The Dancing Man and the
Cult of Well-Intentioned Idiots

Recently a 4chan post purporting to be of a fat man being bullied started spreading on the Internet, and then the Internet mobilized to his rescue:

First, the Twitter campaign started:

Which quickly snowballed into a campaign to not only identify this man, but to seek him out for a dance party with thousands of strangers, "all women," because apparently their gender matters. Nothing conveys your message sincerely like misspelling the word "sincerely:"

Soon, even celebrities like Pharrell, Susan Sarandon and Moby joined in:

Then the LA Memorial Coliseum offered to host the event, the LA Tourism and Convention Board offered to cover his travel expenses, and as of this writing, $34,975 was raised in donations for a dance party for "Dancing Guy:"


The result? They eventually banged on enough pots and pans to find this guy. But in all of the commotion of their well-intentioned cheer, did anyone stop to consider that:

MAYBE HE DOESN'T WANT TO BE FOUND.

Regardless of whether or not he's happy about the campaign to find him, the dance party or the attention, everybody who went on this virtual manhunt violated his privacy. Maybe he just wanted to be left alone? Maybe he was on a work trip and took a break to go somewhere he wasn't supposed to be, and now his job is in jeopardy because his boss might have seen this photo? Maybe he's in a witness protection program? Maybe he just experienced the loss of a loved one and just wants to be left alone to grieve? Or maybe he just doesn't want the pity of millions of people because he's a grown-ass man and can deal with it himself.

Now, thanks to millions of bandwagoning idiots, we may never know for sure if "Dancing Guy" wanted to be found because he's now pressured to live up to the expectations of countless morons who want him to play his part in this contrived narrative to bring closure to this story. His own recent tweet has given some indication that he wants to be left alone:

During all the fuss and hurricane of good-will, did anyone stop to consider that this story should be fact-checked before everyone jumps on board and donates $34,000 to throw a party to right some perceived wrong we're not even sure occurred?

News outlets from Huffington Post, The Independent, Boston Sun Times, Fox, E! and NBC covered this "story" without so much as checking a single fact. No journalism, just parroting. How much do we actually know about this guy? Was he shamed, or was this just a mean caption that was added to some random photo of a fat guy that the author found? After all, he looks like he's simply looking down in the second photo. Taken out of context of this caption, there's no reason to believe this man is sad or has just been shamed.

Far be it for me to question the veracity of claims made by screenshots of anonymous comments from 4chan, but did anyone bother to stop and ask why a man would be dancing in a room full of people wearing coats? Was this a room full of people who were really cold, or do these people simply like to sweat profusely while they dance? Did anyone consider the possibility that these photos were taken seconds apart?

How likely is it that someone so immature would be at a party where the average age of attendees seems to be 45? Is it even a party? And did anyone consider the possibility that if this bully (or bullies) was really laughing so hard, that someone at the event would have said something to him/her? After all, even people on 4chan rebuked the anonymous post:

No time for facts, we need to run to the rescue of this grown man, apparently. Rather than allowing this man to have the dignity of an autonomous adult, we're treating him like a toddler who needs coddling. This isn't about him, this is about the people who created this narrative. They want real-life to imitate the saccharine Disney stories they're brought up on, so they can brand it, package it, consume it and sell it back to us with Coca-Cola's blessing. You want to feel good about yourselves without actually doing anything. These people are literally congratulating themselves for not getting up off the couch:

Not only are these people stalking a random stranger, they're making countless assumptions about him. Some well-intentioned dipshit made this graphic to help spread the #FindDancingMan campaign. Her gambit is to offer the company of 1,727 complete strangers, who "are all women," as if that would matter to anyone other than a single heterosexual male who would value or need the attention of women dancing around him. No time for thoughtfulness, let's just assume he's straight and doesn't already get attention from women in his life! Who exactly is shaming whom again?

I've made a few corrections and additions to the campaign graphic that the original author may have left out unintentionally:

She made sure to mention that these 2,000 or so women (or maybe billions by the time this article is published) are young, further making assumptions about this man's sexual preference.

While we don't know anything about "Dancing Man," what we do know for a fact is that the original author of the post is a malicious person. The caption he or she wrote, whether or not it applies to the posted photo, is mean-spirited. That suggests that the author is ethically ambiguous at best, and malevolent at worst. So we're choosing to trust everything that an ethically ambiguous or evil person says without question now, and nobody has a problem with this? Good job, idiots.

A much more nefarious case of well-intentioned idiocy played out on the pages of Rolling Stone recently, when they published a graphic account of a gang rape of a University of Virginia student. In an effort to be sensitive to her, they honored her request to not contact the alleged assailants. The story recounts a brutal rape that left her bloodied and injured from a punch to the face. Rolling Stone was commended for their in-depth journalism. The only problem?

The story wasn't true.

Or at least, several key elements of her story didn't check out, including details like the fact that the alleged rapist was in another state the night of the alleged rape, didn't belong to the fraternity she claims, didn't go to her university, hasn't been to her university in six years and nobody with his name in the United States even exists. That, and there were no parties the week of the alleged crime, no pledges during the fall semester and her own friends didn't observe any physical injuries to her. Even one of her friends, a self-identified rape survivor, said that she doesn't even know what to believe after even the number of alleged assaulters changed.

Rolling Stone has retracted the story:

You can read all about the demise of the Rolling Stone story here.

In a well-intentioned effort to be sensitive to the alleged victim, journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely opted not to follow the basic tenets of journalism to fact-check her article. The most damning thing about this scandal is the chilling repercussions this story might have on future rape victims, which may discourage them from coming forward out of fear that people might doubt their claims.

Good intentions cloud judgment. Behind every good intention is an ego that thrives on validation. Everybody wants that little pat on the back for doing something right—myself included, which is why my back feels like it's being patted all the time because everything I do is right. Erdely wanted validation for appearing sensitive to rape victims and handling a delicate story with grace. And the women behind the Dancing Man effort wanted validation for appearing magnanimous by donating their time and... bodies for dancing? And sometimes people seek that validation from their peers by trying to appear progressive.

When Jon Stewart from The Daily Show announced that he was stepping down, a cacophony of well-intentioned idiots flooded social networks imploring Comedy Central to hire a "minority" or a woman to replace him, preferably both. Because if we've learned nothing from Martin Luther King Jr., and we haven't, true diversity comes not from the content of our character, but the color of our skin. And which genitals we have.

One candidate in particular, Jessica Williams, stood out from the pack because she's talented, funny and was already a Daily Show correspondent. The only problem? She didn't want the job. Or at the very least, she felt under-qualified for it. In her own words, she said, "I'm not hosting. Thank you but I am extremely under-qualified for the job!" So there you have it, a strong, funny, self-reliant woman evaluated a job opportunity and made a choice for herself and decided not to pursue it. End of story, right?

Wrong.

That's where things would have ended, if it weren't for some well-intentioned blowhard rushing to protect poor Jessica Williams from herself. A writer named Ester Bloom wrote an article about how Williams had fallen victim to what she called, "imposter syndrome," a phenomenon where people feel undeserving of their success or achievements. Bloom interpreted Williams' statement as a win for "old white people," like the decision was made by a cabal of old moneyed Southern plantation-types—probably men, I bet! Or some psychological disorder. Or anything but Williams herself. Bloom was incredulous of Williams' motives and thought she had the perfect solution:

Bullshit. All Williams needs is a pep talk. Get Luvvie in a room with her, and Jazmine, and Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham. Get Paul Feig in there too, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and George R. R. Martin. Get her the best Lean In group of all time. She will emerge as from a funeral pyre, naked and coiled in dragons, ready to lead.

Of course, besides the fact that one doesn't "emerge" from a funeral pyre (you get cremated into ashes, though it's telling that her fantasy solution has fantasy results), this is incredibly condescending. In an effort to save Williams from herself, not only is Bloom insulting her intelligence, but she's casting her as a victim and creating a no-win situation for her. If she doesn't pursue the job, she's appeasing "old whitey." And if she does pursue the job, she's appeasing young whitey, as her colleague Wyatt Cenac pointed out. And even if she does pursue the job, there's a chance she might not get it, which of course, would validate blowhards like Bloom. And even if she did get the job, she then would have to do all the hard work of keeping it and filling those giant shoes by keeping ratings up. It's not a decision to be made lightly, and there's a huge chance of failure. And with that failure, more reaffirmation by the Blooms of this world, who'd throw their exasperated hands up in the air and say, "See! Women and minorities can't succeed!" Except they can, and they do. Every day, when you treat them with the respect and dignity of an adult.

Williams responded personally to this article and told her to "Lean the Fuck away." Amen:

Bloom has since apologized, but the best way to avoid this kind of grief and embarrassment is to simply try not to be such a well-intentioned idiot. People don't need to be coddled. Humanity has survived holocausts, wars, natural disasters, plagues and reality television. We don't need our hands held when life gets tough. And the people who do—or think they do—will ask for it. There's no shortage of them in this world. Don't look for victims and don't be a victim.

Update (06-12-2015):

So the party for dancing man occurred. Here's what did and didn't happen: it wasn't hosted at the LA Memorial Coliseum (the "worlds [sic] greatest stadium"), Pharrel didn't show up (they played a video chat on a projector instead), but most disappointingly of all, Moby did show up. The event was co-opted by a number of app-companies and charities for publicity. A lot of people have asked me what I think now that the party happened. It changes nothing because as I mentioned up top, the well-intentioned idiots couldn't have known what his reaction would have been before-the-fact. He was pressured by millions of people to give them the outcome they had hoped for; he played his role in the narrative that the public wrote for him and we got our fairytale ending. The deed is done and we're all dumber for it. These events have already started to embolden mimics everywhere.

One such stunt came to light last December when a man from Wellington, New Zealand created a social media campaign to track down a girl he met on New Year's Eve. When he finally did, he learned that she wanted no part of it, and she spurned his global-stalking efforts:

She went so far as to delete her social media presence to avoid stalkers. Even the man who initiated this campaign realized his mistake shortly after, and was quoted in an interview with The New Zealand Herald saying, "It was a hell of a lot of pressure, after the second day it sort of dawned on me that if I was going through this much, then there was going to be an incredible wave of pressure slammed into her." No shit. That's why you don't launch a global Facebook campaign to stalk someone.


Barry Kough/Lewiston Tribune
Another instance of well-intentioned idiocy occurred in Idaho recently when an SUV crashed through a chainlink fence and rested on the edge of a canyon. A man passing saw the teetering SUV, ran over like some kind of lumberjack badass and saved the passenger. The hero left the scene because he wanted to remain anonymous and didn't want to deal with the media circus or having to take time off work. Of course, the brigade of well-intentioned idiots on the Internet couldn't let him be, so they tracked him down to get a statement. Here's what he said:

“This is exactly what I didn't want”
-Jason Warnock, hero who wanted to remain anonymous, Seattle Times

Sorry Jason Warnock, the Internet has decided that what you want doesn't matter anymore. He went on to say in a Lewiston Tribune interview, "That's why I left. I cannot stress that enough. I'd rather be in the mountains picking mushrooms." And that's why you don't take part in a global man-hunt, no matter how well-intentioned or idiotic you are. Sometimes people don't want to be found and the fact that you want real life to play out like some bullshit Hollywood fairytale doesn't matter. Get over yourselves.

483,571 people became stalkers this week.

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