Now that the waters are still, the time has come to reflect on the online typhoon that was the Ken Bone debacle.
For those who are unfamiliar with Ken Bone and his short-lived Internet legacy, here’s a modest explanation: At the second presidential debate on Oct. 9, Bone asked an admittedly simple question about the candidates’ energy policies. What followed was an Internet infatuation for Bone and his “adorable” appearance (that of a red Izod sweater and caterpillar mustache). Over the next few days, Bone exploded to the level of celebrity recognition; he was invited to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and his face was plastered across Twitter and several big time news outlets (including CNN and The New York Times). Then, on Oct. 14, Bone was invited to perform a Reddit Q&A session, known as an “Ask Me Anything.”
During his AMA, Bone mistakenly used his personal Reddit account, allowing for other users to peruse any past comments or posts. Within his Reddit history were comments that Internet users and journalists alike have called “unsavory,” “controversial” or even “disturbing.”
Many articles, including those produced by The Daily Beast and New York Post, have attempted to degrade Bone. Tom Sykes of The Daily Beast writes that Bone’s online remarks were “decidedly less than wholesome,” while Yaron Steinbuch of New York Post considered Bone to be “kind of an awful guy” and his comments to be “cringeworthy online musings.”
I believe these, and other journalists, fail to consider the context within which Bone’s comments appeared. Furthermore, the comments themselves are no more condemning than the everyday thoughts of a normal man (which, contrary to popular belief, is what Ken Bone is).
Bone’s comments were never intended for a national audience. In fact, in many ways, his comments were private, anonymous thoughts that were never supposed to be identifiably his. America wasn’t supposed to know that Ken Bone, the man, likes pregnant pornography, or that he frequents several pornography avenues on Reddit. But viewers of these comments were supposed to know that Reddit user, StanGibson18 (Bone’s username) did these things.
William Turton, a Gizmodo writer, treats the comments as though they were written for the public saying, “Ken Bone also revealed, uh, a little bit more information we didn’t really want to know.” The problem with this line of thinking is that Ken Bone revealed nothing to us. The people who scoured his account history did. The people who propagated his “less than wholesome” comments did. Ken Bone, the man, wanted none of the attention that his previously anonymously-generated comments have now provided.
Even with the context for Bone’s comments established, the actual material within the comments is not, to me, convincingly “unsavory” or “disturbing.” The material is merely human. One of the most frequently used examples of Bone’s unsavory opinions is a comment he posted in reflection on the Trayvon Martin shooting, wherein he said the shooting was “justified.” He went on to explain that the situation was unfortunate for all parties involved. Not once did he say that the shooting was “good” or anything along those lines. His comment on the shooting was opinionated (and presented as such).
Another comment that was used in nearly every article on the subject is a remark he made on the leaked, nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence. Bone provides an anecdote in order to explain where the blame should be placed, on Lawrence or on the people who stole the pictures. He decides that the blame should be placed on the people who sought the photos but admits to viewing the pictures himself and enjoying them (which, for many people, proved to be entirely too human).
If Bone’s comments are enough to condemn him, then so too are every heteronormative man’s thoughts and private conversations.