Flouting the rules against inciting violence, Twitter’s ruthlessly woke former CEO Dick Costolo posted an angry 2 a.m. tweet last week demanding that “capitalists who think they can separate society from business should be lined up against the wall and shot in the revolution.” Costolo concluded his tweet by promising to videotape the whole thing.
Embittered and envious of those still in the game, Costolo now jeers from the sidelines — betting against those he deems insufficiently woke.
Frustrated by a recent debate among tech leaders over whether the industry should actively promote social justice in the workplace, Costolo bragged that tech companies welcome “lively debate” about ideas and society — claiming that “it was part of the social contract inside the company, and it’s what differentiated tech culture from say, Wells Fargo culture.” Smug in his tech industry superiority over what he viewed as the bad banking industry, Costolo became enraged by a blog by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong — a leader in tech — suggesting that Coinbase employees need to “avoid issues that are unrelated to our core mission.” Armstrong advised his employees that they needed to be “laser focused” on achieving the mission of Coinbase because “I believe that this is the way that we can have the biggest impact on the world. We will do this by playing as a championship team, focus on building and transparent about what our mission is and isn’t.”
For “Che” Costolo, Brian Armstrong is a traitor to the revolution. In an era of virtue-signaling messages on NBA jerseys and kneeling for the National Anthem, it is quite a shock when a CEO like Armstrong has the courage to remind his employees to stay focused on their mission of making money. He wrote, “We don’t advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction from our mission. Even if we all agree something is a problem, we may not all agree on the solution.” Worst of all for Costolo, Armstrong invited those unhappy with his policy of mission first to take advantage of a newly created — and very generous — buyout package.
This will be difficult for those employees who want an activist job while earning a tech salary, but it is likely that few will be accepting the Coinbase buyout. Those who stay will enjoy a workplace that is united in a single cause — expanding the business and making money.
Besides, it is unclear why Costolo thinks he should be offering leadership advice to anyone considering his ignoble exit from Twitter in 2015 after repeatedly failing to meet Wall Street expectations for several years. Computer World reported that Costolo was fired.
Costolo denies this and claims that he asked the Board to replace him, but Chris Sacca, one of the company’s earliest investors and biggest shareholders, publicly called for leadership change in an 8,500 word blog post published on the New York Times website. After Mr. Sacca’s post, an analyst at SunTrust, Robinson Humphrey, suggested that “if Twitter’s financial results disappointed investors again in July, as they had for the last two quarters, ‘we think it’s possible that the company will look to make some changes’ in leadership.”
Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company, told a Times reporter that “the situation at Twitter must be much worse than it appears as replacing the CEO is such a big step.” Blau suggested that “Twitter’s problems are clearly not over, and while Jack Dorsey knows Twitter well, they really should bring in some outside perspective as most of their strategies so far are not working out so well.”
Costolo’s strategies are still not working out. Embittered and envious of those still in the game, Costolo now jeers from the sidelines — betting against those he deems insufficiently woke. After a deluge of angry tweets from tech workers and others criticizing his promising to videotape the revolutionary massacre of CEOs, Costolo deleted the offensive tweet but continued the conversation on the need for what he called the “lively debate” about ideas and society.
The problem is that there is no “lively debate” going on in the tech world or in much of the business world. There is one side presented, and one side allowed — the progressive side. Dissenters are not welcome. Brian Armstrong knows that this is a distraction. But his is a lonely voice in a world of tech totalitarians like Costolo. As Daniel J. Flynn recently wrote in these pages about the “corrosive nature of total politics,” businesses are now “pressured into displaying slogans in their windows as though they sell social justice inside.” Costolo has embraced the totalitarian spirit, which seeks to infuse the tech workplace with political consciousness. There is no escape from Costolo’s totalitarian world.
Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and author of The Politics of Envy (Crisis Publications).
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