Burning Ken Bone

The Town Hall presidential debate’s darling wasn’t either candidate or the moderators. It was Ken Bone, an unassuming man reminiscent of a character in Mike Judge’s film “Office Space.” He asked the candidates a question about their stance on how they’d balance a need for sustainable energy while minimizing job layoffs.

For a brief, shining moment, Ken Bone was America’s Superhero. Major media outlets declared him “the man who won the second presidential debate.” Costume stores and internet forums started shopping around for the perfect Ken Bone Halloween costume. People on Twitter lauded him for his “realness.” They enjoyed his use of a disposable camera while capturing the night’s events. Bone even landed a promotional deal with Uber as a result of his overnight fame.

Then, just as soon as the love began, the Internet Outrage Machine cranked up to full throttle, and Ken Bone was Burned. Now, a Google search of his name returns the following headlines:

“Ken Bone Is Actually Kind Of An Awful Guy”

“Ken Bone’s Disturbing Reddit History Shows He’s Not Nearly as Adorable as We Thought.”

“Ken Bone Forgot to Delete His Reddit Porn Comments, Said Trayvon Martin Killing Was ‘Justified'”

“Ken Bone Leaves Seedy Comment Trail on Reddit.”

How did all of this happen?  Easy. William Turton, a “journalist” for Gizmodo, looked into Bone’s Reddit posting history, and posted his favorite finds. When Bone attempted an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit, the Outrage Machine cranked into full throttle over his thoughts on Jennifer Lawrence’s physique, his personal opinion of Trayvon Martin, and more. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. All comments are things you’ve probably heard in the past from friends, neighbors, or relatives. You may not have liked them or found them personally suited to your tastes.

This doesn’t matter to those who want to virtue signal their way through life, attempting the lock-step correct thoughts and actions of those who march in the social justice traveling band. Once something a blogger found as potentially offensive to the sensibilities of those who call themselves “oppressed” and “marginalized” the bait was set. All the mob needed were someone to sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches.

Since I began writing this post, it appears as if cooler heads are starting to prevail. Forbes published an op-ed attempting to remind everyone that Ken Bone is a human just like the rest of us.  The contributor, Fruzsina Eordogh, opined his rise and fall as an internet star was a symptom of just how divisive this election cycle had become. She remarked it was the public’s choice to hate him, instead of remembering Ken Bone as “just one confused and overweight man, and not some corporate, media, or self-projected manifestation…just one man, not worth being mad about.”

Maybe Eordogh’s right. Maybe we shouldn’t have to worry about destroying the life of a man who dared ask a question about a subject that mattered to him during a town hall style presidential debate. Maybe making a person into an “internet sensation” and then tearing apart his life is out of order. There’s even a good possibility people will see the way Ken Bone was treated and refrain from ever participating in the political process again. That’s not something we want, and maybe it’s time to actually return to civility in the way we address one another.

Wait, there’s a second page on this Forbes story I hadn’t seen yet. Let me click through to it.

Oh.

Full Disclosure: I was NEVER EVER on the Ken Bone train, or took a trip to his Bone Zone. I thought he was dumb, from his sweater to his question, from day one. 

Just to save you a few clicks, the links in that block quote go back to some of the headlines referenced earlier. So Forbes’ Eordogh doesn’t really even believe the words she penned for the site. She took time to pen out her required word count and then added a disclosure calling him “dumb” and referencing the sources attempting to dehumanize Ken Bone. Way to go, “journalism.”

 

Transmet, Journalism, and Modern Media

“Journalism is just a gun.  It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that’s all you need.  Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world.” –Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan #3 (November 1997)

Transmetropolitan (what I will refer to from this point on as “Transmet”) was a central point in getting me back into comic books.  The bleak, sci-fi series by Warren Ellis featured a deranged Hunter S. Thompson like writer named Spider Jerusalem who found himself focused on the Truth, no matter how painful or ugly it was for people.  Throughout the wildly popular series, a central theme that kept running was the power of the media, the power of authority, and the constant need to expose corruption and lies through the truth.

Warren Ellis wrote those words almost two decades ago, speaking to the power of journalism.  Spider’s work was different from that of his colleagues in that he focused exclusively on the Truth, rather than the comfortable pabulum most of those in The City wanted to hear or the talking points politicians needed.  His relentless obsession with the truth meant Spider took beatings from police, attacks from hitmen, and his own work censored by the President.

It never mattered to Spider.  No matter the attack, he never backed down.  He destroyed his foes through the power of the Truth and his ability to influence his readers through a unique, special take, and in the process toppled a corrupt government.  By the end of Transmet’s run, the world is a better place for Spider’s work, and his “filthy assistants” are set to carry on his life’s mission: the pursuit and exposure of the truth.

Why don’t we have a Spider Jerusalem in our midst today?  Why does the media stick to narratives instead of fact-checking and doing honest reporting?  Why do they bow and scrape to the establishment rather than muckrake like a motherfucker, question everything authoritarians say, and then raise hell?  Has the media lost its spine or has it simply just lost a Spider ready and poised to strike with venom?

I ask these questions because right now in the aftermath of an Orlando shooting by an Islamic terrorist claiming allegiance to ISIS, American media is taking great care to make sure no one hears anything other than “Not all Muslims” and “Islam is a religion of peace” and “There was an assault rifle involved!  Oh my goodness, let’s ban all the guns!”  When a Presidential candidate’s Twitter account signals being correct on Radical Islam being a threat to the United States, he’s dismissed as “shameful.”  Meanwhile, when the other presumptive candidate issues a “woman card” for sale on her website featuring the bathroom stall image of a woman, no one raises hell over that.

I ask these questions because when a Presidential Candidate erupts into a frenzy over the qualifications of a judge to hear a case against him, the media vilifies him as a “racist” and continues to frame the discussion over and over again, with Jake Tapper at CNN even being lauded for continuing to press the issue in front of that candidate.  Yet no one seems to be questioning the other candidate’s questionable past of hiding her husband’s continued sexual assaults by calling them “sluts” and “bimbos” and then playing to her alleged strengths by being “pro women” this election cycle.

I ask these questions because when a rally is shut down because of “peaceful protests” that later turn out to be the work of an organized criminal gang the media falsely reports on it.  I ask these questions because when an alleged assault is revealed a hoax the story quietly goes away without full and fair apologies.  I ask, especially, when a story goes from “Dad kills son for being gay” within 24 hours to “More to this death than we originally thought” just due to a bit of fact checking and hell raising by people like you and me.

Spider’s biggest concern was that he’d reveal the truth and people wouldn’t listen or wouldn’t care.  Unfortunately that nightmare is occurring in real time, right before our very eyes.  We can mute those on Twitter who don’t share our worldview.  Facebook is worse; the almighty Algorithm only shows you that which you want to see.  There is no more room for Spider’s brand of truth in the 21st Century.  There’s only room for shared delusions of “fact.”

We need a Spider Jerusalem right now, more than ever.  This year, our election cycle mimics that shown by Transmet in the Beast and the Smiler.   I won’t reveal too much, but if you do a bit of digging and think a little bit you’ll be able to figure out which candidate I find the Beast and which I find the Smiler.  And with both parties needed a massive revival, it’s time the media gets a good thrashing from the Angry Chair Leg of Truth by someone unafraid, almost bulletproof to take on the mainstream media.

One issue of Transmet contains a quote from a favorite writer of mine, H.L. Mencken.  I leave you with this here.

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.  Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it.  And even if he is not romantic personally his is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.

Is there a romantic among us?

Will the real Spider Jerusalem please stand up?