I read a story this morning that really made me shake my head about how misdirected we’ve become as a society. I think it’s especially worrying, because we live in times where liberal thinking is necessary to push back against greed, against religion, against white nationalism, etc, and it is those people we need to get angry about the right things. CNN reported that a young man who was raising money through beer sales for a local hospital had raised a million dollars, but than a Des Moines news paper dug up some 7 year old tweets that were racist (he was 16 at the time) and published them in an article they wrote about him. The paper claimed that it was standard to do a social media check on people that they write stories about, and that they felt it was important for the sake of transparency to publish these 7 year old tweets so people knew who they were giving their money to.
I’ll tell you who they were giving money to. A children’s hospital. The guy was raising money for a FUCKING CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL!
What he wasn’t doing:
- made any racist tweets since then
- wasn’t raising money for a white’s only hospital
- beating black people in the streets
- remaining a 16 year old
Carson King, who was raising the money, apologized publicly and tried to make the point that he is not that person anymore and that he’s become kind and generous. Which given what he is trying to do, seems fairly straightforward. The apology of course cared little wait with Anhauser-Busch who have now distanced themselves from King.
There is good news here. Although Anhauser-Busch rescinded their offer to give this guy a year’s supply of beer with his face on their can, they did agree to add to the donation to the hospital with what would have been that beer cost. So the hospital will still get what they were promised. More importantly the readers of the newspaper turned against them and complained about this ridiculous reporting. They went further and decided to dig up old tweets on the reporter, Aaron King, who reported the story, forcing him to then apologize for his past tweets.
It seems to me that what’s really going on is that journalism is simply a competition to get clicks, and to do so they use racism as a tool to stir moral outrage among liberals. And far too many liberals are falling for it hook, line, and sinker. The way the attention economy has co-opted people with good intention is troubling and of course it happens on both sides of the political aisle. In this case we can see the ridiculousness of it all, especially since so many products we buy and use are from companies that do far more harm than this man’s two tweets as a 16 year old high school student who thought he was trying to be funny. It’s further concerning because this mentality of ‘cancel culture’ seems only interested in the condemnation of people, no matter how far in the past they held a certain view or acted in a certain way, and no matter what they have done since then. No thought has been put into whether there is any apology good enough, or any actions that a person can take to restore public opinion about them. I think this is important. If we want to hold people accountable for their actions, we need to be able to also decide what is acceptable to make up for those mistakes. I realize this is the hard part, there is going to be a lot of disagreement, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Without that part, all we are doing is punishing and we move farther from creating the society we claim we want to create by supporting great liberal causes like better training for police, justice system reform, and decriminalization of illegal drugs. These are great causes that indicates a desire for restorative justice over retributive justice.
I’m glad that readers of the newspaper fought back as I think many people also felt that we’re going off the deep end here. Overall we have to do better.
*quote in feature image is from Quentin Thomas of the Brown Daily Herald