Michael Arrington: the world isn't black and white

Duncan Riley

Much of the blogosphere, and even the mainstream press (Asher Moses at The Age has one of the best posts up) is buzzing about a post from TechCrunch's Michael Arrington where Arrington claims that he's had enough after being stalked and spat on.

Let me say upfront that the stalking and spitting is most definitely a step to far, that no blogger should have to put up with that, and in that regard he has my sympathies.

But it's the fine print where the story lets me down. In Michael's world, people are out to get him, because TechCrunch didn't write about their startup (on the spitting incident "some unhappy European entrepreneur we didn’t write about") or because they are jealous and/ or competitors ("my peers will realize that competitive pressures do not give them carte blanche to accuse us and others of literally anything that pops into their head").

Quite simply, it's Michael's attitude to others that is at the very heart of the problem.

My own run in with Arrington is a case in point. I left TechCrunch on a reasonable note, Michael wrote a nice post (since deleted I might add) and I was even doing a couple of guest posts a week for the first month. Then I signed a deal with a small startup that in a very remote way competed with Crunchbase. I honestly believed at the time that it wouldn't be an issue, the one on one comparison was so minor, and even the day before I got my fuck off email I'd been sending story tips through to Michael, and even working with one of their new writers helping him get established.

The email from Michael claimed that I was out to get them. In Michael's world, you're 100% agree with him, or you're 100% against him. Michael made some other allegations that I'd been negative about TechCrunch to that point; I'd written one, maybe two posts where I disagreed with stuff on TechCrunch, but as anyone around me will testify, to that day I'd always spoken publicly and privately positively about my time working for Michael.

This is but one example, but it's an example of how Michael operates. I considered him well to that point, and this is the way he treats someone who worked his arse off for him for 12 months, 7 days a week, with one very short break (I left because the pay wasn't worth the cost on my health). God help the people who really are anti-Arrington, and the lashing they've received. Michael pushes people away who can and would support him, and makes enemies of those who want to support him, but may not always agree with him 100% of the time.

But I digress, because there are other clues here as to the root cause of the problem. The spitting incident for example: Michael immediately presumes that it was a startup person who didn't get a review, but the far more likely reason is Michael's anti-European startup comments at LeWeb. That those around him didn't offer assistance shows what many who follow the European blogosphere and startup community were reading: Arrington is hated on the continent because of what he said about them, absolutely nothing to do with a startup reviews or competition.

There's also this presumption from Michael that people in the United States hate him for similar reasons: not getting a review, or being in competition. That this may hold true for some is a given, but a few don't make a majority. People aren't jealous of Michael, in fact why would they be: long hours, lots of stress, and he gets stalked and spat on. If anything, those who still hold any good will towards him (and part of me does, despite our stoush) are actually concerned more than anything: his lashing out has created an atmosphere were he has become hated, as we see now to an extreme point. But lets be clear on the why: it's not because of TechCrunch the blog, and his competitive posts, or because competitors want to bring him down (which I'd note, really, TechCrunch has few real competitors anyway); the problem stems from the way he deals with others.

I mean this quite sincerely, but I hope that he uses his time off (which I'd note is long overdue anyway), to realize that the world isn't black and white, and that not everyone is out to get him. I've seen the good, generous, kind, engaging and interesting sides of Michael, and I realize the pressure he is under, but change has come to America, and change needs to come to the empire of Arrington. There's a good guy in there still, I just hope that side wins out. As a commenter on Valleywag pointed out: Om Malik doesn't attract this negative attention. I hope the good Michael returns, and we'd be all the better off to see it once again. I know I miss that side of him, as do many of those who once knew him, but were pushed away, do.