I am sure by now you have heard of Sarah Jeong but more than likely you never knew she existed just a short time ago. She’s a journalist hired by the New York Times and she’s under fire for racist tweets. The New York Times isn’t going to fire her though because she says the tweets do not express her actual beliefs but were sent in response to real racial tweets, sort of a fight fire with fire kind of thing. As an Asian she says she was attacked on twitter by bigots every day and she just got so sick of it that she decided to troll the trolls. Having done that myself I actually find that explanation plausible. I am not saying it is true, but based on the information I have I feel there’s a 50% chance of it being true. That’s the same with the James Gunn tweets if we really look at it. He says they were bad jokes.
That’s a binary choice – truth or not.
She’s either trolling the trolls OR a raging racist Gunn is either telling horrible jokes OR he’s a pedophile. Even if we take the tweets we’re still making a judgement that doesn’t make that 50% change. I read the Gunn tweets and I don’t believe him that they were mere jokes. That’s a value judgment on my part. I read Jeong’s tweets and I tend to believe her that she was trolling the trolls. But in both cases it’s my perception and not actually truth. I don’t know the truth and I cannot know the truth in these cases. I can say that the content of their tweets isn’t what I would say and that I it is content that I consider bad and wrong and ignorant. I cannot, however, accurately judge motivation.
In the case of Disney they fired Gunn. More than likely that was a move meant to be better safe than sorry. In the case of The New York Times they did not fire Jeong. It might seem like an inconsistency or an hypocrisy but it’s not. The situations aren’t the same as we aren’t dealing with the same decision makers.
On Jeong’s Tweets
When I look at Jeong’s tweets I can understand the reason she gives and it seems plausible to me because I have done similar things on-line. Not to the extreme she has but I have trolled the trolls. It’s sometimes fun to run them around in circles and make them eat their own tail. Then it’s even funnier to watch them deny that I was trolling them after I finally reveal to them that is what I was doing. Inevitably they tell me I’m just saying that and it’s not true. I assure them, it was true. So when Jeong says she was trolling the trolls, I can see that.
On Gunn’s Tweets
When I look at Gunn’s tweets I do not believe his explanation because, while I might troll a troll, I would never make jokes about sex with children or rape. That as humor is foreign to me. So when I read what he wrote I lean toward thinking only someone who actually thought those things could write those things.
In both cases I may be wrong.
Joeng may be a flaming racist and Gunn may be a kindly man who has never thought of children in a sexual way. All I can do is guess because in both cases they have said there was a motivation behind their tweets that was not manifest in the tweets themselves.
Even though you have read the tweets in both cases they are countered with an explanation, that if true, changes everything.
I bring this up to simply point out that if we are honest about this, taking it on a totally evidence based system of thought we cannot say with certitude if the reason they give is the truth or a lie. Disney made their judgement and The New York Times made theirs and all over the Internet people are making the same call. Some defend and some are angry that some defend. The stars of Guardians of the Galaxy collectively wrote a letter asking Disney to rehire Gunn and saying that based on their experience with him he’s a great guy and talented. None of that goes to give any proof at all concerning how he really feels about children.
The New York Times has gotten letter after letter saying they should fire Joeng and they released a letter saying they don’t condone her actions and even she has said it was a mistake to engage the trolls. But none of that goes to say if she really holds racism in her heart or not.
Decide as you will, just be aware that what you think about all this isn’t the truth. Meaning you cannot know it and do not know it. You simply think it is so and it’s wise to keep in mind that it might not be how you see it at all.
The hypocrisy in the Sarah Jeong case is off the charts. There is no way that the Times stands by a writer who expressed such animus against any other group.