…but, as Hyman Roth said, “This is the life we have chosen.”
The train wreck farce unfolds in three acts:
Act I, Scene One: Iowa’s Carson King, 24, was seen on “ESPN College GameDay” holding up a moronic sign in a football game crowd that read, “Busch Light supply need replenished. Venmo Carson-King-25.” That isn’t comprehensible English even by stadium sign standards. Needs to be replenished? Needs replenishment? Giving people positive reinforcement for being illiterate is irresponsible, and makes the public stupid.
Act I, Scene Two: People actually sent money to King’s beer fund on Venmo. With all the really desperate people in this country and all the legitimate objects of charity, this boob’s scrawled plea for beer money struck a chord. People sent in contributions who would normally sneer at homeless people begging on the street.
Act I, Scene Three: Venmo and Anheuser-Busch, seeing a promotional opportunity, both pledged to match donations to Kings “Help me be a drunk!” fund. The sign raised $1.14 million.
Now comes the one moment of reason and ethics in the tale: King decided to donate the money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Act I ended on a positive note.
Act II, Scene One: Aaron Calvin, a reporter with the Des Moines Register, decided to mine King’s social media history for dirt. The only reason to do this would be to try to embarrass the young man, or even ruin him. This conduct is unethical and disgusting when used to humiliate a professional athlete or public figure; it is unconscionable to employ against an ordinary citizen, and it is just as horrible whether the effort uncovers anything or not.
Act II, Scene Two: Calvin did find offensive tweets King made eight years ago when he was16. The hot theory in the so-called “cancellation culture” is that age doesn’t matter, maturity is a myth, and the scientific fact that adolescents are thinking with flawed, still-developing brains is no excuse for being stupid, reckless, or misguided. Your childhood indiscretions are fair game to use against you forever.
Act II, Scene Three: King took down the tweets, and grovelled an apology. He should not have done this, but we should not expect ethics nuance from a guy who can’t compose a coherent sign.
“Carson King Apologizes After ‘Hurtful and Embarrassing’ Tweet Surfaces,” the local Fox News affiliate shouted from its website. The tweets hurt nobody until Calvin decided to make them “hurt.” Calvin’s paper publicized stupid teen age tweets that may have been read by six people in 2012, so hundreds of thousands could see them and be angry at a child who no longer exists, and determine to punish the man he became.
Act III, Scene One: Anheuser-Busch decided that this was a wonderful opportunity to grandstand, signal its virtue, and throw King, who gave the brand free advertising on national TV, under the bus of shame. The company announced,
“Carson King had multiple social media posts that do not align with our values as a brand or as a company and we will have no further association with him. We are honoring our commitment by donating more than $350,000 to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.”
I wish I drank their crummy beer so I could stop forever.
Act III, Scene Two : Many people, those with operating ethics alarms, complained that the Iowa Register was wrong to publish the old tweets, because it was. Executive editor Carol Hunter wrote a statement to justify the paper’s unethical conduct:
“Some of the toughest decisions in journalism are about what to publish — or not. Such decisions are not made lightly and are rooted in what we perceive as the public good.”
The statement is horrible from beginning to end. She relied on two unethical rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms list: 13A The Road to Hell, or “I meant well” (“I didn’t mean any harm!”) and 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision.”
I particularly detest 19B. If she had a smidgen of decency it wouldn’t have been a difficult decision.
Then she resorted to complete fantasy. How does exposing a teenage tweet to embarrass a man who has just used his good fortune to benefit a hospital advance the public good? It doesn’t. It can’t.
Now I wish I read the Iowa Register so I could cancel my subscription.