Tag Archives: douchebags

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Mayors of Brokesville

To Be Young, Technodouchey and Shilly at SXSW

It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into.

This was my second year at South by Southwest, the Austin music festival that has morphed into a trilateral Comic Con of the tattered remnants of the music industry, the on-the-ropes independent film sector, and a New Third Thing, the tantalizingly monetizable-for-a-few culturo-fiscal tsunami that left the first two that way, which SXSW hath dubbed Interactive.

Which is, of course, the Internet. Or more exactly, the hapless wretches who want to make money from it because, this being 2013, what else are they going to do – build real stuff and sell it? They seek to profit directly, by coming up with an awesome app like Foursquare which, as every article about this topic is required by law to mention, launched at SXSW in 2009 (and which said articles are never allowed to say, is pretty boring and useless and lame and, anyway, isn’t it kind of sad to have to point back four years to find a Big SXSW Launch?). Either that, or indirectly – by sucking dry a gullible VC (venture capitalist).

In case you’re wondering what goes on SXSW and why you should care, here’s what (why comes later; feel free to skip ahead, I would if I didn’t have to write this):

It’s a bunch of incredibly douchey – you think you know douche? you think you’ve met douches? oh, no, not like these douches you don’t – 25-to-37-year-old wannabentrepreneurs trying to market Webby things, 99% of which are apps for smartphones. And 99% of those 99% of those apps are redundant.

Redundant as in: “You can find restaurants in your area and review them. You can talk to other patrons about them in our online community.”

“Like Yelp?”

“Yeah, well, yes, but…”

“Like Yelp?”

Sad confused face.

I told you they were douches.

Speaking of which:

So during SXSW 2012 I wandered down to the lobby of my hotel to get coffee. Some douches were ambling zombie-aimlessly around, heads cocked in the familiar 20°-forward-head-tilt-toward-iPhone position. Other douches were clustered on the floor, deeply engaged in a random hackathon that accomplished little more than stressing the Hilton’s already technorati-overburned wi-fi network. But that still left other douches to notice that I wasn’t wearing shoes.

“Dude,” a tall male douche, about 32 years old, smiled at me. And pointed at my feet.

“What?” I asked, grouchily. Which was appropriate, considering that he was standing between me and the coffee line. Which was long. Shilling redundant apps requires caffeine as well as gall.

“No shoes,” he replied. “What are you promoting?” He actually seemed interested in my answer to his question.

Another douche, apparently the first douche’s comrade, joined us. “Hey, that’s great!” the second douche chimed in. “Are you repping a foot app? A shoe app? What is it? I gotta know! Hey guys” – he motioned toward a small douche-flock – “check it out!”

They were visibly, crushed-like-kids-who-got-lame-presents-on-Christmas-morn disappointed by my explanation, which was boring and simple: I didn’t feel like putting on shoes since I was just going back upstairs to my room. They thought I was lying.

“No one just doesn’t wear shoes,” the first douche accused. “You are promoting something.” Because, you know, the way you promote a product is by refusing to admit it.

To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen and Dave Edmunds, from big dumb things small dumb things one day come. So what came out of tens of thousands of douches dropping millions of dollars into Austin’s tourism industry?

“The breakout star of [the 2012] SXSW was Highlight, a location-aware app that alerts you when people you know are nearby, and attempts to introduce you to people you might want to know,” the Austin Business Journal reported. “Highlight dominated the buzz at the conference and was crowned the winner early on. However, it struggled to expand afterward because it was a battery hog, and it didn’t work as well outside of SXSW’s target-rich environment, where everyone was using it.” Which is why you’ve never heard of it.

So anyway, this year was more of the same. It was depressing and maddening. Except, without anything as thrilling as Highlight. It was also enlightening. Because SXSW is a metaphor for what’s going on in the American economy.

Like most U.S. businesses, SXSW attendees wanted to sell stuff. The problem was, no one wanted to buy, or hire, or invest.

So no one was selling or getting hired or invested in.

If the balance in Austin at SXSW and in the U.S. (and for that matter internationally) were less extreme – if, in Marxist terms, the oversupply of production merely exceeded rather than dwarfed consumer demand – you’d merely have downward pressure on wages and prices. Which, in fact, we’ve seen since the end of the Vietnam War. And isn’t good.

As things stand, the demand side – companies that want to hire people, which increases the number of goods and services consumers want to buy – is virtually nonexistent. And that’s catastrophic. The U.S. economy added 177,000 jobs in January, 237,000 in February, and 158,000 in March. Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi estimates that overall growth is running at about 175,000 a month. Since the U.S. needs to add 180,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth, the U.S. in “recovery” is losing 5,000 jobs a month. “If that’s the case, underlying job growth is not changed appreciably,” Zandi says dryly.

Sassy ex-Reagan budget chief David Stockman – say what you will about his blame-the-Fed politics, he’s the most thrilling economist-writer ever – says America is doomed because of failed government intervention. “The United States is broke — fiscally, morally, intellectually — and the Fed has incited a global currency war (Japan just signed up, the Brazilians and Chinese are angry, and the German-dominated euro zone is crumbling) that will soon overwhelm it. When the latest [Wall Street] bubble pops, there will be nothing to stop the collapse.”

Stockman is probably wrong about the why – more old-fashioned socialist state control would have avoided or at least mitigated this mess by redistributing wealth, thus stimulating consumer demand – but right about the what. When you’ve got a marketplace full of would-be sellers but no one who wants to buy, you’ve got no market at all.

All that’s left is a bunch of douchebags looking at your feet.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Satire – The Revolution Will Be Digitized

This Time: Three Douches To Watch Out For

It sounds like the lede of another breathless Dot-Com Bubble 3.0 puff piece by David Carr.

Three douchebags hook up at a café-cum-gallery-cum-hacketeria in a section of Brooklyn so hip that hipsters can’t find it on an app. Eight minutes later, they’ve banged out a business plan. What for, they can’t say. All they know is, it’ll be wicked awesome sweet. They send out a few emails; before you can type 140 characters they’ve lined up $28 million in seed capital. (There’s also out-of-school chatter about off-the-book rubles. Whatever.)

Now everyone’s talking about Douchenet.

Not you. You’re not talking about Douchenet. No one you know is talking about Douchenet.

By “everybody,” we don’t mean “everybody.” We don’t even mean “a large number of people.” We mean “everyone who matters.” Which most assuredly doesn’t include you. Or, really, hardly anyone at all.

So.

What exactly is Douchenet? Who knows? Who cares? The point of a piece like this one isn’t to tell you what’s going on. The point is to blow some free publicity the way of well-connected 26-year-old friends of people who matter to people who matter. (Not. You.) Twenty-six-year-olds whose business ideas are obviously utter horsecrap, are clearly doomed to failure, but not before they walk away with even more cash, raised from unwashed small-time rube wannabe playas. That’s the point of a piece like this.

That, and to make you feel miserable.

You poor, stupid, underemployed schmuck. A schmuck who will never, ever come anywhere near millions and millions of dollars. No matter how hard or long you toil.

Id.

iot.

At first (and OK, 17th) glance, last week’s Facebook IPO looks like a fiasco. Federal investigators are looking into charges that Morgan Stanley knowingly set the share price too high in order to inflate its underwriting fees, leaving unsophisticated stock buyers holding the bag for an 18 percent plunge of a $16 billion offering. But that’s only half the picture.

Sure, millions of people lost their hard-earned savings. But three douchebags are rocking out.

Which is what matters.

Mark Miron, 26, got paid in Facebook shares for watching Mark Zuckerberg’s cat one summer. As of last week, he was worth $200 million. But he’s more than just another smug, Silicon Valley wanker with rich parents, who likes to wear blue shirts with white collars, and is smart enough not to let his friend’s friend’s cat die. I mean, he is that. But there’s other stuff too. Like, he made a name for himself at Google when he agreed with some other entitled kids-of-Boomers that having illustrators design the search engine’s front page for free (i.e. “exposure”) was a cool idea. (By “cool,” we mean cheap, cynical and exploitative.) Can you say moxie?

Marc Parker, 26, started out at Facebook.co.uk, where he came up with the idea to model the British version of the site after its American parent, down to using the same language. “I love the blue hyperlinks. The white background. So American. And yet so British.” Eager to be promoted from a prat or a git to a full-fledged douchebag, Parker moved to Palo Alto, California in order to relinquish first his British, then his American citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes on the £200 million he earned from the IPO.

Jeff Mark, 26, drifted from PayPal to Facebook to MySpace to Compuserve to Netscape back to Compuserve. (Though closed, he somehow managed to collect €200 million from the latter.)

The three men became inseparable—and insufferable—after a chance encounter at Bi-Nary, a macrobiotic air bar that caters to sexually indiscriminate coders on the edge of the foothills near the section of the Google campus where they test attack drones for corporations.

It was during a sex tour of the Bushwick section of Brooklyn that the three douches conceived Douchenet. “We were talking about how, even though douches run just about everything in multimedia, until recently there weren’t the authoring tools and the bandwidth and/or the tablet platform for douches to hook up to do douchey things,” said Miron.

“Yeah,” agreed Parker and Mark.

I reached out to (that’s e-talk for “called”) Margot Jefferson, an analyst at D-Freak, a firm that tracks douchebaggery. “Douches account for 33 percent of start-ups, which account for 82 percent of investor fleecing, which amounts to 126 percent of economic activity in the United States,” points out Jefferson. “So the ability to connect douches across digital platforms using digital things is a game changer,” she confirms.

Given the power and the track record of these remarkable entrepreneurs, Douchenet is a story about power, wealth, journalism—and yes, wealth and power—worth watching. Marc Miron, for example, wrote that article that appeared in Wired that time. And Parker’s dad is just ridiculously rich, so we know he’s smart. Douchenet brings to mind Wingnutnet, a website you’ve never heard of because it doesn’t exist, yet which I’ve been writing about forever, by which I mean 2011.

Sometime this summer, Android will release a free version of Douchenet, so people who sign up can begin registering their personal financial information for distribution to trusted sites in Belarus. Using the so-called “freemium” model, Douchenet will charge fees for actual features, like the ability to create an “avatar” that could be sold by Farmville, which would pay a fraction of a fractile of a percent back to the original user, i.e. Douchenet.

In a live Tweetathon, Mark said he was drawn to Douchenet less by the idea than by the people who came up with it. “When you make an investment, you are betting on the team more than the idea,” he said. “If the idea is wrong, but the team is right, they will figure it out.”

“Who knows where this will end up?” he added between tokes on a clove bong.

(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 29. His website is tedrall.com.)