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Haters (paulgraham.com)
321 points by razin 87 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 295 comments

For people who don’t understand what he’s talking about, this is a reference to Lambda School. In the last few weeks, folks have been coming out of the woodwork with stories of illegal, negligent, and abusive behavior.


If this allegation about the intent of Graham's article is correct, then that article comes across as disingenuous and passive-aggressive, regardless of its validity with respect to haters in general.

The CEO of Lambda School is one of the reviewers of this article.

If that's the case, PG's piece does across as an intellectual's attack on the media. A more refined brand of populism, using his platform to vaguely defend an investment. The "haters", in this case, would be those publishing unflattering truths about certain tech companies.

Wow, I didn't even notice that. Good catch.

I've admired PG and his essays for a while, but I've started paying more attention, and thus I'm starting to realize he's somewhat thin skinned like that; this is exactly the feeling I got after reading this new one.

Similarly, he's been passive aggressively "responding" to VC criticism by subtweeting and deflecting, and never directly addressing, some of the points raised by @DHH and others.

I take everything he writes with a grain of salt now. As a result, I started to realize his essays tend to be can defensive or just contain a lot of bias, rather than being truly introspective.

When I saw Austen quote that PG post, I thought it read like a cleaned-up dignified version of Elizabeth Holmes' "This is what happens when you work to change things. First they think you're crazy, then they fight you, then you change the world.".

More context about the accusation about California regulations and Lambda: https://twitter.com/sandofsky/status/1211717254712135680

tl;dr: 2 weeks ago, Sandofsky emailed the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education and asked for an update on Lambda School's license to operate. He was told that Lambda "does not have an active license or approval to operate", nor has Lambda "yet to apply for approval to operate as required by law" (see edit-2 below; turns out Lambda recently applied)

AFAIK, Austen has not specifically addressed this. Even though a vague, "We're still going through the process. We did [something] on [x date] and are waiting for the next step around [y date]" would be (initially) sufficient. Certainly better than channeling Elizabeth Holmes in the Lambda slack channel.

edit: just re-read the thread and saw that someone just replied (as of an hour ago) with purported screenshots of Austen's detailed explanation in the Lambda slack "in December":


edit-2: Another reply from Sandofsky, saying BPPE followed up and said Lambda has recently applied: https://twitter.com/sandofsky/status/1216075710818766848

In another follow up from the BPPE, they told me it is not legally possible for a program offering an ISA to be approved.

This matters because when a school operates illegally, the BPPE has no legal jurisdiction when a student has an issue. This means student only have the option of hiring a lawyer. Given who ISAs target, many students don’t have the resources to do this.

I once read an article in Readers Digest with the title "Why we gossip". I started reading, prepared for something which was probably going to point out all the flaws in those people who gossip, and how they can be rectified etc.

But the article took a very interesting turn. It said, (paraphrasing) without gossip, people in power will arrange everything in the general direction of usurping more power (e.g. dictators). And how gossip serves a very important evolutionary need (a powerful, guerilla style technique to destroy power-grabs). If you were under a dictator, openly criticizing them leaves you with a small chance of being murdered. Hence you will choose instead to gossip. Imagine if the dictator then tells all his subjects - "whatever you have heard about me is untrue, it is just some haters hating".

So there is another explanation for haters (and their apparent obsession) - they look around and see a lot of injustice. Usually they are powerless to do anything, and waiting until they achieve something in life might make the problem much worse before they can offer their viewpoint. So perhaps hating has an evolutionary benefit - it gives clues to non-haters to then go and do their own additional research. Sometimes it results in reducing the power of those who become so out of touch that they just casually dismiss all criticism as hating, much like Hillary thought everyone who doesn't agree with her is a deplorable person.

I think you're fundamentally correct, but this is a mechanism which works better in small groups (say, a hunter/gatherer group on the African savannah, or a small medieval European peasant village). The same instincts which create haters now, would prevent somebody from getting too powerful in a small (Dunbar's number or less) group. Unfortunately now, we are interconnected in groups orders of magnitude larger than that.

Yes, Harari's Sapiens also builds upon this premise.

> Imagine if the dictator then tells all his subjects - "whatever you have heard about me is untrue, it is just some haters hating".

I regularly read criticism being waved away with exactly that argument, for example by polticians. It is inherently an ad hominem. Calling someone a fanboy or hater and ignoring their argument in the process _is_ an ad hominem, too. Does not mean the entire argument is (in)valid though.

Well that was interesting until the attempt to turn "To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables." and following regret over saying half, into "Hillary thought everyone who doesn't agree with her is a deplorable person."

I mean just, at least try?

My issue with this being I think the GP in its last sentence completely negates its otherwise decent analysis by giving an example not of someone "taken down to earth" or similar by "reasonable" hating, gossip or what you will, but instead having their words spun out of proportion to where something qualified several times over gets remembered as a blanket statement. Even if it fits your morals that they deserved as much, it can't be said to be true, so you'd have to posit truthiness is somehow good. Which I think is real bad.

It makes very little sense to me. Almost reads like a joke.

Edit: shit I'm dumb

I setup a business which had a reasonable amount of success, and the amount and commitment of some of the haters was a real shock to me.

Just taking a perspective publically on something fairly innocuous such as which is the best programming language seemed to attract something much more aggressive than the usual debate because I had a bit of a perceived expertise.

I had a handful of people follow me online commenting on nearly everything, calling me a fraud etc again it wasn’t justified and the topic did not really warrant such a degree of negativity.

And heaven forbid you do actually make a mistake. I made the most tiny oversight about equality and diversity and the baying mob online wanted to tear me to pieces.

One thing I was disappointed about was how the social media platforms responded. They wouldn’t even help me stop some of it even though it crossed a line.

Though it upset me at first, I successfully tuned out and just used it as motivation to prove them wrong. It’s hard though but a definite fact of life.

> Just taking a perspective publically on something fairly innocuous such as which is the best programming language

I wouldn't call that innocuous at all! Quite the opposite, this is the perfect topic for flame war: people tend to have the same kind of emotional attachment to their favorite programming language as to their favorite sport team. You can't really expect a moderate debate on that kind of topics…

It is possible to have a moderate debate over strongly-held opinions, so long as everyone is capable of and willing to distinguish between facts and opinions, and agree to differ over the latter. In discussions over which is the 'best' programming language, you can find examples going this way, and examples turning into flame wars. Only the former are worth following.

IRL you can, on the internet the former is much rarer and only works on small groups where the community part is important. And on Twitter or other places where people don't know each other (HN is no exception even if there is a moderation system) it just never happen.

That attachment is exactly what PG is talking about. Irrational support.

Right, but unlike PG I don't think irrationality is an exclusivity of “losers”. Every human being is deeply irrational, everyone in their fashion and I don't buy the negative correlation between “success” and irrationality.

The issue is not just irrationality, it is toxic, hostile irrationality. Regardless of to what extent everyone is deeply irrational, only a minority are hostile. I have to agree, however, that some deeply hostile people have been successful, often by channeling the hostility of genuine losers.

Quoting from https://os.me/the-heart-of-success/

> In Indian villages, even today, when an elephant passes through a village, all the elders gather and fold their hands in reverence. They also nudge the children to do the same and bow to the majestic pachyderm. “This is Lord Ganesha,” they say. And the kids quickly bring their hands together in reverence and holler, “Ganapati Bappa Morya!” and so on. The women step out of their homes to offer sweetmeats, lentils, flour, fruits and veggies to the mahout. Some feed the elephant bananas and sugarcane.

While this procession is on the move, a fascinating, though unsettling, thing happens: all the stray dogs of the village, puppies included, start following the elephant, barking and growling relentlessly.

What problem could the dogs possibly have with the elephant? It’s not like they are a match in any way. What competition could the hounds and pooches pose to the mighty tusker?

I’m sure if someone could ask the dogs the reason for their incessant barking, they would answer, “We have no problem with the elephant per se. It’s these people folding hands and offering all that food to the elephant that bothers us.”

But, the dogs don’t have the nerve to jump in front of the elephant or block his way. They will never come in front and will never stop barking from the back.

And so is the way of the world—the more the number of those who look up to you and stand in front with gifts, the greater the number of those who will bark behind you.

The elephant, however, never stops to shoo away the dogs or to tackle them. It keeps on walking, indifferent to the uncouth and clownish behavior of the dogs. But what makes the elephant truly unique and masterful is not just that it doesn’t stop for the dogs. It’s something more profound.

If the elephant doesn’t stop for the dogs, it doesn’t halt for the ones bowing in reverence either.

It remains unmoved by both the glory and the growls. Our true self is beyond praise and criticism, it is beyond disease, death and decay. It shines in its own splendor. (Though a common analogy, someone had shared this story with me from a discourse by Swami Rajeshwaranand.)

The emotions we experience when showered with praises or hit with criticism are temporary feelings that mostly arise when we forget how incredibly empowered and powerful we truly are.

The path of success is littered with opinions and suggestions. Everyone you meet will have some kind of an opinion and you are likely to cross paths with many who won’t believe in you. They will give you a million reasons why you will fail. It’s alright, that’s all they know. You’ll also meet some who may offer you false praise, just to attain a desired outcome. It’s the way of the material world. Then you’ll also meet some who are genuine and will influence your life in a phenomenal way.

Like the elephant, if you can keep your head on your shoulders and remain unmoved by such people and have faith in your own conviction as well as the wisdom to know when and how much to listen to someone, success is yours for the taking.

Beautiful comparison. I fully agree - one needs some degree of hubris and ataraxia to trace a new path.

> Could a hater be cured if they achieved something impressive? My guess is that it's a moot point, because they never will.

Couldn't disagree with this more. There are innumerable examples of toxic people turning things around in a different situation. PG is making the fundamental attribution error here.

Only the most cursory glance could imply that haters are never successful. If you followed individual haters, you'd likely find many of them grew up and stopped shitposting on Twitter.

Ghostcrawler (former Blizzard developer, currently at Riot Games) had a nice quote about this one:

"Almost every time I have gotten to know a critic personally, they keep up with the criticism but lose the venom."

I believe it is related to de-personification on the Internet (or otherwise written content). In a smaller community, such would not happen.

I also wonder what would happen to the amount of haters if there were no fanboys at all. In a way, they balance each other out.

As for why famous people? Famous means influence. Whenever a non-famous people gets criticized it won't be read much. Doesn't mean it does not happen.

Passion often drives success and creativity. It would actually be likely that someone who is a hater is able to use that to their advantage and get ahead vs. someone who has no emotion and is not driven. Anecdote wise have heard stories of people who have achieved things as a result of adversity which is driven by perhaps 'hate' of what others have.

> There are innumerable examples of toxic people turning things around in a different situation.

Could also say in a different way that PG has zero data on whether this is true or not. It's an essay and an opinion and is as likely to be correct as my first paragraph.

The world is full of haters accomplishing impressive things, particularly in politics.

Edit: if you define "impressive" as "something a hater could not do" and "not impressive" as notorious things haters do, then I understand downvoting this comment. But that's begging the question.

I agree - I consider the current president both a hater and accomplisher of impressive things.

down-voters should interpret impressive as "making an impression" not "something really good"

At a later point, he did mention that teenage haters have a decent chance of growing out of it, but I concede your basic point.

What if the reason haters are using the word "fraud" is not because of sour grape chewing about the random vagaries of chance, but because the company (at the behest of their leadership) has been lying to their customers about such things as:

1. Their employee list (not updating it quickly after major staffing changes)

2. Legal status: misrepresenting to the public and to customers that the company is licensed to operate in that capacity or is proceeding illegally?

3. Pressuring it's subscription customers to publish positive stories about the product and reportedly even threatening their access to it.

I ask because this article comes out days after a Business Insider article about a high profile YC company. Its author uses the words "fraud" on their twitter and "cult" in the article, and makes some of the accusations that I've listed above. It's difficult not to suspect the two events are linked.

A more recent example would be this Dec. 30, 2019 twitter thread [0], in which someone asked for an update from the California state regulator on Lambda's approval status, and was told that they were not approved, (see edit for correction of following) and apparently, do not appear to have submitted an application.

[0] https://twitter.com/sandofsky/status/1211717254712135680

edit: the thread author just replied that BPPE followed up and said Lambda has recently applied:


> In a follow up BPPE said they recently applied. They also said it’s not possible for any school offering ISAs to meet the legal requirements.

> do not appear to have submitted an application

This is nuts.

Does Lambda School market itself, and/or have students in, New York State?

Thanks. I'm on a plane and the WiFi gets kinda bad over Greenland. I couldn't get Twitter's search function to work reliably.

Care to link to the story?

These are old stories. Given pg's statements on Twitter it's likely Lambda School was at least at the back of his mind when he wrote the piece but I don't think it's the sole reason.

This all blew up on Twitter and Reddit a few nights ago.

I actually ended up in chats (directly and indirectly) with a few different LS alumni who didn't know what to do, as they were unable to find work and afraid to speak out against LS for not doing a good job.

Interesting. I think Austen is a brilliant self-promoter, which is the source of much of his and LS's success. Not knocking that at all, the product seems to work for a lot of people and the more he can scale it the more people he can help.

Being a good self-promoter puts you prominently in the public eye which is I think attracts a lot of detractors/haters. There are also competitors with very similar offerings who can't match up to Austen's hype machine. They want to claim there is some fatal flaw at the heart of LS to make Austen look like some kind of fraudster. This seems despearate to me.

There are always dissatisfied students. I remember when I was an undergraduate I got into arguments with people on a private facebook group who felt that the course should have been more "spoon-fed" to us and that the exam questions were unfair. People come to higher education with widely varying expectations. As the old adage goes, you can't please all of the people all of the time.

That said, my antenna is up for any serious criticism of AA and LS. So far I've not seen anything beyond to-be-expected low-level grumbling, which is being pounced on his strange growing harem of haters. Which only adds weight to pg's article, in my opinion.

It seems like maybe losing all their well-known teachers and jeopardizing every contract they have inked with students by lying publicly about their lack of licensing in California aren't sufficient complaints?

Do you have a link to the recent reddit thread?

The article is about Lambda School, for those who have not been following on Twitter.

if you’re a startup CEO and you spend a year relentlessly bragging about your startup publicly you invite scrutiny on yourself. You are practically begging others to ask questions you might not want asked.

His chief of staff literally insulted the intelligence of anyone who dared suggest Lambda School was worth less than $100B https://web.archive.org/web/20190921045339/https://twitter.c...

When I read a tweet like that, I have to ponder the actual, underlying belief (at a personal level) versus the public image you must present as a function of your role, in this case, C-level executive.

It's like you have to be completely blind to anything critical of your business. Your investors expect it. Your colleagues expect it.

It appears to be a genuinely unenjoyable position to be in. Lambda School is even 1/10th of an Apple? It's mind boggling.

At that point it’s not even meant as a statement of fact, not really. Surely his response to an investor offering less than a $100B valuation wouldn’t be “you don’t understand the economy haha”. Some people just take the attitude that any claim which won’t get you indicted for fraud is a legitimate PR tactic.

Thanks for providing the exact link, because I think you completely mischaracterized what he actually said.

I personally agree that this business model and market has potential to be worth $100 billion someday. Lambda School is one of the leaders in that market right now, as far as I know, so they have that potential, too.

Now, will they remain the dominant leaders for long enough for them to actually be worth that? I think it's pretty unlikely; I think that pie is more likely be split by different, future companies. But of course any company executive is going to believe in their company's potential and future growth.

He's just making an inspirational and aspirational comment about the market they're in and their business, like almost every company executive does. He's not insulting anyone's intelligence. I have no idea how well his company in particular is executing that model at the moment (I do see some criticisms of their program), but I think the company's general idea is a good one, in theory. I'd feel the same if they went bankrupt tomorrow - eventually some other company will try it and get it right.

> [1] There are of course some people who are genuine frauds. How can you distinguish between x calling y a fraud because x is a hater, and because y is a fraud? Look at neutral opinion. Actual frauds are usually pretty conspicuous. Thoughtful people are rarely taken in by them. So if there are some thoughtful people who like y, you can usually assume y is not a fraud.

I don't think that "some thoughtful people who like y" is good enough. There have been big "frauds" in the tech space (and so many in the finance space) were it took years for public opinion to catch up with their actions (Theranos, WeWorks, Epstien and MIT labs) despite some people (Matt levine, John Carreyrou) knowing they weren't above board these people and companies were defended (or not even questioned) by media coverage and big name personalities.

Basically yes, but it should be said that John Carreyrou didn't act like a hater. Perhaps a better test is, that a thoughtful person thinks y is a fraud, whereas more or less by definition a hater does not come across as a thoughtful person.

> John Carreyrou didn't act like a hater

Not by common definition, but perhaps by this article’s.

Carreyrou was obsessive, turned his Theranos crusade into an identity component, and repeatedly used the word “fraud.” Externally, his behaviour was indistinguishable from someone with a beef if one ignored the evidence he raised. (Which was, at least early on, mostly circumstantial.)

Toxic personalities must be ignored. But if someone is calling our fraud in your organisation, it’s worth checking if there’s behaviour you may have left unchecked.

That isn't actionable advice. If you think you can reliably identify thoughtful people then you're a fool. Everyone likes to believe that they're good judges of character but we're all very fallible.

I think it's difficult to tell if oneself is thoughtful, but identifying other people as thoughtful or not is not nearly as difficult, if you have known them for any amount of time. If they are commenting on a topic you know about from personal experience, is their commentary more or less well informed than the average person?

We are certainly all fallible, but thoughtful would not imply infallible, only that you are thinking over (in this case) the actions of the person in this case, prior to deciding if they were wrong or right. A fanboy, or a hater, more or less by definition knows the answer ("right" and "wrong", respectively) before thinking about it much.

Paying attention to the opinions of other thoughtful people is a much better strategy than only paying attention to your own opinion, with all of its perspective problems. If all the thoughtful people you know have the opposite opinion of you about someone or something, it doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong, but it ought to at least prompt some double-checking on your part.

> defended (or not even questioned) by media coverage and big name personalities.

Those aren't examples of "thoughtful people".

Nope, no true Scotsmen at all.

I think we all feel these feelings somewhere deep in our minds. Haters and fanboys are just the extremities.

Most people are not complete losers or complete winners. Sometimes they feel a bit of a loser, especially if they have high ambitions but not much above average success, and sometimes they feel winners, especially when compared with people who have clearly achieved less then them in life. Feeling a loser will drive some envy towards people who are very successful. 'It is not only their talent, they were also lucky, they were at the right place at the right time'. Which is partially true.

What pg didn't discuss is that different people get different amount of hate. For example people who misattribute their success to their technical-talent in a technical field, but their success clearly involves other kind of talent or luck get more hate then pure technical geniuses. Also people who like to express strong opinions on lots of often subjective topics get more hate than people sticking to their expertise and to mostly technical topics. For example pg obviously gets more hate than John Carmack or John Von Neumann.

But at the end of the day: everybody must work on this inside their own brain. Even if it were sometimes satisfying to be a bit of a hater, just don't be one.

I never could learn to deal with this.

I set up a blog way back when blogs were first a thing, maybe 20 years ago. Started posting articles about internet, culture, tech, anything I found interesting.

Almost immediately, I had people dropping by and posting the most vile comments. Whatever I did, I did for bad reasons. I was a bad person and there just wasn't anything I could do or say to fix that.

I never learned how to mentally deal with this kind of blind anti-fandom, but I did learn an important lesson: never joke on the internet, or if you do, be very, very careful it's obvious it's a joke. Because whatever I think is funny because it's silly, obnoxious, or ludicrous? Somebody else will take seriously. And now you've got a new hater.

The net is drifting towards private communities. I think that's a good thing. This kind of environment really isn't healthy for folks.

I forget where, but I read something once that said "Don't be afraid to delete a stranger's mean-spirited comments."

I've taken that up as a mantra, and never regretted it!

Exactly. My site, my world, my rules. It’s been my approach too. I don’t respond or acknowledge them. Delete and move on.

Private communities promote bubbles where people become entrenched in their preconceived beliefs. Much like genetics, you need variety, and the strongest beliefs/traits will survive in the long run. I think a healthy mix of public and private communities is the “right” way forward. I will concede there is the ever present problem that toxic people are more likely to speak their mind, which leads to moderates thinking the extremes are the norm. Smaller communities might solve this problem, but I’m not sure moving to all private communities is a good thing. /2cents

I completely agree. I study how groups of people interact. When working well, a group of people can tackle almost any problem. It's a magical thing to see.

Based on that, I experimented quite a bit with my blog, here on HN, and on various social platforms. Could that magic be reproduced online? Out of 1,000 or so online "friends", I have maybe 3 that consistently promote diversity of thought. Those people could moderate a room on about any topic. The people they gathered around them had all sorts of views and ways of thinking. It wasn't what I had seen in person, but it was the closest I've seen online.

So why not HN? Or FB? Or Twitter? Why did it work when some people ran/moderated discussions but not when others did?

There's too much to go into here, but one takeaway is that there was a system of incremental trust. New people we treat with kid gloves, see how they handle people who are smart and disagree with them. As we get to know you, everybody can relax more and have more direct, honest conversations. But when we did that, it was always full of things you wouldn't want copied and pasted to the public. Not bad things. Yikes! Just stuff that taken out of context would drive some folks nuts.

Online forums do not have that. So we're stuck desperately needing to meet and talk about complex and sometimes provocative things, but our tools are basically made for cat pictures and political memes. The social media services we have today simply are not in the public interest. There's no amount of tweaking that's going to fix that. They exist to serve base and lizard-brain impulses in various fashions.

One thing though. You're absolutely right about the dangers of echo chambers. But if you have an explicit small group, everybody knows what's going on. You know what's worse? Hell-banning, ghosting, and all of this damned AI trickery we do to one another to make people appear as if they are part of groups they are not actually part of. FB is getting so it'll stick you in that small echo chamber ... and you'll never know it. That's fucked up in more ways than one.

> Somebody else will take seriously.

I think there's an reasonable expectation to respect, but there are people out there that will take offense to almost anything.

We shouldn't be sacrificing our own rights to accommodate those people.

I completely agree with this. Ironically, it's also almost word-for-word what I've experienced many people say in defense of expressing hatred for people.

It really depend on the initiator, don't proactively hate anyone, however, if someone hate you, for things that are of no fault of yours. I think it's OK to not like them.

I want to say I remember your blog and that I enjoyed it. Thanks for that.

I remember growing up old (I think it was) either Car and Driver or Road and Track letters to the editor where they would publish wacky hate letters and then reply in a funny way to the absurdity of the position or thought. So they actually spun that into something of value.

> never joke on the internet, or if you do, be very, very careful it's obvious it's a joke

This is also true with respect to people who have fanboys. For example PG has fanboys and if you say something negative or that appears to be not respectful of PG (or for that matter certain YC companies) you need to package it correctly to appear to be respectful. This is similar to when people IRL will say 'with all due respect' prior to giving some criticism. In 'mafia' movies this was done with 'not to appear subversive but' (negative comment about the boss of the family).

"Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches."

Andy Warhol

from a recent modern family:

Phil: "Who knew people on the internet could be so mean?"

I always love a new article from PG, but this one kind of misses the mark.

I really appreciate how PG applies a sort of pattern matching sense of logic to the world to create really novel insight-- his pattern match here is that haters are fanboys. But it rings a bit untrue, and I don't think yields real insight.

Startups, PG himself and tech have to weather a wide swathe of criticism-- but it can often be warranted. It can seem like companies have haters, but do they have haters or valid critics?

Here's some of the very valid criticisms that tech has had to deal with:

- facial recognition abuse

- privacy data breaches

- misrepresentation of value to shareholders and customers

- theft of contractors tips

- myriad harassment claims towards all genders

- retaliating against whistleblowers

- massive settlements to employees who are accused of crimes

- ceding to Chinese demands for censorship

- taking contracts for controversial governmental agencies

- squashing nascent union organizing (agree or not, people have a right to discuss and consider this)

And I'm sure I'm missing some here.

So ultimately his pattern matching is incorrect. The Twitterati take constant aim at PG and tech for what are quite serious issues. Simply put it's not haterism, it's valid criticism.

I'm surprised at the harsh negativity in this article. Not that the inquiry into why people become 'haters' isn't intriguing, but to explore it so shallowly and to boil it down to "Well, they are losers", and call in the image of "basement dwellers" frankly, makes pg sound like he is falling into the same trap he is trying to write about - generic hating on others.

Despite that, his other points have merit. Haters and fanboys do have similarities - they stem from the same root cause, that they were emotionally impacted by someone. If that was a positive impact at a time in their life when they really needed it, they are fanboys. If it was a negative impact at a time when they were already struggling, they become haters.

I'm not a fanboy of pg, just a reader, so I'm not going to act like he has let us down by penning a weaker article. We're all imperfect beings, whether we are fanboys, haters, or blog authors whose works isn't always the best. I'm going to look at this specific post as a rough draft that got shared too soon.

The impetus for the post was a few critical threads on Lambda School on Twitter.

I highly doubt any of this would’ve happened if the CEO had not spent a year relentlessly boasting about his company in a way that you’d expect a used car salesman to do. It was (and continues to be) too fantastical in a way that anyone who has worked in startups knows is rarely the case behind the scenes.

When you invite scrutiny upon yourself by being shameless seller in chief it’s your own doing, not because people suddenly decided they wanted to come out of the woodworks and bash your work.

> When you invite scrutiny upon yourself by being shameless seller in chief it’s your own doing, not because people suddenly decided they wanted to come out of the woodworks and bash your work.

Lambda School hasn't been under criticism for literally years because Austen sells too hard. It's because they've done some shady, unethical and outright illegal things.

Their refusal to pay license fees while publicly claiming they did has jeopardized every dollar of revenue they're set to collect. If I were an investor, I'd be pretty mad about that.

Their decision to operate as a high pressure environment has created a string of negative stories on Twitter and Reddit about how pressured students felt.

Their wage disputes with their former educators meant they had to switch to relatively unknown and unverifiable teaching staff, which makes it a lot harder to take them seriously.

The idea that it's LS's presentation that has failed seems like it underestimates the problems at hand.

No one would be taking about Lambda School if the CEO didn’t court publicity through Twitter.

It’s literally the only reason most even know what Lambda School is. That’s my point.

Wage disputes? Do you mind sharing/linking please?

> I'm not a fanboy of pg

Predictably there are many fanboys of PG. Very generally a negative comment about PG that is not packaged correctly and with care will get a certain amount of backlash on HN vs. the same about an unknown or lesser known person. It's as if the 'fanboys' feel it is their duty to defend the person (PG or otherwise). And (per my comment elsewhere) it's that love that drives the haters. It feels (to the hater) undeserved.

The ironic part of all of this is survival wise the non fanboy (what PG would call 'hater' but don't agree with that wording but will go with it) is way more likely to engage and interact with others vs. the famous person. For example if someone were to write to you 'codingdave' most likely you would interact, engage or help (and if you didn't my guess is most others similar to you would). The fanboy who has defended the famous person won't get the time of day from that person (or a trivial interaction at best). The fanboy doesn't even exist in the eyes of the famous person.

I've had similar experiences with my own family. At a dinner with relatives they will totally get up in arms over some person who they don't know, that doesn't care about them, that doesn't know they even exist. They will get into a fight (with a person close to them) defending that person. And what they will do is burn a bridge with a person that is of direct relationship (and 'value') that survival wise would make more sense not to 'piss off' (for lack of a better way to put it).

If only we could somehow limit articles to anonymous authors, so we can focus on the substance of the piece versus who wrote it.

Or what would be also interesting is if PG replied to comments two ways and choose randomly his identity (by flip of a coin). He'd write a comment. Then flip a coin. One side he posts his comment (he doesn't comment anymore but let's say he got back to doing that) as 'PG'. Another with another stealth handle. Not about anything substantive where he has authority. Then see how people react (upvotes or argumentative) to what he says. At the end of a time period (call it months) write a blog post on the 'results' of that 'test'.

Further the replies could not be with the same handle (other than the PG handle). So nobody would upvote just for the reputation (positive or negative). (Or perhaps three handles PG, Anon same handle, Anon unique handle).

I would enjoy for any relatively high profile person to try this experiment, to broaden the chance of it actually occurring.

> I'm surprised at the harsh negativity in this article. Not that the inquiry into why people become 'haters' isn't intriguing, but to explore it so shallowly and to boil it down to "Well, they are losers", and call in the image of "basement dwellers" frankly, makes pg sound like he is falling into the same trap he is trying to write about - generic hating on others.

I think PG has a very specific audience in mind when he writes: founders. I don't think he's trying to create a holistic understanding of "haters." I think he's trying to tell founders not to think about them. It's a waste of their (founders') time.

Haters, and the accusation of being a "fraud," cut to the quick of the confidence founders need to be successful. They often already feel like frauds (or imposters) and acquiring haters only seems to confirm this for them.

I see this glib (and in my experience accurate) treatment of haters as a device founders can use to stay focused.

But I think the other side of your point is worth exploring. As a founder, how do you assess when you have gone (or are contemplating going) too far? Given the fine line between overconfidence and under-confidence, can founders even expect themselves to be able to make that self-assessment?

> I'm not a fanboy of pg, just a reader, so I'm not going to act like he has let us down by penning a weaker article.

I really appreciate this sentiment. A weaker article is just that, weaker, not indicative of anything else.

Not so sure given the current temporal context we are discussing about. Paul Graham has some interests in Lambda School (YC S17), has also personally promoted it (e.g. https://twitter.com/paulg/status/1175434253741580289 ), and might be trying to deflect some criticism by implying through extremely weak generalized pseudo-philosophical considerations that they are not valid criticism, and even that who is emitting the criticisms might be "less than man." (weird, he knows about the Streisand effect, no?)

Or it might be just a curious coincidence, and not indicative of anything else.

Sloppy work in this article. I wonder what drove him to write something like this. It sounds like he's a true hater ...of haters!

haters are just part of life. No need to get worked up on them and make sloppy, weak arguments about them.

> "I've been able to observe for long enough that I'm fairly confident the pattern works both ways: not only do people who do great work never become haters, haters never do great work"

He's a social scientist doing work on human behavior?

I think that believing in "haters" is a great way to embed yourself in a reality distortion field. You don't need to dismiss someone to ultimately dismiss their criticism of you.

Graham probably won't read this, but my advice to him (from a moderate admirer, not a "hater") is not to do this to himself.

Absolutely you can dismiss valid criticism as "haters", and absolutely it's a bad thing to do - you don't hear truth that you need to hear.

But I think most of us here have never actually experienced haters. We aren't big enough, famous enough, successful enough. We may have seen people who were haters of someone else, but we've never been on the receiving end. And I suspect that, as PG said, when you receive it for the first time, it can be confusing. I think it's a valid thing to note, and to mention to people who might become big, important, or famous. (But also mention not to use this to turn off all criticism.)

I am reminded of the quote "They laughed at Einstein, but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown".

How about "Taylor Swift has haters, but so did Jeffrey Eipstein and Elizabeth Holmes".

A vapid essay on "fans and haters" being discussed merely because of who wrote it would be art if anyone involved realized it

This essay does not read like an intellectual piece at all. Poorly defined terms, labeling people, non-falsifiable psychoanalysis.

And to top it off he calls both labeled groups of people "less than men".

All of this setup to deliver the profound advice to just ignore them.

(Before people call me a "hater", note that I strictly do not meet the definition, because I like a lot of his essays.)

Calling you hater based on this post is just using the argument of the article to make a point. That's like saying: "this statement is true" and anyone who disagrees with that, is a <fill in>.

Is a hater akin to a criticaster? Like a critic without substance? And a fanboy a fan without substance? Then the burden of proof to prove a lack of substance is with the person who starts to use the word "fanboy" or "hater". As such definitions are essentially ad hominem (and no, you being attacked personally does not warranty an equal ad hominem).

The pun is that "fanboy" encapsulates "not a man" (boy). Of course the archetypal fanboy or hater is kind of a weakman (if not quite a strawman), but that's the point; it's a model. He's pointing out that in that model, the "boy" is very relevant and indicative.

If he were discussing the word "fangirl", he'd probably say "not a woman" instead, but I think that would result in more flak ("as a mam, who are you to judge if a woman is a real woman or not?").

I feel like a lot of the posts in this thread are missing what he's actually trying to say here.

yeah I caught that as well. "less than men" is a pretty good tell that this is going to be pure wankery. I appreciate his lisp books (I've told him so, publicly, in a room of about 2k people) but this is laughable. Of a piece with the "I wouldn't hire women who might have children, if I could get away with it" take.

To me this is such a toxic post. Using sentences like:

"He's less than a man" and "Haters are generally losers"

- to me shows an unhealthy level of grandiosity, and an inability to fully understand another person's experience.

Yes this article might help you deal with some stuff, but it's also not scalable and avoids examining the underlying deep rooted societal inequities that cause these addictive behaviors in people in the first place.

At the same time though, I am grateful to the author for showing himself. I think having these conversations helps us evolve.

Now go watch 'The Work' (2017): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8OVXG2GhpQ

You're taking two sentences out of context here. pg's main point is that haters are just fanboys with the sign flipped, whereas your critique seems to just hone in on the two least politically-correct sounding sentences. Both sentences could have be massaged to be more PC but less direct, and the original thesis would still stand.

Your point seems to be though that we need to understand haters more (and if pg's thesis is correct, fanboys). I agree that as social planners, we do need to see why they arise, what their background is, and how social media amplifies it. But that's a big topic and pg doesn't even claim to address that.

By analogy, when you are being attacked by a hater, like many famous people, I don't think social planning is your first order response. Much like if someone were to hold you up with a gun, your immediate response wouldn't be a reflection of the societal conditions of the assailant.

Also, I'm curious whether you'd think this post would be equally toxic if pg only addressed fanboys: "Some fans slavishly love you. It's probably best to ignore them." Is that toxic? Does that generate a similar call-to-action to see why some people are so uncritical?

> By analogy, when you are being attacked by a hater, like many famous people, I don't think social planning is your first order response. Much like if someone were to hold you up with a gun, your immediate response wouldn't be a reflection of the societal conditions of the assailant.

Your analogy seems inapplicable here. This was an essay, not an immediate response. Whatever we may think of the response, it seems fair to put it down as the well-considered position of the author, unless they retract it later.

How would you express the central point? Or is it the central point that you disagree with, or feel is "toxic"? (I dislike that word, because it's one of those words that has a tendency to shut down rational discussion).

On a certain level, I probably agree with you. The word 'loser' dehumanizes people by focusing on their lack of achievements that society cares about, and achievements or agency in their own life.

How do they feel about this state of things? Probably not so good. Why did this happen, and what can they do about it? Well, maybe they're stuck in a shitty situation due to a confluence of psychological or even medical factors that's largely outside of their control. Maybe they're deserving of a break, some sympathy or a helping hand.

But if a person (who might or might not be in this situation) happens to behave destructively towards others, it's possible to discuss that while still acknowledging the points above.

Maybe 'loser' and 'less than a man' is an insensitive way to express it, which is why I was asking how you would express the central point. I think that "Ignore the haters, they're just fanboys with the sign flipped and not important" is sound advice to someone who tries to keep their sanity while attempting to do something good under a massive amount of scrutiny and criticism (some founded, most unfounded).

I don't think we have to go so far to see examples of famous people that would have been much less stressed, had less problems and kept their focus if they'd been able to follow this advice in times of extreme stress. A couple of Elon Musk's famed Twitter episodes come to mind, if you're looking for examples.

Even though famous people are in a position of privilege, they're still humans and have to endure the same emotional reactions as the rest of us. Usually amplified, since they get such a massive amount of attention. I think it's valuable to give them some coping tips.

Not the OP but as I grew older I started to realize that calling someone a “loser” (seen as bad) just because they haven’t “achieved” much is simply not ok, it only helps to prolong this (I think unhealthy) state of affairs where everyone should be seen as doing something, anything, preferably something “productive”.

This is unrelated to the article, but: Regarding the sense of the word loser you're using, there's also a fallacious aspect to it. Someone's worth as a human isn't defined by what they want to/are able to contribute with in society. You could live a perfectly good life that didn't contribute much more than your own survival and happiness.

I think that a majority of the people who post on HN are ambitious people who have such contributions as a very central part of their identity. Many people here might unfairly judge someone who works a part-time job, mostly watches Netflix in their spare time and is generally a good person in most interpersonal exchanges. And there's certainly a lot of people here who would judge themselves if that's all they did.

I find it fascinating how civil servant jobs don't pay well, yet the workers work for the government (and therefore, the people). David Graeber in Bullshit Jobs touches on this subject. And then just today there was this story about Kevin Rosenberg [1] who, after failing to pay off his debts by working hard, sued successfully to have his student loans discharged via bankruptcy. Yet he served 5 years in the military, and studied to become a lawyer (which he ultimately did not pursue a career in because of the conundrum between helping people versus getting paid well). Is he a loser? The word loser is a simple ad hominem, a DH1 based on PG's own essay about How To Disagree [2].

[1] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/student-loans-discharged-in-b...

[2] http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

I get your point, but I would guess that PG would not think of those people as losers or as haters.

For example, I know an Elon hater (not a critic, a hater). And I tried to understand it, but after asking questions it’s clear that the answers made no sense and they were trying to post-hoc rationalise their emotions. Sure, Elon has done bad things, but overall I’d say he is a net positive for the world. That is not to say we should condone everything he’s done or give him a free pass, but it is to say that the negatives do not cancel out the positives. He is not all bad, and he does not deserve haters (this is not the same as being beyond criticism).

Anyway, the hater I know is pretty privileged, and as Paul speculated really quite talented in some ways. I would also say they have underachieved in their own eyes. And that may be where the hate stems from.

Why did they underachieve? Perhaps lack of commitment and discipline, from my best knowledge. Interestingly, earlier in life they were also a fanboy of some things that may have harmed their career, by influencing their choices in a negative way. That also ties in with Paul’s essay.

I think it’s this type of person PG is labelling as haters and losers. Not people who have had traumatic experiences or very difficult lives.

I agree “loser” isn’t a mature or good choice of term, and ironically I think this is a sign of an emotional reaction from PG - but I empathise with that emotional reaction.

If you want to make the world better and are positive and optimistic, haters can drive you nuts. It’s like - “ok, I get it, you aren’t on the same page or you don’t like me - but please at the very least just ignore me rather than constantly criticise everything single thing I do without rationale. I’m just trying to help the world a bit, whilst you are doing nothing. I’m not asking you to be like me and devote your life to something - just to leave me alone.”

As a good example, consider Greta Thunberg. Regardless of your opinion of her, she is out there every day campaigning for a proper response to climate change. In doing so, she’s devoting her life to helping (even saving) all of us, trying to ensure that when your grandkids grow up they’re not living in some godawful scenario. And then her reward is so much hatred and vitriol from people who aren’t in prison living a terrible life with psychological scars - but rather from perfectly comfortable middle class haters. I can imagine sometimes she must sit down at the end of a hard day and think “what the hell is the point trying to help these people? Why do I even bother?”

(Defending PG here, but I’m not a fanboy. Used to love a lot of his writing, now dislike it more than I like it when I learnt more about the reality of startups and VC. Have really disliked a lot of his recent writing but as a very positive optimistic person I really don’t like the hater culture so this resonated with me).

> As a good example, consider Greta Thunberg. Regardless of your opinion of her, she is out there every day campaigning for a proper response to climate change. In doing so, she’s devoting her life to helping (even saving) all of us, trying to ensure that when your grandkids grow up they’re not living in some godawful scenario. And then her reward is so much hatred and vitriol from people who aren’t in prison living a terrible life with psychological scars - but rather from perfectly comfortable middle class haters. I can imagine sometimes she must sit down at the end of a hard day and think “what the hell is the point trying to help these people? Why do I even bother?”

Come on, this is ridiculous. She’s a political entrepreneur. She has her goals and values and they stand in direct opposition to those of others. She’s fighting effectively for them and they hate her for the threat to them she represents. In that she’s no different to Friedman or Krugman, or among elected officials to Trump or AOC. She put on her big girl pants and got into the political arena. When you do that and you’re good at it people are going to hate you. That’s humanity. People hate their enemies. People hate those who want to take things from them, or who say that they are bad or what they want is bad.

People don’t hate technocrats and engineers who propose keyhole solutions to climate change. They hate peoples who want to take b their nice big houses, their cars, their international holidays. Nobody hates Project Vesta, and they have a workable plan to reverse all CO2 emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution for a mere 1.7% of global GDP.


Greta Thunberg is an abused child.

Her father, with a prior career in social media, is running the show. That recent Facebook bug even revealed that he was posting on her behalf: https://i.imgur.com/KdsN3u7.jpg

It's really sad that she doesn't get to be a kid. She is being used.


"Greta Thunberg - January 11 at 7:36 PM:

Some people have been asking who manages this page. First of all, since last spring I only use Facebook to repost what I write on my Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Since I have chosen not to be on Facebook personally ( I tried early on but decided it wasn’t for me) I use my father Svantes account to repost content, because you need an account to moderate a Facebook page. The rest that is shared on Facebook is reposted from Twitter and Instagram by the guy who founded the Greta Thunberg Facebook page long before I knew it existed. His name is Adarsh Prathap and he lives in India. Since a lot of people thought it was my official page in the beginning I asked if I could co-manage it and he said yes.

All texts posted on my Facebook page has of course been written by me, just like everything else."

Source: https://www.facebook.com/gretathunbergsweden/posts/103195633...

burfog 84 days ago [flagged]

That is exactly what a puppetmaster would say.

Yes, you caught her. Well done! Will you send your address so I can send you your trophy?

Gary Vee has a great pov on this...his thesis is that we hoist our self image problems inot most situations and that we should fix our self image first and that will take care of us in that we will not a negative reaction to critics

"shows an unhealthy level of grandiosity"

... plus some very unfortunate gender stereotyping.

Might as well watch „Silicon Valley“...

The "haters are fanboys except for one thing" idea is useful and I think accurate, though not particularly original. The rest reads like a longer subtweet. It makes me wonder which particular hater(s) pg is hating on.

That said, there is one other aspect worth commenting on: the "nearly successful" kind of hater. Yes, they absolutely exist. Academe is particularly full of them. The reason, I think, is simple: some people resent those they compete with. For that kind of person, that means the people right next to them in whatever real or imagined ranking. Those further above or below are irrelevant, and not worth hating.

The other key (subtweeting a bit myself here) is that some people invite this particular kind of hate. They exaggerate any difference between themselves and those they have barely outdone. They hotly deny the role of luck or privilege in achieving their status, more often than pg seems (or wants) to think. Psychologically, they mirror others' envy with a desire to reaffirm their position in a race they know could have gone either way. There's a bond between the haters and the hated, and often both sides participate.

> In fact I suspect that a sense of frustrated talent is what drives some people to become haters. They're not just saying "It's unfair that so-and-so is famous," but "It's unfair that so-and-so is famous, and not me."

> Could a hater be cured if they achieved something impressive? My guess is that it's a moot point, because they never will. I've been able to observe for long enough that I'm fairly confident the pattern works both ways: not only do people who do great work never become haters, haters never do great work.

Listening to that old Steve Jobs interview where he talks about Microsoft (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJWWtV1w5fw) I think there elements there of what Paul would be calling a "hater". A view that there's something a bit wrong with the world when particular non-ideal characteristics are rewarded.

It sounds as if Paul has enough of his own personal issues with haters that he wants to put them all into an irredeemable bucket.

> Listening to that old Steve Jobs interview where he talks about Microsoft

It's appropriate for Steve Jobs to talk about Microsoft, because they were competitors, out in the arena. Steve Jobs himself is famous. So this a different situation than the classic hater scenario, where a person of no fame attacks a person of some fame. Still, maybe Steve sounds like a sore loser, which is basically what Paul Graham said that haters are.

But I watched and listened to Steve Jobs a lot, and I read his biography. And he reminds me of myself, although outwardly I am polite and back down in debates. Basically Steve Jobs says what I think. I like minimalism and simplicity and perfection and beauty. Steve Jobs was rich, but you have to admit he was different than your average mediocre rich executive. I think he was motivated by beauty more than wealth, as am I.

Furthermore, Microsoft is the antithesis of all my values. Whereas I would spend too much time and money to make things perfect, they would cut corners to make more money. I hoped for my product to gain fame by merit, Microsoft relied on advertising and business tactics to run everyone else out of town.

And so my takeaway of Steve Jobs is just what you would think: Thank you for saying what I was feeling! I think he hated Microsoft, but not because he cared about money or fame but because it frustrated his attempts to spread beauty and perfection everywhere. (Lest that sounds way too nice, I would qualify it by saying that someone can pursue beauty selfishly, at the expense of the people around you.)

DISCLAIMER: I'm a fanboy of Steve Jobs.

Regarding the link, you can kind of get around that semantically: I'd view Jobs' attention as a "grudge". He's not bashing microsoft out of a generic sense that "microsoft is bad", he's mad at Gates for what he views as specific bad actions taken against him specifically. So he wants to hurt him back.

It seems reasonable to me that that's a different kind of psychology than the fundamentally impersonal "fanboy/hater" ideas in the essay.

> He's not bashing microsoft out of a generic sense that "microsoft is bad"

Jobs did a lot of that in his “we are pirates” phase. Us-v-them is a legitimate leadership tactic, and requires somewhat demonising the them.

I like the idea of a fanboy being a sign-flipped hater. But these are spherical cows. I’m not sure we can draw real-life lessons from their comparison.

(For example, fanboys can be evangelists and haters canaries in your coal mine. History is filled with delusional people doing great things.)

> haters are just fanboys with the sign bit flipped makes it much easier to deal with them. ... The most important [technique] is simply not to think much about them.

this reads like a justification for ignoring criticism by attributing the criticizing party to being a hater.

I think you're reading that into it a little. There's a distinction between serious criticism and haters. Serious criticism entails understanding that people are imperfect and complicated and criticizing some of their actions while admitting that other actions might be good or at least neutral. Haters will hate everything someone does because of who they are.

A good example of this might be politics. Let's talk about the previous President. If you think the JPCOA was a bad deal, you're skeptical of drone strikes, or you disagree with the Affordable Care Act, you might be some form of reasonable Obama critic. If you think Obama is a secret Muslim who was actually born in Kenya and that it's disgraceful and un-American for him to wear a tan suit or ask for dijon mustard on a hamburger, you're probably a hater. That sounds deranged, but there are some deranged people out there and you should ignore them.

In other words, only take criticism seriously if it's serious criticism. (I think I stole that line from mechanical_fish.)

I think that's a stretch.

There was a clarification earlier in the article about the difference between a one-off piece of criticism and a pattern of obsessively negative commenting on everything you do.

A critic might respond to every Tesla mention on Elon Musk's twitter with a negative response because they think (rightly or wrongly) that the company is overhyped.

A hater would do the above but also respond negatively to him posting a picture of a sandwich he made and say that it's a terrible sandwich just because he made it.

I took the article to encourage trying to differentiate, and if you find yourself interacting with the latter, then not thinking much about them seems like a valid technique.

"There was a clarification earlier in the article about the difference between a one-off piece of criticism and a pattern of obsessively negative commenting on everything you do."

Yes: the former are trolls while the latter are haters.

I usually enjoy PG's articles but this one seems almost attacking some specific group without naming it.

> "It's unfair that so-and-so is famous," but "It's unfair that so-and-so is famous, and not me."

I believe this only takes < 1% of haters, since "Not me" is not very sustainable and would die out soon. The majority of haters are "us vs them" mentality, which makes hate persist decades. If someone hates a movie maker or a company, it's either:

1. It's DC vs Marvel. They are similar enough to the rest of the world, but there are nuances to the haters and fanboys. Similar things are Vim vs Emacs, Java vs C#. There were also flamewars between Intel and AMD fans, but since Intel clearly outperformed in previous years, both alliances seem died out almost at the same time -- It's just a CPU.

2. He actually hates the genre/category. He hates comic movies as a whole, as it absorbs most of the resources in the market, making the genre he loves never to be cost-efficient to be made anymore. There were some extraordinary movies in the 20th century because movie companies are still exploring business models.

> "because anyone famous knows how random fame is"

This is where the problem is, just we don't know how to fix it yet. Haters are just a phenomenon. Not only it's random, but also it's ridiculous. Scammers exist because people are vulnerable to scamming; Tiktok exists because people are vulnerable to the designed mechanism. Massive surveillance exists because it just works.

It's more than Okay to criticize scammers instead of competing them.

> "although they are occasionally talented, they have never achieved much."

> "successful enough to have achieved significant fame"

It's very hard to correlate success with fame. Taking PG's Lisp vs Blub example, if someone was evangelizing functional programming in the early 90s, they would never as successful as mediocre OO experts. It takes time. PG has spent so much effort on evangelizing Lisp, he never as famous as Martin Fowler or Uncle Bob in the industry.

As another example, Uncle Bob coined the term SOLID. I found almost all my colleagues know SOLID, most of my colleagues know Uncle Bob. However, those people behind those ideas like Barbara Liskov and Bertrand Meyer are much lesser known.

Biggest lesson I learnt from life after meeting some of my idols and heroes. Don’t put them on a pedestal.

They may have achieved great things in one area but in other areas they are somewhat average and very much like us. Anxiety, doubts, misdeeds, regrets, emotions etc.

Like pg is great but he’s also not a god. Don’t treat him like one. We’d prolly be disappointed. He’s said a fair share of crap as well some very insightful things.

The common ground is that these people are way too interested in what other people are doing. As if life is what other people are doing instead of what one is doing oneself. Life is for participation not spectation.

> these people are way too interested in what other people are doing

oh yes, blame them! the lazy buggers! [1][2]

[1] https://medium.com/@dr_eprice/laziness-does-not-exist-3af27e...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-2TEwdRnX0

edit: avoid Medium paywall on [1] = http://archive.is/ksROw

I did not write this as a casting of blame. Merely as an observation. One can observe that having a broken leg is not optimal for locomotion without blaming the person who is in that condition.

I hear you. At the same time, I see this story of “if your life isn't exciting, it's your fault” too often, and I call bullshit.

I believe this story is incredibly harmful because it doesn't help 'non-participants’ or 'spectators’, as you call them, understand the limitations of their society, and how this impacts them. One of the things I'd like to do instead is to help show them (and anyone else who is interested in reflection or meaningful social change) how these systemic inequities are often slowly grinding them down, and how they can organize to change the system. If I don't help do this I think I might doom them to a life of self-loathing, not to mention that I myself would live in a world of self-masturbatory self-aggrandizement, not really connecting to others and relying instead on my perceived superiorty for comfort and safety; which I think starts to taste bitter if used as a strategy for a long enough period of time.

Don't see the inequities I am talking about? I promise you they are there when you start looking. Some of the ones I've found most glaring are (1) the systemic racism at home in the US, (2) the ongoing battles of the Global South against Global North-controlled extractive and exploitative debt, and (3) imperialistic Intellectual Property agreements which causes ongoing local and global information asymmetries. The bravery of the men and women who have been fighting in these battles is astounding: Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks, Cornel West, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Sankara, W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Howard Zinn, MLK, Paulo Freire, Cedric Robinson, and many more.

Besides Anand Giridharadas and Rutger Bregman, a recent example of someone doing this important work is Law Professor Mehrsa Baradaran, author of 'The Color of Money’. There is a great summary of her arguments here: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/banking-against-black-ca...

I think these are some noteworthy excerpts:

"The problem is, black capitalism has not improved the economic lives of black people, and Baradaran deftly explains the reasons why. Black people were systematically excluded from New Deal policies, including the subsidized FHA mortgages that proved fundamental in increasing white wealth, through redlining and racial covenant agreements. Where black banks did exist, they were consistently less well funded, less profitable, and made fewer loans than white banks, rendering them powerless to substantially improve the prospects of black community members. And herein lies one of the most important lessons of The Color of Money — over the course of American history, white economic success has often been subsidized by black dollars, rather than the other way around."


"Even as Baradaran criticizes the implementation of black capitalism, she claims several times that the reason black banking does not succeed in lifting black people out of poverty is that the mechanisms of free-market capitalism were blocked from proper functioning by the “structural inequalities” of racism, as if these existed outside and apart from capitalism, and infected it. Racism made capitalism sick, and if we could fix the former, the latter would deliver equal benefits to all. And yet, one can take the historical evidence she presents to argue something quite different: racism is embedded in the foundations of American capitalism."

We should realize that there is not always a very sharp distinction between a participant and a spectator. We all are sometimes a participant and sometimes are tired and just want to watch TV and be a spectator. Drawing a disctinction between spectator and participant may on occasion be helpful. E.g., a young person might hear this and start wondering by him/herself 'what am I doing on these social media for hours and hours' and cut back on it. Such things occasionally happen. The question is more whether a person is doing enough participation for the purposes of his/her creativity or not enough.

You are right that systemic inequalities should be pointed out and improved upon. On the other hand we should also not lose sight of the fact that the most equal and fair societies on the planet are the western ones. Even if one is part of a disadvantaged minority it might well be possible to make much of ones life in the West. Try being part of a disadvantaged minority in China and one might find oneself in a concentration camp instead.

I don't live in the US so I am a spectator as far as racism goes there but I agree that this exists and is a problem. Especially police shooting unarmed black people is obviously a horrible thing. I do have to note though, that your example comes from a long time ago and that much improvement has been made on this front over the decades. I also agree about imperialistic intellectual property, especially patents are a big problem. Software patents should just not exist, for instance. As far as the global south vs the global north I was under the impression that this situation has actually been improving in the last decade or so. People starving to death has been a diminishing problem, as far as I know.

On the one hand it is good to point out inequalities and do something about them but on the other hand it can also make people feel hopeless so that they will achieve less then they otherwise would. This is also something that is happening to black people in the US. I once was on an online forum where the posts of a young black person gave me the impression that a case of self-learned helplessness was going on there where most of the racism involved was coming from fellow black persons and that the group-think thing was not beneficial at all.

> I would make an exception for teenagers, who sometimes act in such extreme ways that they are literally not themselves. I can imagine a teenage kid being a hater and then growing out of it. But not anyone over 25.

I have trouble understanding why someone over 25 would be either a fanboy or a hater. People are just people. No matter how good someone is, they fuck up, make mistakes, aren't so good at other things and have flaws. Likewise, even someone you find terrible or a 'fraud' has their success or fame for a reason. You may not agree with it but obviously someone sees value in.what they do.

I just can't understand spending the energy obsessing over people either way. I understand recognizing the great achievements people make or being critical of flaws. But to obsess over them seems like such a waste of time and energy.

Nobody's perfect and nobody's completely and utterly hopeless or a fraud or whatever(I see why this term is causing some discussion on hn. It is tough to find a suitable word to describe how a hater would view the hated).

Also, as much as being either a fanboy or hater is a waste of time, feeding off of either of them is also. However good the fanboy's make you feel, it sets you up in a bubble where you start to believe what they say and start to truly believe you can do no wrong. Likewise, the criticism of the haters doesn't really allow you room for critical self analysis because you can do no right.

And as for that bit switch, the funny thing about haters and fanboys is that switch isn't permanently set. It can switch back and forth for the most arbitrary reasons. Because, it's all just obsessive energy and it doesn't take much to switch focus either way.

I have to totally disagree with this statement:

> There are of course some people who are genuine frauds. How can you distinguish between x calling y a fraud because x is a hater, and because y is a fraud? Look at neutral opinion. Actual frauds are usually pretty conspicuous. Thoughtful people are rarely taken in by them. So if there are some thoughtful people who like y, you can usually assume y is not a fraud.

Just look at recent history- Enron, WorldCom, Bernie Madoff, Elizabeth Holmes (and many more) were ALL widely celebrated by neutral third parties before being exposed as frauds. Neutral opinions are often neutral because they haven't done much research on a topic. Thus, they are often relatively uninformed opinions.

And these frauds were NOT conspicuous at all. They worked very hard to present the appearance of success. It took some dogged investigations from "haters" (by PG's definition) to reveal the truth.

> How can you distinguish between x calling y a fraud because x is a hater, and because y is a fraud?

The very premise of this question is broken.

What matters is whether y is a fraud, not why x is calling them a fraud. The way to discover whether y is a fraud is to look at any evidence x provides, and/or think about any questions x proposes.

If x is correct, what does it matter if they’re a hater? If x is incorrect, what does it matter whether neutral opinion agrees with x?

Imagine we applied this logic to barristers. The defence rises to argue that the police exceeded their authority by searching the accused’s home without a warrant.

“Your honour,” the district attorney/crown attorney drawls, “My friend acting for the defence is a notorious police hater. Day after day, all they do is nitpick and question the actions of the police and the conclusions we the prosecution draw from the evidence.”

> What matters is whether y is a fraud, not why x is calling them a fraud. The way to discover whether y is a fraud is to look at any evidence x provides, and/or think about any questions x proposes.

If x is a hater, they may indeed bring forward useful evidence. Even their silence can be useful evidence: if a Courtney Cobain hater doesn't think she killed Kurt, that's pretty good evidence that there isn't even the flimsiest case that she did, since if there was, the hater would have obsessively investigated it and presented the best case.

However, the existence of a hater, or many haters, doesn't provide any real evidence that y is a fraud. It's just evidence that y is famous. In the same way, a defense attorney questioning the actions of the police doesn't in itself provide any real evidence that the police acted questionably. It provides evidence that they are a defense attorney.

It probably isn't a good strategy for finding the truth to carefully consider all the claims that y is a fraud if they are famous. That's because any famous person will have many thousands of haters, and so there will be many thousands of such claims to review. Maybe if a friend of yours is such a hater, talking to them is worthwhile. Or maybe it's worth reading one or two antifan diatribes. But at some point you probably want to plow your attention into more fertile fields.

Speaking of which, I have appreciated and admired your thinking for many years, having learned a great deal from you, and I even thought of you as a friend. So it came as a shock when you blocked me on Twitter. What did I do?

Courtney Love. Fuck.

"What matters is whether y is a fraud, not why x is calling them a fraud."

Isn't the "why" quite important? I mean, probably the one thing that is important? I.e., that the hater is a "hater" is not important, but why he is a hater. If there is no reason than the "hater" is unfounded.

I would argue that "hater" mostly is an ad hominem attack on someone. It would be interesting to know what haters bother P. Graham for. In general for being a kinda celeb? He doesn't write the "why" in his essay and neither tries to understand it, but argues they are irrational fanboys.

Bravo. I thought the comment you replied to was spot on. Yours just nails it.

I disagree. The people you refer to did not hate Holmes/Enron/etc unilaterally because of a vague feeling that their talents were overestimated. They had, to use PG's term in the article, a dispute with them over a particular issue that they had picked up on, often as a result of having domain-specific knowledge that allowed them insight into their operations (i.e. that financials did not seem to be adding up for Enron or that Holmes's promised device would require significant breakthroughs in analysis that they thought she did not achieve given her evasiveness on technical questions).

Did you ever read about the obsessive determination with which Harry Markopolos worked to expose Bernie Madoff? He had a visceral obsession with Madoff, working for almost a decade to expose Madoff's scam. John Carreyrou likewise had a longterm fixation on exposing the Theranos scam. These weren't mere "disputes" over technicalities- they were all-consuming endeavors that became core to the identifies of the whistleblowers. They were most definitely "haters".

That’s crazy. They weren’t haters.

In both cases there were career incentives that drove each to pursuing their targets. At no point did either say to themselves, I hate this fraud because why good on him/her and not me? They thought, I’m going to bust this crooks ass because this is a true injustice that should be exposed, and I’m going to be the one who benefits from doing it.

There’s a big difference between cheating and succeeding (that’s what I think haters don’t want to believe), and in some cases like the two you mention, it wasn’t just perceptual. There was hard evidence of fraud.

What is your standard for determining that someone else is actually a "hater"? Because people like Carreyrou were most definitely considered "haters" by Holmes' supporters – Tim Draper in particular called Carreyrou "a hyena" [0].

Your reasoning that Carreyrou is not a hater because he had "career incentives" that drove him is not a sound argument. A hater is not necessarily some kind of evil altruist, i.e. hating purely with no respect to personal gain. If you seek to destroy something by violating your own principles (e.g. journalistic truth), then you can be thought of as "hating"/"despising" that something, whether or not you personally gain from its destruction.

[0] https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/05/bullied-into-submiss...

> A hater is not necessarily some kind of evil altruist, i.e. hating purely with no respect to personal gain.

That is exactly the thrust of PGs essay. Neither of those people violated their own principles. Holmes and Madoff are frauds. Full stop.

Tim Draper did consider Carreyou a hater. Draper was proven wrong the instant Carreyou was vindicated. Carreyou didn’t want Holmes to fail because “why her and not me” like Draper might have thought. He wanted her to fail, if anything, because she deserved to. Truly deserved to.

Holmes and Madoff were frauds after sufficient evidence (including the consequences of their business practices) were made public and heavily scrutinized.

That said, I agree PG's essay isn't intended to be about people like Carreyrou, or the SEC investigators into Madoff, etc – I am confused about which real-life people of consequence he's actually thinking of, because it's strange to write an essay about such an abstract strawman.

But referring back to u/rjdagost's top comment, about totally disagreeing with the footnote that begins with "There are of course some people who are genuine frauds", and that PG's reasoning is unsound because Enron, Theranos, Madoff, etc. "were ALL widely celebrated by neutral third parties before being exposed as frauds"...people like Carreyrou were not seen as "neutral third parties". Again, with respect to Carreyrou, Draper and allies accused him of chasing a Pulitzer, i.e. advancing his career.

It's only through the passage of time and accumulation of evidence that people like Carreyrou are vindicated as being "neutral" or "objective". I guess this is a long way of saying that PG's essay feels like drawn out exercise of begging the question.

> That said, I agree PG's essay isn't intended to be about people like Carreyrou, or the SEC investigators into Madoff, etc – I am confused about which real-life people of consequence he's actually thinking of, because it's strange to write an essay about such an abstract strawman.

The whole point of his essay is that haters are inconsequential and can safely be ignored. If you don't think these are real people who exist, spend more time on social media and they'll inevitably appear.

I think his essay is explicitly addressed less to those of us here in the peanut gallery and more to the people who accumulate haters.

Sure maybe Carreyou wasn’t advancing his career. I should have said that was one possibility. It would be a noble pursuit because he did the world good.

> I hate this fraud because why good on him/her and not me?

> Carreyou didn’t want Holmes to fail because “why her and not me”

Why is envy assumed to be the motivation of the "hater"? If I recall correctly, Markopolous was driven by the idea that cheaters shouldn't win. Is that any different than the "hater" who is driven by the idea that person/product/concept "X" is unworthy?

The world needs haters for the same reason it needs entrepreneurs. They're usually wrong, but sometimes they're right.

I think you can qualify a hater as someone who wishes someone else would fail for no good reason other than making them feel better about themselves. Maybe that’s envy, maybe it’s not.

I don't think it makes sense to include as unknowable as a hater's internal motivation as a defining characteristic.

Moreover even when there is "no good reason" initially, good reason might be found eventually. Scrutiny usually begins with the intuition that something doesn't add up, with the actual evidence arriving later. The "hate" for the fraudster precedes the exposure of the fraud.

PG's definition qualifies "uncritical". These examples of dogged hatred are extremely critical with merit.

I think we're all saying the same thing just fighting on semantics.

But that's also true for those who call Elon Musk a fraud. Disputes such as "funding secured" (securities fraud), "full self driving coming later this year" (false advertising), booking warranty expenses as goodwill (accounting fraud), Musk's claim he had "recused himself" from the SolarCity acquisition when he hadn't (securities fraud).

These accusations of fraud are all truth-claims about the world. They are provable, or they may turn out to be false. But what cannot be disputed is that these are claims of substance.

pg argues that accusations of fraud are simply playground style insults lobbed towards those who are too successful by spiteful and bitter haters, who are mediocre and unaccomplished, and therefore not worth paying any attention to. I think that's way too dismissive.

PG has explicitly defended Elon Musk from criticism and what he considers "haters" before. It's who I thought he had in mind when I read his piece.


Of course, when all these substantive points were raised to him on Twitter, he slinked off and didn't respond to a single one. PG also seemed to be implying that Tesla/Musk criticism was "too dedicated" or "too committed" to be organic, lending support to Musk's tactic of deflecting all criticism as oil industry funded propaganda.

I don't think PG is talking about accusations that the person is engaging in fraud. I think he's talking about claims that the person is a fraud - that they have (to use the singer example) no actual talent.

If I claim that Tom Brady, say, defrauded someone, that's an accusation about actual deeds involving actual money. If I claim that he's a fraud, though, I'm claiming that he's not actually any good as a quarterback. That's a very different claim. One claim lives in the realm of objective facts about actions; the other lives in the realm of emotional reaction to success.

>If I claim that he's a fraud, though, I'm claiming that he's not actually any good as a quarterback.

For many people, calling someone a fraud is simply shorthand for saying they are a fraudster. Not that they have no talent, but that they commit fraud.

Well, it's a great way to shut down whatever criticism without saying "because I say so", at least not straight away.

Is he arguing that or just asserting it because it’s uncomfortable for him to have to hear consistent criticism from people online in a way he was previously shielded from?

>that financials did not seem to be adding up for Enron or that Holmes's promised device would require significant breakthroughs in analysis that they thought she did not achieve given her evasiveness on technical questions

This is always obvious in hindsight.

But there are companies for which the "haters" are doing this sort of analysis right now, and they are regularly dismissed because "this time it's different" or because "they are on <insert lobby>'s payroll".

This feels out of touch in light of Epstein, who had connections to MIT, Harvard, Bill Gates, etc

Exceedingly so. I used to really enjoy pg's writing back in the day, but now I find it myopic, stunted, tone-deaf, and predictable VCese, regularly oversimplifying (either out of ignorance or willful avoidance) the most important failure modes that any given controversy would raise. You see him double down on this with his handwaving regarding Away's CEO.

PG defined haters as being obsessive and uncritical. By definition, someone who actually investigates is critical, therefore not a hater.

The problem, of course, is that it is not trivial to identify who is critical and who is uncritical, and that famous individuals by definition have significant means to portray strong critics as haters.

To take the Elizabeth Holmes example from the top of the thread, people were very quick to associate critics as sort of bitter, mysoginist people who were uncomfortable with entrepreneurial women, and the media was enamoured with Holmes even when it became increasingly obvious that something was extremely fishy about the whole business.

If we were living in a world where successful people were heavily scrutinized rather than treated as celebrities then PG's rather dismissive tone of 'haters' would make sense. As it stands haters can often be people who have contrarian and angry reactions for relatively good reasons.

And I'd go a step further. Uncritical hate can be useful in right dosage. Hunter S Thompson is one of the most important journalists of the last few decades, and he made it very clear that the civil, nice, polite, pseudo-critical attitude is often just a way to shield people in power.

"Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism -- which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful."

absolutely horrible piece. From invoking stereotypes about basement-dwelling losers and manhood to a completely uncritical view about what constitutes hate and what doesn't, to the implicit lambda school context around the article, this reads like apologia for the tech CEO polite society who cannot handle criticism from ordinary people. The article even uses the words famous and successful interchangeably, entertaining the idea that fame may be ill-received only in the footnotes.

Also the emphasis on 'neutral opinions' is revealing. The problem when speaking to powerful people is that they're very adept at deflecting 'objective' criticism. It's the sort of discourse they're accustomed to. Hate and anger and even slightly mad and irrational criticism can come from a place of truth. And it can be valuable because in contrast to polite discussion scathing anger is hard to deflect. People in a position of power know how to deflect neutral criticism, they don't know how to deal with loud resentment. For many people, that kind of resentment is the only way to even voice their opinion.

The tone of the article sounds so far removed from reality that the article makes "famous people" sound average, the intelligent upper class like the only one with a license for legitimate criticism, while everyone else is a loser, imlpying that losers do not have valid opinions or that their sentiment can be disregarded because they have not learned how to voice them politely.

I don't know if Paul Graham reads these comments, but if you do you may ponder that it almost sounds like you're categorizing the vast majority of people as losers, and emotional expression as invalid. That's the only tool most people have to make themself heard.

My theory for why so many famous people are sensitive to hate is because hate establishes a lack of respect for authority. It dismantles a lot of pretentiousness around so-called 'critical thinking' in particular in these tech circles. The civility attitude on HN is a good example of this. I don't think it exists to actually think critically, it's just an occupational license to have a quick way to disregard the opinion of people who are perceived to be unsophisticated.

Consider that the tone of the article, as you're experiencing it, may have more to do with your own attitude and preconceptions, and what meanings you're choosing to read between the lines.

Where you wrote:

"Entertaining the idea that..." "... is revealing ..." "The tone of the article sounds like..." "It almost sounds like..."

These are all places where one could interpret things very differently.

I read the whole article also, and drew none of the conclusions you did.

I, too, read the article. I felt it apparent, from just about the beginning, to be as-described by Barrin92 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22022013

Famous people are sensitive to hate because they get a lot more hate than you and I do. People with half of Graham’s notoriety get a constant stream of messages and emails saying they suck, the world’s worse for having them, wishing them various kinds of physical harm. The idea that you should listen to everyone who’s mad at you becomes completely impossible at a relatively low scale of responsibility.

I think you're interpreting a ton of things which aren't remotely present in this essay or implied by it.

Basement-dwelling losers and men with a lack of manhood are in fact a real thing. Sorry if that bothers you.

I’ve definitely seen way more haters who hate simply because they’re fanboys of the competition, than frustrated talent who think they themselves should be famous instead.

Anyway, haters sometimes can’t be ignored since they often spread lies at every opportunity, and these days damaging misinformation travel way faster than truths and are very hard to clear up.

I have seen obvious marketing people starting subreddits with purpose to hate on competition/social rising and carefully craft a cult. I don't believe a wider cult hate singularity can exist without money spent on it somewhere for a purpose.

Follow who is going to profit from the hate. An uncritical hater can't rile up thousands or millions of people worldwide to hate something only specific people have access to.

Ironically, I have noticed strong fans are also strong haters and it doesn't take much for them to change their side.

Yes, these days organized hate is usually led by paid social media influencers, who are often easy to see through for people with critical thinking capacity.

Not always. I disagree with the idea that critical thinking alone is needed and that it doesn't have its own share of spectrum.

To me, critical thinking is like a veil. It describes many of the behaviors and skills underneath which are not so generally applicable. Empathizing is one of them which many critical thinkers outside of their domain forget about (it's not their fault). A classic HN example is only a few programmers are needed to replace [insert wildly different industry jobs]

Some media influencers are purposefully obvious, critical thinking requires time and energy so once people think they figured out the obvious bait, they stop at that and move their attention to someone who calls out the obvious bait pretending to be an authority of trust. It also gives you power for denial of those untapped as conspiracy theorist or haters.

I've realized that fanboys are the same as haters with a "bit flipped" when we've had a super fan flip flop to and from being hater. And in each case he was writing articles and tweets about our startup saying why it's the best or why it's the worst.

It was quite disturbing and confusing to watch this happen. Since then I've starting engaging fanboys with caution, the same way I might engage haters. I take their opinions with a large grain of salt and try not give them a reason to get too obsessed.

I find this parallel interesting. I definitely have "fanboys" (I cringe at the term, but it's what pg uses, so I'll be consistent) who drive me crazy with their complete lack of critical thinking about my work -- I can see obvious flaws in many things I do, but they apparently can't -- but I can't think of anyone whom I would describe as hating me. Plenty of people ignore me, of course -- but that's quite different from actively denegrating my work or attacking me at every opportunity.

I can see three possibilities here:

1. I've just been lucky so far.

2. I have haters but I've simply not noticed them.

3. There's a range in the spectrum of "fame" where people attract fanboys but not haters -- particularly when people are famous within narrow niches -- and I'm in that range.

I'm leaning towards the third possibility, but I'm curious what other readers think here.

EDIT: pg points out on Twitter that haters are rarer than fanboys, so it may be a combination of 1 & 3: I've been lucky, but most "minor celebrities" are lucky.

I think there's three factors:

1. Your source of fame is one-dimensional. You're famous for a handful of achievements, they're unambiguously positive, and that's pretty much all that most of us remember.

2. Nobody perceives you as having power over them.

3. They hope that you'll make a 4.4 release of bsdiff with an improved suffix array construction algorithm. Maybe divsufsort, as it looked good in "SACABench: Benchmarking Suffix Array Construction" (2019).

At least, that's my personal guess. :P

I think #3 is spot on; if you have a small amount of fame, especially in a niche area, there are people whose lives and work you'll impact enough for them to think really highly of you.

But that kind of fame doesn't really garner enough envy for people to develop much of a hatred toward you. Also, when someone badmouths a really famous person, that badmouthing can get some traction on its own just from the namedropping. When someone badmouths a niche-famous person, it's hard to get much traction. So their envy/ hatred doesn't really go anywhere.

I do wonder if there should be a third category, for people whose hatred and envy are so deep that they represent a real danger to their target. I will be happy to never have that kind of fame.

> Also, when someone badmouths a really famous person, that badmouthing can get some traction on its own just from the namedropping. When someone badmouths a niche-famous person, it's hard to get much traction. So their envy/ hatred doesn't really go anywhere.

I feel this is very important point pg didn't consider in his essay. The degree of fame one has amplifies the fanboyism and hate they receive, because the more famous someone is, the more status can a fan or hater get with their peers by displaying obsession about said celebrity.

Another factor is what your personality is and what your beat is -- one person I know with half your twitter follower count, IMO not even famous in a niche, seems to have some devoted haters, but he covers, ahem, a wider range of material.

I think another example would be two famous people in a particular industry. With one, you can't find a reddit thread mentioning his work without somebody chiming in to whine about how he presents his opinions; they'll complain the way he expresses himself is that other people who disagree with him are wrong, which irks some people. The other is extremely fastidious about his public image, and he tends to exude a sentiment that what he's saying is just his opinion, and I don't pick up the same level of hater activity. The attack surface just isn't there.

^^ I tried to keep it vague, just for fun, but I guarantee some people can parse out who these two people are.

I don't think you qualify as famous in the sense pg uses the word. You're well known and highly regarded in some circles, but that's really different to how people think/feel about Travis, Eric Schmidt, Elon, SamA, etc.

(Or I'm not using the word properly which might be the case because I'm not native English -- I have friends who are as well known/successful on their field as you are (apprx.) and I'd never call them famous.)

Yes. I think you're just not famous enough ;) (and neither am I).

But it's interesting to ponder when the whackos start to gather and why.

I think there are a few possibilities, some of which are on your list, some of which aren't.

Firstly, there's definitely a point in which you attract fanboys but not haters, and if your popularity/fame is in a smaller niche, you may never end attracting the latter at all. Generally, someone tends to get haters when they go 'mainstream', and their work is shown to people that don't like it/can't see why it's popular or successful.

Number 2 on the list probably has some relevance too. For both fanboys and haters, since it's entirely likely every creator has both people who'd love them/their work if they found it and those that'd hate it, and also likely that not everyone in those camps has come across it yet.

In addition to that though, I think there are two more factors that play into how much of a hatedom you have, and I guess also how many fans you have too.

1. How you deal with attacks or criticism. If you ignore the trolls and haters and respond in a civil way to critics, you'll get a lot fewer haters than if you lash out at people. A lot of the folks with more... dedicated critics fall into the latter group. See Chris Chan, Darksyde Phil, Derek Savage, that guy who makes Yandere Simulator, etc.

2. The topic of your success/supposed expertise. If your work is seen as political, it will get a more backlash than if it's about some hobby/interest than most people are neutral about. For instance, I've recently posted two things that got popular; some videos about glitches in a certain video game, and an article calling out web developers/software engineers for using frameworks in situations where they didn't need to.

The former got mostly praise and questions, the latter has brought about a ton of personal attacks and criticism.

Someone who writes a successful article about why Donald Trump got elected/is popular is going to get a lot more hate than someone who writes about quantum mechanics.

I'd say it's a mix of those factors myself.

>I'm leaning towards the third possibility, but I'm curious what other readers think here.

True "haters" are way more rare than overly sensitive people imagine, and those people have a tendency to label any criticism as "hate". I think it's as simple as that.

How else do you explain Elon Musk being on the cover of mainstream magazine publications 50 times in the past 5 years while at the same time claiming the media treats him unfairly?

These overly sensitive people are the same type who believe their accomplishments are all skill, no luck.

I've encountered people online who seem to be irrationally upset and negative about scrypt. Maybe you have proxy-haters?

Of all my work, scrypt definitely produces the most extreme reactions. But I think there's a significant difference between hating a thing and hating a person.

pg points out on Twitter that haters are rarer than fanboys

I wonder if it is rarer, or that haters are caused by a reaction to fanboys?

It seems to me that haters often start off reacting to the uncritical nature of fanboyism, and then that reaction slowly slips into hate directed at the person.

(Not always though - maybe this is one particular type of the fanboy/hater relationship)

> I wonder if it is rarer, or that haters are caused by a reaction to fanboys?

Most ventures fail. Startup ventures fail even more often. If your goal was to be right most often, you would just bet that every new thing would fail. So there's something inherently illogical about being a fanboy about anything. A fanboy is definitely doing more than just looking at the odds and making a rational decision, they are putting their faith in something.

Because a fanboy derives their enthusiasm from more than simple reason and the odds, they become a threat to anyone that eschews emotion and solely uses traditional valuation models. Fanboys are hated not because they believe in a product or idea, but because they ignore tradition.

I don't think this matches the behavior in many areas.

Look at Apple fanboys. They seem to cause haters because of their uncritical boosting of anything Apple.

(Also PG's essay seemed mostly about fanboys and haters of people, not of a particular startup)

> Look at Apple fanboys. They seem to cause haters because of their uncritical boosting of anything Apple.

Apple haters have a point: Apple hardware is far more expensive than similar performance on other systems. So using a traditional objective metric such as performance per dollar, Apple is objectively worse.

However, most Apple Fanboys know they are paying a premium. They love Apple for other, less quantifiable reasons, such as design quality, beautiful integration, good marketing, and the vision of making a more human machine.

The metrics that Apple fanboys value are at complete odds with many traditional computer enthusiasts, who value specs and raw performance power.

Therefore, a "fanboy" of anything (whether that's Apple, Tesla, or the startup of the day), is not necessarily being uncritical, they are just using less commonly accepted metrics of value.

In defense of Paul Graham, I don't agree with every conclusion he has ever drawn, but his writing style is so good, in a world where most writing is so bad, than I do admit a temptation to be a fanboy. His essay "Taste for Makers" is a tour de force.

Now in this essay he is catching more criticism in the comments here than I expected.

1. For calling someone a loser. I interpreted this to be an act of the will. I can't imagine Paul Graham calling someone a loser who is trying his best.

2. For using the phrase "less than a man." A man is a mature boy. I interpreted this as a pithy way to say that someone is immature, and again by choice.

The gratuitous use of unnecessarily gendered language (all male pronouns, "less than a man") in this article was grating and annoying.

Well, consider sports fans for a moment. There’s nothing rational in particular about worshipping a uniform, and yet you will find sports fans all over the place. And sports fans are almost all haters of the other team.

And yet... there are plenty of wildly successful people that are fans of sports, and haters of the rivals. Obama is famously a basketball fan, for instance.

I get that it’s a lot milder than hating on a person, my point is that this is a thing that is in almost all of us. The smart people just know when to compartmentalise those feelings.

I thought of sports too. I personally have irrational hatred for rival players that, for example, accidental injured a player on my team in a big game. But it's almost like a joke or game; if I met the player in person I wouldn't act crazy.

I think the compartmentalizing you mentioned is interesting. In American politics right now, the home team and rivalry mentality seems to have spilled out into actually important areas of discourse. At the same time, neighbors still live in relative harmony in their day to day lives.

I just wonder if PG's theory really is more about trolls, despite him specifically addressing the distinction.

> [...] because anyone famous knows how random fame is.

Quite the contrary! My impression is that most famous people are quite full of themselves and attribute too large a portion of their success to skill, when luck (being in the right place at the right time) was a significant factor.

> A hater is obsessive and uncritical. Disliking you becomes part of their identity, and they create an image of you in their own head that is much worse than reality. Everything you do is bad, because you do it.

> What sort of people become haters? Can anyone become one? I'm not sure about this, but I've noticed some patterns. Haters are generally losers in a very specific sense: although they are occasionally talented, they have never achieved much. And indeed, anyone successful enough to have achieved significant fame would be unlikely to regard another famous person as a fraud on that account, because anyone famous knows how random fame is.

I guess pg was going more for the startup founder and creative worker aspect but wouldn't a lot of it be explained by the need to be in a tribe? You can find intelligent people in politics hating others simply due to the mere association.

A lot of startups are politically and socially charged (disruption in the power balance of society) so it makes partial sense for someone to hate otherwise they may lose their security out of their primal instincts.

It becoming a part of your identity is likely an unintended consequence of validation from enough insecure people. Further, someone can capitalize being insecure. Probably how a lot of political celebs comes into power.

Slightly off topic, but in Paul's recent essays the footnotes are no longer linked to in the body of essay. In this one from 2016 you'll see [1] or [2] and so on in the body, and the links jump you down to the relevant note at the bottom:


Everything more recent than that does not have the notes linked in the body.

> Haters are generally losers in a very specific sense: although they are occasionally talented, they have never achieved much.

So if people become haters because they never achieved much, why do people become fanboys?

My personal theory: same reason but scoped to a limited domain. You can be a generally happy and successful person but a fanboy of an athlete because you've never achieved much in sports. You want someone to succeed because it resonates with some unrealized potential in yourself.

That makes sense. To the extent I've ever been a fanboy, it's because I wanted to emulate that person in some way.

Judging from the people who have self-identified to me as fanboys: They often aspire to follow an example. So the difference between the groups may be less how much they have achieved and how much they hope to achieve -- a question of optimism as much as anything else.

Being either seems like a lose-lose situation to me. If you are not being critical in your evaluation of someone you may gain from, then that's wasting time. I have found a reasonable way to combat that by always considering how much I would have been paid on average if I tried to work the time I spent. Currently the amount is hypothetical but I think that may change when I get stable income in future. I notice that aspect of thinking matures some people.

Doesn’t becoming a fanboy in certain ways requires you to be a hater too? Case in point Windows vs Linux?

Enemies make me aware of my flaws. Haters make me aware of their flaws. My enemies make me stronger. Haters are just losers or bullies. I'm not famous so I can't speak about fanboys.

What I see here as a huge problem is (and not only in this article) that the word hater is used to disqualify a genuine and true criticism with good fundamental basis. Haters gonna hate, right?

In todays society pop culture is what is mainstream: think positive, smile, listen songs that dont mean anything but are also not hurting anyone, be happy, even if something is negative concentrate on positive (X company is adding toxic chemicals to their food but they have such a lovely packaging), but bottom line, pretend that everything is nice and fine and you will die with a smile on your face.

The problem is that the society is going into endless circle of self soothing minds, that are not only ignoring the hell of a lot of things that needs to be fixed (from society, environment, companys... products) but are also satisfied by someone selling them intelectual or physical product that is a junk but offers them a dream that there is nothing wrong with their lifestyle/thinking/... and are furious protecting that illusion from anyone daring to criticize it. This was a funboy a decade ago. I am observing with horror that now it has become mainstream.

Once the options to contradict logically are gone, as a last scream of mind defending their ego is an etiquette "you are a hater".

In that moment everything seems fine again.

"It is not me.", "It is not the product I love.", "It is you.", "I can go back to my illusion now.".

So Graham. Smile. Be happy. Be positive. Dont be a hater to haters. As maybe... they are not haters after all.

I think you missed the point. Graham is explicitly not using hater to disqualify genuine criticism but to identify people whose hate is irrational, who can't be reasoned with. Obviously it's a risk that someone can dismiss genuine criticism as hate (and people do this all the time), but that's not what Graham's advocating here.

Who decides what is "genuine criticism" and what is "hate"?

To the person receiving criticism, everything is hate. Look at pg's twitter on Tesla: doesn't understand the hate. Has he read the criticism and refuted it? No, he dismisses it.

> To the person receiving criticism, everything is hate.

That's some immature criticism-receiver that you are describing here. You have just implied that it is impossible to receive criticism without thinking of it as hate, which I find to be false.

I agree, it's immature. But I'm not the one who wrote an article calling critics haters and losers.

I mean, the article literally says the calling card of a hater is the use of the word "fraud". Meanwhile, we see actual fraud in Silicon Valley (and beyond, of course) all the time. God forbid it gets called out.

I'm old enough to remember the flak people took on these very forums for calling Theranos a fraud: thoughtful people obviously did due diligence on the company, critics (losers?) couldn't stand seeing a woman be so successful.

It’s often a hard call, and we should certainly not uncritically accept a claim that everyone who disagrees with me is a hater. But I don’t think that’s what he’s doing here. More importantly, it’s a call we have to be willing to make, because some people really are just bullies setting out to drag others down.

While I am by no means "famous" in the sense of Paul Graham famous, this essay is spot on. I had a coterie of haters when I was getting started on my own. I would post a blog and they would counter with their own blog making fun of me. One of them was a better writer than I and his criticisms were cutting. But they were just mean. I suspect it was this guy who created a fake twitter account using my avatar. It was labeled "fake" so not an attempt to slander me. I felt somewhat like it was a compliment. And it was very clever.

I just disengaged from all these people. I don't read comments on my blogs or articles. But still, having negative fanboys impacts you the rest of your life. You imagine them calling you out. It pulls you down and slows you down.

Thanks for this PG.

This is one of those cases where I try really hard to set my preconceptions aside. I'm not famous. I'm not a thought leader. I don't maintain a "public persona" on social media. If I have a couple of twitter followers, I figure they're just some kind of bot or spammer.

PG is likely dealing with a phenomenon that most of us have no personal experience with.

All I can do is try to embrace his understanding to get an insight because I have no idea what it's like to have some stranger obsess about me for good or ill.

I notice some people commenting here who seem to think that trolls and people who dislike you casually are the same as the "haters" PG is writing about. I don't think they are.

Core reasons perhaps people are haters?

1) The person who they hate to them (the hater) appears to have more luck than talent. There are others with the same or more talent (maybe even the hater or someone they know) who get no attention at all and toil in obscurity.

Of course luck is a sliding scale (there is always luck) but someone in theory would be less likely to hate someone who ran a race and was the fastest (low on the luck scale high on the skill scale) but more likely to hate a startup founder or a singer or actor who had fame but it didn't appear related as much to talent but to luck. Someone can imagine 'I could do that' but not 'I can beat that person in a marathon' (easy to quantify).

2) There are fanboys and that enhances the annoyance by the hater. So it's the constant attention (which they feel is undeserved and quite frankly it probably is) that drives the hater. Not the person themselves. The media attention the fawning articles the fawning comments.

3) They get attention for things that the same activity would not get attention by a non famous person. Example is PG wrote this essay and everyone here (including me) are feasting on it.

4) They are unapproachable. They wouldn't give you the time of day (because of course they don't have time to give everyone attention). If you wrote to them they might write back a quick reply but they would never engage in a discussion or invite you to go out or be their friend. They would give you some trivial brush off (if they replied at all). You are not important to them and they know that. That bugs people even if they know there is a legit reason for the brush off. People react negatively to lack of courtesy and to have it in their face that they are not important even if rationally they understand why it's happening to them.

So at the core it's not the actual famous person that is hated so much as the attention that is given to the famous person that drives the hate. The hater feels it's undeserved and over the top.

And it is 'over the top' when it just becomes to much in the mind of the hater.

That's part of the worst writing I have read about people. Writing a complete armchair analyst pamphlet indicating among other things than some people are "less than a man" reflects rather poorly on the author. I hope I'm not a "hater" by saying that -- at the same time if he wrote that because he encountered some "haters" of him, I can imagine where that hatred could came from.

Should also serves as a lesson illustrating it is not easy to point faults at other, even less so at whole classes of people, when yourself have your own elephant in the room ones...

As a moderately famous person with a lot of haters I have a lot of observations about this and have come to a fundamentally different conclusion. Haters are simply heavy users of the basic human social mechanism known as Altruistic Punishment. This mechanism rewards calling people out on perceived flaws with an immediate boost to social status and enhanced opportunities for bonding. Under most circumstances Altruistic Punishment helps bind society together, but like all social reward systems ends up being abused, sometimes chronically.

I'm not a psychology expert by any means but this reminds me of Adler's idea about the Superiority Complex [1] and how it's a defense mechanism for an Inferiority Complex. I think PG arrived at the same conclusion Andler did back in the 1920s.

I learned about it from the book "The Courage to be Disliked" that talks about these two things in a very approachable manner.


I have butted heads with pg in a minor fashion in the past over his tendency to disingenuously omit things from his essays, then get pissy about the fact that critics don't always go line-by-line over the "thing I got wrong" (ergo: critics == haters).

This essay, if it truly applies to Lambda School as many of the other commenters are suggesting, is a case in point. If this is really about Lambda School, then there's at least some plausible reasons to find it sketchy which one might want to address.

Someone mentioned their surprised at the negativity in this essay. I agree, Paul’s frustration is coming through which is new to me as a long time reader of his. It got me thinking of the recent article [0] the other day about someone analyzing Facebook’s latest PR, with Sandberg, Boz, and Zuckerberg seemingly speaking out a little more “off the cuff” as usual, as if they’ve been letting their frustration get the best of them and speaking publicly about ongoing events when it’d be “better” to say nothing at all. Perhaps this is one of those cases, but seeing as how Paul likes writing about what can’t/shouldn’t be said, maybe I’m not so surprised. And actually I liked this essay anyway :)

But it reminded me that Paul usually thanks people who review his essay drafts at the end.

This one was no exception, but I noticed a couple new names:

Peter Thiel, and Christine Ford.

From the Kavanaugh drama[1]? It looks like yes.

[0]: https://themargins.substack.com/p/facebooks-pr-feels-broken

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_Blasey_Ford

"A hater is obsessive and uncritical. Disliking you becomes part of their identity, and they create an image of you in their own head that is much worse than reality. Everything you do is bad, because you do it. If you do something good, they find a way to see it as bad. And their dislike for you is not, usually, a quiet, private one. They want everyone to know how awful you are."

Note also that not all who disagree with you are haters or trolls.

Adding Paul Graham to the list of people whose detractors are just haters and losers who will never amount to anything, it's becoming quite the club.

I thought the article was interesting, but this footnote left me cold:

“How can you distinguish between x calling y a fraud because x is a hater, and because y is a fraud? ... Thoughtful people are rarely taken in by [frauds]“

The world is full of “thoughtful” people who have been taken in by frauds - Theranos is a recent example - and so I think this is pretty terrible advice in general - although I can see how it might work in certain contexts.

For example, frauds often seem to work on smart people who aren’t smart in the specific field in which the fraud operates.

> The world is full of “thoughtful” people who have been taken in by frauds - Theranos is a recent example

Even more recently, "John Carmack and Amazon's $30 1TB thumb drives"


> For example, frauds often seem to work on smart people who aren’t smart in the specific field in which the fraud operates.

It also works where smart people are experts in the field the fraud operates. One of the greatest frauds in science was one where an archaeologist ( amateur ) duped the experts.


Sometimes, in banking, finance and fine art, the scammers scam the experts in banking, finance and fine art.

>Thoughtful people are rarely taken in by [frauds]“

If there's better evidence that VCs think they're smarter than everyone else, I' don't know what it is.

The Waltons; Carlos Slim, Rupert Murdoch; Robert Kraft; George Shultz; Larry Ellison. Are these not "thoughtful people"? This is from ONE FRAUD.

Articles like this are how you get "haters".

Therons is an example of letting ideology drive investment decisions.

Is it? What ideology was that? It seemed to me like people were legitimately taken in by her. At least, that's what I got from reading Bad Blood. It didn't seem like there was any particular unifying ideology of the investors/believers in Theranos. Some people seemed to like it for its female empowerment narrative, maybe, but I don't think that was a major component for most of the prominent people involved.

Ideology is another word for narrative, and Holmes worked very hard to sell a narrative where she was a disruptive genius who would revolutionise [stale old thing that needed to be disrupted] by sheer force of will and outstanding talent.

Does that narrative not sound a little familiar?

Being a woman genius took it to another level.

It's possible Holmes actually sold the narrative to herself at least as much as she sold it to everyone else.

(But that's not an unfamiliar story either.)

The worrying thing is that Holmes blanked out legitimate criticism. Perhaps she even labelled legitimate critics as haters.

That's an overtly cult-like move. Outsiders who are not aligned with the goal of the cult - often powered by a cult of personality - are dismissed, when in fact their criticisms are realistic and appropriate.

In fact what makes fanboys and haters so annoying is obsessive irrationality. They're noisy, but worryingly content-free.

But not everyone is irrational, and both outsiders and insiders may have valid and considered non-obsessive opinions. Those opinions may be positive, or they may be critical - both for perfectly valid reasons.

Ideology is another word for narrative

But it's not?

I mean I guess there is some kind of relationship - ideologies usually have some kind of story that goes with them.

But a narrative in itself isn't an ideology.

But I do agree that Holmes was able to project a "reality distortion field" in the same way Jobs could. I think that's different to ideology though.

Your believes always drives investement decisions.

So Paul Graham has just developped the perfect classifier

"A Plan For Haters And Fanboys".

I will try to apply to it to myself


Well I am clearly an hater, because I think that Paul Graham says a lot of stupid shit on subjects where he lacks the ability to empathize with the real victims, like many people who are male, white, powerful, well-connected and who can basically accomplish whatever the fuck they want to accomplish. Why don't all those poor victims just do the same, right?

This inflated ego leads him to be a jerk more often than necessary, and write things that are obviously wrong (but not for him) on some subjects where he is a like a snowflake who thinks he is the real victim being attacked. A bit like all those Trump voters who think that the problem with racism in the USA is that white people like them are being unfairly critized as being a racist.

At that point, the Paul Grahan classifier has all the necessary signals to classify me as an hater.


On the other hand...

I am obviously a fanboy because I genuinely believe that Paul Graham is a very generous, bright mind who has worked a lot and helped thousands of people.

I know for a fact that he has helped me a lot, I've read pretty much everything he wrote and was nodding furiously all of the time. I can tell you my ten favorites articles from him.

Well actually, let's do it. I really liked

- "Lisp for web-based applications" - "A plan for span" - "If Lisp is So Great" - "What You Can't Say" - "The Python Paradox" - "The Age of the Essay" - "How to Start a Startup" - "What I did this summer?" - "You weren't meant to have a boss" - "Ramen Profitable" - "Startup = Growth""H - "Do Things That Don't Scale" - "Default Alive Or Default Dead?"

Oops, I told 13 instead of 10, and I had to force myself to stop here.

That's what fanboys do.


In summary, I understand the tentation to have "A Plan For Fanboys/Haters" like he had a "Plan For Spam".

Frankly that would be nice if that was possible, I would buy it, just say your price.

But I'm starting to think that real human beings are more complex than this nice dichotomy.

I think Paul Graham is like a normal human being, with wonderful parts and deep flaws, pretty much like all of us.

That leads him to be right and helpful on a lot of subjects, and also to be wrong and a jerk on other topics.

Since he is a bright guy, he would have no problems to discover why he was wrong, if he applied his own principles to those topics.

And he would apply his own principles if he was interested.

His output being deeply wrong shows that he is not interested right now by those topics.

Ok, fine.

This isn't startup-centric. This is life. We've taken it. And most of us, at some point, have been a fan or a hater.

That said, on Quora, many years ago there was an article summed up by: If you're not pissing someone off, you're doing it all wrong.

I think these's truth to that. So if you want to do it not all wrong, then you have to expect there's gonna be some friction

it seems possible to cure haterdom: try do to creative work in the same domain and at the level of those you hate. it's almost certain you will come to better recognize their struggles, and may even turn yourself into a fanboy once you understand what was involved for them to reach their fame.

True haters are usually those who do not fully understand the subject of their hatred. Because of that, it's always safe to ignore them because the target should know deeply within themselves why they are right.

But there is also a class of fanboys who gradually became disillusioned, for they have come to realize that the emperor has no clothes. For these people it's often the case that the same ones who lifted the star to the top will also cause its downfall. Peter Thiel has written about this in his book, and history is littered with such examples.

Malcolm Gladwell did a good job exploring this type of social behavior in his book.

Somehow related, for non-US people, do you ever use or heard/read the term "loser" (or direct translation)?

My hypothesis is that it's a very American concept, as in I don't remember ever anyone outside the US/Canada use that word (same with "winner"). Like in Europe or South America for ex people would say somebody is a deadbeat or terrible at their job or lazy but not a loser (this may be just in my head).

In Norway, we use "taper" which translates directly to "loser" - but it's not really used to critique ones socioeconomic or professional status.

Generally, when someone is labeled a loser ("he's a f'in loser"), it's more an attack on their moral and ethical character.

If you lie and cheat, you're a loser. If you beat up your wife / girlfriend, you're a loser. If you're an all-around asshole that can't function around people, you're a loser.

I mean, sure, if you're a NEET on welfare, who blows his welfare money on booze, cigs and video games, while chasing 16 year olds, and with no ambition of improving - then you're too going to get labeled a loser, but that's more because of the apparent laziness and dodgy ethical choices.

But lazy or unambitious employed people? No, they're just regular workers. We all pay our taxes, and contribute to our society.

At least in the Netherlands, the word "loser" (in english) is used quite often.

thanks, -1 for my hypothesis. Well not totally, the fact that the original English word is used (instead of a Dutch one) is also telling.

One more data point: in Hungarian it's also common, also borrowed from English. It's spelled lúzer.

great thanks

I'm not a PG fanboy ;) but I usually really admire his writing. He writes so plainly and clearly, it's something I struggle with. My issue is never ever that my writing is not flowery or interesting enough, it's that it's not simple enough. Knowing firsthand how much harder this is than one would think, I quite admire how plainly and straight-to-the-point PG writes.

Thank you. I'll check these out.

The unexpected hyperlink was such a 'nice' touch! I guess that means we have a reverse-fanboy on our hands too, don't we?

"Could a hater be cured if they achieved something impressive? My guess is that it's a moot point, because they never will."

This is entirely wrong. History is full of people with spectacular achievements whom pg would classify as "haters".

The whole essay is really poor (and yes, I've also achieved more than flipping a web-shop to friends at Yahoo during the bubble.).

I think there's a bit of cruelty in so casually reducing people to "losers." Taking what must be a complex set of personal histories and circumstances that lead people to that behavior and framing it as a matter of winner vs loser seems to border on smug, especially when the writer is clearly the former.

Not just cruel but potentially stupid. It's the kind of thing people pushing MLMs say: "you're just jealous of my success."

The post clearly ignores the use of any form of sensitive language, which in this case I thought helped to illustrate the points quite well.

Personally, I can’t imagine calling somebody a loser, but in my head I have a very clear idea of what a loser is. To me a loser is anybody that, in spite of the opportunity to do so, doesn’t take any control over their own life, doesn’t take responsibility for themselves, and blames others for their failure/lack of success. Such people can become marginally successful, but they’ll always be losers, because they’ll never get what they want from life. To me, this idea seems very similar to what he was getting at.

The notion of control over one's life is elusive. Our futures can be wrought by trauma, poverty and the lottery that is our DNA, and by extension, our brain. Given the randomness/contingency Graham acknowledges explains his and others' success, and by implication the various dependencies en route to that success, I'd just ask for a bit more compassion for those, whether through birth or circumstance, find themselves constitutionally unable to make the most of their lives in the sense you probably mean. Something as simple as a deficit in executive function can wreak havoc on one's ability to self-motivate, just as an example.

You’re massively misinterpreting what I said.

> in spite of the opportunity to do so

I am talking about people who have opportunities they don’t take, so the spiel about circumstances is pretty off topic. In my comment I also made no reference to outcomes. I was specifically describing an approach to life. Anybody, even the most low agency circumstances, can choose how they approach life.

> Anybody, even the most low agency circumstances, can choose how they approach life.

That is a very common ideology around these parts (and also in the US), but it is simply not true. We are constrained by our mental health in how we can choose to approach life, and our mental health is partly due to genetic lottery and partly due to environmental circumstances outside of our control. This is not my opinion, scientific studies are massively (as you would say) in agreement with what I claim here.

The American obsession with "winner" and "losers" is just an excuse to be selfish and cruel. Its fruits are extreme economic equality, school shootings and people dying of easily curable diseases because they don't have money for the treatment (or even the ambulance to the hospital).

Please don't add nationalistic flamebait to HN. It leads to nationalistic flamewars, which we're trying to avoid here.


If you search and replace "haters" with "taters", it becomes a very strange essay about potatoes.

Sometimes being a hater is not because one is unsuccessful or successful in their craft. A lot of hate in the modern age is driven by ideological capture. If someone is in your ideological outgroup and famous, hate them. If someone is a billionaire and your ideology tends towards the marxist, hate them, etc.

I think tribal hatred is a little different than 'hater' as meant here. Fanboy/hater gets its essence almost from its triviality. I don't think PG was trying to describe all hate in the modern world, but rather this much narrower 'hater' concept as related to celebrity-type fame.

Hmm. I see a large fraction of Elon Musk's haters coming from an ideological perspective, for example.

Huh. What do you mean by that? I think of Elon Musk's haters as more coming from the perspective of thinking he's overly self important and irresponsible (I like Elon though, for the record). I don't really think of his haters as ideological per se. What kind of ideology do you see in his haters?

> (I like Elon though, for the record). I don't really think of his haters as ideological per se. What kind of ideology do you see in his haters?

I also like Elon, but the source of the hate probably comes from two sources. The first is the audaciousness of his general proposal: that we give up technology that worked for a century (oil) and try to build something entirely different. It's based on a bias towards the status quo.

The second is probably more legitimate. No question Tesla has done amazing things, but is it really worth more than established players that sell 10X number of cars? The stock price doesn't make sense based on any traditional valuation, it can only be explained by popular enthusiasm and exuberance towards the vision that Elon provides. It feels to many that Elon is getting away with things that would doom any other company because of this perception. It feels unfair, hence the haters.

Personally, I do love Elon, SpaceX, Tesla, etc, but I don't want to get involved in the stock market casino. I support what he does because of his vision, but Tesla's stock price makes no sense to me. Instead, I'll cheer from the sidelines, and invest my money in boring ETFs.

What about the fact that he paid a shady PI to shake down a cave diver trying to help with the Thai cave rescue? Or regularly sends his troll army after journalists with baseless accusations? Or that he commited securities fraud in plain site? Or that it looks like he bailed his family out at the expense of company shareholders? Or that he burned taxpayers in Buffalo?

What about the fact that as the world wakes up to atrocities in China, he went there hat in hand, selling out to the CCP?

There are legit reasons he could be disliked.

> There are legit reasons [Elon] could be disliked.

Yes, there are many legitimate complaints about Elon, some disputed, some not. But the legitimate complaints you describe don't create the haters. What hedge-fund short-seller, or random internet troll, really cares about Hong Kong's civil rights? The same folks that are crying fowl on Elon support far more ruthless enterprises, their complaints aren't coming from a morally sound platform.

The vast majority of hatred towards Elon is what I described: (1) his audaciousness; (2) inflated valuations that don't conform to traditional valuation models.

Sadly, any legitimate criticism is lost in this noise.

The proponents of "Billionaires should not exist"

Oh, ya. Those people are a weird hybrid, I think. They're a sort of mix of hater and ideology, you're right. What it is is haterdom masquerading as an ideology.

Isn't the ideological capture a consequence of being a loser? It's such people the promises of ideologies are targeted at, whether they promise equal wealth for all, punishment of people perceived as responsible for one's ailings, or posthumous rewards for unselfish behaviour.

>> If P. G. Wodehouse were still alive, I could see myself being a Wodehouse fanboy.

Hah! PG is a Wodehouse fan. Makes sense.

We always have leaders and followers. I think the haters might be those who are fanboys of someone else.

Think about team-sports, the English soccer hooligans. They succumb to terrible violence because they are fanboys of their own team and haters of the other team, including the followers of the other team.

I think a portion of haters are post-fanboys. That is, at some time there was an experience where the fanboy could no longer deal internally with failures of their obsession, they flipped and gone hater.

Sort of like borderline painting black and white.

Love PG's writing, always a good read.

First - his example of the 'hater of the pop singer' I think is wrong.

Someone likely 'hates' the pop singer because their popularity is not justified, i.e. lacking talent or authenticity.

They don't 'hate' an obscure pop singer, because there's no point.

This is not arbitrary disdain.

I think a better example would be the comments section in HuffPo or Breitbart on politics. It's just pure political identity and nothing else: all actions of the opponent must be bad.

Second - I think his characterisation of 'loser' might be very wrong as well. A lot of very rich dudes got that way by being obsessively competitive, sometimes full of arbitrary rage at 'the other guy'. 'Vendetta' is not a word we usually associate with losers, I think it comes from the same place.

It just might be that anger is a little stickier and motivating than other things?

> I think a better example would be the comments section in HuffPo or Breitbart on politics. It's just pure political identity and nothing else: all actions of the opponent must be bad.

I don't actually think this is a better example. People have a lot on their plate, they can't be expected to investigate every issue to extreme depth. They rely on institutions. Many people join Breitbart politics because they trust Breitbart, even if they know little about it's underlying reasoning. Similarly, many people trust the national academy of sciences, even if they know little about the underlying science.

Even a critical reader can't know everything, and so they must trust people and institutions to represent them.

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