This week, the public was treated to a rendition of one of Aesop’s lesser-known fables, The Troll, the Moron, and the Stooge. There was no real moral, just a reminder that a sizable portion of the internet consists of opportunists tugging on their own nuts and screeching when they feel they haven’t received enough attention in the last hour.
Barstool Sports, a website for people who never wash their boat shoes, published a blog Tuesday by writer “Gay Pat.” It made fun of Anthime Gionet, a.k.a. “Baked Alaska,” a run-of-the-mill alt-right knob who used to work at BuzzFeed and declared he was red-pilled after he began to feel conflicted about his job that entailed publishing tweets. The blog’s original headline was “A Neo-Nazi Leader Named ‘Baked Alaska’ Is Sad No One Will Rent Him An Airbnb,” and it featured a photo of someone, who was not Gionet, in a Spartan-style helmet with the Star of David on the front. The Barstool Sports account tweeted the headline and photo.
Fighting discrimination with discrimination- not okay, Airbnb! They should know better than to judge a book by its cover, even if the cover dresses like a Spartan warrior at the Folsom Street Fair. Besides, they’re not there to cause a ruckus. They’re there to make sure a confederate statue remains intact. And their articulate leaders Richard Spencer and Baked Alaska are leading the charge. Yes, you read that correctly. An alt-right leader is named after a delicious dessert consisting of ice cream, cake and brown meringue. What a loser. Any fear I had of Nazis just flew out the window. To be fair it’s a nickname, which almost makes it worse. He chose Baked Alaska. That would be like me choosing the name Cervix Killer.
It’s clear Airbnb is bending over backwards to be politically correct. These people aren’t far-right. Nazism isn’t on the spectrum of normal political views. Credit where credit is due though, whoever’s in charge of their screening process should be promoted, stat. If I saw a request for a stay from someone named Baked Alaska I’d expect a cake.
Gionet took umbrage with this characterization and threatened legal action. (Note that slander is different than libel; the former is spoken, while the latter is written.)
Barstool Sports deleted the tweet the same day, changed the headline description of Gionet to “Alt-Right Troll,” and switched the photo to an image of him. Gionet kept asking various Barstool Sports employees why they called him a neo-Nazi. On Wednesday, with the complaints and threats continuing, Barstool founder Dave Portnoy told Gionet to call in to his radio show.
“I am not Gay Pat,” Portnoy said, before half-heartedly defending Gay Pat.
At about the same time this was happening, Clay Travis, a Fox Sports contributor (and former Deadspin contributor) and self-proclaimed big, strong man who recently wrote 2,800 words when an airline wouldn’t let his lice-infested child board a plane, started a separate feud over a different Gay Pat article, this one about former Google employee James Damore’s 10-page memo to his coworkers. (Damore had argued that giving minorities and women more chances to excel in tech was actually harming diversity. It is unclear what color the sky is in Damore’s world.) Like many media outlets, Barstool Sports described the polemic as “anti-diversity.” This did not sit well with their readers—including Curt Schilling—or Travis.
Travis and some Barstool Sports employees argued back and forth over who was more triggered, who was the bigger snowflake, and whose website has more readers. Eventually, Travis, too, was invited on the radio show.
Travis appeared Thursday in an 11-minute segment with the intensity of an altercation at Buffalo Wild Wings that isn’t bad enough to call the police, but involves people being separated just to cool them off. In May, when Barstool Sports writer Chris Spagnuolo wrote a blog about Rihanna that caught a lot of heat, Portnoy didn’t hesitate to throw his employee under the bus. (Spagnuolo was suspended and left the company after signing an agreement.) Portnoy once again distanced himself from his employee when Travis said he didn’t like the blog.
“So, like a freelance, like—the guy you’re responding to, and I didn’t think it was a great article either—Gay Pat, like freelance employee, you respond and say ‘Oh, Barstool’s going down the tubes,’ on a freelance—that forces me to put you in a body bag,” Portnoy said.
When Travis criticized the editorial structure of Barstool Sports, Portnoy lost his temper. “Gay Pat caused a fight with you, and he caused a fight with a Nazi,” he shouted. The two yelled more; Travis said he’ll have made “several hundred million dollars” by the time he retires; and Portnoy called him a loser until the call was disconnected.
Gionet’s interview, also Thursday, was an astounding example of cognitive dissonance. Portnoy attacked Gionet for his stale Holocaust jokes, repeatedly called him a Nazi and in favor of white power, and screamed at him for the majority of the call.
Some transcribed excerpts, which include Barstool Sports employee Kevin Clancy:
PORTNOY: I actually think you’re just kind of a troll. I don’t know that you’re necessarily deep down anti-Semitic because you went from pro-Black Lives Matter to white power in the span of, like, 10 minutes. To me, that’s a strange, impossible move.
GIONET: I’ve never said “white power,” that’s a lie.
PORTNOY: Well yeah, I see the videos when you’re walking around, saying how white people have to take back the country and all that shit, and I’m not going to do the semantics game with you.
GIONET: No, I am pro-white. I stand up for my people.
PORTNOY: All right, so that’s white power.
PORTNOY: Here’s my thing, Baked Alaska. I call it as I see it. I go down the middle. You don’t. You love white people, now you hate black people. You hate Jews.
GIONET: No, no.
PORTNOY: Do you think oven jokes are funny? Do you think oven jokes are funny?
GIONET: Bro, I—
PORTNOY: Don’t call me “bro.” Do you think oven jokes are funny?
GIONET: I think all jokes are funny.
CLANCY: That’s the worst part about your whole shtick. You’re not good at it, you’re not funny, and you don’t even stick to what you say. If you believe in it, say it, dude.
PORTNOY: Baked Alaska, we’re not politically correct, but we wouldn’t call a black person the N-word and be like, “Haha.”
GIONET: I would never do that either.
PORTNOY: Yeah, you would.
GIONET: Guys, I’m a Trump supporter. I support Donald Trump.
PORTNOY: I’m a Trump guy, too.
GIONET: Okay! Well, I care about this country, bro. And I care about America First. I openly state you might have seen things out of context—
PORTNOY: How is doing oven jokes out of context?
GIONET: No, that’s funny, I don’t care about jokes.
CLANCY: Good ol’ burning Jews in the oven. That’s a knee-slapper, bro. That’s the funny stuff.
GIONET: That’s not what I said.
CLANCY: No, but that’s what you intimated. And that’s the point is—you make all these vague references to certain horrific racial issues and then you’re like, “No, I didn’t really mean that.” [crosstalk] Be a racist and a Nazi, but stop being such a little bitch about it.
GIONET: So, you think if I make jokes, I’m a Nazi. Okay.
PORTNOY: I think if you make jokes about the Holocaust, say the Holocaust probably didn’t happen how people say, say Jews should go in the oven, yeah, you’re a fucking Nazi.
At its core, this is a timely debate among the worst people about who’s the least worst: The genuinely terrible person, the person who pretends to be terrible because they think it’s funny, and the person who pretends to be terrible to attract terrible readers. (The boundaries between the three are often blurred beyond recognition.) You’ve got one side portraying itself as defying political correctness, another side shitposting itself off a cliff into a world where a bigoted, idiot president who golfs while he threatens to use nuclear weapons acts as an avatar for whites longing to regain full control of society, and then a third faction that attacks the first for going soft on its race-baiting (a complaint echoed by many of the first’s longtime fans).
Because someone has to be the social justice warriors in any online beef, it turns out that Barstool Sports, the site built on sexist and ethnic jokes under the guise of offending everyone, is in fact a den of liberal cucks when compared to the guy who used to support Black Lives Matter but now makes Holocaust jokes because he found it to be more profitable under President Trump. This is especially ironic given that Kevin Clancy, who was present for Gionet’s segment and held court on what constitutes an actual joke, loves to make fun of Jews.
But when Clancy tried to explain his humor in a different discussion last month, he claimed it’s not like what some lowlife like Gionet does, because ...
Here’s what Portnoy and Clancy said after interviewing Gionet:
PORTNOY: The worst thing is, is this thing—anything he says that people don’t like is a joke. That’s fucking garbage.
CLANCY: My favorite, too, is “All jokes are funny.” Every single joke that’s ever been said: funny.
Barstool Sports has long used the same approach (to shock) and material (Jews). So what’s the difference? Clancy and his site now have something to lose.
Gionet, who had talent once upon a time, is a toxic asset, cast out and required to ingratiate himself with MAGA chuds in order to bring in some kind of income. Meanwhile, Clancy and Portnoy are at a growing company with a loyal fanbase. These people buy the figurative and literal merchandise, which creates an identity. They’re willing to overlook unreadable, error-filled blogs for the personalities they enjoy, even if they complain that the presence of investors and an actual CEO might force the website would have to tuck in its shirt, fix its hair, and stop cracking rape jokes. Clancy, who hosts radio shows for the company and has a large following, retains value. It’s worth defending him. Spagnuolo and Gay Pat aren’t seen in the same light. (Poor Gay Pat is still blogging away as of publication; who knows if he’ll keep his job.)
Gionet’s following is mostly anonymous Pepe avatars, or those proudly using their real names because they have no other avenue to being accepted by peers. The Barstool Sports following is mostly public and stumps for a 40-year-old because he gives them an identity. Neither of these groups can handle those identities being jeopardized, because it’s all they have or at least central to who they are. It’s no wonder they jump down the throats of anyone who criticizes them.
The reason Dave Portnoy brought on an alt-right troll was so he could look like a hero and assure his audience that he and Barstool Sports are nothing like this grotesque post-Gamergate groundswell that believes it’s fighting culture wars and harasses anyone who crosses them. His error was failing to recognize that when the two are juxtaposed, they don’t seem very different at all.