Re: The Roderick Apology

If you’re unaware of the saga of the Bean Dad, a quick recap: John Roderick (an indie musician and avid podcaster) posted a story on twitter about teaching his kid to use a can opener BUT did it in kind of a self-depreciating way that made him out to be the villain. People caught wind of this, allegations of child abuse poured in, and as twitter does when engagement skyrockets the story made it into trending and onto the timelines of people who had no idea who Roderick even was. At which point people (presumably looking for a fight, not to change Roderick’s views) began going through his past tweets and found some anti-Semitic/racist looking stuff, and proceeded to go bombs away on him.

Let me be clear: Removing the racist/parental faux pas bits from this, I sympathize with the way Roderick reacted. I’m not saying right out I agree with anything he said, but when people are coming at you hard and fast and not giving you a chance to take a beat and actively respond, you’re going to either double down, or you’re going to just panic and delete everything and not respond. This is one of the reasons I hate how it’s acceptable to just blast someone like this relentlessly before they’ve had a chance to post their side of the story or defend themselves.

That’s why I took more of a neutral position on this, said I didn’t like the immense amount of toxicity around all this (I follow some people who have been on podcasts with or who are acquaintances with Roderick, and even they were getting the same treatment, having their timelines scrubbed through and anything vaguely offensive by 2021 standards drudged up and used against them. Hell, someone even tried that on me. And shit, I’m an internet nobody), and just wanted to wait to see how Roderick would eventually respond once some of the heat died off. Because in my eyes, while his past tweets looked like a yikes on the surface, I wanted two things before passing judgement: a chance for Roderick to come forward and defend himself/explain himself, and context to those tweets.

In Roderick’s apology, we got both. Here’s a link to the full apology. I want to talk about some of it in more detail, however.  

As I said prior, I don’t blame him for panic deleting his twitter because again: The amount of vitriol being tossed at him at the velocity it was being tossed? You can’t think in that environment, and anything you’re likely to say is just going to piss people off more and if you have the intent to settle this rather than just asserting that you learned nothing? You don’t want to piss more people off. Which is why I really do hate the way things like this are handled. In some cases? Absolutely justified. In other cases? The guilty party doesn’t get a chance to apologize OR defend themselves. I get that people want justice to be swift and ruthless, but there’s a reason the real justice system has due process. I feel like everyone should be at least given a chance to explain their side.

The Parental Faux Pas

Prior to reading this, on the parental faux pas my opinion was that Roderick handled it wrong, but constructive criticism would have been enough to tell him that maybe things (as he told them, mind) were not okay and maybe you should rethink your parenting strategies a bit. The intent was noble, the execution not so much. In the back of my head, though, and hearing from people around Roderick, I had the feeling that maybe things were exaggerated a slight bit and maybe he wrote this to make himself look like a jerk in a joking manner, and as the apology states, that’s exactly what happened. 

I framed the story with me as the asshole dad because that’s my comedic persona and my fans and friends know it’s “a bit”.

Passing around the story to some people I know, some did say it reminded them of ways they were abused when they were a kid, so I get it: It was really poorly worded and came off very wrong. But taking the parental faux pas in a vacuum, I think the response was way WAY out of control, and more or less toward the end of it more people came to watch someone get hung out to dry in the Court of Public Opinion more so than they cared about the child in question. At least that’s the vibe I got from it.

(Quick intermission regarding calling child protective services on him: I really, really feel like this was way, WAY out of line. I say this from experience because for a number of months I was in the foster care system as a kid. It was extremely traumatic. One set of parents I was with refused to let us have anything of our own, made us live out in a sunroom for a few months in the winter and none of us were ever allowed to have fun. Ever. Can’t go to the park, can’t go to afterschool programs, can’t have any friends. Our home was an “every man for himself” type thing where the foster kids would sell eachother out to get them in trouble to win favor with the parents. CPS aren’t the type of people you want for something like this, and arguably getting them involved is going to do more damage to the poor kid than just telling their parents “hey, you should maybe try doing this differently, yeah?”)

As it turns out, Roderick was actually engaging with his kid through all this, and they were having fun doing it. Both parents were involved too, and the kid wasn’t going hungry as most people tried to say was happening (and it wasn’t, though I thought that was pretty clear from the get go. As a kid? I frequently got canned foods out of the pantry and made them as snacks). This is what Roderick should have said, but again…the twittersphere was so fast and relentless and he couldn’t really respond with a clear head, so I’m willing to give him a pass on that.

The Racist Stuff (And on people changing)

It was at this point I decided I wanted subheadings because there is a LOT to go over here because I feel strongly about some things.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that holding grudges against people and claiming they’ll never change and such is the wrong mindset to have especially when it lets such a person live in your head rent-free. Which is why–in MOST case–I’m very against digging up the past and using it against someone years down the road for a cheap shot. The reason: people can change, and who they were 7-10 years ago could be wildly different than who they are now.

Allow me to put myself out there as an example: I got out of a relationship that went ridiculously sideways toward the end of 2009 and partially into 2010 as I tried to fix it. For a while? I was convinced women were out to get me. I said some stuff that could be very likely construed as misogynistic. I threw in with people who encouraged those tendencies and kept kicking my problems further and further down the road, never confronting them and taking them out on other people who didn’t deserve it.

After I had recovered from the outright rollicking I had taken mentally from that whole ordeal, I apologized. I cut off the people who encouraged me to be that way, and I even patched things up with the ex in question (and we’re actually totally cool now). I’d like to think the whole experience, in the end, made me a better person, and that I’ve learned from all the experiences that happened, be they good or bad.

What happened to Roderick is something similar. He wasn’t guided by emotional turmoil (I think), he was just doing something he thought was okay. He was corrected on his behavior back when it happened (as per the apology), told what he was doing was wrong, and he stopped. Why he didn’t delete the tweets I’ll never know (maybe because it’s a form of responsibility to just leave them up as if to own them and use them as a point of reference for how you’ve learned and changed, but alas). I think they should have been deleted so no one would ever have to see them again after he came to the conclusion that he was wrong for using those terms, even in jest.

But this is a huge example of why I vehemently dislike the seemingly acceptable practice of digging up someone’s past and using it against them in the future, or even taking something that they did in the past that wasn’t offensive then, and judging it by the societal standards of today. Roderick–as far as I know–got the message the first time, and quit saying racist stuff. He hasn’t done anything like that more recently. From the screenshots shared, the most recent of these tweets was 2013. That’s 8 years ago in 2021. A lot can happen in 8 years.

The time I think it is relevant to bring someone’s past into question is if they show no signs of having changed or learned from their past screw ups. I’d think dragging out Roderick’s past would have been more acceptable if, say, he was still spewing racist garbage to this day, his past being proof that he was always like this, and he hasn’t changed.

But that’s not what happened. He was corrected on this and has since ceased the practice as of 2013 or so. He hasn’t said anything racist since then.

I feel like the drudging up of his past here came across more as a convenient cheap shot against him when he already did a good enough job being Twitter’s main character for a few days was just…excessive. If one had dug up something of the past of him being, say, an abusive parent or something? That’s entirely relevant, and I think that’d have some merit being brought forward. But going through his timeline to find something, anything for the sole purpose of attacking him just to see someone burn at the stake, even if those things have nothing to do with the reason why he’s getting raked? I can’t say I condone it.

It would be like me saying something stupidly wrong regarding tech such that I got piled on by tech twitter and someone went back and found something I said about my ex and tried to tie that to my tech knowledge. They’re two different things, and dragging up events like that–again–comes across more like a cheap shot than an actual point you’re trying to make.

Conclusion

At least for me? I accept the apology. It covers all the ground it needed to cover, it gave us the context that we were missing for the old, “racist” tweets, but also accepted that he was wrong in trying to use slurs to mock those who would use them. It also explains the whole can opener story well, and I personally see no reason to consider this a “sorry you’re offended” or false apology.

If you want an example of how this could have been handled the wrong way, may I present The 8-Bit Guy. Video came out of him saying he gets a perverse pleasure from triggering the Sandy Hook moms advocating for gun control. He put out a video addressing this, and the gist of it was, in a nutshell: “sorry you’re offended. Here’s why I said that, but I don’t regret saying it.” Even though mocking people who had just lost their children is very fucking insensitive.

Roderick didn’t try any of that, and I find his apology to be perfectly cromulent. I do know some probably won’t find it acceptable, but I also find myself asking what more could he do?


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