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I Call This Blackmail

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Aol employee Mike Arrington is angry! The TechCrunch founder and co-editor fired off a histrionic screed yesterday directed at Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr and Hunch, with an explicit threat aimed at anyone who doesn't kowtow to him.

In a nutshell, Arrington claims he had a scoop that Caterina Fake was launching yet another startup, and reached out to her. But before he could publish, she spilled the beans on her own blog. This led Arrington to write an angry post, and in doing so dish dirt he'd apparently been sitting on as to what he claims is the real reason Caterina Fake left Hunch.

Last year when she left Hunch it was an extremely sordid situation. Because of some very chatty people close to the company I had all the details about her leaving, and why.


He then goes on to call her a liar, without revealing the facts or sources that he bases those allegations on. Finally, he ends the post with some Breitbart-esque, above-it-all, language:

I'm still not going to write about why Fake really left Hunch, because it's not something that should be written. But one thing I'm pretty sure about is this – Fake won't be getting any calls from me in the future to give her a heads up that we're breaking news about her startup.

Treat us with respect and you'll get it back times ten in return. That's all we ask.


Explicitly, it's clear what he's saying: If you, Mr. or Ms. Startup founder, don't play ball with us, we will fuck you over. But the implicit stuff is more insidious to me.

Arrington is acting as if he's above the mudslinging by not revealing details. But the problem with that stance is that had he not brought up the "sordid situation," how would anyone have even known there was mud to be slung? Thanks to his word choice ("sordid") it comes across as old-school slut shaming. Merely by revealing that there is some unspecified scandal, he's already doing damage to her reputation, even while acting as if he is taking the moral high ground.

And in the act of saying he won't write about the details, he slyly is letting Fake know that he could. I would take that as an implied threat.

I don't consider this reporting on the industry. It's not even breaking news, as he reveals nothing other than innuendo. To me, it's extortion, pure and simple. And it's sponsored and condoned by the all new Aol. Guess what? You've got blackmail.


[Photo by Randy Stewart /]