Ben Mezrich offers “defense” of Straight Flush critic
This past week PokerNews.com published their exclusive interview with author Ben Mezrich, whose latest book Straight Flush (in the genre of narrative nonfiction) rankled the poker community with its portrayal of Absolute Poker founders as victims of an overzealous US government.
The interview was announced back in June (and apparently conducted at that time as well) by PokerNews.com editor Matt Parvis on Twitter –who also conducted the interview with Mezrich. Despite his high placement in the PokerNews.com hierarchy, Parvis is best known in the poker world for conducting The Lederer Files interviews with Howard Lederer. Parvis faced quite a bit of criticism for his perceived “softball” interview with Lederer (personally I thought Parvis did as good of a job as he could have, but maybe could have pushed a bit harder on certain topics), and many of these critics feared the same would take place with Mezrich.
So how did the Mezrich interview go? For the most part it went exactly as I expected it to, with Mezrich claiming ignorance on certain topics, and stroking the ego of the poker world with his repeated insistence of [paraphrasing] “your readers are better versed on this topic than I am,” and continuing with his line of “this book is not about the cheating scandal.”
Here are a few of my takeaways from the interview:
* This interview was all about damage control.
I think this line pretty much sums up what Mezrich wanted to talk about:
“Let’s dive in to the cheating scandal … (Mezrich immediately jumps in)”
* Mezrich does not do much fact-checking of his sources and relies on Google for most of his research.
In one part of the interview Mezrich claims to have used 2+2 for some research but then claims [bold mine]:
“I think 2+2 had some interesting stuff. That was the site that pretty much broke the story so I thought it was a great place to look. You know, wherever Google led me is where I was looking. I don’t know the players in the blog world so I don’t know whose post I was ever reading. I was skimming through it for background information.”
So essentially he is saying he couldn’t distinguish between a Haley Hintze or Scott Bell post and a post by some NVG dupe? Are you kidding me? While I’m not well-versed on the level of journalistic integrity one needs to write narrative nonfiction you would think you would at least have some rudimentary knowledge of the opposing viewpoint.
* Haley Hintze has definitely gotten under Mezrich’s skin (kudos to Haley).
While Mezrich apparently had no idea who she was when he was doing his “research” on 2+2, he most certainly does now! I was utterly shocked at how many times Mezrich referenced Haley by name in the interview (unprompted at that).
* Mezrich tries to pooh-pooh anything from 2+2 or poker journalists by referring to everyone in the poker media as “bloggers” while he claims he has such high journalistic standards, apparently even higher than the Boston Globe.
This is just more of an annoyance, but can a person who is unwilling to even check basic facts of a story/timeline (and just take every source at their word), and a person who fabricates dialogue to tell a more entertaining story, talk about the journalistic standards he has to live up to?
“The whole idea came from one blog that got picked up by newspapers and we all know how newspapers are written. It’s very easy to write an article like that. I could put an article on the Boston Globe tomorrow about money being on that plane and it would get carried all over the Internet.”
* I can’t wait for Haley Hintze and others to tear this interview apart word-by-word.
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