Journos vs. Tech Bros: The East Coast-West Coast Feud Our Dumb Digital Culture Deserves

July 6, 2020

The East Coast-West Coast feud most people are familiar with, involving hip-hop legends Tupac Shakur and the fat guy who inspired Ruth Bader Ginsburg's gangsta nickname, ended tragically but produced some good music along the way.

The same will not be said of the East Coast-West Coast feud brewing on the internet between elite journalists and Silicon Valley tech bros. You probably haven't heard about it, but that just means you're a normal, well-adjusted human being who doesn't spend every waking hour on social media. This obscure donnybrook is the hero-less melee our dumb digital culture deserves. Apparently it's sort of like Gamergate, whatever that was.

If you insist on knowing the details, here they are: On the East Coast, we have New York Times journo Taylor Lorenz, who covers "internet culture" for the Style section. In addition to keeping tabs on Kellyanne Conway's 15-year-old daughter, Lorenz is best known for complaining on Twitter that the avocado slid off the $22 avocado toast she ordered on Seamless. It's a problem to which most Acela-corridor journalists can relate.

Like most Times reporters, Lorenz was ornately (and expensively) educated at private institutions, including an actual Swiss boarding school like the ones mean stepmoms are always threatening to send their fiancé's children to in romantic comedies.

Speaking of romantic comedies, Lorenz has some wall art in her Brooklyn apartment suggesting that a "better rom-com" would involve the male-identifying character finding out if his potential love interest is "attracted to men and gives cues that she's interested in talking to me." Her most recent article, about "The Ultimate Tik-Tok Rom Com," features two Gen Zers who rose to prominence by helping collect data for Chinese intelligence.

What did Lorenz do to upset the tech bros? Apparently they didn't like the way she tweeted about Steph Korey, the founder of Away, a fancy luggage company. Lorenz referred to Korey as "the disgraced former CEO" of Away, and described her as "ranting ... about the media" in a series of Instagram posts, which she found "incoherent" and "disappointing."

The tech bros pounced and quickly corrected her. At the time, Korey was still co-CEO, although she recently announced she was stepping down after employees anonymously complained about her Instagram posts, which were deemed offensive for criticizing "cancel culture" and suggesting that media companies are perversely incentivized to publish provocative takedowns because people like to click on them.

Lorenz's commentary on Korey's posts really upset some guy named Balaji Srinivasan, an "angel investor and entrepreneur" with multiple degrees from Stanford. He cofounded, a digital thing that "lets people earn cryptocurrency for replying to emails and completing tasks."

First, Srinivasan mocked Lorenz's tweet using wordplay. Then he and his fellow tech bros—along with former CNN contributor Roland Martin—were recorded ranting about journos on Clubhouse, an invite-only "audio social network popular with venture capitalists and celebrities." It was recently valued at $100 million, because of course it was. Silicon Valley ingenuity truly is making the world a better place.

Srinivasan wondered if Lorenz was simply "afraid of a brown man" and argued that the existing "East Coast model" of journalism should be replaced by venture capitalists and cryptocurrency—West Coast style. He also referenced Cartman from South Park.

Other tech bros on the stupid app thing accused Lorenz of playing "the woman card" for complaining about harassment and alleging that people were "trying to reset my passwords and hack into my accounts, [making] vicious, disgusting threats," and creating stupid parody accounts like "CancelTaylorLorenz." Which doesn't sound at all like the behavior that aggrieved tech bros would ever engage in.

Srinivasan was pretty annoyed that "corporate journalists" had recorded his "private conversation" with the other tech bros, so he did what any normal person would do in response: Offered a Bitcoin bounty for "the best meme" or "legal analysis" related to the incident. He's also been brainstorming innovative ways to inject the news media with cohesive synergy:

Lorenz, meanwhile, has mostly been retweeting supportive comments from other media professionals. As everyone knows, journalists are not at all like whiny tech bros because they are supremely humble and open to criticism and would never claim that attacks on the media are attacks on "democracy itself."

Pick a side, if you dare.

Published under: New York Times