By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
“America needed a hero, Kenneth Bone answered the call,” claimed The Washington Post on October 10 just after the US Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I hadn’t noticed Ken Bone during the debate. Although he asked a dreary question about energy policy, it seemed especially reasonable given the unreasonable content of most of the debate between Trump and Hillary. “I find it very strange that I was one of the takeaways from the debate. I think there’s plenty of issues to talk about. but I’m happy to be able to put a positive spin on the political process, and keep people engaged when it seems so dreary at times,” Bone told the ‘Post’.
Twitter exploded with praise. People liked his red sweater. Memes were made. The media swooned and soon everyone had to know about Ken Bone. He ‘saved the debate”, claimed the Post in a second article. CNN claimed he was the “hero of the debate.”
But this is America. The land where streets are paved with gold and the land of broken dreams. Just as quick as the Bone was raised to icarus-like stardom, the sun burned him back to earth.
The New York Times wrote an “obituary” for Bone on October 14. It explained that “He might also now be forced to acknowledge that he has said and done things that are bad, unpopular or even illegal.”
“Ken Bone on Reddit claimed fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin ‘was justified’, discusses insurance fraud and born,’ screamed the New York Daily News on October 14. The article claimed that the man who “took the internet by storm”had “forgotten to clean up some of his arguably questionable previous posts.” One can almost hear the glee of the populist, lynch-mob, media with its puritanical flair shouting “we got him.” They had found out that he discussed watching porn. And in July of 2016 he had said the shooting of Martin was “justified.” he called the shooter a “bad guy”, but the media was sure that calling the killing “justified” was immoral.
Media also piled on claiming he had committed crimes, due to a post Bone made about trying to keep his job as a pizza deliveryman. “I forged documents to make it look like I had car insurance so I wouldn’t get fired…Can’t say how I did them, I don’t know how long the statute of limitations is on that,” Bone had written. He had “admitted to forging insurance document,” claimed articles.
The Daily Beast relished in the moment as well. “Ken Bone’s disturbing Reddit history shows he’s not as adorable as we thought.” The article claimed that he was already “posting an illegal ad for Uber’s luxury car service Uber Select on Twitter on Thursday.” The article called the revelations a “de-beatification.” The author claimed, “Most damaging of all, he suggested the killing of Trayvon Martin was ‘legally justified.'” He had also looked at porn and made comments about it online. CNN piled on, claiming he was “selling out” by aiding an add by Uber. For tweeting about Uber “Bone is being compensated with free rides rather than cash,” the article claimed. This was the big scoop of “selling out.” Now more reports are coming out to draw and quarter this man the media created. He may have violated “FTC rules” by mentioning Uber. A man who had a few twitter followers and now has thousands, all of it created by media, is now accused of using that short few minutes of fame to ill ends. “Who is Ken Bone really,” asked The Independent.
CNN piled on, with a prominently placed “featured” article claiming “uncovered: Ken Bone leaves seedy comment trail.” CNN hadn’t “uncovered” this, they merely followed other reports, noting that Bone’s internet activity “reveals a different side of the wholesome man America thought they’d earned.” It called his pizza delivery job as a “gig”, as if he was a rock star, like describing dishwashing as a “plate washing gig.” It claimed his comments were “alarming.”
The strange way that the media created Ken Bone and has now sought to destroy his reputation is symbolic of a savage society. This innocuous man went to a debate, wrote a boring question about energy, and was seized upon as an American “everyman” in an era of mass disillusion with US politics. But the same people that want to build up the everyman also have a cruel, cynical, lynch-mob quality to them. Because they don’t want heroes and they want to point out where people stumble. They relish in it. “He’s not perfect, neither am I, but let’s point fingers at him.” There is a puritanical side to it, obsessive accusations and supposed “gotcha” moments, about blemishes that are entirely normal but which we have all been told are not normal.
Let’s look at the list of sins of Mr. Bone.
- He was attacked for saying the killing of Trayvon Martin was “legally justified.” Reports online made it seem like this was an outlandish, racist comment at odds with the prevailing opinion. But wait a sec. George Zimmerman, who shot Martin in 2012, was found not guilty in 2013. Not guilty. Read that again. Not guilty. 41% of Americans agreed with the verdict (and 41% disagreed), according to an ABC poll at the time. So pause and digest that. Three years after the verdict, Mr. Bone articulated exactly what the court said. Media would have you believe that he did something wrong. Yet his comment not only is in line with what the court found, but it is in line with what basically half of those who heard the verdict believed. And Bone is wrong? Not the 41% of people who agree with the verdict? Not the court? Not the jury? Nope. They are fine. It’s Bone who is the problem? The media “caught” him. Reporters won’t of course accuse themselves of saying the killing was legally justified.
- Ken Bone admitted watching porn. This was also a “gotcha” moment used to make it seem like he had done something wrong, something immoral, something that’s not normal. Except 77% of American men watch porn at least ONCE A MONTH. 90% of boys have been “exposed to” porn before age 18. The numbers are less for women, around 40-50%. When it is estimated that 50% of internet traffic is porn related, isn’t it strange to see numerous reporters claiming that Bone did something strange by commenting about porn, by “admitting” he saw porn. Most of the reporters chiding Bone are watching porn, maybe even as they wrote the articles bashing him. News articles can call porn an “addiction” or “epidemic”, but since it is about as common as breathing among people, it is a bit odd to accuse others of a moral flaw for having seen it. The fact that Bone commented about leaked photos of Jennifer Lawrence was used to tar him, but why not tar those who leaked the photos and the websites that published them? Because, like with the bone accusation, it might mean realizing the writers of these pieces are themselves immoral. How many people reading articles claiming Bone look at nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and “liked it”, then went and googled those very photos, while wagging their puritanical fingers?
- Bone was accused of admitting to forging an insurance document to keep a job. In this case most people have probably not created fake documents to keep a job. But then again most people have also not had to support themselves as pizza deliverymen in America while not being able to afford insurance. Large number of Americans support affordable insurance coverage. The same people who have no problem with undocumented workers, or undocumented immigrants, seem to have a moral problem with a man who wanted to keep a low paying job delivering pizzas?
- The internet celebrity was accused of making money off his celebrity. He “sold out” people shouted, most of whom probably make more money than the “sell out.” Why is it selling out to cash in on fame? Kim Kardashian cashes in. Paris Hilton cashes in. Alec Baldwin cashes in. George Clooney stumps for Nespresso. No problems there. When millionaires cash in they aren’t selling out. Donald Trump puts his name on buildings, universities, and all manner of grossness and Hillary Clinton has the Clinton foundation with its lavish contracts with various consultants who are all political allies. No “selling out” there though? At fundraising events for Clinton she was making $150,000 an hour. She got $675,000 for three speeches to Goldman Sachs. She was being paid more for a speech than most people make in 4 years of hard work. But that’s not “selling out.” Ken Bone sold out for getting some free rides from Uber?
Bone told the ‘Times’, “My message has been one about elevating the level of conversation, and if I want to hold our leaders accountable for their words then I must be accountable for mine.”
Our tendency as a society to see immorality and flaws where we should see normality, where we should be seeing ourselves, is part of a national American sickness. We have a puritanical tradition that constantly attacks people for behaviors that are often completely normal and ideas that are often held by the majority. We are told again and again that something is wrong, when it is something the very people writing about it are doing on a regular basis. We have this lynch-mob mentality that wants to find in someone poor and simple the greatest wrongs, while we worship those very same wrongs when they are our “heroes”. If its Chris Brown or Kobe Bryant, Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus, well then there is surely an army of excuses. After all, nudity among them, crimes, “selling out”, or cashing in, abuses, vulgar languages, it’s all heralded as great. But some random man from who-knows-where, well he’s probably a sexist, racist, bigot who looks at porn in the dark. Looking at porn on MTV, or the constant porn sent to us in Game of Thrones, where almost every female character is nude (Express even ranked them) and where every-other woman in the show is treated as a prostitute and some are raped, is fine. Because our world says that objectification of women is fine in certain settings, in other settings no. When Hollywood actors do “mansplaining”, that’s fine. Average men, no, no, that’s disgusting and sexist.
We are told to value illegality when our politicians and celebrities do it, to celebrate how amazing it is for them to commit massive crimes, including tax fraud, but somehow we’re told to get out the pitchforks to stop the great and massive criminality involved in someone not having insurance when driving pizza for delivery.
That’s why America created a media sensation out of nothing, just to glorify in destroying the person it created, destroying the “myth”, that we ourselves were sold. It gives a moral authority to those who have no moral authority, and allows us in the populist masses to feel good about ourselves. “See, he’s disgusting, he watching porn. Disgusting!” Right. And then the people saying that go to a strip club while their girlfriends and wives at the new series The Girlfriend Experience…which humanizes and glorifies prostitution.
But remember, you’re disgusted by porn and prostitution. Except you enjoyed those scenes in Game of Thrones with the constant parade of prostitutes throwing themselves at every man. That’s not porn. It’s art.