Month: July 2013


Weeks like these

When Hunter Walker from Talking Points memo called me yesterday afternoon in search of NSFWCORP writer Olivia Nuzzi, something felt off. There was something in Walker’s voice as he asked me for comment on claims by Anthony Weiner’s staff that Olivia had only written about her time working for his Weiner’s campaign for her own personal publicity. It sounded almost like glee. But why? “Is there anything specific they’re alleging?” I asked.

“They just had some candid things to say about her,” Walker replied. (I didn’t record the conversation, so I’m likely paraphrasing his exact words.)

An hour later, of course, Walker’s tone made perfect sense. Weiner’s communications director, Barbara Morgan, had called Olivia a “cunt,” a “bitch” a “twat” and a “slutbag.” All on the record.

I’d already tipped Olivia off about Walker’s call, of course, and we’d agreed that I’d continue to stand between her and the billion news outlets trying to get her to comment. Whatever Weiner’s people were claiming, Olivia had — and has — no interest in joining the media circus. Her pieces for NSFWCORP, and the follow up for the Daily News, were pieces of journalism, written following her experience on a campaign that, even before today, was falling apart.

By the time Walker’s piece was published, Olivia had already moved on to her next task: working on final edits for her upcoming profile of New Jersey Senate hopeful (and current third-place runner) Rush Holt. A few hours earlier she’d turned down a solicitation to appear on Piers Morgan Tonight (but not before Morgan’s producer – a woman – had told Olivia on the phone, not at all creepily, that “I’m jealous of your body”. Does she say that to every guest? Did she say that to Alex Jones?) In fact she has since declined every interview request, from Huff Post Live and ABC News to Sean Hannity, Good Morning America and the Today Show. Hardly the behavior of a fame whore, or even a millennial. But precisely in character for Olivia.

When we first met to discuss her joining NSFWCORP – a couple of months ago – she didn’t even mention the mayoral race until she was about to leave. “I saw you tweeted a photo from a Weiner event,” I said, “What were you doing there?”

“Oh, I’m working as an intern on the campaign,” she said.

In my head: a record scratch.

“Seriously? You work for Anthony Weiner? You have to write about that,” I said.

“Maybe,” she said. But she wanted to go to Washington DC to report the Holt piece first.

It was only after Weiner was once again accused of sending dick pics that I called Olivia and insisted she write about Weiner already. She’d just quit the campaign because it was getting in the way of her writing and her school work.

The two short pieces she wrote for us are what then prompted the Daily News to get in touch, and she agreed to write a follow up for them, on the understanding that they wouldn’t splash her on the front cover or anything ridiculous like that. “We just need a byline photo like we have for all contributors,” they assured her. It was that pic – her Twitter bio pic – that they blew up on the front page, under the headline “EXCLUSIVE: People Only Work For Weiner To Get To Huma And Hillary”.

But, yeah, Barbara Morgan called Olivia a slutbag and accused her of wanting to get famous. “A fame hungry ‘bitch’ who ‘sucked’ at her job” is how TPM’s Walker had quoted her.

“Did you read it?” Olivia asked when the TPM piece landed.

“Woooooooowwww,” I replied.

In hindsight I should probably have asked if she was ok. Expressed concern. Made reassuring sounds. Anything, really, except what I actually texted next:

“It’s fucking Christmas.”

But, look, from NSFWCORP’s purely selfish point of view, it IS fucking Christmas. The comms director of a NY mayoral candidate – a candidate who is world famous for texting pictures of his cock to near-strangers – has the brass balls to try to slut-shame a journalist simply for doing her job, and writing the truth.

Within minutes of the TPM piece landing, our traffic had increased 5000%, and it’s still holding steady. Within an hour, the word “slutbag” was trending. Olivia is 20 years old, still finishing school and barely a month into her gig as a writer for NSFWCORP and suddenly she’s the most talked about intern since… well, the one with whom Weiner confused her. I hired Olivia because she’s a brilliant and funny writer, a great reporter who wanted to write about Rush Holt – one of the duller men in politics – and now suddenly she’s knocking Bradley Manning off the trending topics list. Jingle all the fucking way.

As a startup, NSFWCORP has zero budget for promotion, so we live or die by the quality of our writing and reporting. (Instead of spending money on half a dozen flights, I’ve rented a van to drive the team nine hours to San Francisco for our Future of Journalism Dinner on Thursday night. Come!.) To get this much attention for a story without having to spend a dime on advertising, or to pull some kind of traffic-whoring publicity stunt, is manna from heaven.

I told Olivia I was registering slutbag.org, although I wasn’t immediately sure why.

She somehow managed to communicate her eye roll via text. Then she went back to editing her Holt piece and I went back to dancing around the office like a child.

An hour or so later, Barbara Morgan emailed a short apology – subject line: ‘apologies’ — to Olivia while simultaneously alerting Buzzfeed to the fact that she’d done so. Her excuse: when she was calling Olivia a cunt she thought she was speaking off the record.

Morgan’s email to Olivia read…

From: Barbara Morgan ‪
Date: Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 9:55 PM
Subject: apologies
To: Olivia Nuzzi

Olivia –
I left you a message to this effect, but I wanted to be sure to reach out via email to apologize as well.

In a moment of frustration, I had, what I believed, was an off the record conversation with a reporter and I used vulgar language which was inappropriate and I am very sorry.

There is nothing to excuse my behavior and I am very sorry for this.

Sincerely,
Barbara

This morning, Olivia responded via Twitter. Her first and only public response to all this madness:

“As to Barbara Morgan’s apology, of course I accept it.”

If NSFWCORP is lucky enough to survive into adolescence, and if I’m ever asked on some panel or other why I founded the company, this is the week I’m going to think back to. NSFWCORP has made all kinds of lofty claims: we’re going to build the future of journalism (with jokes), we’ll save long form reporting while breathing new life into print. Yadayada.

Really, though, the reason I started the company is this: nowhere else would I have the privilege of hire a brilliant 20-year-old reporter who will brush off being called a “cunt” by Anthony Weiner’s spokesperson, will turn down the chance to appear on the most viewed news shows in America, will humor her 33-year-old editor singing and dancing at the attention her story is bringing… all because she’s on a deadline to finish a profile of Rush Holt and she’d really like to get to sleep before 2am.

That’s the future of journalism right there, and I couldn’t be more proud that Olivia is part of our team.

A couple of hours ago, I emailed Barbara Morgan for comment, specifically on whether she intended to remain in her post and to clarify her definition of the word “slutbag”. She has not yet replied. She did, however, tweet this picture of an overflowing swear jar.


‘Hey Paul, Weiner’s Campaign Just Called Olivia A “Slutbag”‘

Anthony Weiner’s press secretary, Barbara Morgan, just responded to NSFWCORP’s Olivia Nuzzi. Speaking to Talking Points Memo, she called Nuzzi a “slutbag” a “twat” and a “cunt”. I am not making this up. Here are the quotes…

According to Morgan, Nuzzi stopped interning for the campaign “like four weeks ago.” Nuzzi’s story on NSFWCORP described her as having spent “four weeks” as a Weiner intern. When asked whether the claims in Nuzzi’s stories were true, Morgan suggested many of them were “bullshit.”

“It’s all bullshit,” she said. “I mean, it’s such bullshit. She could fucking — fucking twat.”

“And then like she had the fucking balls to like trash me in the paper. And be like, ‘His communications director was last the press secretary of the Department of Education in New Jersey,” Morgan said. “You know what? Fuck you, you little cunt. I’m not joking, I am going to sue her.”

And as for Nuzzi’s follow up piece in the Daily News…

“Fucking slutbag. Nice fucking glamour shot on the cover of the Daily News. Man, see if you ever get a job in this town again,” said Morgan.

More soon. FUCKING OBVIOUSLY.

(Olivia’s previous pieces: Anthony Weiner Called Me “Monica” / Source: Weiner’s Campaign Manager Quit Afer Being Lied To (And He’s Not The Only Departure))


Skeeving Las Vegas: Epilogue

An epilogue to the story of Chris Curtis — the pickup artist / author of “MACK Tactics” who has been put in charge of women’s safety in downtown Vegas.

On last night’s show, Dayvid Figler raised an important question: to what extent should someone’s past (in this case, as a proud sexual predator) prevent him from doing good later in life? As one who has written about his own past, as an alcoholic and general fucking dick, I’m certainly a good person to ask.

My position, as I explained it on the show, is this: if you admit your mistakes and make demonstrable efforts to change, over a sustained period of time, you at least get the right to object to people dragging up your past. (Note: that still doesn’t mean it’s ok for a former pickup artist to be put in charge of safety after dark, it just means he gets the chance to at least plead his case).

In Curtis’ case, there are some caveats: according to multiple sources in the Downtown Project, his new employers were “not aware” of Curtis’ past as the guy who refers to “hot” women as “targets” and “hammers” — and who says every interaction with women should be seen as an opportunity to get “something in return”. It’s odd that he wouldn’t mention such a clearly relevant wrinkle at interview, and terrifying that DTP aparently doesn’t even Google job advocates. Likewise, it seems clear that the site promoting his book — while peddling even more grotesque pickup manuals and flat-out porn — is still operated by Curtis’ writing partner, Rob Wiser, using the pseudonym “Dean Cortez”. Also troubling: the third partner in MACKTactics Management LLC — with Curtis and Wiser — is Ronen Olshansky, an LA-based entrepreneur who once physically threatened my sometime-writing-partner Sarah Lacy after she spoke unfavourably about his current company, CrossCampus.

The deciding factor, I suppose, is what Curtis did between 2005 when he published MACK Tactics and 2013 when he joined the Downtown Project.

The answer to that question arrived today from a tipster, who provided a link to LoveJitsu, a self-help program that Curtis was promoting until at least late last year. According to the site, he is working on a book with the same name (subtitle: Why Tap / A Lovewarrior’s Journey). My tipster also says before Curtis was hired by DTP, he had planned to open a “Love Dojo,” whatever that is.

Certainly, judging by the promotional video for Lovejitsu, Curtis has segued from a full on pickup artist to a proponent of love in all its many marketable forms.

Whether that counts as a mea culpa for his previous work, I’ll let you decide. For now, though, I’ll leave the Chris Curtis story there.


Ranger Danger Pt. II: “Time For You To Become That Guy”

“It’s perfect that you’re worried because I soothe women’s worries.” – Chris Curtis

“My hope for the Rangers is that they make people feel incredibly comfortable when they come Downtown.” – Chris Curtis

Yesterday I wrote about retired LV Metro cop Chris Curtis, the pickup artist and “MACK Tactics” author who has – really – been hired to keep women safe in Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project. (Disclosure: Hsieh’s Vegas Tech Fund is an investor in NSFWCORP)

Today – huzzah! – my copy of Curtis’ book arrived, and I can’t wait to start reading. In the meantime, I thought I should check our Curtis’ website

http://www.macktactics.com

Oh. Boy

“Whether you’re into younger women, hot Asian women, strippers, girls at your college, or any type of woman, Mack Tactics has got you covered.”

(Following that “hot Asian women” link, by the way, takes you to a porn site complete with a huge banner ad for MACK Tactics: “Free Seduction Training Course Shows You How To Read Her Mind & Get In Her Panties”)

Again: the author of this book is currently in charge of making sure women are safe in Downtown Vegas. Zappos downtown team director, Jeanne Markel described him as “a fantastic person.”

A Downtown Vegas spokesperson, when reached for comment today, passed on Curtis’ insistence that “Chris has no involvement in the website whatsoever”. Yes, he’s the author of the book – but not the website that’s listed on his book. Not him. Nothing to do with him.

It happens. Presumably in the intervening years between publication of his book in 2004, someone took over Curtis’ domain name and started selling even sleezier sex advice, illustrated with photos of “hot Asian women, strippers.. or any other type of women.” Certainly the name of the sex guru on the site is not Chris Curtis but “Dean Cortez.” Totally different guy.

So let’s be fair to Curtis. Let’s take a trip in the Wayback Machine to the original version of the site, when Curtis absolutely, definitely did run it. From the “about” page from 2004…

My background is in the military and law enforcement. That may not sound like a typical Mack background, but it’s actually the most hardcore training a Mack could ever have. I used to serve as the Primary Negotiator in hostage situations. That’s no joke. In the process I learned a lot about psychology and human nature that I found I could apply to women. Believe me, once you’ve learned how to talk a guy out of wacking himself after gambling away his kids’ tuition and life savings, scooping a honey at the local bar is like taking candy from a baby.

Well, it’s time for you to become that guy.

Well, call this the Circle of Mack. Just send us an email. And if you’re coming to Vegas, let me know and maybe I can show you some of my favorite “target rich environments.”

Fellas, I’m real. Mack Tactics is real. Join the Mack Militia and become part of our team. Let’s make it happen.

Despite Curtis’ insistence that “I’m real”, he apparently had concerns about attaching his real name to the site. Next to the photos of Curtis surrounded by female “targets”, Curtis has signed his name “Chris Dean.”

So, to be absolutely clear, the 2005 site – in which Curtis boasts about being “on the prowl” and using a girl in order to have sex with her friend in the back of his car – is in no way related to the even pornier, even sleezier, even THIS GUY IS IN CHARGE OF ESCORTING WOMEN SAFELY HOME FOR THE DOWNTOWN PROJECT-ier site from 2013.

Likewise, Chris Curtis is Chris Dean. But Chris Dean has nothing do with Dean Cortez and has “no involvement whatsoever” in the site which is promoted on the back of his book.

I’ve asked DTP if Curtis wants to revise his statement. I’ll update if I hear back.

“Every interaction with a female is an opportunity” – Chris Curtis


To Protect And Perv

Regular readers will know that NSFWCORP’s largest investor is the Vegas Tech Fund, part of Tony Hsieh’s plan to revitalize the area around East Fremont Street. We’re thrilled to be here.

Not everyone is bullish on East Fremont, though. Last year, some employees of Hsieh’s dayjob company, Zappos, expressed concern about the safety of downtown after dark. At least one female employee had to fend off a would-be attacker who attempted to get into her car.

Imagine the relief, then, when Hsieh revealed his plan to keep Fremont safe. Based on a similar scheme in Austin, Texas, more than a dozen “Downtown Rangers” dressed in smart uniforms — consisting of body-mounted video cameras and, uh, brown shirts – are paid $12.50 an hour to patrol the streets around East Fremont, even offering to walk women to their cars after dark.

Phew! And surely those same women will be reassured to know that the man in charge of training the Rangers is retired Sgt Chris Curtis, a 20-year veteran of Las Vegas’ Metro Police Department. Curtis was a finalist for Officer.com’s “officer of the year” and was described by Zappos downtown team director, Jeanne Markel as “a fantastic person.”

Strangely, though, neither Officer.com nor Markel saw fit to recognize Curtis’ other major achievement: in 2005 he wrote a critically acclaimed book (four stars on Amazon and reviews around the world). Its title?

MACK Tactics: The Science of Seduction Meets the Art of Hostage Negotiation.

The book, which references other negotiation manuals like “Getting Past No” by William Ury, also details Curtis’ rule of reciprocity: how, when a “MACK” does something nice for a woman it is reasonable to expect something in return. (We can only speculate on the appropriate reward for walking someone safely to her car.)

“When you’re a negotiator, the way to speak to people is drilled into you. It becomes natural,” Curtis explained to Karyn Miller from London’s Daily Telegraph. “You don’t ever say to a woman, ‘Let’s go back to my place.’ Women don’t want to seem easy. Instead, suggest there’s something you want to share with her, like a CD you talked about or a bottle of wine.”

Curtis then proceeded to hit on Miller:

“You’re attracted to me, aren’t you?” No, I confess. “Go on, admit it. You find me attractive. If I went out on to the street, I could use M.A.C.K. Tactics to pick up the next woman I saw.”

Despite its $80 price tag on Amazon, I’ve ordered a copy of MACK Tactics (more extracts to follow). At time of publishing, a spokesperson for the Downtown Project had yet to respond to a request for comment.


Fuck You, Nancy: A Note Of Gratitude To Our Founding Subscribers

It’s midnight twenty five at NSFWCORP HQ, our worryingly unfortified office high above Downtown Las Vegas. Still, almost a dozen floors up we should at least be safe from the “severe thunderstorm” that the National Weather Service just splashed across the pilot episode of “Political Animals.” Frankly, the threat of being washed into a storm drain was the best part of that dripping-wet squib of a show.

But anyway.

Two days ago, Josh The Developer pushed the button on NSFWCORP’s subscription system, allowing the first of our $3 a month subscribers to peer around the gates. In the 48 hours or so that have passed since, those subscribers have just kept on coming, to the point where I’ve had to stop the “new reader” text message alerts being sent to my phone.

We’re still thousands short of the number we need to break even, of course, and tens of thousands shy of a point where we can do this until the day we die. But, far sooner than I or anyone else here expected, that point looks positively reachable.

Not that we’ve been without naysayers. Amid all the nice emails of congratulations and the equally welcome notes of constructive criticism, are those correspondents who feel obliged to inform me that you don’t exist.

To those correspondents, the notion that people might pay to read words on the Internet is a fantasy. A fiction. It simply does not happen. Or at the very least, the only way it does happen is if we allow customers to sample our apples before choosing whether to buy them. One “Nancy” writes …

“Before I sign up for a $3/month credit-card charge, I like to know what I’m getting.

Your cutesy come-on doesn’t do it for me.

I’m out.

Nancy”

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Fuck you, Nancy.” And you have right on your side. But, still, Nancy has a point. Three dollars is a lot of dollars to commit, without at least the option to consume everything without paying anything.

“Not it isn’t,” you’re probably saying now. “Three dollars is the price of a cup of coffee.”

You didn’t pick that comparison at random. By comparing the price of words to that of coffee, you’re parroting the go-to pitch of every editorial salesman for the past half decade. Such are the vagaries of coffee pricing in America, any proposed “content” transaction — whether it involves 99c or ten dollars — can be compared favourably to the price of a cup of coffee. We can’t be many months away from the $100 cup of coffee — more expensive than this entire set of virtual encyclopedias.

For the record, the price of a cup of coffee in NSFWCORP’s local coffee shop is $2.49: a full 51c cheaper than a month-long subscription to this publication. If money is your deciding factor, go with the caffeine.

The truth is, there are a whole list of things that are cheaper than a subscription to Not Safe For Work Corporation, including many which blow our modest value proposition (“the future of journalism, with jokes”) out of the water.

For example, as recently as 2010, your three dollars could have paid for Newsweek not once, not twice but three times over. Not three copies of the magazine, but the actual Newsweek company, which then-91-year-old mogul Sidney Harman purchased from the Washington Post Company for just a buck. (Eight months later, Harman died, his life-long ambition of owning a sad, irrelevant magazine sadly and irrelevantly fulfilled. But it could have been worse. He could have been the guy who bought TV Guide for a dollar, back in 2008.)

One can argue day and night about the long-term value of Newsweek, but the rights to the Terminator franchise? That’s $1.4 billion of money in the bank. And yet, in 1984, James Cameron sold the whole damn thing to co-producer (and future ex-wife) Gale Anne Hurd for just a dollar. By that reckoning, your three dollars would get you “The Terminator,” “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” and “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” But not “Terminator Salvation,” wisely.

Or how about an investment in medicine? In 2012, the Doctors Hospital in Perry Township, Ohio was sold for just one dollar, despite the property being conservatively valued at $6.8 million. It was a tax write-off, you understand, and a way to avoid paying the upkeep costs for the huge, abandoned building. But just think: your own hospital! You could do operations! Or race around on the trolleys! Just two of the things you can’t do with a subscription to Not Safe For Work Corporation.

In 2002 the jackpot in The Big Game (now Mega Millions) lottery jackpot stood at a little over $330m. That is, until the whole thing was won by three ticket holders, for a combined investment of just three dollars. The list goes on.

For the price of just a single month’s subscription to NSFWCORP, you could have bought two magazines and a hospital. Or two Terminator movies and $110 million dollars in cash. Or half of Newsweek and a cup of coffee at The Beat Coffee House on Fremont Street.

Yes, you could have chosen to buy any of those things but, unlike Nancy, you chose instead to subscribe to Not Safe For Work Corporation. For that, I’m unspeakably grateful, and maybe a little perplexed. Would I have done the same in your position? Perhaps I’d have snapped up Newsweek, availed myself of the perfectly good coffee machine on the fourth floor, expensed my NSFWCORP subscription and still had two dollars left for an ice cream Snickers. I don’t know. I’m not good with hypotheticals.

All I know for sure is that, on behalf of the entire, fast-growing NSFWCORP team (22 and counting!), I very much appreciate you risking your three dollars on our magazine. In return, I promise we’ll use every one of dollars to write, edit and publish the best magazine you have ever read, and will ever read. Or, like Sidney Harman, we’ll die trying.

Fuck you, Nancy.

Paul

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