The Brendan Eich witch hunt makes HBO’s Silicon Valley must-see TV

Silicon Valley HBOOne of the most awful defenses the usual suspects offered on behalf of Mozilla came (natch) from the New York Times, which opined that Mozilla is “special” and therefore cannot be held to ordinary corporate standards:

Mozilla is not a normal company. It is an activist organization. Mozilla’s primary mission isn’t to make money but to spread open-source code across the globe in the eventual hope ofpromoting “the development of the Internet as a public resource.”

As such, Mozilla operates according to a different calculus from most of the rest of corporate America.

Like all software companies, Mozilla competes in two markets. First, obviously, it wants people to use its products instead of its rivals’ stuff. But its second market is arguably more challenging — the tight labor pool of engineers, designers, and other tech workers who make software.

When you consider the importance of that market, Mr. Eich’s position on gay marriage wasn’t some outré personal stance unrelated to his job; it was a potentially hazardous bit of negative branding in the labor pool, one that was making life difficult for current employees and plausibly reducing Mozilla’s draw to prospective workers.

Short version:  Silicon Valley is a unique outpost of Progressive corporate responsibility and no tech company can afford to offend the delicate sensibilities within that small, unique world.

That sounded nonsensical, but it may well be that Silicon Valley denizens really do like to think of themselves as special in unique and Progressive ways.  Indeed, we have proof of that, and in a pretty funny form that was created and finalized long before anyone thought of anything other than JavaScript in connection with Brendan Eich.

Last night, HBO debuted a new half hour show called Silicon Valleywhich HBO promises will be the Entourage of California’s high-tech world:  five young men will become very, very rich, and then navigate their way through the perils and pleasures of wealth and insincerity in a uniquely rich and powerful environment.  Because I’m not a fan of HBO’s leftist sensibilities, I yielded only reluctantly to my husband’s importuning that I give it a try.  From the first minute, though, I was hooked.

I don’t think I would have been quite so hooked if it hadn’t been for the Brendan Eich witch hunt.  Without that context, the show really is just another Entourage, meaning that you can only remain interested for so long in foul-mouthed, stereotypical young men (computer geeks, as opposed to Hollywood geeks) living the lush life.  But what the show did wonderfully, really wonderfully, was to satirize the banal Progressivism that those who have struck it rich in Silicon Valley believe that they must bring to bear on every facet of life.

When the episode opens, the main protagonist is working as a low-level drone at “Hooli,” a company that’s clearly modeled on Google/Facebook/YouTube/Yahoo or any other Silicon Valley company that seeks to think “out of the box,” by turning the workplace into a playground and the world into a Progressive paradise.  In fact, Hooli’s real goal is to keep its isolated, banal, self-involved founder very, very rich, which various corporate sycophants and tech geeks along for the monied ride.

One of the more interesting characters, and one that the hero opts to work with, is a weird guy who is fanatically opposed to college, which he believes stifles creativity and initiative.  As he points out, most of the tech world’s great ideas came from college drop-outs.  To him, college is a place where the top-heavy administration’s entire goal is to churn out people who are burdened with debt, can’t get jobs, and have had their creative abilities sucked out of them.  When this guy gives a well-attended talk to that effect, the only opposition he gets is from an old hippie who hurls content-free insults.

It was both a surprise to me and not a surprise at all to learn that Mike Judge is the show’s creator.  Judge denies having any political leanings.  That may be true.  He may just be an iconoclast who’s willing to take on the Leftist shibboleths that completely dominant Hollywood and the professional class.  Whatever his motivations and beliefs, his product is refreshing.  

For all that Silicon Valley  satirizes the brainless, corporate Progressivism that oozes out of Silicon Valley, I doubt that even Judge could have envisioned either the fascist attack on Eich for his personal beliefs or the “we’re special” defense that the New York Times offered up on Mozilla’s behalf.  In a world run by Leftists, reality routinely outruns satire.  Nevertheless, if you have access to HBO, and if you are willing to tolerate HBO’s endless obsession with sex and foul language, check out its premiere episode (which you can see online).  In the unlikely event that it manages to maintain its satirical tone for even a few episodes before sinking into the usual Hollywood quicksand of mushy feel-good Leftism, it’s probably a show you’ll enjoy and one that, moreover, deserves support.

(Should I throw in a few typical review points here?  Yes, I shall.  Production values are expensive; acting is workmanlike; obscenity is rife.  That’s pretty much all you need to know.)

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Comments

  1. says

    “the tight labor pool of engineers, designers, and other tech workers who make software”…these people are also of course in demand by **for-profit** corporations, so I’m not sure what Mozilla’s non-profit status could possibly have to do with the situation.
     
    Moreover, tech workers of the sort described are important to plenty of companies that *aren’t* located in Silicon Valley and that aren’t generally thought of as “tech” companies.  (Indeed, the definition of “tech” are generally used has gotten bizarrely narrow. If you have a company to sell underware on-line, the media will consider you as a tech company…if you make hardware and software for aircraft autopilots that can land a plane in zero visibility, then you will probably be classed as a boring old industrial company)

  2. says

    Also know that the pace of production means union writers will begin taking over the material and distorting it, no matter what the original authors think about it.
    Don’t expect spiritual integrity from HBO, you won’t get it. What you’ll get is a hidden message that the people around you will absorb without being fully aware of it.
     

  3. says

    I would say Mike Judge is pretty conservative. At least King of the Hill was. He’s very good at skewering Leftists, phony culture and academics.  They are portrayed as one dimensional social climbers who grab onto, hipness causes or what have you not because they are sophisticated but because they get easy money, status and ego boosts from doing so. He nails how they look, sound and act and its just outright funny.

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