I guess I have a more nuanced view of ArringtonGate, but by the look of the media coverage there seems to be a different understanding of what Mike does. We all know the persona, the power, the influence, the trendsetter, the dog lover. But what is it that drives the man, the source of his rapid rise to the covers of what remains of the mass media.
Maybe it’s just personal, the interactions between us. I’ve watched Mike suck every last bit of information out of unsuspecting victims, painlessly draining them of scoops they didn’t know they had or validation for previous interrogations. It’s the reverse of waterboarding, a friendly, humor-dotted “conversation” you have with him which, when replayed in your mind, seems oddly devoid of any information coming back at you other than suggestions that what good is our friendship if you can’t just tell me what’s really going on.
Mike’s world view is pragmatic, but not chipped in the stone of his right-center political perspective. You may not see him changing his mind, because that would violate the rules of his interrogation style. But the key is to not listen to any of the details of what he says at the time, but rather what he actually writes. Even then, you have to extract the real takeaway from the apparent one.
For starters, Mike doesn’t care in the least about startups or VC dynamics or whatever. He does care about the bits of humanity that fly off the wheel as he spins through the Valley and its impact on our lives. He’s a standup comedian looking for what we are hiding, or think we’re projecting, a kind of techno-Seinfeld extracting the underlying cotton ball-edness of the thing we call the industry. Fact: this is what’s funny to him, and he lives for funny.
He’s all about the opposite of whatever he’s saying, or you’re saying, or what’s trending as being said. If you are talking with him about music, he’s telling you it will all go to free. When he says that, I hear: it’s all going pay. That’s because my game is to argue with him and overstate the opposite of what he’s saying, because I’m actually trying to out-Arrington him in reverse. That’s because I know it’s a loser to try and deflect him, so might as well learn from him and try it out on the one guy who will appreciate it because he invented it. It usually doesn’t work but losing that way is more fun.
As a standup comedian, he falls into the dynamics few have escaped. Robin Williams could wrench himself out of the repetition through the use of various mood enhancers, but at some point it became easier to be a movie star than constantly troll for the irony of the human condition. There was also the shutdown of vital organs to contend with. Staying “on” around the clock is tricky business, especially because nobody asked you to.
The fallback is to submarine, hide where you’re not required to be either onstage or preparing for it. This is where dogs come in: they like all your material, even when you don’t have any. Whoever invented dogs had a really good sense of humor, so it must by definition be God. It has been observed relentlessly that dog is the inverse of God, but I swear I’ve seen little other direct evidence of some guiding force in the universe.
As a lover of dogs and all they do, Mike gets an automatic free pass on all things conflicted. This is hard for many of us to understand, but looked at from a dog’s loving angle, nothing has changed between editor Mike and MikeFund. Come to think of it, what has changed? Does Mike do anything different now than he did previously? After all, the history of TechCrunch itself is one of doing what he did and looking up one day to realize he was actually editor of something.
I can’t tell you what Mike thinks he does, but as an editor, Mike has come as close to perfection for me. I’ve worked with a great number and variety of editors, almost all extremely talented at what they did. But in all cases my goal is to handle every last bit of editing to the point that all they could say is nothing. Mike has this down better than anyone. He never says anything. This is perfection for me. From a dog’s POV, fantastic material.
With some TechCrunch writers, this works even better. MG Siegler seems to have a bottomless well of pro-Apple verbiage, the net result of which is that Mike can go weeks on end saying absolutely nothing while at the same time providing incredible analytic value by virtue of his silence. He needs to fill that time with boating and dog-playing until Google finally produces something useful, but notice he hasn’t really said anything one way or the other about Google+.
What he does say is understood by watching his feet. If he shows up, it’s because he’s needed. In all the noise about ArringtonGate the one thing that actually resonates is the constant yearning for his presence. That’s an easy call: do we remember what it was like before him? Interesting, sure. Important, probably. Educational, entertaining, rewarding, showboating, cable news, social media, traditional standup comedy. The labels devolve to irrelevance. What remains is the awareness of something that appears to come from a consistent place.
Some may not agree with Mike’s methods, but just because the ethics he projects may violate other people’s theories doesn’t mean they’re wrong. I can understand the positions of those talented journalists and respect their work while doing the same for Mike, Paul Carr, MG, and all the other members of the TechCrunch team. Two rights don’t make a wrong either.
Which brings me to my bottom line. I hope and trust ArringtonGate will come and go with the same mixture of hysteria and adventure as it materialized yet again. No amount of posturing or definitive statements will detract from the very real purpose that’s being explored here. From this dog’s perspective, nothing has changed. Could Mike be removed as co-editor of TechCrunch? Sure, by Mike Arrington. If he decides to remove himself from the game, retire, run for President, whatever, I’ll still look to him for the same things. The confidence to say nothing most of the time, do what he does and have fun with it, succeed without really trying, and make life more interesting for his presence.
A friend of ours emailed today with a problem, on the border between personal and professional. But what stood out was the quality of her voice. She’d recently lost her husband and had disappeared for a while to regain some strength. But here she was sounding engaged and not a little bit pissed off. Indeed, she said, nothing like this kind of stupidity to get her back in the game. Thanks, Mike and Team. And by Team you know who I mean.