The Canceling of David Markovich
Responsibility of Speech and Responsibility of Moderation
Yesterday, David Markovich, Clubhouse influencer, got suspended. I wasn’t there for it, but all day and all night, Clubhouse was filled with rooms with titles such as:
Emergency Family Meeting
They suspended David y’all
I had an issue with David M too 🤷🏾♂️
WTF is happening on Clubhouse rn?
David who? Someone please explain 😩
Apparently, David moderated a “Let’s all welcome China & Japan to Clubhouse 🎉🎉” room and pissed off a bunch of Asians and a lot of other people by being a bad BDFN. The details are being collected at http://bit.ly/theactualstory by the directly offended, and has revealed various challenges with Clubhouse around “bad actors”, discrimination, and moderation. It is also a reflection of the pain and trauma of the collective consciousness and Asian American communities.
Responsibility of speech and more importantly, responsibility of moderation is a privilege, not a right. Clubhouse gave David a huge audience to build his credibility and his brand with, and he used it to bully an Asian American (William Tong) who was translating and serving an audience that David didn’t speak the native language of. If it sounds like grade school drama, that’s because it is. That’s what it was like for Asians Americans in grade school. Getting bullied by white kids was a intrinsic part of our childhood. We didn’t have a monopoly on it, but we had a pretty high market share.
Now, I don’t really want to join a rage mob, and I’m sure David has his side of the story. It seems like it must have been a really bad day for him. But, it’s an important conversation.
This will be a test for Clubhouse. How they deal with this may decide the fate of the platform. It is a fair criticism that the Elon Musk Clubhouse room seems to have been staged to serve a Billionaire Boys’ Club agenda. Despite a billion dollar valuation, Clubhouse could still become the Friendster of social audio. Are the Clubhouse founders and investors simply monetizing the idea of the democratization of voice to further enrich themselves as yet another example of a corrupt and broken system? We shall see.
It seems that there’s been a growing frustration in the international Asian diaspora of not being seen and heard. I can feel it. I am part of it. We have a culture of being polite and “not causing trouble.” But, it seems yesterday’s event was the straw that broke the camel’s back, at least on Clubhouse.
The conversation of cultural favoritism and bias to promote certain voices and suppress others is bubbling to the surface. I believe that pretty much all Asian Americans have experienced subtle and blatant discrimination throughout our entire lives, schooling, and careers… and yet, we almost never speak of it. Traditional Asian immigrant culture values harmony and fears attention, but there is a danger in sacrificing for the sake of “peace” rather than standing up for oneself.
It isn’t a contest of which group has had the most trauma, and I am not a fan of identity politics or the theory of intersectionality, but it seems we are in a transitional phase where active listening must be a priority. Marginalized groups (including those that support Trump) need to have their pain be heard and acknowledged, but actionable solutions are not obvious or easy.
Clubhouse seems to have potential as a platform for holding space.
Holding space means to be with someone without judgment. To donate your ears and heart without wanting anything back. To practice empathy and compassion. To accept someone’s truth, no matter what they are. To allow and accept. Embrace with two hands instead of pointing with one finger. To come in neutral. Open. For them. Not you. Holding space means to put your needs and opinions aside and allow someone to just be.
But maybe, we don’t need Clubhouse to do this. There’s an aspect of the platform that reminds me of the narrator from Fight Club crashing support groups to relieve insomnia. We already have friends and family that we can hold space for and far too many communication channels. Perhaps the problem is that “real world” communities and families are so broken that people need to go onto an online platform with strangers to find solace, while dodging marketing gurus peddling influencer magic and ways to find more followers.
We need to acknowledge the past, but also need to be able to move forward. Escalating cancel culture is not a sustainable long term plan. As with any online community platform, echo chambers and lynch mobs are a danger. It should be obvious where that leads.
Perhaps rather than yet another social media gold rush to gain followers and amplify voices, Clubhouse is a bandage in this time of quarantine and isolation, to remind us how desperate people are for connection. It’s an opportunity to serve the vulnerable in these difficult times, rather than use them to build clout.
We are in the midst of a paradigm shift where the current system that is creating hierarchies that are so out of balance that exponential pitchforks are coming for billionaires and politicians, and that could burn the whole planet to the ground. In this shift, there is much work to be done, a new global civilization meta-game needs to be designed, and new planetary infrastructure needs to be built, but it’s important to remember that we, Humanity, haven’t healed… yet.