The Zoom Dick Incident heard ‘round the world occurred last week but has haunted us ever since. Our waking hours have been plagued by burning questions about the logistics of this notorious event, in which literary luminaries, in the middle of an “election simulation,” talking through how a contested race would play out, were treated with an image of New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin, supposedly in the role of the entire Supreme Court, allegedly jacking off.
Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen seems to be the only brave soul to speak out on the record about what occurred during the fateful ZDI. First, they told the New York Times in the immediate wake of the incident, “I am quite sure that Toobin didn’t realize that the people on the New Yorker call could see him. I suspect he thought that when the breakout rooms started, he was disconnected and he didn’t realize we’d all returned to a live camera.”
Now they have elaborated, if only to say that it is something they do not wish to elaborate on. In a new interview with Anand Giridharadas, Gessen was actually the one to bring up the ZDI: “I don’t know what I would less like to talk about, the Russian interference [in American politics] or last week’s Zoom call,” they said.
They did not return to the topic until discussing the results of the “election simulation” in which the ZDI occurred, a kind of adult mock trial game, which Gessen said they were comfortable revealing because footage of the simulation is likely to “never to see the light of day …” Joe Biden won, Gessen did confirm, so there’s that.
Though we appreciate their willingness to come forward, some new details inspire even more lines of inquiry. For example, Gessen says the simulators were “at it for three and a half hours.” How long did the ZDI go on inside of that time? Did the ZDI occur before or after Toobin “ruled” as SCOTUS on whether or not Pennsylvania could keep counting ballots? Perhaps we’ll never know.