Dick Costolo was, for five years, the CEO of Twitter. He’s a Silicon Valley veteran who sits on the board of Patreon and also did a stint with Google.
In 2014, he was worth almost half a billion dollars.
Costolo maintains tech CEOs have an obligation obligation to push their political agenda. This isn’t an unusual opinion.
What is unusual is the consequences for failure to do so: If they don’t push that agenda, Costolo said, it’s up against the wall with them.
Among those who’ll face the firing squad will be Brian Armstrong, CEO of cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase. Armstrong penned a Medium post Sunday in which he called Coinbase a “mission focused company” which needed to stay focused on its priorities.
Those priorities, he said, don’t necessarily include social causes.
“There have been a lot of difficult events in the world this year: a global pandemic, shelter in place, social unrest, widespread protests and riots, and west coast wildfires. On top of that we have a contentious U.S. election on the horizon,” Armstrong wrote.
“Everyone is asking the question about how companies should engage in broader societal issues during these difficult times, while keeping their teams united and focused on the mission. Coinbase has had its own challenges here, including employee walkouts. I decided to share publicly how I’m addressing this in case it helps others navigate a path through these challenging times.”
On matters of social issues, Armstrong said the company didn’t “engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus” and that it didn’t “advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction from our mission.”
Costolo wrote a Twitter thread about this on Tuesday which began harmlessly enough:
Tech companies used to welcome lively debate about ideas and society. It was part of the social contract inside the company, and it’s what differentiated tech culture from, say, Wells Fargo culture. Now it’s considered a distraction.
— dick costolo (@dickc) September 29, 2020
It’d be interesting, in any other context, to talk about how Silicon Valley “used to welcome lively debate about ideas and society,” given “debate” isn’t defined as two rich liberals vigorously nodding at each other’s thoughts. That’ll have to wait for another day.
In any event, some on Twitter disagreed with Costolo:
I agree. The vast majority workers want to be effective and supported professionally in an ethical env.
This will be rough for people who want an activist job on a tech person’s salary, but life is about choices. If you want to get paid to be an activist, join a non-profit.
— parker (@pt) October 1, 2020
But Costolo believes the “[m]e-first capitalists” who don’t want to work at a company where politics are continually shoved in your face are the problem, and he has just the solution for it:
Me-first capitalists who think you can separate society from business are going to be the first people lined up against the wall and shot in the revolution. I’ll happily provide video commentary.
— dick costolo (@dickc) October 1, 2020
“Me-first capitalists who think you can separate society from business are going to be the first people lined up against the wall and shot in the revolution. I’ll happily provide video commentary,” he tweeted.
Parkland survivor and conservative activist Kyle Kashuv pretty much summed it up:
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) October 1, 2020
Lining people up against the wall to be shot because you disagree with how they go about things, even if it’s just a J/K moment in a tweet, is a sign your inner life has gone off the rails. There’s a deep conversation with your inner child — and/or a mental health professional — which should happen with all due haste.
And all of this because Coinbase refused to take an explicit political stand that Costolo could support. This shouldn’t be surprising, actually, given cryptocurrency companies tend to attract a libertarian clientele — one which mightn’t take kindly to being lectured from either end of the spectrum.
But no, Costolo says: They need to be lectured to. If not, up against the wall with you (metaphorically, of course).
The bad guys aren’t the conservatives (after the revolution, they’ve all been done away with, one assumes) but the capitalists who didn’t think that it was their role to use their company to push politics.
Believe it or not, Costolo wasn’t the blue checkmark with the worst take on what was going on in Costolo’s head. That award goes to Parker Molloy, editor-at-large for left-wing attack dog group Media Matters for America.
Current Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey isn’t radical enough for Molloy, who apparently who wishes for a world in which Costolo was the one in charge of the social media giant:
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) October 1, 2020
But he was just kidding too, guys — he wasn’t advocating violence. Besides, Molloy said, Costolo is too much of a nebbishy bourgeois type to go through with that kind of violence anyway:
As Twitter CEO, Costolo couldn’t even handle basic content moderation, but here’s going full revolution LARP now? Lol ok, sure man.
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) October 1, 2020
LARP, by the way, stands for “live-action role play,” kind of like those jousting re-enactors at the Renaissance fair.
To phrase it in simpler terms, Molloy says he’s not endorsing violence — and anyway, that wussy Costolo isn’t going to put his millions where his mouth is, anyway. Hope that cleared things up.
Beyond the ugly realities of Big Tech bias and the idea that Silicon Valley companies should be forced into taking liberal stands, there’s the rank imagery employed by Costolo.
The year 2020 will go down as a momentously ugly one, not in small part because of the vitriol we unleashed upon one another.
Costolo doubtlessly sees conservatives as the problem — which is why, if he had his druthers, we’d all be up against the wall soon. That’d solve it.
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