Let's feel bad!
We’re gonna feel a range of negative emotions together today, so I want you to prepare yourself for that however you need to. But let’s ease into it with Andrea Long Chu’s wistful Vulture Close Read of “The Velveteen Rabbit” by way of the life story of author Margery Williams Bianco and her child prodigy artist daughter Pamela.
There is, in other words, a second Real. This was Bianco’s greatest insight, the one that made The Velveteen Rabbit a genuinely philosophical work — that the true task of growing up lies not in simple self-actualization but in carefully negotiating the delicate transition from one order of reality to another. Central to this transition is the limiting of the imagination to more indirect spheres of experience (dreams, literature, art) in exchange for an independent, more plastic sense of self. But the process, by necessity, will begin with tragedy. Just as the Velveteen Rabbit comes to believe he will be Real forever, he is thrown out. “Of what use was it to be loved and lose one’s beauty and become Real if it all ended like this?” the heartbroken rabbit wonders. A tear drops from his eye and out steps the beautiful fairy who promises to make him Real. “Wasn’t I Real before?” the little rabbit asks. “You were Real to the Boy,” the fairy gently replies, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one.”
It’s a great article in itself, but this is also a solid insight about the problems facing our two major ongoing tech/business meltdowns: Twitter and FTX. If you were baffled by yesterday’s fairly brief and acronym-heavy FTX paragraph, Molly White wrote a more discursive explainer with the backstory (part one) and her own analysis (part two). Molly included this tweet explaining the basic fraud flywheel powering FTX and Alameda:
FTX was trying to make the “the delicate transition from one order of reality to another,” from being a depository bank with a modest income based on trading fees (“Real” to crypto bros) to becoming the kind of foundational dynastic fortune that Bankman-Fried imagined would be capable of solving the problems that would plague humanity in ten thousand years. But he failed, because instead of “limiting… the imagination to more indirect spheres of experience,” Bankman-Fried attempted to pretend his fortune into being Real to everyone, and you can’t get rich from vibes alone.
Semafor’s Liz Hoffman, Bradley Saacks, and Louise Matsakis report that “Most of FTX’s legal and compliance staff quit Tuesday evening… leaving few executives who could answer questions that now loom large over the firm.” Coincidentally The Verge’s Alex Heath reports that Twitter’s “chief privacy officer Damien Kieran, chief information security officer Lea Kissner, and chief compliance officer Marianne Fogarty have all resigned.” YOLO compliance for everyone! Regulators are circling FTX, and Heath writes that “Musk’s new legal department is also apparently asking engineers to “self-certify” compliance with FTC rules and other privacy laws.”
SIDEBAR: HEY ENGINEERS!
ABSOLUTELY DO NOT SIGN ANY LEGAL DOCUMENTS THAT SAY YOU PERSONALLY CERTIFY COMPLIANCE WITH FTC RULES OR OTHER PRIVACY LAWS. OK, GOOD TALK.
Mike Masnick wrote about the FTC consent decree that Twitter is still operating under:
While Elon may think he’s not afraid of the FTC, he should be. The FTC is not the SEC and the FTC does not fuck around. Violating the FTC can lead to criminal penalties…
Anyone working in Twitter needs to know that “self-certifying” something that violates the FTC’s consent decree may be tied to a prison sentence and huge fines. This is not how any of this should be working.
SIDEBAR TWO: ENGINEERS, 👆👆👆👆
SERIOUSLY, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING!
Bankman-Fried tweeted a hair-raising mea culpa thread this morning that made it clear he was also employing a heavily vibes-based compliance regime, in which “a poor internal labeling of bank-related accounts meant that I was substantially off on my sense of users' margin.” He continued:
Alexandra Scaggs from FT’s Alphaville also found this claim somewhat surprising:
So the head of FTX — a platform that is popular in part because it makes it fairly easy to use leverage while trading — thought that its clients had . . . zero leverage?
In other words:
Other Things Going Just Great:
Tether is going just great. “A representative for Tether told CoinDesk in an email that issuer Tether Global is unexposed to both Alameda and FTX,” which means it probably has less than 24 hours to live.
The Ukraine war is going just great, for Russia. Having voted to annex Kherson in a magnificent feat of democracy, Russian troops will no longer be needed and can rapidly withdraw east of the Dnipro, with celebratory bridge explosions to mark the occasion. Great victory!
Women’s health care is going just great. Fran Hoepfner: “Who Will Remove My IUD?”
How was the IUD supposed to come out, then? She shook her head and said, vaguely, “It’s a whole thing. But it happens.” She wrote me a prescription for antibiotics to clear up some spotting. I returned to her several times throughout the fall, complaining of pain from cysts and regular bleeding. “Is it worth taking the IUD out?” I finally asked her. She shrugged. “Seems like a lot of work.”
Twitter verification, in case you wondered, is still going great. Since before. When it was also going great.
Tether and FTX: going great together! (At the request of law enforcement.)
Some Comic Relief:
Seeing all the attention Daddy Elon is getting over checkmarks, and, like toddlers, being unable to distinguish between good attention and bad attention, Our Regrettable Platform has launched “Bestseller Badges,” ranking paid newsletter authors by presumed clout via paid subscriber count. If you’d like to help promote me from an Orange Check to a regal Purple Check, you may subscribe here, but I’ll warn you, we’ve got a long way to go. I guess we have to hand it to them for adding a feature that is… not actively harmful? Please clap.
Some Good Tiktoks:
In Jawns, Vibes Discovered:
Jessica Testa profiled The Spyplane for The Times.
Absorbing the voice can feel, at times, like watching Dr. Jekyll (if he were a socialist) overcome Mr. Hyde (if he were a hypebeast), with one dressed in vintage L.L. Bean and the other in Homme Plissé Issey Miyake.
Damn that’s a good sentence.
Mood Music for the YOLO Compliance Dep’t:
The Takes, it is said, never give up their dead
When the Tabs of November come early…
Happy Gentlemen’s Friday! Everything is going just great. Yesterday someone told me they quit their job wearing a You Can Always Quit T-shirt, and it made everything worthwhile. Defector has similar merch, and I think there’s room for everyone in the anti-hustle hustle. Also if you have enjoyed this bonkers week of Tabs, please think about paying me for it so I will stay motivated to get through the slower weeks.