A few years ago, I wrote a story about a nightmarish trip on a private plane I had when I was working in investment banking. That story (which went viral), along with my respectable social media presence, was enough for publishers and agents to come calling about a possible book.
When I signed my book deal, it got considerable media attention. Everyone from the New York Times and CNN to NPR and even Matt Lauer wanted interviews, all of which I declined. “Early press is wasted press,” my publisher said.
But not everyone was happy for me. Plenty of criticism and snark was thrown my way, especially on Twitter. I shrugged it off as resentment (especially from a few underpaid and under-published finance journalists) that a retired banker who had never written a book was getting so much publicity, not to mention a six-figure advance for something that had started out ostensibly as a silly joke of a Twitter account satirizing Wall Street banker bro culture.
Not long after my deal was announced, Gawker published an article:
“Goldman Sachs Elevator Is a Plagiarist”
As most people probably understand, there is nothing worse in the entire world for a writer to be called than a plagiarist. That word has destroyed reputations and careers, often justifiably so.
Here’s what made Gawker’s claim (smear) not just totally absurd, but also blatantly dishonest:
1) Gawker’s evidence for calling me a plagiarist was that I had stolen material from some guy named John Munson. The problem with this accusation? It’s a locked Twitter account that I’ve never had access to.
2) More important, @GSElevator has always been a “submit what you hear” platform, loosely premised on repeating the absurd and offensive things bankers say. While I’ve created much of the content, curating and posting anonymous submissions was also an important component of the account — and this was commonly understood.
3) Gawker (Sam Biddle) never attempted to reach out to me for comment or clarification prior to publishing the incendiary article. Biddle only wanted one thing — to take me out. And he demonstrated no regard for the truth in the process.
4) I immediately sent Sam Biddle an undeservedly polite email to clarify these points, expecting that he’d have the ethical fortitude to retract or at least amend his story. Nope. Nothing. Not even a response.
Despite the fact that my book is about pervasive deviance and systemic corruption on Wall Street and not the Twitter account, Biddle’s charge created a (small) dark cloud that hung over me for a long time. In a review, The New Yorker — for the purpose of undermining my credibility — referenced Gawker and said that I had ascended from Twitter to bestseller by borrowing material. Even this week in an article I wrote for Business Insider, some dope in the comments section referred to me as a plagiarist. (I generally don’t read the comments section.)
So fuck off, Gawker. Fuck off, Sam Biddle. You’re intelligent enough to have found a new home, but still a dishonest scumbag for intentionally trying to undermine my book deal with a load of bullshit.
And if you’re a fan of karmic justice, here’s a great video of a very smug and condescending Nick Denton telling Henry Blodget that Business Insider is so far beneath Denton and Gawker that he’d never even consider acquiring them. Context: Business Insider sold to Axel Springer last year at a $442 million valuation. Nick Denton has filed for personal bankruptcy protection, and next week, Univision is turning out the lights at Gawker.com.
EDIT: Never forget this video of Sam Biddle dancing to N*ggas in Paris.