Oh, Jack Dorsey, you silly scamp. You just don’t know when to stop pissing people off, do you?
Jack Dorsey, for the uninitiated, is the CEO of social network Twitter and a very controversial figure of late in the tech industry. He oversees a platform that’s spent years being rife with harassment, death threats, organized hate campaigns, and extremist groups.
These are problems that have poisoned a social network that I otherwise love, and one that has introduced me to lifelong friends and new business clients. What’s worse is that Twitter is startlingly reluctant to address problems that Twitter could obliterate almost overnight if Dorsey would consider sacrificing his utopian ideals in favor of enforcing its own rules, but we’ll get to that later.
Social media giants including Twitter are currently under a microscope for their role in helping to facilitate and amplify genocide in Myanmar. The stories from Myanmar are horrific, involving village burnings, indiscriminate killings and what United Nations investors allege are “the gravest crimes under international law.”
Jack Dorsey, the face of Twitter with 4.2 million followers, decided it would be a great idea in the middle of this to promote Myanmar as a destination for silent vipassana meditation. Show us the way, Jack!
Over several tweets that can only be described as peak Silicon Valley, Jack Dorsey describes his birthday meditation retreat in luxurious detail. He notes that the people of Myanmar are “full of joy” and celebrates listening to a Kendrick Lamar album after breaking his meditative silence.
Oh, and there was also the widespread evidence of Myanmar’s government committing mass genocide against the Rohingya people and forcing hundreds of thousands of them to flee, but that didn’t disrupt Jack’s trip at all.
A backlash rightly followed, with people and op-eds piling on how astonishingly tone-deaf this was especially at a time when Twitter is alleged to have helped stoke this genocide. People also took Jack to task for his patronizing attitude and by ignoring the real struggles of the people of Myanmar. Jack has been completely radio silent despite the massive outcry.
In spite of everything Jack Dorsey has his defenders and his apologists, with one person on Twitter insisting:
As for my take? What Dorsey’s defenders don’t realize is that this overwhelming backlash against Twitter’s CEO is a simple one: It’s funny.
It is legitimately quite funny to see Jack Dorsey being piled on like this, and while it’s not a complex take, this is Jack Dorsey we’re talking about. When has this man – who has stood idly by while his platform has degraded into a complete sewer of death threats, bigotry and harassment and bot accounts – deserved the benefit of the doubt?
Some, like the Twitter user above, genuinely believe that this was a personal story from a man speaking to people about meditative experiences. Even if that were true, so? If Jack Dorsey at no point considered the implications of writing about meditation tourism in a country his own platform is alleged to have encouraged genocide in he deserves the blowback from being so indescribably out of touch.
Dorsey’s responses to these incidents and most of his efforts to address Twitter’s problems have been wishy-washy at best, with Twitter dragging its feet to ban bad actors. Twitter itself has only taken something of a harder stance after years of massive public pressure and moreso now that the specter of regulation looms over these companies.
Dorsey is far from the only issue here. Last year Twitter co-founder Biz Stone remarkably complained of being “piled on” over criticism of the platform.
In response several people including game developer Zoe Quinn and Mara Wilson responded with detailed arguments about how tone-deaf this was and were subsequently met with more radio silence.
With all of this in mind, I don’t care that Jack Dorsey can’t talk about his meditative tourism without backlash because he doesn’t deserve any benefit of any doubt. By this point we should be through giving multibillion dollar executives of companies “a chance” when they won’t clean their backyard.
Of course, any personal harassment lobbed at anyone within Twitter – be it Jack Dorsey, a PR rep or anyone within Twitter’s machine – isn’t just uncalled for, it’s a waste of your time. You’re not only contributing to the toxicity Dorsey, Stone and Twitter’s other leaders allowed to happen but you’re completely part of the problem.
That being said, flooding Dorsey with replies to tweets like his Myanmar ones, mass downvoting his speeches on YouTube and making snarky replies to unrelated personal tweets about Twitter’s harassment problem is not only fair game, but it’s funny, because this is Dorsey, Stone and others reaping what they sowed.
I will always appreciate what Twitter has done for me and others. I’ve met wonderful people, developed new business and even gotten tech support when I needed it most. I’ll even say it’s still an extremely valuable business tool for the companies that can spend the time and effort on it.
Even so, that doesn’t excuse the negligence Dorsey and his team are responsible for. They’ve allowed harassment and bigotry to flourish unchecked on their platform for years, so it’s now only frigging hilarious to watch a multibillionaire CEO act like he’s going off the grid – while wearing his Apple Watch – and subsequently get flooded with snarky replies over it.
Twitter and other social media giants are walking a very fine line right now as they’ve been accused of being vehicles of political manipulation and election meddling. Times like these need strong leadership – and it’s time Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and others at least acted like the part.