Like much of the manosphere did, on Thursday I discussed hedge funder and Magic: The Gathering champion Jon Finkel’s unfitness to date blog intern Alyssa Bereznak. Thanks for making it the most-viewed day in Badger Hut history to date.
In a well-done summary of the incident with a personal bent, Chenda Ngak of CBS News’ Tech Talk blog calls Bereznak a “mean girl,” says the blog staff was “peeved” and likened Bereznak’s revelations of Finkel’s personal life to cyberbullying.
Finkel gave some very interesting answers in an email interview with Ngak, in which he handles the case with impressive aplomb:
CN: We know you felt your privacy was violated. Are there any tips that you’d like to pass on to anyone who might encounter this type of public exposure?
JF: My main advice would be to have an army of game-loving fans who remember you from your glory days 10 years ago. Probably also, and this is good generic life advice, “try not to be a [jerk].” If she’d posted about me being a real [jerk], things might have developed differently. But I suppose this sort of stuff could happen to anyone with a large enough Google footprint, even if they are a “Grade D Celebrity.”
Self-deprecating humor with a Groucho Marx-esque twist. I like.
CN: Do you think you were a victim of cyberbullying?
JF: I mean not really. 18-year-old Jon might have thought that, especially if it had been a girl that he had been really into, or had left himself vulnerable to, rather than just an uneventful, say goodbye forever kind of date.
He has enough detachment to be self-aware.
CN: As of today, has she contacted you to apologize?
Here’s guessing that within two months, Bereznak will be only a footnote in Finkel’s public image.
CN: On a lighter note. What are you looking for in a woman? Do you have a type?
JF: I always think people backwards rationalize their lists. My main criterion is, “When I wake up in the morning, do I want to see/call her?” That being said, I think I’ve devolved my list into two main things that I think everything else follows from: “Self awareness and intellectual curiosity.”
CN: Can you describe what a perfect date might be like?
JF: Someone smarter than me once said, “All good dates are the same but all bad dates are different.” You just know when it’s good – the details fade away. Oh, that and Jeffrey Dahmer-based One Man Shows.
Brilliant. She twice tries to bait Finkel into playing as shallow as Bereznak, and he deflects it both times with appeals to unmeasurable traits and nebulous metaphysics. He even discussed the rationalization hamster! (If not by name.)
CN: Playboy model Sara Jean Underwood asked you out on “Attack of the Show.” Are you going to take the date offer? Ha ha…sorry. I had to ask. I think the entire Internet wants to see that date happen.
JF: I definitely don’t want to let down the Internet. I would definitely be down to go on a date with her, but not if it’s televised (sorry everyone). Just not my thing.
CN: Good luck on your tournament! And have a good holiday weekend.
JF: Thanks. Here’s to hoping I make grandpa proud!
This guy is good. Admittedly, this exchange was over email, where you have time to come up with witty and charming responses, but even consider that, Finkel’s replies are excellent public relations – he shows little to no investment in Bereznak, plays down his fame and fanbase without denigrating them, and even negs a date invitation by a Playboy model.
Ngak also quoted from Finkel’s Ask Me Anything thread.
What was your first reaction upon reading her post about you? – Scarker
I felt a little, I dunno, violated. Even though the post itself didn’t make me look bad at all (at least I didn’t think). Still, it’s sort of like someone publishing emails you wrote to your girlfriend, or posting part of your diary – it just feels wrong
Are you upset that she revealed your identity in the article, or do you think that ultimately this is going to work out for you with the great publicity? – OilGuy13
It’s nice to know the Internet has my back, so in total it looks like it was a net positive, though I still feel oddly creeped out by it.
How many girls have asked you out since this all exploded? I noticed Felicia Day in your Twitter; did she say something to you? – kbilly
If you include Twitter messages from other continents saying ‘Id date you’, then a lot. As for Felicia Day, it appears she made a tweet or two about it, but I don’t really know much about her, except that she seems like a lovely woman who is apparently loved by gamers.
Did she tell you she was a blogger? Did she hint maybe she would post about the date? – sweetgreggo
Yes and No.
Did Gizmodo contact you at all about disclosing your name? – clifwith1f
Nope, although it looks like one of their editors just sent me an email 15 minutes ago, but I haven’t really had time to sift through all my emails. This is already cutting into valuable [Pro Tour] Philly test time – which is the initial reason I took off work today.
For good measure, Ngak interviewed an empathetic psychologist on public shaming (emphases mine).
What can you do if you’ve been bashed publicly?
We asked clinical psychologist Dr. Leah Lagos, Psy.D, to advise anyone who has experienced a public bashing and violation of privacy.
“Online dating, particularly for men, can test their self-esteem. Because it’s often the men who do the asking it is often the men who are more vulnerable to rejection. The key here is to remain detached from the outcome,” Dr. Lagos stated. “Strong emotional reactions on a first date, like love or hate, are likely to reflect the most about the person experiencing them. People sometimes forget that making oneself vulnerable is an inherently anxiety provoking experience.”
A New Nadir Of Nasty
Michael Tresca of examiner.com has uncovered a different version of Bereznak’s post on the Australian version of Gizmodo, which puts the reprehension of her writing in even starker relief. It appears that her ire is stoked by two factors.
1. She was expecting a “normal finance guy” (it’s not hard to read between the line: a rich, handsome, charming banker)
I was lured on a date thinking I’d met a normal finance guy, only to realise he was a champion dweeb in hedge funder’s clothing… if everyone stopped lying in their profiles, maybe there also wouldn’t be quite as many OKCupid horror stories to tell.
Amazing. In her world, Finkel is engaging in malicious dishonesty for not being the man she imagined he would be. This tone is intensely narcissistic. Also note the hypergamy in play: even though she’s employed by a geek plublication, geeks aren’t good enough for her.
But it doesn’t stop there – by using OkCupid for its advertised purpose of meeting dates, Finkel engaged in predatory behavior as well!
I later found out that he infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers… Also, for all you world famous nerds out there: Don’t go after two Gawker Media employees and not expect to have a post written about you. We live for this kind of stuff.
Note again the self-absorbed tone – “infiltrated,” and threats of revenge for the crime of trying to go on a date. As soon as he was “un-selected” as a suitable mate, which again was due to his not living up to whatever stereotype she expected for her perfect man, he was no longer even human and deserved a public lashing. She’s basically accusing him of being a stalker.
She wishes. One of the most interesting exigeses to come out of the comments on my original post was the theory that homely women loudly publicize their advances by and rejections of men so as to publicize that somebody, anybody, was interested in them.
At What Price Clicks?
The point has been made that Gizmodo parent site gawker (which also owns the first-class hamster farm Jezebel) pays writers by number of hits per story. OK, that partially explains notorious content posted to the site. But there are additional long-term spillover effects to such intellectual pollution. Maybe you’d call them externalities, or self-externalities as they affect the parties involved in the exchange (I’m not an economist so maybe there’s a proper term I’m missing).
Gawker will probably be fine – it has a business strategy, and nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people. The biggest damage is likely to Bereznak herself. Maybe she has a future at a snark site or a bloodless boiler room, but most businesses in this country want to get down to business, which means hiring an army of the least notorious people possible, people who can put their heads down and produce without needing to get their rocks off creating drama and launching personal attacks on other individuals. It’s one thing to write a screed or a strong, uninformed opinion in say a college newspaper – professional courtesy dictates that most of what you do in college is firewalled from professional judgment. It’s quite another to publish under the masthead of a fully-functioning technology publication and oh by the way alienate a key segment of the technology community in the process. (I would be remiss if I didn’t criticize Gizmodo’s editorship for allowing her to commit such a massive professional misstep.)
I’d like to say I’ll be curious where Bereznak ends up, but in reality I’m looking forward to forgetting about her as soon as I pen my next post.
Poker? But I Just Met Her!
Finally, Finkel was asked at AMA about similarities between MTG and poker, and came up with this gem that expresses a key life truth:
I think the biggest thing is the deep seeded emotional understanding that the right play is the right play regardless of outcomes. The ability to make a decision 5 straight times, lose 5 times because of it, and still make it the 6th time if it’s the right play. Magic players have been developing that since their teens, and its just so applicable to poker, gambling, and life in general.
I read a cracked article about online poker where they talked about it making you “immune to bad luck”. You just take the bad beats in every area of your life in stride and move on.
What he’s saying is to override your emotional impulse by relying on your academic knowledge that you are playing the best strategy. I can say from experience that eventually you gain so much confidence from being in the right strategy that it becomes your emotional impulse; it starts to feel natural.
You’re not always going to win. Guys who practice their game know this in spades (no pun intended). No scheme works every time; the question is, are you maximizing your chances with the best strategy? It is typical in relationship discussions, especially among women, to attribute a failed attempt to a bad strategy and change it instead of running the same move again. (The most common I hear is “I/my friend approached a guy and initiated and he turned me down, so it doesn’t work and I am never going to initiate again,” or “I dated a beta guy and it was too stressful to do all that relationship work so back to alphas it is for me.”)
Sample sizes of 1 are for silly people. It’s the difference between knowing when to quit, when you remove your investment to protect opportunity cost, and flat-out quitting, where you lose tolerance for the failures that precede flashes of success.