After Entrata founder’s departure, Utah’s tech sector has an opportunity to lead, Robert Gehrke writes

The tech community is uniquely situated to counter festering hate, foster healing and to help Utah’s image in the process.

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dave Bateman, Entrata, CEO speaks in the opening session to over 14,000 at the 2018 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Lake Convention Center Thursday Jan. 18.

Just when you thought we’d reached a point where we thought we’d seen it all, where nothing could be so vile as to shock or disgust us, in walks Dave Bateman.

Bateman, as you know by now, is a tech entrepreneur who unleashed a wildly anti-semitic, hate-filled tirade accusing “the Jews” of using the COVID-19 vaccine to annihilate Americans.

“I believe there is a sadistic effort underway to euthanize the American people. It’s obvious now. It’s undeniable, yet no one is doing anything,” Bateman wrote. “I believe the Jews are behind this. … For 300 years the Jews have been trying to infiltrate the Catholic Church and place a Jew covertly at the top.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

It is so detached from reality that the specifics of it don’t merit comment. Even Bateman comes close to recognizing that what he’s saying is wildly bizarre.

“I write this email knowing that many of you will think I’m crazy after reading it,” he acknowledged at the opening of his invective.

“Crazy” doesn’t really do it justice, and chalking it up to mental illness might be too easy, not to mention hurtful to those who struggle with mental illness. But whatever is going on with him, I hope Bateman gets help, because these are the ravings of someone who is clearly not well.

It also isn’t the first time he has engaged in this kind of disgraceful conduct. His social media feeds are a cesspool of misogyny, bigotry and bizarre fringe conspiracy theories.

The positive outcome of all this, if there is one, is that the condemnation of Bateman’s hateful delusions was swift and universal — including Gov. Spencer Cox whose initial response was the bat emoji and the poop emoji, you can probably figure out the message.

But it was Utah’s tech industry that responded firmly and categorically.

“Dave Bateman has been the worst representative of Utah tech for years,” tweeted Blake McClary, who runs the Salt Lake City chapter of Silicon Slopes. “We all know this. It’s time for him to step down from Entrata and enjoy his tax haven in Puerto Rico and not embarrass us.”

Not too long after, Entrata’s board of directors asked for Bateman’s resignation and he agreed to step down. It’s not as if Entrata will miss him. He has been a thorn in the company’s side for years.

This was, to be clear, a layup. Calling hate what it is doesn’t really qualify as a Profile In Courage.

The real opportunity comes if these companies are serious about engaging in an ongoing dialogue on all forms of hate — like antisemitism, racism, misogyny and homophobia — and then using their recently formed Tech Leads Political Action Committee to push the Utah Legislature to advocate for change.

I know in the past I have scoffed a little at Utah’s “Tech Bro” culture, but they clearly would benefit from improving Utah’s image nationally and helping to beat back the Batemans of the state when they make national headlines for the wrong reasons.

They are also uniquely situated to do so, because the Legislature is infatuated with all things Silicon Slopes. It’s all so shiny. And more than that, it’s all green, as the language spoken at the Legislature is dollars and cents.

The tech sector appears poised to move in that direction. They recently formed the Utah Tech Leads political action committee and plan to play in elections and the policy realm. From the standpoint of attracting workforce and capital, protecting Utah’s image should be their No. 1 priority.

If they can convince policymakers and voters that equity and inclusion are good for business — because they absolutely are — perhaps some good can come from this moment. They can act as a counterbalance, not just to truly unhinged diatribes everyone easily condemns, but to the campaigns organizing against diversity that are coddled, and even courted, by too many lawmakers.

Condemning Bateman is a start, but it is not enough.

This is a call to action for Utah’s burgeoning tech sector to root out the hate that gave rise to wild notions like Bateman’s, as well as an opportunity to help heal and to guide Utah in a better direction.

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