Mahbod Moghadam (center)

M de Bourgoing

Mahbod Moghadam (center)

General


Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam has been fired from the annotation service after posting appalling comments on the memoir of mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in a shooting spree earlier this week.

In now-removed annotations on the site on the sick 141-page manifesto, Moghadam added a tasteless series of comments, including “beautifully written” and also “MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot.”

My annotation: Good riddance.

The comments were first written about by Valleywag, which published images of Moghadam’s annotations like the one above.

In a statement, Rap Genius co-founder and CEO Tom Lehman said Moghadam had resigned as an employee and also from the board of directors.

It read in part:

“However, Mahbod Moghadam, one of my co-founders, annotated the piece with annotations that not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.”

(You think? Dear Rap Genius: People died due to a mentally ill man who had deeply warped problems with women and a dangerous streak of misogyny. But at least you moved quickly to remove him.)

Thankfully, sources close to the situation said he was actually asked to leave the company in a decision by Lehman, but there was also pressure from investors and others internally. In a tweet, which you can see below, Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz — which is a big backer of Rap Genius — said he has a “conversation” with Lehman, but did not characterize it as pressure.

Whatever the case, it was a definitely a bridge too far — especially after the entire group of founders has already wallowed in a number of controversial issues, calling attention more to their idiotic hijinks than to their business.

Here is Moghadam’s apology on Twitter:

And here’s Lehman’s whole statement:

A Statement About Mahbod’s Annotations on Elliot Rodger’s Manifesto

Yesterday the Rap Genius community annotated Elliot Rodger’s manifesto on News Genius. Because this tragedy is still so raw, there was internal debate as to whether this document belonged on the site at all. Ultimately we decided that it was worthy of close reading — understanding the psychology of people who do horrible things can help us to better understand our society and ourselves.

The current version of the annotated document is far from great, but the hope is that the annotations will improve over time as the story unfolds and it will eventually be a good resource for people looking to understand this tragedy.

Almost all the annotations were at least attempting a close reading — they were genuinely, though imperfectly, trying to add context to the text and make it easier to understand.

However, Mahbod Moghadam, one of my co-founders, annotated the piece with annotations that not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.

Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a new Rap Genius user, it would be up to our community leaders, who set the tone of the site and our approach to annotation, to delete them and explain to the new user why they were unacceptable.

Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a Rap Genius moderator, that person would cease to be an effective community leader and would have to step down.

And Mahbod, our original community leader, is no exception. In light of this, Mahbod has resigned — both in his capacity as an employee of the company, and as a member of our board of directors, effective immediately.

Mahbod is my friend. He’s a brilliant, creative, complicated person with a ton of love in his heart. Without Mahbod Rap Genius would not exist, and I am grateful for all he has done to help Rap Genius succeed. But I cannot let him compromise the Rap Genius mission — a mission that remains almost as delicate and inchoate as it was when we three founders decided to devote our lives to it almost 5 years ago.

Tom Lehman
Co-Founder & CEO



20 comments
SSSSSSSS
SSSSSSSS

Firing people for politically incorrect statements...wow what a progressive and liberal world we live in.  Don't call yourself a liberal person if you agree with this.  What's the direct synonym for liberal?  TOLERANT!!!  Get a f****** clue!  Have you never made a mistake?  Never said anything that you would take back if you could?  Never typed something and posted it, only to wish you hadn't later?  No?  You're perfect?  No, you're not.  


  Forcing founders out of their own companies that THEY BUILT for "tasteless comments" is cowardice.  Applauding such actions and calling of them to be taken is pathetic.  Who the hell are you, author of this article, to say good riddance to a man who was removed from the company he helped create?  Why does what he say matter to you that much?  It shouldn't mean anything to you unless you know him or it affects you directly AND EVEN THEN it still shouldn't be grounds for taking his livelihood from him.  Sorry but the world doesn't revolve around you and if that offends you (I'm sure it does) then you're a raging narcissist and you're far beyond help that might allow you to see how ridiculous this truly is.


   That guy is responsible for building something that millions of people use and enjoy, and do so quite often.  What have you brought into this world that you can claim has brought happiness, enjoyment, and satisfaction to MILLIONS of people? Hmm?  You ever think his livelihood is just as important to him as yours is to you?  Hmm? Don't say you'd never say something like that.  Maybe you wouldn't for this issue.  But we all have blind spots that cause us to say and do stupid things every once in a while.  


   If you agree with this, please understand you hold back mankind.  You are the roadblock from liberation.  Don't say liberals are calling for this.  This is the exact opposite of liberal behavior.  This right here is a crying shame.  This idea that one statement...not one fight...not one gunshot fired...a verbal statement...should cost anyone, much less a co-founder his job is evidence of true mental illness.  It's evidence of incredible weakness in people.  Unbelievably fragile self images and confidence...so much so that complete strangers' comments, which were never directed toward any one person at all, should cost he/she who spoke or typed the words EVERYTHING.  GROW UP!  LET US ALL BE FREE!  All this does is cause self censorship, which is nothing but indirect oppression one feels they must inflict upon themselves due to fear of LOSING EVERYTHING for speaking their minds.  Man...real progressive...real liberal... Can't even hear an opinion you don't like.  That's impossibly pathetic. It's disgusting.

Bahmani
Bahmani

"...Rap Genius is your guide to the meaning of rap, R&B, and soul lyrics..."


Right there, ought to have been a clue that the assumption that people are "too white" and don't have the propensity to figure out what a rap song is saying, or that it is necessary for an entirely stupid site to attempt to con VC into investing in it, or worse make money off it, as nothing more than a "race filter" to cliff-note rap music, is insulting. 


Good riddance to Moghaddam's departure, but he was merely a "product" of a larger problem, namely a really stupid site. It and all sites like it should be shut down immediately. Not by law or force, but by people, who should know better.

Admin User
Admin User

rap music is the skid mark in the underwear of pop culture.

video games are the hamster wheel in the cage of society.

anyone expressing 'concern' for mahbod's situation needs to step away from their keyboard and adjust their meds.

Les Moor
Les Moor

While MM has the freedom to say what he likes, he worked for a company, that, like most companies, will react when one of its own does something stupid and tasteless in public.  That is the reality of signing on the dotted line in exchange for buckets of money.  Anyone who expects companies to act differently in a similar situation is naive, likewise anyone who thinks free speech is somehow endangered in these situations.  It's all about the money.  It's business.

dorotheosgaza
dorotheosgaza

 All social constructs are constructed.  These are constructed by persons, by men and women.  These men and women are then re-constructed by the construct.  The construct acts upon the persons, who in turn, re-constructed, construct more social constructs, which in turn, re-construct.  


All social actions have an agent and an agency that combine to produce the action.  The action, because of this, has intentionality.  Intentionality however does not guarantee outcome.  Outcome's effect is determined by the intentionality of the agent, its reception into an open system, and the contingency of the open system predicated by the openness of the system.


Thus the social action's telos cannot be predicted, nor can it be controlled.  This is risky and it is hopeful.  It is risky because such actions can be small, can come out of what was conceived of as neutral or even good in intention, directed toward what the agent perceives to be of common good, and yet, because of contigency, can end in great harm or horror.  It is hopeful, because, by the same, any action can be deflected or countered by the confluence of counteractions.  Any action has a start point as well and the start point does not have to be acted upon by the agent.  The agent can choose not to act.  The social construct can equally be deconstructed.


The site is constructed and it is used.  Through the use made of it, it constructs the users who use it.  To remove a founder/user may serve as a start-point toward re-use or re-construction.  It does not signify an end point.  It cannot.


This site is constructed and it is used.  And the persons who construct and who use it are its agents and its objects.  Because of the circular nature of agency in this nexus, responsibility cannot be attributed to the location (nexus), but only to the participants (agents/constructors/users).  The nexus and the content would not exist if not willed into existence by persons.


thwap
thwap

I think we are all becoming more distastefully 'lynch mob'-like as a society - an unfortunate by-product of combining human psychology (we have never changed - only our circumstances have), with artificially high levels of communication closeness, Internet-championed globalisation, and instant, mass media access - where TV is *dwarfed* by that of Twitter alone.


Especially in the tech community, where things are most connected of all.


It's a 'claustrophobia' of communication - we don't have fresh air anymore, everyone is in the same room - and as a result, we get cultural developments like this.


We humans LOVE to demonise and bring down individuals in front of the 'group' (to make us feel better, or more secure something) - think bullying in school, or women being mob stoned in the street in the Middle East (or public hanging in our OWN culture only 100 years ago) - and the modern age of communication universality has become the platform through which to satisfy our human desire to lynch *nowadays*, in this apparently civilised/humane/evolved etc. age.


(Along with video games and movies to satisfy Rome Colosseum-like lust for violence, gore, general vulgarity, and sex...for entertainment purposes or self gratification.)


I hope others can also observe this trend, another being the severe lynching that happened to the Firefox CEO.


Everyone has to have an opinion and act now, cos everyone's in the same room. I don't think it's the healthiest of developments, and gives rise to mob-like mentality and less individuality. It's globalisation of the most acute kind.

EtherealMind
EtherealMind

 Silicon Valley is learning the hard way how to act like grown ups. 

zato
zato

Those of us who comment regularly on tech sites see the same kind of misogyny and insensitivity evident in the above screenshots, every day. It's called "gamer humor". Mahbod Moghadam posted it because he thought his peer group would find it funny or clever. There are many, many, Mahbod's in America. Millions. And among them, there are a few who will go as far as Elliot Roger. This is a VERY LARGE PROBLEM. It is the SOURCE of a lot of the hate in America. The HATE we see online, the HATE we see in politically divided America., The HATE we see in religious fundamentalism. Elliot Rogers gave up his life to expose a very big sickness in our society. We live in a very sick world that is headed toward destruction. 

Thorvalt Clinton
Thorvalt Clinton

Its just a public relations nightmare that's all. People are more than happy to act like their self esteem isn't hugely dependent on how "hot" they are when it suits them... Admitting they intentionally cultivate their "hotness" above most other things would put them in an awkward position in relation to this recent tragedy... so they need to act taken aback

sleeplessinva
sleeplessinva

I'm just curious how removing someone from a job helps the overall problem? If Moghadam's ill-formed annotations is as tasteless as the critics and general public would have us believe, could Moghadam behavior be a sign of what's to come? By all accounts Roger was pretty well off, and Moghadam certainly isn't cash strapped. Yet Roger still committed the heinous acts and killed all those people.


Now that Moghadam is out of a job (unemployed), what will the added stress do to a person? Society is so quick to point the fingers and distance ourselves at the moment when they need help and support the most. Is this the kind of lesson that we want to teach our children? If you say something (may or may not be culturally acceptable) you could lose your job?

I guess all we can do is hope that Moghadam is socially well adjusted and don't take up arms and start shooting at random people. Now that he's fired what does he have to lose?


#FallingDown #MichaelDouglas

Taggart
Taggart

@SSSSSSSS Being progressive, liberal, forward-leaning, and future-thinking does not mean one must accept misogynistic, callous, or hateful behavior. Freedom of speech and freedom of association are two fundamental cornerstones of democracy. He utilized his freedom of speech, and his company utilized their freedom of association. That is the balance.

phySi0
phySi0

@SSSSSSSS


Eh, I can't really blame the people that fired him. Whether or not they care about the statements he made (I, for one, found them hilarious), he *is* damaging the company's image. Not just a little, either; people find these kinds of jokes (i.e., jokes pertaining to a sad event) incredibly offensive, for some reason, especially if they're made soon after the event in question. We'll get to that, but the point I'm making is that he is a cofounder and he is holding back the other cofounder from riches. Now that he's signed contracts for money, he needs to consider the needs of investors, or offer something they cannot refuse, even with all the offensive shit. At the end of the day, they too are only reacting to public opinion. If the cofounder was a personal friend and he's changed for money, I'd be pissed off in Moghadam's position too, but if they had an understanding from the beginning that this was a proper business venture (this is why you don't do business with friends), then he's cool.


Now, as I was saying, people really don't like this shit for some reason. Yes, i know, "it's in poor taste". I wish I could find the xkcd comic that describes this attitude. Basically, a guy makes a joke about the Titanic disaster, laughs with his friend, his friend makes a joke about 9/11, he punches his friend and says, "too soon". The point is, how soon is too soon. When the victim's immediate families are dead. Extended family? When people have stopped grieving over the victims? When is that? A year from now? A decade? The point is, any time is as good as another, especially on the Internet, away from the victim's families in the first place. You can expect that they wouldn't be looking at anything to do with the killer for a while, so there was nothing actually wrong with the jokes.


I have no respect for people that disrespect (not try to attack, just disrespect) other people's right to laugh over what they find tragic. It's my and a lot of people's method of coping with all the misery in the world and I hate the fact that a guy indulging me in that method of coping can't do so without losing his livelihood, especially one that he had a major hand in creating.

Admin User
Admin User

you mean "hipsters have feelings too?'

my heart bleeds. comparing mass murder and organized discrimination to your so-called 'mob mentality' is cluelessness of the highest order.

InTheTao
InTheTao

@zato  Actually, he took other people's innocent lives to indulge in violent fantasies that are perpetuated by a sick culture that feeds on mindlessly violent video games and movies etc. Those innocent sons and daughters who were murdered are the ones who should be honored, not someone who attacks the unarmed. Have we forgotten through history that someone who attacks an unarmed person is actually considered a coward?

Charles Vestal
Charles Vestal

this argument is specious at best. Immoral behavior from a leader of a company should, and does, result in action. There is a lesson for my children, that you should teach everyone, women, and men, with respect, and if you do not, there are consequences, up to and including losing your job as leader of a rap lyrics annotation service.


To deny this on the grounds he "might flip out" is to deny any reaction to any despicable behavior, and to dishonor the memories of those killed this week.

Admin User
Admin User

More than a hundred million prescriptions were written for antipsychotic and similar medications last year.

It is a statistical certainty that one half of one percent of those using such drugs will experience a violent or self destructive episode / reaction as a result.

Did you know that long-haul truckers are prohibited from taking Chantix because of its documented history of causing road rage?

Lyrica, another popular med, is also well documented for causing similar reactions.

We used to get help from doctors. Now we get a pill, likely one we asked for after we saw it in an advertisement.

In almost every case of multiple murdet/assault over the last 10 years, you will find that the perpetrator was on some kind of antipsychotic medication.

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