Thank goodness he’s been made an example of. This will certainly put an end to the phenomenon of 15-year-old boys saying offensive things.
I apologize for the tweets that have come to light tonight from when I was 14 and 15. I used a poor choice of word that doesn’t reflect who I am or what I believe. I did not intend to single out any individual or group.
— Kyler Murray (@TheKylerMurray) December 9, 2018
He won the Heisman on Saturday night, whereupon USA Today promptly barfed up a hit piece noting that he had used the term “queer” in a derogatory way on his Twitter account — six years ago, when he was still in his mid-teens. I’m glad they did, too. The backlash on social media to this instance of the Woke Police dumpster-diving for thoughtcrimes, committed in this case by a child, has been ferocious, maybe sufficiently so that the next media outlet to consider doing it will think twice. What made this one especially nasty, many critics noted, was that these vampires waited for the greatest moment of this guy’s life to sink their fangs in. They could have dredged up his old tweets at any point this season, when he was putting up big numbers for a playoff-bound team. (Or, of course, they could have shrugged them off, chalking them up to youthful ignorance.)
I wonder how long ago it was that USA Today first became aware of the tweets and whether the piece still would have run had Murray finished second in the Heisman voting. Would they have held it and dropped it on him instead before the Alabama game a few weeks from now? How’d they find out about his tweets, exactly? Were they tipped, or do newspapers now have reporters devoted to searching the Twitter archives of celebrities for the purpose of milkshake-ducking them at opportune moments?
Charles Cooke brought all of this home vividly by screencapping the Google News page of headlines about Murray on Sunday. What should have been a string of heds about the Oklahoma QB winning the sport’s biggest award is instead littered with words like “homophobic” and “anti-gay.” Cooke:
What, one has to ask, is the public interest angle here? Fourteen-year-olds say stupid things constantly. Yes, all of them. What possible good can it do to punish them as adults for the thought crimes they committed as minors? Had Murray committed an actual crime — say, shoplifting or joyriding or the like — it would likely have been expunged from his record when he reached the age of majority, especially given how impressive a young man he has become in the interim. And even if it hadn’t, the press would likely have been circumspect about bringing it up. But tweets? Apparently, we just Have to Know — and on the day of his triumph, to boot.
It wasn’t a week ago that Kevin Hart was demolished for thoughtcrimes on the day of his own triumph, ultimately leading him to back out as Oscars host. David Rutz of the Free Beacon flags other recent examples of athletes getting dinged soon after a major accomplishment — Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb, Josh Allen, Donte DiVincenzo. And both Cooke and Rutz note that the Woke Police in each case have had a strange habit of using the passive voice to describe their Twitter excavation practices. Reporters never proactively go looking for thoughtcrimes, it seems; rather, offensive tweets somehow merely “resurface,” as if their sheer badness has forced them to float spontaneously to the top of the news pool coincidentally at the very moment a particular athlete is in the news for an achievement.
Rutz thinks this is about revenge. Partly, yes, but I think conspicuously timing the rediscovery of thoughtcrimes to people’s accomplishments serves another purpose. The point is to signal that, although the saying of Bad Things in our wider culture may be inevitable, celebrating those who say them isn’t. In the name of equality and tolerance such people simply shouldn’t be admired, at least not unequivocally. Stapling their sins against progress to their foreheads ensures that no one gets a funny idea that a 15-year-old who says “queer” might grow up to be someone worth cheering. The “good” news, I guess, is that for now the targets of this impulse are confined to famous people plus the occasional random-person screw-up whose mistake becomes a viral phenomenon online. Whether that’ll still be true in 25 years, though, God only knows. Until then, it’s fire with fire.