[This is the continuation of the story relating to former Destructoid writers Holly Green and Allistair Pinsof. You can read part 1 right here.]
Geoff Henao, former reviews editor at Flixist – one of the sites under the Modern Method label – had worked with Allistair when he was employed at Destructoid, which is Modern Method’s largest subsidiary. Speaking on his own behalf and under no affiliation with his current employers, Henao went on record to say…
“What Allistair did was wrong, dude. The articles I read on this are kind of brushing that under the rug, like ‘Oh, let’s all jump on Niero’s ass for firing Allistair and trying to cover it up. Let’s not address why he was fired in the first place.’
“It all comes down to this: he outed someone’s gender identity. He had no right to do that. That’s pretty fucked up. Because of that, he was fired. You can’t really blame “Niero” for that. You can’t blame “Niero” for hitting up other outlets and other editor-in-chiefs to ask like ‘Man, what should I do about this? I’ve never been in this situation before.’
“It’s not fair to ‘Niero’.”
For those who don’t know, Allistair Pinsof was fired from Destructoid under false pretenses, according to the leaked e-mails, after outing personal information of an individual running a fraudulent IndieGoGo, as highlighted in the e-mail exchanges that took place on May 17th, 2013. This was in correlation with Yanier “Niero” Gonzalez consulting with the Game Journo Pros [via GamerHeadlines] on May 17th, 2013 where the consensus was that Pinsof should be fired for outing those personal details. The sentiment of Pinsof’s firing was reiterated and further acted upon on May 18th, 2013 with consultation from the Game Journo Pros [via Breitbart], where several members, including Kyle Orland, the senior gaming editor at Ars Technica, told Gonzalez the following.
Following this, on May 22nd, 2013, an e-mail went out to the Game Journo Pros advising them not to have any contact with Allistair Pinsof or interact with him in any way. The list could be effectively used to determine who could work in the industry and who was outed for good, which is a dangerous amount of power put into the hands of the people who controlled the larger games and tech media platforms.
As pointed out in the previous articles, colluding to blacklist someone from employment is illegal. In the state of Florida, where Allistair’s employment contract originated, it is illegal to collude, confederate or combine with two or more employers to prevent, prohibit or actively blacklist someone from gainful employment.
In the state of California – where certain game journalists and their outlets are located from the Game Journo Pros list – there are also laws making it illegal to blacklist someone from employment, with California labor code section 1050 through section 1053 explicitly stating…
“Nothing in this chapter shall prevent an employer or an agent, employee, superintendent or manager thereof from furnishing, upon special request therefor, a truthful statement concerning the reason for the discharge of an employee or why an employee voluntarily left the service of the employer. If such statement furnishes any mark, sign, or other means conveying information different from that expressed by words therein, such fact, or the fact that such statement or other means of furnishing information was given without a special request therefor is prima facie evidence of a violation of sections 1050 to 1053.”
In layman terms, it’s okay to let other employers know during a call of reference why someone was discharged or fired. In Allistair’s case, insubordination. However, it is not okay, and against California’s labor law, to embellish, add or change the information in which someone has been discharged or fired. In this case, it is unlawful to defame an employee with other employers to prevent them from acquiring gainful work.
It was Destructoid’s editor-in-chief, Dale North who made the call to notify managers, editors and site owners from competing websites not to engage, talk to, or interact with Allistair Pinsof, as reiterated and confirmed by Yanier “Niero” Gonzalez, and Game Journo Pros member Scott Nichols, in this article right here.
Geoff is sympathetic to Allistair’s case, but still agrees that the actions Pinsof took should have cost him his job. According to Henao…
“I’ll always have Allistair’s back, but what he did was fucked up and I can’t defend him on that.”
“It’s like man, I know what Allistair was trying to do; ultimately he was wrong. I know what “Niero” was trying to do, but his handling of the situation was wrong, as well. It’s just been way too one-sided; it’s not fair to either party to not have the full story.”
I asked Geoff if he was made aware of the Game Journo Pro list, and if he knew that “Niero” had consulted with the Game Journo Pros to have Allistair fired. Geoff stated…
“No, I didn’t know about that list. […] It’s not uncommon to have lists like that.”
I also asked Geoff if “Niero” went to any of the other managing editors at Modern Method to consult about what to do with Allistair before firing him and if he consulted with the managing editors before consulting with editors and managers from competing websites on the Game Journo Pros list, and Geoff stated..
“As far as I know, no. Ultimately, it’s on “Niero”… he’s the employer.”
The only thing he does state is that all the sites under the Modern Method weren’t really tuned into everything that happened across all the sites under the banner. Geoff does note that if something serious did happen they were only sent e-mails about being careful about potential legal matters.
Allistair had sent out e-mails and reached out to contact various journalists within the industry to get his story out, following Dale’s Game Journo Pros statements about every major gaming website journalist on the list steering clear from him. I asked Geoff if he was one of the individuals Allistair sent the information to, but Geoff commented saying…
“Man, to be honest… I don’t even remember.”
“Again, I don’t write in video games. I’m tangentially involved with video games. If he did, it’s not my place, dude. I… don’t write about video games [or] video game journalism. In saying that, I had my own different ways of making sure he was okay.“
Regarding the blacklisting, I asked if Henao knew about it, but he simply stated…
“I can’t speak on whether he was blacklisted or not, but I can’t really blame anyone for being careful and not wanting to get involved. Is that fair to Allistair? No, not really. But what also wasn’t fair is what got him in trouble in the first place. Wrongful termination or not, again he wouldn’t have been terminated had he not done what he did.”
When asked if what the editor-in-chief at Destructoid did was the right course of Action, Henao stated that…
“Whether or not Dale [North] said that and people did it because he said that or because of what Allistair did – you’re going to be reaching. It’s like chicken or the egg, man. It’s gonna be hard because of what Dale said or because of what Allistair did.”
I reached out to Dale North for a quote; asking him whether or not he acted alone or received orders from higher up to say what he said to the employers of competing websites, but North has not responded to any of my inquiries as of the writing of this article.
Now here’s the problem: what Allistair did was only shared to other members of the game journalists community because of “Niero” and Dale alerting those on the Game Journo Pros list, and then twisting the events around, given that Pinsof was never explicitly told what to do or what not to do, according to the original e-mails.
The bigger question becomes: had the Game Journo Pros not influenced Gonzalez to fire Allistair on false information, and had Dale not alerted the members of the Game Journo Pros who were unaware of the situation, would they have known the full story and still blacklisted him? They wouldn’t have known unless they actively looked up the story themselves. Even then, the details would have been scarce and sketchy outside of what was publicly available in the Gamers Against Bigotry article.
This ties back into what was mentioned before about the law regarding spreading misinformation about an employee’s situation that isn’t beholden to the truth.
When Pinsof was first told that he was fired, he repaired the situation on his own and made peace with the individual he outed. He effectively saved face for Destructoid, but the public was fed a story that he disobeyed orders and tweeted about a situation on social media, even though he was effectively told that he was fired at the time. The events are depicted chronologically in the infographic here.
When things escalated to the point where “Niero” threatened to add “WORST EMPLOYEE EVER DO NOT HIRE!” under Allistair’s byline, if he tried pursuing a route to go public with his story, I asked if Haneo knew about or agreed with this kind of tactic, Haneo stated…
“It’s really harsh and that’s what I don’t agree with. [Niero] could have been a bit bigger and been like ‘Things got sour, but you guys know what happened.’ It is a little petty to add that under his byline, which is what I don’t agree with.”
“At the same time, again dude, can you really blame “Niero” for reacting the way he did? Allistair leaked private e-mails. He basically betrayed the trust of the entire network by going public with a lot of those e-mails.
“People are going to see those e-mails and think ‘God, Niero is this unprofessional slob.’ Nah man, that’s just how you talk to your friends. And Allistair betrayed that friendship and betrayed that trust.”
I offered Allistair a chance to add a final quote on this, and give his say on those who feel he was in the wrong for doing what he did, as well as the firing and the alleged conspiring to blacklist that followed. Pinsof stated…
“It’s true I outed a transgender individual in an effort to end a scam and me being an accessory to it, but it’s also true I did this after a month of working with her to reveal this safely while staff made fun of me for it. I’m the one that prevented her from suicide while they joked about it. I’m the one that spent long nights searching out for contacts to keep check on her wellness locally. There is proof for all of this. I know this doesn’t forgive my action but I’m no bigot.
“I firmly believe had staff not allowed editor Chris Carter to give me false information that morning or had there been an actual editor’s order to hold information — the things even my old college paper staff would do — I would have stayed silent.
“Once I realized how hysteric the info I was given was, I immediately realized I had made a mistake in going public with her identity and saught to fix the situation. While my boss was slandering me with his friends, I tried to start an unsuccessful donation fund (contacting people who felt passionately enough to send me death threats for my actions) and tried to get a neutral round table going: https://gamersagainstbigotry.org/2013/05/chloe-allistair-roundtable/
“In any case, I was never fired because of her. She asked my boss to not fire me multiple times. It was never about her, in the end. It was about my boss not having the backbone to face the bigots’ ire, so he made up lies and fired me for them instead.
“There is proof both leaked and in my possesion to back all these statements up. There is no ultimate good side in any of these game media controversies. Everyone stinks to a point and mistakes get made; I always owned up to mine. What’s important to the public is that everyone should answer to what they’ve done, not just those who were threw under the bus like Holly, me and others. [sic]”
I repeatedly tried getting in contact with Dale North before this story was published to corroborate all of this information, but at the time of the publishing of this article, Dale has offered no response.
However, on October 19th, 2014, when Dale was notified that a third article would be going up, conversations were had regarding his involvement in the situation. With permission, I was shared an e-mail relating to Allistair’s termination and how Destructoid’s editor-in-chief (at the time) played a role in the matter. This was part of Dale’s response from a much longer conversation…
“I didn’t know anything about what you say Chris or Holmes did. I honestly don’t know a lot of the specifics. That all may be tied to me being a shitty boss. I can’t say what’s right or wrong because I don’t honestly know. All I really know is that it went to shit.”
It was advised that North come clean with his side of the story before the publishing of this article, but following the conversations in the e-mails, North took things a different direction.
“Without going into details, I feel certain actions taken and statements made by Destructoid management have not accurately reflected my feelings or taken my input as Editor-in-chief into account. I’m no longer comfortable having my name attached to the continued engagement with former staff.”
[Update:] GamesIndustry.biz has a quote from Yanier “Niero” Gonzazlez regarding Dale’s departure, with Gonzalez stating…
“It’s all good. Like any boss and employee relationship, we dont always agree. He put in a solid 8 years here. I’m proud of him and wish him the best,”
[Disclosure: I was a former member of the Game Journo Pros e-mail group]
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