Gizmodo Saga Pt. 2: Who Are You Trying To Impress, Angry Nerdlings?

I woke up this morning hoping I would get to write about something fun today.  I had it all planned out, it was going to be glorious.  But I can’t do that now.  Instead, I need to write another blog about disappointment.  You might ask, who could have disappointed me so much this time that I would set aside geeky fun-times to write about it?

You did.

Well, maybe not you specifically.  See, yesterday I wrote a little something about Gizmodo and the article Alyssa Bereznak posted about her dates with Magic: The Gathering World Champion Jon Finkel.  I was disappointed in both her choice of subject and her apparent ignorance of Gizmodo’s target audience.  And I think I did a pretty good job of attacking her message and methods, without attacking Miss Bereznak (a woman I have never met) personally.  And the internet being the internet, a goodly number of nerds joined me in expressing similar disappointment. (Even, apparently, Gizmodo’s Australian counterpart)  To those nerds I say: this post is not about you.  Relax and keep reading, or if you prefer please enjoy some Girl Genius; it is delightful.

No, I’m writing this post for all the ignorant nerdlings that felt it necessary to range into personal attacks on Miss Bereznak.  If you descended into name-calling in your comments, this post is about you.  If you decided to attack Miss Bereznak personally on Twitter, this post is for you.  If you went past a disagreement with her message and disappointment in using Gizmodo as a platform for that message, and instead attacked Miss Bereznak’s appearance, sexuality, ethnicity and/or gender…Yeah, this post is definitely for you.

Let me clue you in, little nerdlings: attacking someone personally because you disagree with something they’ve said does not make you “edgy”.  It doesn’t make you “street” or tough-sounding, and it sure as Sheppard doesn’t make you sound intelligent.  What it does, is make you sound like petulant, angry children.  And think about it: when was the last time you took anything a child said seriously?  Especially one that was screaming and blubbering, tugging on your sleeve to get attention.  I can tell you that unless something serious has happened I pay that child very little mind.

But the most annoying thing for me, is that you all ended up hurting the very cause you seemed to want to help.  When the response to Miss Bereznak’s article was still at the point of disappointment with the message and the platform, we had a chance, however slim, of changing her mind about it.  At the very least there was a chance for discussion, and something positive could have come from that.  But once you nerdlings got involved and escalated things to the online equivalent of throwing rocks and bottles, discussion went right out the window.

And the really sad part, nerdlings?  All you did was show Miss Bereznak why she was right to dump Jon Finkel.  How can she help but assume that Mr. Finkel is just like every screaming, ignorant nerdling that attacked her?  Why would she want to date that?  I can tell you from personal experience that loud, obnoxious ignorance is attractive for about…negative seconds.  So go on, nerdlings, give yourselves a slow clap build to a standing ovation; you helped prove Alyssa Bereznak right. Bravo.

Two things:

  1. I’m sure there are going to be a whole lot of people upset about today’s post.  They might feel I’m waffling on this issue.  Let me be clear.  There is a difference between attacking the message (which I did yesterday, as well as this wonderfully satirical piece by @kiala) and attacking the messenger.  One is acceptable, the other makes you a douche-canoe.
  2. My use of the words “nerd” and “nerdling”.  It is common, when discussing a species, to use terms that delineate the animal in question at various stages of development.  A bear is a “cub”, for instance, until it reaches a certain age and becomes and adult.  For my purposes, “nerdling” represents an immature nerd, either because they are five years old, or because they go on the internet and act five years old.

Okay, tomorrow we get back to fun with some Humpday Links, and then some posts about gaming.  Because I will have fun, dammit!

As always, feel free to comment below.

Who Did You Think You Were Impressing, Alyssa Bereznak?

Just when I despaired of having anything to write today, along comes this article from Alyssa Bereznak, entitled, “My Brief OKCupid Affair with a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player“.  Please, take a moment to follow the link over and read it. I’ll wait…

(For those that don’t want to follow the link, here’s a summary: Miss Bereznak went on a date through OKCupid with a pleasant man named Jon, who turned out to be Jon Finkel, Magic: The Gathering World Champion.  She found this to be a terrible omission on Jon’s part, and because he didn’t disclose this information on his OKCupid profile, decided to write an article about her horrible experience.)

All done?  Okay, I wasn’t even really sure who to be more disappointed in: Gizmodo or Miss Bereznak.  Then I did a little digging (ie, Googled Miss Bereznak, as she suggests in the article), and discovered she is in fact an editor at Gizmodo.  Which solved that problem handily; now I could bundle all my disappointment up into one package.

I want to give Miss Bereznak the benefit of the doubt here, I really do.  I want to believe the article she wrote was meant to be a satire, something in line with Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” in which Swift satirizes the plight of the Irish by suggesting they sell their children to the rich as food.  I want to believe that Miss Bereznak is that clever a writer.  But nothing I read in the article supports that.  In fact, I would suggest that if you need to preface your piece with a paragraph explaining the point of your article, that should be a red-flag moment.

What I get from her article is someone who has not properly gauged her audience.  She wrote a long, bad joke. And she wrote it on a site aimed pretty much at the people she makes fun of with her long, bad joke.  I’m not sure there is any other way to look at it.  Trying to explain away your long, bad joke by claiming it was aimed at showing up the foibles of OKCupid and online dating sites, is a little like trying to explain to people in O’Byrne’s Pub why it’s okay for you to tell Irish jokes.  As a matter of fact, that would have been a good exercise for Miss Bereznak to try: go through the article and where she talked about Magic players, substitute a religion or nationality.  Chances are, if it sounds offensive with “Irish” or “Muslim”, it’s going to sound offensive no matter what proper noun you insert.

I should make it clear that it isn’t “nerd rage” fuelling this post.  I’m not angry at Miss Bereznak for what she wrote.  I really am just, as the cliche goes, disappointed.  Disappointed that someone working for Gizmodo of all places, would think this negative, bitchy-sounding geek-bash even has a place.  Disappointed she would use her public platform to engender and maintain this ignorant idea of “Us vs. The Geeks”.  Seriously, Miss Bereznak, do you really think that supposed conflict is relevant any more?

Mostly, I’m disappointed that Miss Bereznak chose not to dig deeper.  By her own admission, Jon Finkel was considerably more literate and interesting than anyone else she had encountered on OKCupid thus far.  And she found him enjoyable, charming company on their dates, up until she allowed her ignorance to get in the way.  She could have used that moment to examine nerd prejudice by exploring her own prejudicial feelings and preconceptions.  But she didn’t.  What we got instead was the written equivalent of a catty bitch-session.  And for someone in Miss Bereznak’s position, that is a just a sad waste of an opportunity.

But I’ll end by quoting the last line of Miss Bereznak’s article: “So what did I learn? Google the shit out of your next online date. Like, hardcore.”  That’s good advice, Alyssa.  It would protect us from winding up on a date with, well, you.

Comments? Counterpoints? Handy space for that below…

Update: @kiala wrote a brilliantly satirical response to Miss Bereznak’s article over at Nerdpuddle.  See, Miss Bereznak, that is what satire looks like…