it first. You don’t like the heat don’t start the fire.)

        YOU TYPE!!! OH MY GOD!!! YOU’RE SUPPORTING THE VERY THING YOU”RE DECRYIING!!! YOU KILL BABIES WITH EVERY KEYSTROKE YOU HYPOCRITE!!! GLOBAL WARMING IS YOUR FAULT!!! YOU SUPPORT CHILD LABOR IN CHINA!!! YOU OBVIOUSLY THINK YOU’RE MORE ENTITLED TO FOOD THAN THE BABIES STARVING TO DEATH IN BANGLADESH!!! AND YOU DON’T CARE!!! YOU JUST SIT THERE, FAT, DUMB, AND HAPPY BECAUSE IT DOESN’T AFFECT YOU!!!

        Further, you’re a human being. Human beings have been observed raping, killing, and torturing other human beings. You quite obviously support those activities because you haven’t stopped them yet. (Hey, don’t blame me, it’s your argument)

        … and you’ve missed my point. You have no clue about the people whom you’re tarring with the same brush as the Koch brothers. You don’t know them, you don’t talk to them, you look at a narrow slice of the whole group and conclude they’re all the same regardless. There’s a word for that, it’s called “Prejudice.”

      • @jack

        Yes, I do take it personally when someone calls me stupid and disgusting; then goes on to insult every woman I know and love. What I hear you saying is, “Weh! Weh! No fair! He hit me back!”

        Same advice to you as I gave Alex, “If you can’t stand the heat, don’t start the fire”

        PS – As a matter of fact, I do have my own company. But I’m bored shitless by administrivia, so I usually let someone else count the beans and sort the buttons while I do real work.

      • Jack,

        I see what you mean. I’ll close this file. It’s too much like the one with exkiodekian (or whatever the name was).

        Ahem: (increases voice slightly): Gosh, you’re right CrazyH. I see the error of my ways now. Golly, you sure did hit it on the head.

    • Jack and alex

      I learned back in grade school that if I insult someome, they’re gonna insult me back. Evidently, this is news to you both. You wanna play on the internet, either learn to talk nice or quit whining.

      Duh?

      • I’ve become convinced that the most revolutionary skill is not Marxist analysis, or bravery on the barricades, or mastery of polemics.

        No – it’s the ability to have a productive conversation. How to converse, so that people’s dignity is respected skillful in conversations.

        I’m not kidding.

        Problem is that it’s hard enough to learn these skills in our toxic society when people are face-tto-face. But on discussion forums where we don’t see each other, don’t have a personal connection with other people – it is almost impossible.

      • That’s a fair point. I am amazed at how “brave” people are online and yet so cowardly in person. Perhaps the most notorious example of this was meeting my opponent in a certain libel lawsuit a few years ago in person. When he was there right across the table, he was shy and wimpy and awkward, nothing close to the Internet monster whom I was suing.

    • Bbpo8,
      A good point. However, the situation you describe also occurs in face to face situations. In classrooms, the usual setup is when a discussion of race or gender comes up.

      One side will, rather than discussing the actual issue, stamp down on the talk with a protest of “As a _____, I object to this discussion,” coupled with a “as one of the oppressors, you wouldn’t understand” and an understood threat that if the conversation doesn’t terminate instantly, the teacher, the department and the school could find itself in the middle hailstorm.

      Everyone has been so carefully trained that every single point must be presented “respectfully” that real conversation cannot occur. What happens instead is a “well, i’d like to reply, but I know that no matter how carefully, in real time, I try to construct my reply, it will be turned against me.”

      When I was in college as an undergraduate, this was just beginning. When some dingbat wanted to win by playing the outrage card, the teacher would sigh and explain that the point of college and discussion was to be challenged and that being offended was not a response but rather a sign of immaturity.

      Yes, the internet has greatly increased this malady (look at the Daily Kos crucifixion of Ted for his Obama drawings. Rather than admitting they were in the wrong to support a murderous corporate pickup who wipes his ads with the constitution when he isn’t hunting down critics, they grab at the only thing they can. Manufactured outrage and accusation of something completely irrelevant. Even if Ted were a Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan, his point was still correct), but there are always gonna be people who can’t win on their arguments, can’t make coherent points, can’t see the big picture (Occupy Wall Street anyone?), and they always invoke the same simplistic set of reactions.

      • Stupid kindle. Hailstorm should be “in a sh!storm”
        And I call Obama a murderous suck up who wipes his ass with the constitution.

      • Not to mention that pointing out aggressive, uncivilized rhetoric is labeled whining. As you say being offended at debate is immature. It’s not obvious to some what is or is not intended to be personal. There’s always someone who will get defensive and resort to name-calling, but to feel insulted, I’d first have to respect my opponent’s opinions. In those couple times things got ugly for me, you were the only one I think that remained serious while very much in disagreement, which I respect.

    • CrazyH:

      These people aren’t innocent. I don’t mean that in some sort of college sophomore smoking her clove cigarettes and opining about the nature of humanity with all the wisdom possessed by a 20-year-old who has never known a real crisis in her life way either.

      These people are chasing the Almighty Dollar just as ferociously as the thieves at Goldman Sachs stealing from widows and orphans. They aren’t building water-purification plants in the hills of Guatamala; they’re doing something that pays highly and that they want to be doing. Where, exactly, is any sense of selflessness? Where is the sacrifice? So let’s cut out the beatification. If this were the 1950s, they’d be hard at work trying to figure out a way to make napalm stick better to human skin.

      And, if someone were to confront them today on their airconditioned bus and say, “You know, the shit you’re working on? It will put thousands of people out of work,” the response would boil down to “Too bad. I want to do it.” Oh, it would be couched in a lot of flowery bullshit, but that’s what it would boil down to: My needs and wants rather than an introspective analysis of whether I’m doing something that really helps anyone.

      That, by the way, is the same sort of shit the scientists who put together the A-bomb said. Of course they knew it was going to kill. And of course they knew it would be used. But they couldn’t resist, could they? Information wants to be free; science is neither good nor evil. It’s all a self-deceptive trip because people don’t want to admit that, yeah, it gets them hard and dripping to think about the power they wield to warp the world.

      When you put together an A-bomb, you know that bitch is gonna make one hell of a fireball, and, oh God, doesn’t it make you ache in your loins to think about all those people burning alive in a fraction of a second. So don’t invoke “innocence.” The people over at Google, helping the NSA keep track of us (and yes, they are. I don’t care how many PR statements about how Google isn’t evil they send out) just like the people at Verizon, Yahoo and all the others, are not innocence. They’ve sold all of us down the river.

      I mentioned the presidential death bombs to one of his supporters the other day. And she was surprised. “I haven’t heard anything about this,” she said.

      Her ignorance wasn’t the problem I had. Ignorance is excusable. My problem is that, tomorrow, the day after that, two weeks later, she will STILL support The One. Even after being presented with the facts of what is going on, she will simply shrug off the murder of children with a that’s-why-pencils-have-erasers kind of mental shrug.

      Ted’s drawn cartoons about this shit. And what’s the response? Ted Rall is a racist piece of shit because his images of the president are, according to our off-the-handle judgment, drawn inappropriately.

      Where’s the outrage over the president murdering children with great efficiency (even while the ACA website failed to launch properly)? In the same place as the introspection of all the coders and programmers who put together the software that tracks us all from cradle to grave. “If I didn’t do it, someone else would.”

      As for the question of the 2.6 jobs created? IF those jobs were equal or better to the jobs destroyed, we wouldn’t have the unemployment rate (the real one, use the U-6) that we do. We would not have record food stamp rates. We would have a 0.01% unemployment rate. Wages would be through the roof as employers fought each other tooth and claw to retain workers.

      So, yes, I do have a lot of anger and fedupedness for the 99% because, to me, all of this is obvious. We are being used by a coterie of masters. We do ALL the work. We get paid scraps. They take home paychecks of such staggering enormity (I use the word in its traditional sense) that it beggars description. And the 99% simply let it happen.

      Why don’t I take charge? Why don’t I organize something?

      You can’t organize sheep. You can’t polish shit.

  3. Andrew Leonard writes for (the abysmal) Salon, not (the abysmal) Slate. Please correct.

    Nice piece though, pretty accurate. Interestingly Evgeny Morozov (no intellectual lightweight) has written about how Big Oil, Big Ag, etc …. all get hammered constantly, yet Big Data is getting a pass …. for now. Perhaps it’s time they don’t.

  4. As always, the protests in San Francisco are off-message and incoherent. What exactly are they protesting here? “Public” transportation? People with jobs? Prosperity? That’s exactly how it appears to an outsider.

    Read the commentary spouted by some of these protestors and you run directly into San Francisco’s legendary snobbery: The newcomers aren’t “cool.” Like there’s anything “cool” about living in a tourist trap.

    There are legitimate concerns, however: During the previous tech boom, business vacancies shrunk to 0.6%. There was a scramble to provide more business real estate to meet demand. Then, the bust: Business vacancies swelled to 20%. There’s your engine of progress right there.

    During the height of the previous tech boom, a great wind blew through town and obliterated anyone making less than $50K a year that wasn’t locked into a rent-controlled apartment. When tech went bust, the exiles did not come running back. The job market dived, non-tech businesses joined the bust and rents inexplicably hit a plateau before continuing their inexorable rise. Who fared the worst during all of this upheaval? Working people and, notably, tech workers. Worst of all was the damage to the San Francisco economy – it has become even less financially diverse than it was in 1999. And, consequently, more dependent upon tech and tourism.

    The new tech workers arriving in SF by the busload are surprisingly green. 1999 is ancient history to them. Google and Facebook are unassailably huge and would never squander their capital on something like “Pets.com.” You’ll hear them mention “Pets.com” frequently because what kind of hair-brained schemer makes a fortune off of people with cats? LOL!

    May I also propose that the “you’re compromised if you criticize the internet giants on the internet” argument be viewed as Alanis Morrissette-scale irony. We work with what we have. This is not a workers’ utopia.

  5. hmmm is it just me, or is there something ironic about dissing big tech in on a website?

    Mark Zuckerberg is the country’s biggest philanthropist this year. Link

    Bill Gates, OTOH, is a complete asshole who never actually created anything in his life. He stole a lot of his technology and used his leverage to bury better products from competitors. He supported Bush not once, but TWICE just so he could continue with his blatantly illegal business practices. I can understand a businessman supporting Bush the first time around – but you’re not going to convince me Bill’s a philanthropist when he supported a known war criminal the second time.

    I suspect that Melinda had more to do with founding their charity, and Bill’s in it just because he doesn’t want to be remembered as an asshole.

    While M$ did give us the home computer, it was just a matter of Bill choosing his parents wisely. The time was ripe, SOMEone would have done it if Bill hadn’t. In this millennium M$ has been stifling innovation and holding us back.

  6. Wow, this is spectacularly bad political strategy. It rivals some of the dumbest stuff my generation did in the 60s!

    The protests against the Google buses are heartfelt but wrong-headed. If you stop the buses and harass software engineers, what have you accomplished? Zip, except that you’ve alienated one of the most active and intelligent group of employees in the modern economy.

    Yes, people have good reason to be pissed, but it has little to do with individual high tech workers. That makes as much sense as attacking Roma (Gypsies), as in Hungary and Italy, or Mexican immigrants. Setting one group of working people against another is a brilliant way to stifle real change. Don’t fall for it.

    As you know, Ted, the real problem is corporate power, lobbyists, right wing groups, etc.

    High tech workers tend to be Democrats, with a sprinkling of Libertarians, Greens and leftists. Many have contributed to movement politics by developing and maintaining infrastructure – phone banks, blogging platforms (like Drupal), and websites (like the one I work on). And you hate us, because Facebook doesn’t have a free 800 number? That does not compute.

    You bet there are problems with high tech. And who are the ones with the most cogent analyses? High tech workers, like Richard Stallman and Edward Snowden.

    Intellectuals like yourself are valuable because you have the ability to point out the larger patterns, to draw distinctions. I think you can do better.

    • @bbpo8, Agreed on 90%, but what would you have the SF activists do instead? The billionaires like Zuckerberg are insulated behind high fences and security cameras. They’re inaccessible. Blocking the buses is less than ideal, but if it happens more, and it deprives tech companies of employees’ labor because they’re routinely late, it will get their attention.

      • Actually, the “attacks” on the lower-level employees are a profoundly effective tactic. It delivers immediate, observable results that encourage others who are fed up to start resisting.

        As to “Zip, except that you’ve alienated one of the most active and intelligent group of employees in the modern economy.”

        So what?

        The “modern” economy is not self-sustaining. Nor is it creating anything of legitimate value. Video games, distractions and the ability to see cat photos can never become the basis for an economy.

        As Ted has pointed out (and as I have, too), these companies create jobs for a tiny fraction of the population and wipe out magnitudes of other jobs. You cannot sustain a civilization that is predicated on a capitalist framework on a system by which the number of jobs is decreased at the same time as pay rates, year after year.

        These people are not curing cancer; they’re “enabling” us to send naked pictures of ourselves to the NSA. They come up with ways to destroy other people’s lives and smugly assert that Information Wants to Be Free. When confronted with the fallout of their destructive behavior, they give you a look like you’re the one who doesn’t understand.

        In German, the phrase is “Ich war nur Befehle.”

        It didn’t work then, and these little poseurs need to start taking a look at the damage they’re doing.

      • @alex – speaking in my capacity as a poseur, I’d like to point out this article

        among the numbers cited:

        the internet accounted for 21% Percent of GDP growth in the world’s largest economies over the last 5 years

        2.6 jobs created for each job destroyed.

        I wouldn’t call that damage. Attacking the people who work for a living because of the decisions of the 1% is a lot like blaming the UAW for the fall of Detroit. We ain’t the ones driving the train.

        San Francisco housing was already pricey before silicon valley existed, and I don’t hear anyone complaining about the billions of dollars it’s pumped into the local economy. Yes, some of those dollars go into megayachts, etc, but a lot of them also hang around and create jobs for people who don’t work in the tech industry.

        I worked at Microsoft, and I know a lot of googlies. 99% are not capitalist pigs, they actually care about people and the affect their work has on them and on society. Many (myself included) strongly disagree with the policies practices of their companies.

      • I know what it is to work for a company whose policies and politics I disagree with, yet I also understand that I may one day be held to account for choosing to work for such places. We all have responsibility. This is reminiscent of our previous discussions about enlisting in the military, of course.

      • While I’m on a roll, here, “They come up with ways to destroy other people’s lives and smugly assert that Information Wants to Be Free. ”

        uhhh, no. Those are two different groups of people, k? The Wikipedia folks don’t work for the NSA, and all the NSA employees who believe in freedom of information are now living in Russia.

      • And why not go after people with funny-sounding last names? They are accessible and easy to target.

        I’m serious. If one does not have a good overall picture, it’s natural to go after scapegoats when one feels resentful.This is happening now in Hungary and other European countries. Switzerland just passed an anti-immigrant referendum.

        I have my own ideas of what should be done – based on building communities, both web-based and face-to-face. Politically, the challenges are daunting. But if one is part of a community, one can sustain oneself for a long-term effort.

        Other people have different ideas. But the point is, to *think* about it, talk about it, develop some sort of strategy.

        But to punch someone in the nose, just because they are close at hand and you’re pissed off?

      • crazyh,
        “2.6 jobs created for each job destroyed.”

        How much do those 2.6 jobs pay, and how much did the job destroyed pay? And the benefits package associated with each?

        Jobs are not interchangeable. Losing a $50K a year stable job so that two you’ll-be-laid-off-in-18-months jobs paying $28K each can be “created”?

        It’s conditioning the working class to accept the bit between the teeth.

      • @alex, “How much do those 2.6 jobs pay, and how much did the job destroyed pay? ”

        I don’t know – do you? It’s the same old story, when the new tech comes along it displaces the old one (insert buggy-whip joke)

        You know by now how much I despise the capitalist pigs, 1%’ers, etc, but this bit is punishing the wrong people.

      • Again, Ted an alex_the_tired, this is just bad politics. Do you want things to change or do you just want to express your frustration… and hurt anyone who gets in the way?

        If you want change, that means organizing those with whom who have a common interest. It means developing allies. If you choose to fight against a group, you had better be precise about why. If you are frustrated by the effects of high tech in modern life, then okay – what exactly? And what do you propose as an alternative?

        If you are serious, it means educating yourself and coming up with some sort of strategy.

        One thing the old-time socialists and communists got right was the value of solidarity. You *don’t* go after low-level employees, you *don’t go after scapegoats.

        The old-timed lefties organized within industries, and they were careful to distinguish between the actions of companies and the people who worked for them. They organized within the armed forces. Do you know the role of the military in deposing the Portuguese dictatorship?

        I’m proud to have worked within high tech for about half of my working life. It has been one of the most enlightened sectors of the economy. The people who work in high tech are much more aware than the average American, and more apt to get engaged. I have had my run-ins with management, but they are head-and-shoulders above management in most other industries. As a newspaper friend noted — out here (Silicon Valley), people are actually building things – you may not like what some of the things they are building, but they are building things. He contrasted them with the management of East Coast companies, which maintain wealth by moving money around and lobbying Washington.

        This is the real world, so some of the products made by high tech don’t pass the smell test. For example, there continues to be a huge military high-tech effort which sucks up money.

        But Facebook and Google and Microsoft? Give me a break. I’ve worked in some very bad places, and there is no comparison.

      • @bbpo8

        Microsoft is a Very Bad Place to work, trust me on this.

        There are still a lot of very good, very bright people there – but the overall management philosophy is that other people are either stepping stones or impediments to your success, and are dealt with accordingly. This philosophy was embedded from day one by none other than Bill himself.

      • @CrazyH … I take your word about Microsoft. My impression is that it’s a pretty ruthless place. Most big corporations are pretty ruthless, as you get higher in them even in the better ones.

        I liked the cameraderie at the lower levels – programmers, engineers, etc. That’s why I never got very far up the ladder … and I’m just as glad.

        My point is not that Microsoft, Google, etc. are that much different than other corporations. This is capitalism, after all, and everybody is working under the pressures of competition and cost-cutting.

        I’m just saying:
        1) Don’t confuse the management practices of large corporations with the employees.
        2) High tech is *relatively* enlightened compared to other employers.

  7. Good point. I should have added Big Tech’s weasel behavior around the Snowden leaks. They cooperated happily with the NSA and other spooks but then, when caught, and threatened with lost business in Europe, they pretended to be shocked! shocked! shocked! that such evil goings on were going on. Nobody likes a snoop; no one can stand a prep who pretends to be a victim.

  8. “Because Mark Zuckerberg can never grab enough loot for himself, Facebook does without the basics, like customer service reps. They don’t even have a phone number.”

    Facebook has a number. In fact, Facebook has many numbers.

    All of Mark Zuckerberg’s friends and family have phones. It is merely the passivity and willing self-victimhood of the 99%ers that prevent them from taking the small amount of time necessary to find and disseminate that information. Same with e-mail addresses.

    When Mr. and Mrs. Z, ALL their neighbors, etc. start getting dozens of e-mails and phone calls asking that they forward a message to Mark Zuckerberg “because I cannot find any way to call him over there at the Facebook thing” lo and behold, there will all of a sudden be an 800 number. And it will be staffed.

    But that would require, um, doing something. And, as we all learned from Z-park, doing things isn’t going to work unless, literally, every single person agrees to it.

    I wonder how much longer it will take for the SF crowd to start real violence against the techies. It will probably start small,things like following the techers to the supermarket and harassing them as they select pineapples and air-raised arugula.

Leave a Reply