It seems like forever ago that America was celebrating the arrival of a new folk hero. Forced into the spotlight after the second presidential debate, Ken Bone won over the world with his soft voice, slightly misguided query, and iconic red sweater (which sold out minutes after being identified as a reasonably-priced Izod).
In the days that followed, Bone went on a whirlwind press tour, appearing on every network and website you’ve ever heard of (including ours). For all his affability, he became a meme, a sexy Halloween costume, and, most importantly, the bright spot in a bleak election cycle. Then the levees broke. Bone carelessly used his actual Reddit account to hold an AMA, revealing that he enjoyed porn, had a vasectomy but didn’t struggle with sensation or ejaculate volume, and held only a tenuous grasp of the details of the Trayvon Martin case.
Within hours, the public had turned. “Finally, it’s safe to come out of the closet and confess that I always hated Ken Bone,” wrote Gersh Kuntzman of The New York Daily News, before raining down a stream of vitriol. Elsewhere, Bone was pilloried for “selling out” to Uber, which may have been an FTC violation (never mind that most Americans would quickly do the same), for once lying about his insurance to get a job (which Bone later admitted was a fabricated fabrication), and for cashing in on his “ill-gotten” fame.
During his 48-hour ride on the news cycle roller coaster, Bone and his red sweater were feted, torn apart, and eulogized. Sure, his end could have come more swiftly (and kindly) if we’d all just stopped paying attention, but there’s a certain order to the way these things play out. Both human curiosity and the media’s need to follow the thread even if it goes to an unpleasant place are culpable. Sure, many outlets debated running with Bone’s Reddit history, but in the end, we all did it. How do you deny the numbers? How do you turn away from a story people want?
Once Bone’s public free fall started, he was quick to address it on Twitter:
“I want to thank all the people both online and in person that reached out to encourage me yesterday,” Bone posted. “Haters gonna hate. #likersgonnalike.”
As Ken Bone rapidly learned, the public loves as good as it hates. But while someone’s 15-seconds of internet fame can end in an instant, the after-effects can last for a long time.