The "Nuclear Disaster" At SXSW Was Nothing More Than A Witch Burning

Based on the Twitter messages and blog posts I saw yesterday emerge real time from the SXSW conference, it sounded like Sarah Lacy’s interview of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was, truly, a career ending, never seen before train wreck of epic proportions. The crowd was out for blood at the end, said multiple twitterers. People were near to rioting. Chaos, havoc, etc.

For a colorful (literally, multi-colored fonts) summary, see the normally reserved Dave McClure, who says “i don’t think i’ve ever seen such a complete & utter train wreck of an interview before,” adding “it was an astonishing case of Nuclear Fucking Fail.”

Bloggers by the dozens rushed to post something even more scathing than the previous attacks. CNET wrote a gleeful post attacking Lacy (“Sarah Lacy out-and-out bombed”), then, realizing the body still had a pulse, came back for more. Wired was right there beside them, kicking away as well.

Here’s the problem, though: The video of the interview, which became available today, shows nothing but a lively crowd and a long, boring interview. Sure, there were a couple of moments where the crowd yelled out, but that is absolutely normal at tech events these days. How anyone could describe this a “nuclear fucking fail” or “descending into chaos” is absolutely beyond me:

Here’s what I think really happened. There was an unruly group of attendees, mostly at the back of the session, who heckled Lacy (and Zuckerberg) during the interview. A few others joined in as well at different points. The heckling drew Twitters saying that some people weren’t happy with the interview. And then those Twitters spawned new ones, trying to outdo the previous ones. And then the “real journalists” jumped in head first and laid into Lacy, safe in the knowledge that they had Twitter messages to back them up.

What in the world drove these “journalists” to write this nonsense? Jealously over the fact that they weren’t on stage, or over Lacy’s new book? Perhaps they just got caught up in the fun of a witch burning. But whatever drove them to write those articles, it certainly wasn’t journalism. Nor was it professional. And, worst of all, it wasn’t accurate.

Mark Zuckerberg is a tough interview. I spoke with him for 45 minutes in front of a thousand people at TechCrunch40, and it was the hardest interview I’ve ever done. Even Lesley Stahl at 60 minutes had a difficult time getting him to talk, and they had the benefit of being able to edit the video. In my opinion, Sarah at least asked the hard questions. The fact that Mark wouldn’t answer them isn’t something to burn her over.

What do you think? Leave a comment or hit the poll, below.

Did SXSW Attendees unfairly crucify Sarah Lacy?

Total Votes: 1520
Started: March 11, 2008

Update: A commenter pointed out a great post by Brian Solis on this.