Nearly every anecdote about Josh Ozersky, the man behind OzerskyGate, begins with, "I love Josh but..." and there follows some tale of woe involving Josh Ozersky's flouting of the editorial/self-aggrandization line. So I'll follow tradition. I love Josh but he fully deserves the scorn and the flogging doled out by the Timeswoman Julia Moskin, The Atlantic's Corby Kummer and most strongly, by The Village Voice's Robert Sietsema. But does having a bunch of chefs cook for you on your wedding day and writing about it for Time really demand such ire?
I posit the anger directed towards Ozersky from all quarters of the critical and blogger establishment is less snowy pure moral outrage than just self-interest. Let's face it: It's not that Ozersky took swag and wrote about it that is so infuriating.
First of all, as many people have noted, he has been notorious for cozying up to chefs and trading meals for coverage for years. If anything, it's Time's fault for not knowing what they were getting themselves into. Secondly, and importantly, everybody or nearly everybody — and I include myself in everybody obviously — has received a free meal from a restaurant publicist at some point and many do this with regularity. I don't care where one works, whether it's from one's bedroom in pajamas (the most irksome blogger stereotype) or if it's in the bullpen of 620 8th Avenue. That's the way our business works. So, we can agree — if not de juris then de facto — that at root, Ozersky's sins are in the degree, not the root of his actions.
But O, what a difference that makes. Ozersky's greatest transgression was that his violations were so extreme and so egregious he gave others no choice but to call him out on them. He blew the veil of plausible deniability, that slick iridescent veil which is so important for keeping the restaurant-blogging-journalism MMF fingercuffs humping.
People hate Ozerksy for the heat he brought on them. He's the kid bragging so loudly about last night's party at the Michelson house that a teacher overheard and now we're all going to be grounded. And you just want to put some soap in a sock and smack him, but that doesn't change the fact we were all at that party. Ozersky is a whistleblower minus the righteousness. In fact, I'm not sure he's even realized he's done something wrong.
So there are now two options: one can either call Ozersky out, in which case one must risk the heat and hypocrisy, or one must remain silent in the face of such a horribly absurd fuckfest. I'm, obviously, a proponent of the former. I mean, I love Josh but...