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Debasing everything October 30, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I can’t help but read the stuff online about Ken Bone the other day and think that it is – as was put to me, a ‘fable of the campaign’. But not just the campaign, a fable about life in an internet age. For those who haven’t quite got up to speed with this, and fair dues if you haven’t, I only learned about this after the event too – it may be the best place to be… well, Bone had the misfortune to ask a question at the ‘town hall’ Presidential debate. On energy policy.

Large guy, unassuming look, red jumper, asks ordinary question. Immediately he became an internet meme – a kinder gentler age when Presidential debates were about… oh, I don’t know, policy, etc.

Of course it was never quite as simple as that, but then it wasn’t entirely devoid of that either. I seem to recall posting up earlier this year a 2000 Primaries debate amongst Republican politicians that was – courteous, informed, right-wing (natch) but far from awful. You and I might not like the arguments but at least there were arguments. All gone. Gone with the Trump, and not just the Trump but a decade of ever increasing belligerence.

And Ken Bone is, in a way both icon and victim of this. For his hearkening back to that (supposedly) more innocent, more policy driven age meant that Response 1 was ‘awwwwww’, much in the way a creature will respond, say, to a particularly photogenic squirrel. It is perhaps to his credit (or at least evidence of his good sense) that Fortune in this rather good overview notes;

Quite unlike the middle-American bumpkin his vaguely condescending admirers seemed to take him for, Bone leveraged his sudden celebrity. He traded Uber some rides for a tweet, and started selling t-shirts, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the homeless.

And so… Response 2 was, almost inevitably, ‘who the eff is one K. Bone?’. Because after all this is an age when the questioner is almost more important than any conceivable question or answer ever would be.

Following a Reddit AMA in which Bone used his longtime public account, the super-sleuths at Gizmodo dug up various past comments. They included some responses to adult content, one confessing to forging car insurance documents, and another providing advice to a fellow user considering a vasectomy.

Leading to quite mad stuff like the following:

The Daily Beast described the posts as “disturbing” and “unsavory.” Those are debatable characterizations, especially considering that Bone is still basically a private citizen.

The idea that, perish the thought, it just doesn’t matter what he does off the public clock, clearly never occurred to those doing the hunting. And let’s keep in mind he did literally nothing more in public than turn up, wear a red jumper and ask a question about an issue that excites probably no one. Nor does it matter that he had – frankly quite banal views on the Trayvon Martin case. Not mine, not yours I’d hazard, not entirely unthinking, not great, not entirely awful, just not important.

I think Fortune has it right in the following:

That process hinges on at least two things that don’t reflect well on public sophistication. First, it’s all painfully superficial, as we project our desire for innocence and optimism onto a cute man with a mustache and sweater, rather than thinking too hard about how exactly we reached a point like Sunday night. And even uglier, it seems we’re hungry for the downfall of the icons we create, turning the banal habits and opinions of a Redditor into “disturbing” character flaws.

And:

So yes, it turns out Ken Bone is just another guy, not some transcendent avatar of a better America. But that’s not his problem—it’s ours.

Not just America. All media. Near enough everywhere.

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