Character Assassination (Update: Fanboy Accusation?)

Update, Nov. 14: John Cook, the Intercept's editor in chief, will be leaving First Look to return to Gawker. No surprise there.

Update: I received a response from John Cook, Ryan Tate's boss. Added at the bottom. I appreciate he took the time to reply in the middle of turmoil there, and just days before he announced his own departure (see above).

Update: This evening, some tech industry friends explained that I was missing the basis of what I saw from Ryan Tate as an attack on my ethics and approach to life. He was being a jerk of a different color.

Apparently, he thinks I am an Apple fanboy and, three years ago, I followed Apple PR's lead in trying to "suppress" discussion of Tim Cook's sexual orientation and, today, given "approval" from Apple through the publication of Cook's essay in which he says to the world that he's gay, I felt I had permission to discussion.

That's all kinds of garbage, but a different kind. It's still nursing a grudge, unprofessional, and an unethical misuse of partial quotations of the comment from which he quoted. But in that view, he's not maligning my basic nature and accusing me of shoving people into the closet and homophobic. It's also punching down: I'm a freelancer working my ass off; he has a highly compensated job at one of the biggest news startups in America, The Intercept. His position gives him visibility, and I certainly can't believe that other people who aren't into the tech industry read his messages to me as about fanboyism.

I write critically about Apple. I have a long, well-documented history of public critique alongside positive reviews, most recently a piece in the Economist in which I expressed doubt about whether Apple train its customers to use Apple Pay in large enough numbers. My editor subtitled it, "Apple Pay may not be as successful as Starbucks in changing America's payment habits." I don't defend the company; I'm a reporter, not a lapdog. In fact, I've only written a handful of business articles about Apple in the last two years, as I focused on The Magazine, my own publication.

To those of you following David Carr's link, in which he inexplicably tells me how I should behave and that I've lost my marbles, welcome! I have other things of interest to read here.

Below is my original post and the letter I sent to Ryan's editor.


After spending weeks writing about, talking about, and supporting people the victims of harassment around women working in games development and journalism, I wake up this morning to find that Tim Cook has publicly declared his sexual orientation. I sobbed. I tweeted. This is such a milestone for a spectrum of sexuality and gender around the world. And then a former Gawker employee, now at The Intercept, pulled a couple of lines out of context in a comment I made on a Boing Boing article about a Gawker story three years ago.

It was an unprovoked attack, unprofessional in misusing my words, and deeply hurtful. Ryan Tate was nursing a grudge. Who knew? I wrote the following to John Cook, the editor in chief, of The Intercept. I'm sure he won't care, but I needed to say this.


Hi, John,

I'm a freelance reporter, and Ryan Tate is engaged this morning in character assassination against me on Twitter. Given that he identifies in his Twitter bio as working for the Intercept, and I assume you have a code of conduct about his behavior as all news organizations do for social media accounts, I'm bringing it to your attention.

While I was celebrating Tim Cook's brave move in becoming fully and publicly out, literally sobbing in my appreciation of what this means for a generation of kids and all future ones (of all orientations and genders and so forth), Ryan decided to wage a personal attack against by using a quotation from a 2011 comment of mine on Boing Boing out of context.

Ryan's tweets, in case he deletes them:

@GlennF "I doubt Tim Cook cares whether anyone knows to which gender he is attracted, nor whethe...  any of us care about it."

e.g. @glennf 2011 writes "I doubt... whether any of us care about it" http://t.co/PerddkzlVL today "wracked by sobs" https://t.co/XF48b3ti0s

@GlennF @KuraFire "I doubt Tim Cook cares whether anyone knows to which gender he is attracted, nor whether knowing, whether any of us care

Read the comment he's linking from. I'm talking about whether Cook chose to out himself, or whether Gawker was selling him out for pageviews, when his sexuality is private. Ryan formerly worked at Gawker, and thus he must have a file of grudges to nurse from that time.

This is deeply offensive to me, as his attitude completely misrepresented me and my life's history. He doesn't know me, and he presumes to redeem the attempt to nonconsensually reveal Tim Cook's personal life in 2011 with my honest and emotional reaction at the value it has today.

There's a valid debate about outing; I had one this morning with Owen Thomas, also formerly at Valleywag, who says Ryan is a decent human being, a view echoed by several other of Ryan's former co-workers and current friends who we know in common.

But, given my lifelong support of LGBTQ rights, I am shocked by his behavior, and personally hurt. The line after the one he continues to quote to apparently "out" me in some fashion, he omits:

"It would be lovely if Tim Cook, gay or not, recorded an It Gets Better talk for Dan Savage’s fantastic project, or, I don’t know, gave $500 million to marriage equality and civil rights efforts for the BGLTetc communities."

I'd like to know whether you support this sort of behavior on the part of your staff. He has continued to tweet after this the same sort of childish, taunting responses.

Thank you for your time. This has been deeply upsetting. If I'd said something shameful in 2011, I'd be apologizing for it now. I did not.

—Glenn Fleishman

John Cook replied:

"In answer to your question: Yes, I do support Ryan’s behavior in this matter."