The Sadomasochistic Reasoning That Drives the Winklevii

In the December issue, Vanity Fair profiles Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Mark Zuckerberg's fun-to-make-fun-of archnemeses, in an attempt to answer a simple question: Why don't they ever give up?

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In the December issue, Vanity Fair profiles Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Mark Zuckerberg's fun-to-make-fun-of archnemeses, in an attempt to answer a simple question: Why don't they ever give up? The answer is pretty simple: the article's author Dana Vachon suggests, "some guys really, really, really don't like to lose." In explaining why Vachon touches on everything from the twins' early life to their Olympic exploits to the annoyingly unending (and expensive) battle to regain what they say is their rightful stake in Facebook, a site that pretty much everyone except the Winklevii is pretty sure was Mark Zuckerberg's idea. There's an undeniably skeezy subplot to their life stories. The only thing the twins love more than feeling pain, it seems, is inflicting it onto others.

We've long known that the twins were a little bit weird. As hyper-educated world class athletes with narcissistic tendencies, the Winklevii are bound to have some eccentricities, right? Vichon describes a session with their guru Jake Cornelius, "who," he explains "has written on his blog about the often uncontrollable rage and anger that led him to embrace rowing as an emotional outlet." They're much calmer now:

Cameron and Tyler sat with legs crossed, wrists upturned, identical Buddhas breathing in and out, in and out, in and out . . .

"We're gonna sit here and breathe a little bit. As you get ready to do these weights, think about the best race you ever had. Think about how it felt to win. Think about what it was like to come to the dock afterwards. Think about what the coach said. Try to bottle that feeling up." … "Now think about the worst race you ever had, and how shitty it felt to lose."

Tyler's face tightened against the memory of failure. "Now lets go do some weights," said Jake Cornelius, "and never feel that way again."

Cameron and Tyler have little to say about their rage-filled however extraordinarily privileged youth as the sons of a multi-millionaire Wharton professor splitting time between "a Greenwich estate and Quogue beach house, each valued at $10 million." The comparison they make is especially funny if you've seen the second hour of the movie:

"Have you seen Deer Hunter?" asked Tyler, in trying to convey the specifics of Winklevossian beginnings.

"Watch the first hour of Deer Hunter," assured Cameron.

Even Aaron Sorkin weighs in on what makes the twins tick:

"I've had plenty of people ask me why the Winklevosses can't just be happy with $65 million and move on," says Aaron Sorkin, who in writing The Social Network all but created the Winklevii in the mass-mind. "I know they’ve seen the I.M.'s Mark wrote while he was building the site that say, 'I'm going to fuck the Winklevosses in the ear.' These guys were built to win — they're not just gonna 'move on.' They're not going to see that the game's over and Mark won in a rout."

But the real kicker comes from a fellow Olympian who describes the ethos of deeply competitive rowers like Tyler and Cameron:

In my opinion, it's all about how much pain you can make the other guy feel," said Dan Walsh, another Olympic rower, when asked to explain the lure of a sport that offers neither fame nor fortune, and why two highly advantaged individuals would spend their 20s pursuing it — the Winklevosses were then weeks away from their 30th birthday. "It's about trying to break him."

Mark Zuckerberg and his legion of lawyers still aren't even bending. Which must just make the twins' mouths water more.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.