The Ken Bone Witch Hunt


We build them up just to knock them back down. It seems like every week, there’s a new person thrust into the spotlight that quickly becomes the target of a media witch hunt as it’s discovered that they are in fact not perfect. By not perfect, of course, I mean that they don’t hold the exact same opinions with the exact same intensity as people in the media.

This week’s target: Ken Bone. Ken Bone was a jolly-looking undecided voter in a red sweater. As a worker in the energy industry, he used the debate’s town hall format to ask a question about how the candidates’ energy policies would affect jobs. However, it wasn’t his question that people remembered. There was just something about him that drew the world in. He quickly became the subject of a number of Twitter memes, and many outlets were declaring him “the real winner” of the second presidential debate. Ken Bone was surprised by his sudden fame, but embraced it, leading to t-shirts, media appearances and a reddit AMA that would be his undoing.

The AMA itself went swimmingly. Ken revealed himself to be a fun, reasonable, quick-witted guy. However, in an unusual move, Ken Bone decided to use his actual reddit account for the AMA session. The obsessive nature of the reddit userbase led to many people digging through his lengthy posting history. People learned tidbits about his medical history, porn tastes, and his even-handed, centrist approach to just about every issue. However, for some, if you don’t take a side -their side- you are a monster.

In particular, it was his comments about Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photo leak and the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman that many took issue with, and caused articles such as The New York Post’s “Ken Bone is Actually Kind of an Awful Guy” to be published.

Let’s start with his comments on Jennifer Lawrence’s nudes that were leaked during “The Fappening.” Note that StanGibson18 is Ken Bone’s reddit username.


Somebody please point out the thing he said that was in any way wrong or offensive. The analogy he uses is quite apt. Misplacing his wallet, in the way that Jennifer Lawrence misplaced her nudes by having them on Apple’s extremely vulnerable iCloud service, isn’t permission to have someone steal them, but it’s definitely more likely to happen. Bad people are out there, and you shouldn’t avoid taking steps to protect yourself from them simply because you feel that bad people shouldn’t exist.

And yeah, attractive people’s buttholes are nice to look at. Deal with it.

Although most reasonable people didn’t seem to be as offended by the Jennifer Lawrence comment as the media would like us think, his comments on Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were much more controversial.



His wording of his comment made it very easy to reduce it down to “Ken Bone thinks Trayvon Martin’s killing was justified” for the purpose of clickbait articles. However, like with most sensationalist reporting, that version of it loses some important nuance, especially after Bone confirmed that he meant that it was justified in the eyes of the law. Essentially, he became the subject of a racism witch hunt for stating facts and editorializing that Zimmerman is in fact an asshole.

This media-driven witch hunt immediately made me think of a book I recently finished reading, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. In the book, Ronson looks at prominent cases of Internet shaming such as the case of Justine Sacco, who was burned at the stake for her “racist” tweet that to anybody with the slightest ability to comprehend sarcasm, was an obvious criticism of racism and white privilege. Perhaps it was foolish for Sacco to make such a tweet, just as it might have been foolish for Bone to do his AMA with his actual reddit account. However, people aren’t perfect, and a foolish move shouldn’t mean that a person’s life is ruined by an Internet lynch mob. We have come to hold regular people on the Internet to impossibly high standards, when in reality, it is the media that should be holding to a higher standard.


Read So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Leave Ken Bone Alone! From Meme to Monster – Whang!







Is Pepe the Frog a Hate Symbol?

tumblr_inline_ntgslfkwcu1sysrze_540The Anti-Defamation League recently declared that Pepe the Frog is a hate symbol.

Although the ADL wasn’t the first to make this claim, since Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has an entire page dedicated to Pepe memes, it was the first major organization to officially declare the meme a hate symbol. Pepe now joins the ADL’s Hate on Display database alongside symbols such as the nazi swastika and the confederate flag.

Pepe started off as a character in Matt Furie’s Boy’s Club comic. He later gained notoriety as a meme on 4chan when people started to post an image of Pepe saying “Feels Good Man.” This picture came from a comic in which Pepe pissed with his pants all the way down and responded to a character who confronted him about it.

The “feels good man” meme died down for a bit, but Pepe once again gained more mainstream popularity as a reaction image. Sad Pepes, smug Pepes and all different kinds of Pepes spread all over the Internet. Yet somehow, because some people made racist memes using him, we’re to believe that Pepe is now a hate symbol.

By the ADL’s own admission, Pepe is not exclusively used in this context.

“The majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted.  However, it was inevitable that, as the meme proliferated in on-line venues such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, which have many users who delight in creating racist memes and imagery, a subset of Pepe memes would come into existence that centered on racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted themes.”

This logic can be applied to just about anything in the world. So what if someone made Pepe memes that included nazi or racist imagery? Does throwing a swastika on something permanently taint every future instance of that thing as a “hate symbol”?

When you throw around the concept of racism so flippantly, you take away its meaning and further empower people to engage in truly racist acts.

-Justin Whang

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See also: Is Pepe the Frog a Hate Symbol? The Anti-Defamation League Declares War on Memes – Whang!