I'm responding to Howler and Ted Westervelt. There, you've been warned. Back button is on the top left.
I had wanted to spare you, the loyal reader I care about, and take the story directly to Twitter. I was VERY disappointed that some people missed the irony of making dozens of angry Tweets to protest an article about Ted Westervelt. That wouldn't necessarily have stopped me - I'm a big fan of punishing my Twitter followers - but among those followers are those who have worked extremely hard to avoid Ted Westervelt, and didn't need many multiple reminders.
This is to explain why this is addressed directly to Quraishi and Koczwara. I will make a few readability changes, to take advantage of a format where I can use more than 140 characters at a time.
Mr. Westervelt needs no introduction. Nor does he deserve one.
Hi, a few corrections are in order. I'll type them slowly, so you don't get further confused about the nature of reality, man.
I suppose we can start with the question of what kind of person would kill a tree for Ted Westervelt. It's 2014, and the planet is in crisis. If I'm going to risk humanity perishing in an environmental holocaust, I'd like to think it would be for a better cause than Spam Across America.
But hey, I guess that's your business plan. Apparently printing out Tweets and blog posts on glossy paper is a real gold mine. Maybe there was something about that article anyone would dream of asking $15.00 for, although you turned around and gave it away to Vice, so maybe not.
This isn't really about the subject of the article, although I don't think we should lose sight of how useless the article actually was. "A guy Tweets all day...what's he really like?"
"Turns out he wears a funny hat. That'll be $15.00."
Thanks for the scoop, Baskin-Robbins.
But I'd like to focus on me for a second. I'm not sure if Keith showed you the e-mail conversation we had about this article, George. But speaking from my point of view, well, I'd have thought that "I'd feel dirty being a part of this" was...hmmm.....
How can I put this....
So frustrating, trying to find the right word sometimes....
I'm sure you know the feeling.
Although maybe you don't...seeing as how you were unable to write a simple profile without including me in it against my wishes.
"George, I just can't write this profile without Dan's help. What should we do?" I imagine Keith asked you.
"Maybe it's not that interesting. Let's write about something else," you didn't say, although you clearly could and should have.
"Did you mention the funny hat? Can we stretch that out more?" you asked instead, or words to that effect.
"Sorry, boss. I'm completely incapable of doing my job here unless Dan bails us out."
"Well, let me read what he said again. Hm. He'd feel dirty about being part of this. Seems pretty ambiguous to me. And we gotta brighten up this shit somehow. Are you sure Ted Westervelt said absolutely NOTHING of interest?"
"Oh, God, no. The hat was better company."
Anyway, so you were hurt that I wouldn't provide you material for free. Even though I'm reasonably sure all the people who donated to your Kickstarter were hoping to read old blog posts, and would have been thrilled to pay whatever you charge for a subscription.
How much do you charge for a subscription again?
Jesus, $50.00? For a quarterly? Christ.
At least there are no ads.
I mean, I assume there are no ads. Because holy cow, charging that kind of coin for ads would be outright theft. Especially if you were ripping off old blog posts.
Oh, I see a renewal is only $50.00 - down from $100.00. Your loyal readers weren't willing to pay twice as much for the same product they were already getting? Glad you saw fit to cut them a deal.
But again, how you want to run Money Laundering Quarterly isn't my affair.
Well, I was hoping it wouldn't be my affair, but, well, there I am. Like a layer of frosting over a cupcake of diarrhea.
I mean, how do you screw up a simple puff piece? "Let's get a picture of him with flowers." Literally, and I mean literally, Ed Wood showing Bela Lugosi sniffing a flower in "Bride of the Monster."
I mean, I don't want to tell you how to do your job. But SOMEBODY has to. And let's face it, you did put a pretty high premium on my input.
First, because he keeps e-mailing me asking if you're a real person, are you really named Dan Loney and did you write on those BigSoccer stories? Or is it a pseudonym. (Sorry, have to do this. )
Holy....only now does it sink in. He was keeping up the gimmick in private e-mail? And felt the need to ask repeatedly? You two were writing about a broken person. What the hell is wrong with you assholes?
Well, anyway. That was Keith asking me to validate this piece of shit. My response stands:
Don't write a story about Ted Westervelt.
And, reasonably confident I would never have to hear from you again, I tried to build my happily ever after. If only.
Too late. It's a big story. A long one. With a lot of detail and voices. I'd like yours to be included. Even if it is just using that e-mail and confirming you're real.
Well, that was a load of crap. "Funny hat" is not what I would call a lot of detail. And I didn't realize at the time that "I'd like yours to be included" was a threat, not an offer. And you really had no intention of needing permission, did you?
Or maybe after hanging around Ted Westervelt, you were just amazed that someone could express themselves coherently and briefly.
Anyway, my response:
I categorically refuse to confirm or deny my existence.
Because I'm a big believer in treating things and people with the dignity they deserve.
OK, so I'm going with you are not really named Dan Loney and you will not comment on Ted? (If only you knew what I went through for this story.)
Poor Keith. Have some Meow Mix, you f***ing pussy. E-mail has made stories so much easier, it's not funny. You're not Studs Terkel, you're a copy-and-paste crusader. And you're not blowing the lid off Benghazi, you're wanking around with a monomaniac. What, exactly, did you go through that was so f***ing traumatic?
By the way, Fred, I assume this isn't the first time you are reading your boy's technique here. I dunno what's worse, if you have read this, or if you haven't. You f***ed up either way.
So I responded:
My comment is that I refuse to dignify Mr. Westervelt's accusations with my existence.
Bam. Comedy gold. All you needed. I mean, the thing was practically written anyway, right? It wasn't like I was crucial to the exercise, right? You had all these voices and all this detail. The whole article could not possibly have hinged on this.
The story isn't about that. The point is I need to confirm it so I can write something in the story about this crazy episode.
I thought I detected a flaw in the reasoning here:
If I were to say I existed, but I didn't, how would you know?
If I were to say I didn't exist, but did, how would you know?
Not as funny, but still better than "F*** off, idiot." Which, in retrospect, I should have gone with...but probably wouldn't have helped.
I'm going on yours and other people's word. I kind of have to here. If you don't want to help the story or put in your two cents, that's fine. I'm trying to get an accurate depiction of Ted and you'd help that.
If you had other people's word, what was the issue? And you were the one actually spending time with the person, who I have never met and please God never will. If you're not a good enough reporter to get an accurate depiction of him after flying all the way to his flower field and putting a funny hat on him, why is that my problem?
Teach the controversy,
I said, then made a few inquiries as to exactly who this asshole Keith Koczwara actually was.
Well, there's no quit in Keith Koczwara, any more than there's eye for detail or ability to write.
Dan, I get your hesitancy to talk to me about Ted, but your interactions with him would add another layer to this story and give it some extra depth. If you can help me out here and talk to me about your experiences with Mr. Westervelt that would be awesome. If you don't want to, then I will move on.
In words ringing with prophecy, I warned you:
Don't write a story about Ted Westervelt. No good will come of it. If you believe nothing else anyone has ever told you in your entire life, believe that.
Like that was a tough prediction to make.
But why? What is the issue?
Apparently you doubted my sincerity.
I didn't feel dirty about confronting him directly. I would feel dirty about this.
When the article came out in October, I -
Hey, wait a minute. This was an e-mail conversation from God-damned July. You had HOW long to work around me? You couldn't stop whining about your desperation to hit a deadline, but yet you couldn't put some kind of ribbon on your manure in three months?
So when the article came out in October, Fred, you inflicted some ridiculous promotion for it onto the Soccer Gods website, calling this abomination one of your favorite things in the issue.
I'd have been pretty pissed off, by the way, if I had done some real work on a real topic and find out that the primary mission of the Winter 2015 issue was to wash Ted Westervelt's balls. And since you were unwise enough to put this overflowing colostomy bag on the Internet, now we can see for ourselves the sickeningly low standard Howler has. Are there better stories in your magazine? Not according to the editor.
Oh, and it turns out you couldn't get through a simple promo without quoting me, either. I didn't know in what context I would be used to sell your magazine, but I wasn't too pleased to be dragged into it, especially after being extremely clear about not wanting to be associated with it in any way.
Problem is, well, for an editor, you're not so hot with the old reading comprehension thing.
When I asked Vice to please take my name off this vomit, I was told that since I didn't expressly say our conversation was off the record, I had no recourse.
Apparently "I would feel dirty being a part of this" wasn't enough. I had to say the magic words "No comment." Even though I had, in fact, made a comment:
My comment is that I refuse to dignify Mr. Westervelt's accusations with my existence.
I didn't expressly give you permission to use anything else. But, hey, apparently if you don't say the magic words, you have no complaints. So I'm sure you don't mind having the entire conversation public - I certainly didn't say anything I wouldn't stand by. I have a feeling that makes one of us.
So here's what I got to read about myself.
"Sock puppet" is one of Ted's favorite insults. Sock puppet number one is Dan Loney, a BigSoccer contributor who, in a 2009 post called "The Eurosnob Scale," wrote about those like Ted who believe the league's single entity structure was harming American soccer: "What the hell do you care? You're watching athletes play soccer, not balance their ****ing checkbooks. What kind of dumbass cheers for a corporate structure?"
Loney is one of the few people on the Internet who goes after Ted just as hard as Ted goes after everybody else. Another line in his 2009 post read, "I mean, I guess you can try to convince the schizophrenic that the CIA isn't really beaming toothpaste commercials into his brain—but isn't it just easier to find another seat on the bus?"
Loney doesn't want to talk to me about Ted. He doesn't want me to write about him, either: "Don't write a story about Ted Westervelt," he warns. "No good will come of it. If you believe nothing else anyone has ever told you in your entire life, believe that."
When I ask Ted about Loney, he tells me he's not even sure he's a real person. "I'm saying I can't find Dan Loney in the real world."
Here is the blog post. It holds up reasonably well, for being old enough for kindergarten. Promotion and relegation is mentioned once, at the end, for two sentences. Neither of which you quoted. You decided that your article on Ted Westervelt was so thin, so poorly expressed, so devoid of interest, that you had to force a narrative onto someone else's work in order to justify it. It wasn't a "thinly veiled critique of Ted and his comrades." It was a direct critique of a much more numerous plague on American soccer. I'm sorry you liked it so much.
So...am I a sock puppet, or not? That seems to be the central argument of the article. It's called "Puppet Killer," after all. I'm the only puppet named.
So, whose puppet am I? Why is that person masking his identity? Why has this person kept up the charade for over five years?
Why am I, in particular, sock puppet number one? Why is Ted Westervelt so determined to find me in the real world? Who are sock puppets two, three, and four?
How have I gone after Ted Westervelt? I certainly have, don't get me wrong. But how is the reader supposed to know? What did I say to get Westervelt so determined to expose me?
If you believed Westervelt was sincere in thinking I didn't exist, then why not present him with proof to the contrary - or at least, allow him to present his evidence? If you believed he wasn't sincere, why bring them up in the first place?
And how was I, or any other puppet, "killed"? Was anyone actually outed? How did Westervelt do it?
How is this even a story about American soccer? Whose interest is it to be told that there are doubts to my identity?
This is your feature presentation, remember. This is something you two went considerably out of your way to write and promote.
When you say "You didn't say 'No comment!', you act like a cop trying to justify an illegal search. So what big story was worth violating the spirit, if not the (non-existent) letter of journalistic ethics here? Whether I'm a puppet, or a real boy? What's the point of making such an egregious breach, if you're not even going to answer the damned question?
This wasn't even a story. This wasn't supposed to be journalism. The purpose of this was to get to know the real Ted Westervelt. It was a human interest story.
Without the "interest."
Or the "human."
What if - and this seems unlikely, I grant you - you decide to tackle an actual, controversial topic? Who would dream of saying anything to you in confidence?
Especially since, even if I had uttered the incantation demanded, you were going to take one of my blog posts wildly out of context anyway?
By now you might be wondering why I'm this, shall we say, exercised about the whole thing.
This was from your Kickstarter site, where you raised over $50,000 from the American soccer community:
When Americans don't get soccer, it's because they don't get the simple idea that soccer is about stories. Every game—every season—is a story. We want to make Howler because we want to tell stories about soccer. And we want you to support Howler because it will mean that, four times a year, we'll get to send you those stories in a beautiful and intelligent collection.
You have repaid American soccer fans by running a sympathetic, patronizing, repulsive profile on Ted Westervelt, and then selling/giving it away to Vice Sports online. This by itself would qualify as a monstrous betrayal.
In case you doubt me, allow to quote another part of your article on Ted Westervelt that you decided wasn't worth following up on:
A national soccer journalist declined to comment, saying Ted will interpret any attention he receives, whether it's positive or negative, as confirmation that his obnoxious Twitter tactics are working.
A part-time soccer journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, told me he was afraid Ted would lash out at him on Twitter and put his job in jeopardy.
Three separate soccer journalists told me they had considered filing libel suits for false statements about them on Twitter by @soccerreform.
Might have been interesting to hear how Ted Westervelt defends those false statements.
Might have been interesting to hear how Ted Westervelt justifies tactics that put people's jobs in jeopardy.
Might have been interesting to hear how Howler justifies giving Ted Westervelt the attention that allows him to make false statements and threaten people's jobs.
But that would take some sort of journalist. Instead of whatever the hell you two clowns are.
I - well, ASSUMING I EXIST - am in a position to tell Ted Westervelt, and those who support him, to suck poison rocks. Not everyone in the soccer community you claim to serve is so fortunate. You have made their lives worse with your laziness, incompetence, and mendacity. These are your peers, for Christ's sake.
Have you no decency? At long last, have you no f***ing decency?
In conclusion, I ask that you, in whatever order, (a) apologize and retract your misleading, erroneous and unethical references to me, and (b) stick your heads up each other's asses and go f*** the moon.