Gauging TechCrunch’s Moral Fiber In One Sentence

The study of microexpressions has long been fascinating to me.  If you’re really paying attention, you can learn a great deal about a person in fleeting, unguarded moments.  I think this is true about language as well.  In written and spoken conversation, passing remarks – let’s call them “microprose” – can often give a far more realistic depiction of what’s really going on than what is presented as the main course.  This is, of course, because they are less thought out – and thus less guarded – than the rest of it.

When Arrington posted his rant back in December about how TechCrunch was no longer going to honor embargoes, I stayed out of that fray.  I did that for many reasons: mostly because I think they have every right to refuse to honor embargoes, partially because I didn’t really care enough, and also because the issue was already getting a lot more treatment than it deserved.  But at the time, one little piece of it stood out to me:

“We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that.”

I remember being troubled by that.  It’s one thing to say you won’t honor embargoes and NDAs.  It’s quite another to say you will agree to them and then break them.  The former describes someone doing what they feel is best for their business in an increasingly competitive space; the latter describes someone running a serious ethical deficit.

Last night the news broke that Arrington is in receipt of several hundred confidential Twitter documents forwarded to him by a hacker who broke into some of the company’s email accounts.  I won’t get into it all here; it’s being covered ad nauseam by the usual suspects.  Last night, Arrington publicly feigned moral contemplation about an “ethical line” he didn’t want to cross, then closed the same article with “more posts coming soon.”  Bring me the vomit bag.

I would conservatively estimate that the feedback loop of mutual-Web2.0-masturbation that goes on with Arrington and the toadys immediately around him might evacuate 40% of the oxygen from the social media ecosphere.  And that’s fine; jerk each other off all you want – it’s America.  But when you decide to participate on the buy side of a market for the fruits of criminal labor, I object – and I hope your readers do, too.