Welcome to 2021

Ed Zitron 8 min read
Welcome to 2021

Ah, it’s a new year, and Slack is down, or it was when I started this sentence, walked away, then came back to the computer to find it’s back. So much for my witty anecdote about how Slack detracts from actual work! But now I can’t.

It reminds me of the people who say triumphantly online that they only check their email at pre-set times in the day to “get more work done,” which confuses me partially because I live my life in email - thanks to the nature of my job, getting more email is good, and getting less email is either bad or very good - as in, I’ve done well enough that the client is not emailing me, but if reporters are emailing me, that’s good. It’s very weird and unhealthy, and probably shows that I have some sort of disease, but I am on my email all day and I am, honestly, the most normal person alive.

I have been considering getting one of those extra big-ass monitors - like this 49” one -  and fully entering da normal zone. I am honestly due this year to totally change up my desk situation primarily because I currently can’t cross my legs under my desk, which I thought might be my chair. Also I can’t really clamp anything to my desk either, which is a problem unto itself. One of my major limiters is that I use an iMac Pro, so I can’t really get two monitors I really like, and the computer has remained very, very fast for like 4 years, and has no signs of slowing. So I can’t justify throwing it in the trash.

I’ve also been reflecting on how I once had Bitcoin and don’t anymore, and wish I had Bitcoin because it’s high now and wasn’t as high then, but also realize that a lot of these thoughts are empty - they are basically saying “I wish I could see the future.” Yes I had Bitcoin before, but I also could have done X number of things in Y way if I knew the future and been a bazillionaire. It’s silly! I’m still annoyed about it, which is also silly.

Bean Dad

The whole Bean Dad thing has been done to death, to the point that it’s now national news, where a dad boasted ad nauseam about how his kid brought him a can of beans and a can opener and he refused to open it, and spent six hours letting his kid get frustrated to tears about it. He also was clearly quite proud of himself, and then went on to call people weird in his mentions for thinking he was weird.

The obvious problem is that this kind of abusive behavior is so common in broken homes and broken relationships - restricting something in the hopes of it ‘teaching a lesson’ but usually only reinforcing control of a situation and scaring the other person. This is definitely the social version of shit rolls downhill - bad fathers and mothers reinforce good behavior in bad ways, and their kids raise kids in the same ways because facing up to the bad parenting is worse than just continuing the cycle. Lots of abuse is revisited on subsequent children and partners - and that’s definitely what happened here.

He was then given the classic namesearch whoopsie treatment - tweets circa 2011 to 2013 or so that included jokes about Hitler, other anti-semitic humor and two slurs. The argument of course is that there is context around these jokes - context that, when removed, make it look like he was idly using slurs…and come on, you know there’s no real excuse to use them, if you are quoting something just use asterisks or say the [x]-word and people will know exactly what you mean.

Also unless I’m much mistaken it still was bad to say slurs in 2011 or 2013. Maybe people are more aware of the pain they cause now than they were then. It’s different from the James Gunn situation in part due to the humor, but also because James Gunn actually apologized and condemned what he did - his jokes were gross/weird/shitty and posted in 2009, so it’s reasonable to assume that he is a different person now, and is actually sorry, versus Bean Dad who uh, deleted his account and said nothing.

There is a school of thought that there needs to be some sort of way to mitigate these things without bullying someone off of social media, which is a whole other conversation about guilt and redemption. The issue a friend of mine brought up that makes sense is that the problem is not with this situation (where a cis white guy got bullied off social media for being a piece of shit) but with the future situation where someone who fucked up innocently and actually apologizes still gets hounded off. That situation does suck, and it’s one that is hard to deal with online - once someone gets ahold of someone doing something bad, it’s very easy to share it and say “look at the bad person, they’re bad,” and everyone enjoys knowing they’re good and someone else is bad. The only real solution is to simply not join in on dogpiling, which is a noble cause and one that I swear I’m going to work on.

But the temptation is there when someone is just deeply unlikeable -  you see the piece of crap person and you say “I bet they’re even worse,” and you search for the bad words, find the bad words, and confirm they’re bad and awful, and you post how bad they are, and people who already don’t like them have their dislike even more confirmed. It feels good, it’s engrossing, like you’re on the ground floor of an investment in justice. The fun with the beans guy was that he was a bad person and got made to feel bad for being bad, and thus this was a natural progression. Is it bad? Depends on the context I guess. Lol!

But the ultimate conclusion I came to from all of this is people have a total inability to apologize and shut the fuck up.

The actual timeline of events included his 20 or 30 tweet-long story about his daughter being hungry and wanting food and him making her learn to use a can opener over six hours, through trial and error, versus just opening them and saying “yep, that’s how a can opener works.” He doubled and tripled down on his pride in how he parents, and how good a father he is, instead of saying:

“Hey all, I really do believe I’m a good dad, and I love my daughter, who is happy and healthy, but it’s obvious I really need to reconsider how I’m doing things. I’m sorry if I upset anyone with the story, I gotta think about a lot of stuff.” Yes, there’d be people who say “you only apologized ‘cause you got caught,” which would also be hypocritical as it’s literally saying he should work it out on his own.

He could have also addressed his old tweets by saying “the old tweets are declaratively wrong, I am embarrassed by them, they are unacceptable, and I apologize for them. Context or no context, I should have never said them, the reasoning behind them is irrelevant to the damage using these words does, and I can only apologize. I am so sorry. I acted in a disgusting way.” Then say nothing else. But the problem with saying nothing and simply deleting your account is that…well, it says nothing. It’s hoping it will go away. He’ll reactivate in a week or a month or whatever and people will post these screenshots back to him, and he’ll have to either apologize then or have this stuff follow him around forever, and every day he doesn’t apologize is worse.

And, somehow, this lack of ability in apologies applies to his podcast co-host Jeopardy guy Ken Jennings:

It would have been so easy to say nothing here, and I get that it’s likely difficult to apologize when the person in question doesn’t seem sorry, but saying that they “told a story for heightened effect” instead of, I don’t know, anything else, that ain’t great.

And to respond to anti-semitism with “well, if we’re looking at old tweets, check out the fact that he’s pro-Israel!” is…quite anti-semitic? I don’t know.

Again, simply way to do this would’ve been “I believe that John was telling an exaggerated story about how he raises his kid - he’s a great dad, but it wasn’t a great story,” but I assume that his initial response means he doesn’t think it was bad. And, again, he could have said “He’s not anti-semitic, but he clearly said some shitty things, and while I haven’t talked to him about them, I personally think they’re gross, context or not.”

Now, why didn’t he say this stuff? Any number of reasons! The most likely one is the most harmless and offensive one to me - that he simply doesn’t believe John is in the wrong. He may also not want to hurt his friend’s feelings by turning against him, which would have been possible with the above apologies - and frankly if you have to tell your friend you’re fine with them having written a bunch of anti-semitic shit to keep a friendship going, then I’m not sure what kinda friends you have.

What also rings poorly about this is several days beforehand Ken had had to make his own apology about some previous comments he’s made (ableist, transphobic, etc.) - he made a proper apology, and was still in the stages of getting barked at over it, but did the thing to do if you want to move on - a full and thorough apology that attempted to address the problem.

The argument of course is that it’s too little too late, but that’s one point that bothers me - when is the right time? Immediately when you realize you’ve done it? Two years later? Who wants to randomly bring an axe down on their neck? When is the right time? Yes, he’s going to do this before he might get a big TV gig. Sure. That would be the time you clear shit up - that’s what happens, it’s how the world is. He has (had) started the clock in people’s heads of forgiveness - the apology has happened, the pain is fresh, when the pain lessens people might forget but not forgive, and you move on.

But…that is no longer what happened. Ken got the perfect layup to prove that this was not an empty apology, that he believes the past is real and, indeed, he is truly sorry and finds the act of saying shitty things in the past as “bad.” Instead, he didn’t simply fumble his apology but somehow burned his own - now his apology is incontrovertibly welded to the Bean Dad situation, and he managed to get in probably the worst possible response equating being jewish to being pro-Israel, which he has yet to actually deal with.

What sucks even more is Ken could have literally tweeted “wow, those tweets John said were really bad, I need to talk to him about them, but let’s be clear that they fucking suck and are disgusting.” Really easy, clean, he would be framed justifiably as distancing himself from John, and he’d be a footnote sentence at the end of each article saying “Ken Jennings said the tweets were bad” and everyone would forget. Instead, he’s crammed his SEO full of more nationally-read news about how bad he is.

Overall, people are obsessed with being in the right - people want to dunk on people because they like to feel they’re the right person, on the right side. People who fuck up don’t want to apologize because we’ve all grown up in a society where we watched one episode of Law and Order and think that if we don’t apologize we’re not guilty, and that saying sorry is death. I don’t get it. I mess up all the time. Maybe not like this, but I do mess up. Just apologize, take the hit, and move on without saying something about Israel or whatever.

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