ICYMI: Barstool and Deadspin are in some kind of feud. It started when comedian Miel Bredouw called out Barstool for stealing her content, and then Deadspin’s Drew Magary chimed in, imploring us all to Stop Enabling Barstool’s Shit. To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the whole thing until this tweet popped up in my feed:
Now, I have no desire to debate the whole Barstool/Deadspin issue. Frankly, I really don’t care that much either way (although stealing people’s content is bullshit, generally speaking) and I don’t need a million Stoolies enacting their special brand of vengeance on me. But the tweet above did get me thinking about a more existential question:
Do you have to be completely innocent of all things to judge the guilty?
The seems to be what Mr. Bunch (who, as the executive editor of the Trump-supporting The Washington Free Beacon, is the last person I want to hear from on issues of moral authority regarding sexual assault) is implying with his tweet, and all of the trite idioms around the topic would certainly seem to agree with him. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” (Why is there so much rock throwing?) “The pot calling the kettle black.” (And…vague racism, I think?).
But if we live by the bar Mr. Bunch set, who is going to be able to call out bad behavior? No one, because we are all in some way guilty of something. We’ve all told a racist joke, or made a sexist comment, or plagiarized, or just been a shitty person in general at some point in our lives. So if our past mistakes render us unable to point out wrongs, and yes, pass judgement on them, where does that leave us when we witness an injustice, large or small? Can I not call out someone’s racist behavior because I once told a super racist (yet pretty funny) joke? Can I not find someone guilty if I’m a juror in an armed robbery trial because when I was in college, I used to steal silverware from the dining hall for my sorority house?
Obviously, those are crazy exaggerated examples, but they demonstrate the point. Who among us is perfect, and if that’s the standard we set for being able to call people out on their bullshit, literally no one is ever getting called out again. Instead, having a discussion about abhorrent behavior becomes an exercise of fingerpointing while yelling “You did XYZ too!” and no one ever winds up being forced to change their behavior because no one is “justified” in telling them they’re wrong. So instead of subscribing to your theory, Mr. Bunch, I’m going to call bullshit on you. And I’m not even going to point out the irony of a supporter of someone who was caught on tape discussing grabbing women’s private parts calling someone out about a sexual assault tape, because that would make me as bad as you.
Instead, I’m siding with Mr. Magary on this one. A while back, he authored a piece called The Reckoning Always Comes, in which he talked his past making racist, homophobic, sexist, and misogynistic (my words, not his) comments and why he decided to (mostly) cut the bullshit. Read it, it’s amazing. He ends with this:
I have tried to reckon with my online past here, but I know the job is incomplete. There’s no “I’m sorry” for men to offer to make everything right. There is only the action … the will to take a good hard look at the man you’ve been, and ask if that’s really the man you want to be. You can either reckon with that now, or you can double down on your assholery. I promise you the latter comes with a bigger price tag.
And that’s why Mr. Magary is well within his “rights” to pass judgement on Barstool. It’s not that we have to have a perfect past to be qualified to call out things around us. Instead, we have to be self-aware enough to recognize such behavior in ourselves (past and present), know that it’s not ok, and be as willing to call ourselves out as we are others. That’s when judgement feels authentic – and may actually lead to a change for the better.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy some silverware for the dining hall; I want to be ready for the next time I get called to jury duty.