Don't be Patton Oswalt
When someone has to grovel and sell out his friends to preserve "respect" among the Wokish, it proves there's no point in trying to earn it in the first place
The entertainer Patton Oswalt got into trouble last weekend after posting a New Year’s Eve photo of himself with the comedian Dave Chappelle on Instagram. Chappelle, of course, is hated by transgender activists and therefore by Twitter, a platform many ersatz liberals now use primarily to prove they’re even more Wokish than their fellow blue-checkmark cyberthespians.
Chappelle himself can’t be cancelled, so the rabble must be content with blasting away at more vulnerable celebrities with the nerve to, say, call Chappelle “a genius” and “a real friend,” as Oswalt did. The two have evidently been buds for decades.
That linked L.A. Times article describing the fallout is itself essentially a toned-down social-media rant, more evocative of Teen Vogue than of a major daily newspaper (he remarked dejectedly from 2015). Despite revealing how pathetically eager Oswalt was to kneel before the slavering online mob, it fails to convey what a classic putz Oswalt made of himself, and it outright omits how….well, how strangely he seems to weigh morality overall.
In the summer of 2016, Oswalt was standing firm, being his own man and taking no stank from the ninnies at either political extreme. This was an easy call heading into that fall’s presidential election, at which time neither extreme had almost unlimited power to destroy anyone’s life, and when “SJW” (“social-justice warrior”) was a more common pejorative label for what I call Wokish people (and that’s whether I’m insulting them or not, because is there a better one? What name would they prefer?).
If you’re familiar with Oswalt, or if you merely look at any photo of him, then you know that he probably faced two options by the time he was sixteen years old: Go into self-deprecating comedy, or die a slow death of repeated, sudden, and involuntary confinements in gym lockers and schoolyard dumpsters. Nothing he’s done in his career suggests he would ever stand up to any serious application of public pressure.
Oswalt’s not-quite-Oscar-worthy penance last weekend included doing a dangerous number of soy-milkshake shots, then posting an Instagram photo of himself writing on a notepad, sitting before a hotel mirror—get it? He was reflecting!—as if he actually composed his farcical yet obligatory mea culpa longhand before tapping it out on one of the phones visible in the photo.
Sadly, these kinds of rituals are de rigueur, almost to the point of summoning forth visions of whirling turnstiles in some dungeon for famous, wealthy, English-speaking invertebrates. Oswalt can say things like he’s “continually evolving,” because that’s just a tacitly understood synonym for “caving on demand” that the mob accepts for now. In that respect, he’s like almost every other public figure petrified of losing his career or merely his career momentum. And even the way he threw a supposed friend under the bus is also now commonplace—and even if Oswalt worked out his apology with Chappelle in advance, as is plausible, it was still a grim move coming from a supposed friend.
But as Jesse Singal reported last week—in a paywalled piece; those damned Substackers!—there is a better reason for equality mavens to be angry at Patton Oswalt, and that’s his being a shill for Ceasar’s Sportsbook and Casino (he’s in this 30-second ad). That company, whose app makes it even easier than it’s traditionally been for people with real gambling problems to quickly lose everything they have, pulled in over $8.3 billion in the one-year period ending on September 30, 2021—more than triple the company’s 2020 revenues. And as Singal explains, Ceasar’s Sportsbook and Casino surely has the same behavioral scientists and their diabolical keep-users-engaged tactics at its disposal that the social-media giants do.
I wonder what millions of people were doing with their smartphones while sitting inside depressed during the pandemic?
Patton Oswalt is okay making money off of this. A lot of it, in all likelihood. And surely he understands the seriousness of addiction in light of his own recent, horribly tragic history. In 2016 his wife, Michelle McNamara, died suddenly at age 46 of what appeared to be an accidental overdose, with Adderall, Xanax and fentanyl in her system, and he said that he felt he was at risk of falling into a pit of alcoholism himself as a result.
If we’re going to talk morality, if we’re going to talk harm, on what planet should we be bashing him for his guest set but not for this shilling?
The National Center for Responsible Gambling estimates that 1% of Americans has a ‘severe’ gambling addiction, and it cites what appear to be some legitimate academic papers. That’s similar to a common estimate of the trans population in the United States. Of course, not every trans American faces oppression (thankfully). Every person with a severe gambling addiction, on the other hand, has a severe gambling addiction, with all that entails.
Singal is himself keenly aware of the costs of actively combating the loopy narratives of the pro-trans online mob, let alone failing to appease them. He’s been the target of blatantly dishonest and disturbing cancellation efforts thanks to his reporting, which is not only rock-solid but as gracious as possible.
When someone starts making accurate claims about mentally disturbed people, he or she often becomes the target of those mentally disturbed people. That’s not new, but now that it’s cool for those in attention-whoring industries to behave as if mentally disturbed even if they may not be, pile-ons initiated by angry fabulists can propagate widely and rapidly through ostensibly saner channels. Often, people desperate to look good spread baseless slurs concocted by other blind approval-seekers in their industries without thinking about either the validity of the ideas they’re infecting others with or the consequences of their rumormongering. And no one person connecting a long chain of falsehood-distributors ever has to worry about looking especially bad as an individual; the penalties to the target are focused and immediate—though often permanent as well, which is the point—while any demerits incurred for wrongness and fecklessness are delayed and distributed across the throaty mob.
Trans people by definition have a mental illness. This is part of why a lot of people, sometimes without knowing they’re doing it, stand by uncomfortably even as some trans activists behave like dump-truck-sized lawnmowers all over the Internet: Yeah, they sound as hostile as can be. But somewhere inside that brain, a bunch of switches are off-limits even to the commanders-in-chief. Yelling back at them feels to a lot of folks like “punching down.”
Transwomen are men with gender dysphoria; transmen are women with gender dysphoria. A substantial number of kids who report gender dysphoria as teens—well over half, it appears—ultimately “desist,” which is not the only evidence that among younger people, trans identity may be related to “social contagion” factors. And people who surrender their personal pronouns without being asked, excepting members of the Twitter tribe trying to prove to others how progressive they are, are usually also volunteering that they have a mental-health condition. Talk to anyone like that for a few minutes, and you’ll discover you’re talking so someone who ‘s struggling in the world apart from their gender identity.
I’m not saying, “Don’t listen to these babbling whack jobs,” at least when it comes to struggling-in-earnest trans people. We* need to listen to people’s real concerns even when they are couched in a manner that seems obnoxious to most others, because in many cases someone can be labeled mentally ill just for being sufficiently obnoxious.
I am saying that basing laws, rules, and mores concerning public discourse shouldn’t revolve around the precepts of people whose thinking is divorced in obvious and critical ways from objective reality. If anyone can show me a single instance of how pretending, on national or greater scale, that something that’s false is real has advanced the goals of any sub-civilization lately—of how structuring the rules for everyone around a tiny percentage of disruptive outliers has marked a cultural leap forward—I’ll be happy to factor that into any future assessments.
Treatments for gender dysphoria range from counseling to medical therapy to surgical “transitioning,” but men do not ever become women and women do not become men in any medical sense. One can become more like the other, but drugs and surgery do not work magic. Similarly, the baroque terms and incantations used by gender impresarios do not work like spells to transform whole organisms into different organisms, all 38 trillion cells in a flash; these impresarios, though wild-eyed and frizzy-haired and bombastic at times, are neither licensed wizards nor certified alchemists.
You will not see transwomen getting pregnant and giving birth during your lifetime unless someone decides to pull a dangerous Centipede-style stunt, which would not be surprising. Transwomen are not merely not “biological women”—they are not women at all.
Society has found ways to accommodate, and attempt to ease the burdens of, mentally ill people without needlessly disrupting the lives of everyone else. For example, addiction is a mental illness, and I have served as one of its more florid examples. You don’t see people pushing for classifying a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 as “alternative sobriety,” or for letting people dangerously under the influence of any mood-altering potion(s) just stay that way, caffeine excepted. At least not yet, although the outright glorification of fat people getting even fatter suggests the Wokish might be prepping that idea for release, too. I guess to prepare for large numbers of mega-heavy people driving ultra-hammered, America’s highways could be widened and the guardrails protecting them thickened, at least once the Build Back Better Bill passes come 2043.
There is no reason for any society to organize its policies around personal or mass craziness. Technically, any belief in a god is craziness as far as making laws and rules goes, because no one can physically produce their version of god. The United States forbids the teaching of creationism in public schools, and most people are familiar with the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, right there in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, language that in theory forbids the commingling of government and sectarian religion.
Americans who don’t believe in any gods are quite used to the beliefs of other people who do. No one cares, or should, if America’s churches fill with up people who listen to some dude spout a bunch of stuff that, to be overly accommodating, strains credulity. We may not like it when Mormons or JWs come knocking at the door, tracts in hand and garbles philosophies at the ready, but we’re used to them, and most people aren’t calling for the extermination of evangelical religions or the scrubbing of faith from public life.
Maybe there is no easy path toward accommodating the fixed gender delusions of trans people in a way that makes their lives as comfortable as possible while not requiring everyone else to participate in their delusion. But as with religion, we need to find some path toward that goal. This could be as simple as setting things up so that people can live most of their daily lives as a member of whatever gender they like, but can’t carry that identity into sports separated by sex, the corrections system, and other areas where safety and fairness unequivocally prevail over “inclusion” concerns. (The transmale convicted of a felony who opts to serve out “his” sentence in a men’s prison will forever remain as common as the leprechaun or the unicorn.)
An obvious and, at this historical moment, insuperable barrier to this proposal is that trans activists are not in the compromising business. They absolutely don’t think any of the rules society has in place—for discourse, consistency, or fundamental logic—apply to them or account for their unique sensibilities, and that they should literally just get whatever they demand.
The reason for restraining birth males to male sports is not contingent. That is, the outcomes of competitions do not matter. The unfair part is trans boys or men (and “intersex" athletes) being in the same competitions as girls or women to begin with. Frequent wins, and the threat of violence by men against women (usually a perceived a no-no), are predictable consequences of unfairly allowing males into female-only sports. And no one I know has suggested that trans athletes are lazy—that’s just one more boogeyman for the The Chris Mosiers of the world to conjure up and whine about.
Above all, trans activists of the Twitter variety are intellectual cowards who only want to talk about “trans rights” with each other while shouting imperatives at the rest of us, like all religious extremists do. The podcaster with whom I chatted in December has been trying to get trans activists to come on his show along with a guest who would be considered inimical to the various falsehoods underlying the “let them play” movement. As part of this quest, he contacted the author of this truly ridiculous piece, which asserts that no one should get to question anything trans people say or do, so systematically oppressive is the world toward all of them. This was (most of) their exchange:
Grabarek is a woman from Connecticut who now lives in New Zealand and identifies as “transmasculine”—and if that’s any different from “transgender male” or “butch lesbian,” it’s not up to me to discover exactly how.
Don’t let the superficial cordiality fool you: The arrogance Grabarek shows here is breathtaking. Her words are tantamount to this:
“That's great you're here to be educated. But no, sorry, it won't do any good to have an honest conversation, because that won't elevate trans peeps. We're authoritarian sleaze-lords who want to gaslight everyone into our demented point of view and force organizations to hew to our demands through unabashed intimidation. No way will we have a conversation where someone points out my lies while I'm sitting there. But thanks!"
The “I’m tired of trying to justify my existence” is the most absurd part of all. No one is asking trans people or trans activists to vanish. It's their assertions that others are attacking and rightly so. Grabarek is clearly more than smart enough to know this despite the necessary loss of coherence any message suffers when the mind behind it has been shredded by Wokism.
This person knows she would look like a fool, a child actually, proposing ideas like "You're trying to deny my existence!" on a stage or in any moderated debate setting. One reasonable answer to that would be, "Nothing fake could be as irritating as you." But such an exchange will never happen, even with limitless ground rules for politeness set in advance. That’s just not how authoritarians operate.
But I’ll freely admit that if all trans advocates were like the lovelies who attacked Singal, I can say unhesitatingly that it would be great if they really did stop existing for good. Degenerates like that, as I know from prolonged experience, are constitutively and irreparably bad people—resentment-driven oxygen thieves whose raison d’etre in early chronological adulthood becomes disrupting as any things as they can without ever looking at the results of their strategically thrown, if often wildly aimed, Internet-bombs.
This also underscores another reason public figures like Patton Oswalt need not bother with trying to satiate the mob. When you give them what you think they want, they’ll just want more, like vampires with a hankering for crack-enriched blood-gummies. They operate not in a world of reason and sense but of explosive emotional “revelations.” Oswalt is not off the hook now; all he’s done is reset the behavior bar and commit to being even more perfectly nonthreatening than before. Meanwhile, the ever-salivating “whole organ systems can be wished into and out of existence” pack will find some other offender to attack before long, and probably already has.
Consider the absurdity of people who embark on anti-speech, career-ruining (or simply malicious-for-the-fun-of-it) authoritarian crusades simultaneously demanding respect—mostly for a supernatural version of biology, a canon of florid and garbled wrongness that its adherents declare incontestable—even sanctified—and that they refuse to debate in the open.
That’s where we* are now, and it’s beyond precarious.
Thirty-five years ago, when Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority was enjoying momentum under a conservative president, the musician Frank Zappa went on Crossfire, a show on CNN before anyone had heard of CNN, to take on far-right knob-job John Lofton and host-scold Robert Novak on the issue of “overly” profane or offensive song lyrics. The discussion grew increasingly lively and entertaining throughout.
Not everyone can be Frank Zappa. And most of you don’t have the dubious luxury I do, of having committed to a life path that has you not worrying about how you’re regarded or treated by crazy-ass liars, donkey-brained authoritarians, and unmedicated Twitter loons who have chosen to do this rather than stand on a street corner in the rain barking at the sky about the Whore of Babylon and her Too-Fertile Crescent.
But no one has to go as far in simpering appeasement as Patton Oswalt did, with or without the dubious-in-context association with Ceasar’s Sportsbook and Casino. In fact, had Oswalt not done so, far fewer people would be upset with him about him profiting from organized gambling, because far fewer people would know that he’s doing it.
I’ve gotten this far without even bringing up the grifting arm of the whole gender-is-whatever-we-say, healthy-at-any-cetacean-size, eat-our-twats-or-else freak show. That, with more of a focus on running personalities, is coming the next time I write about Wokism. I am hoping to maybe punt that one to the end of the week and include another post in this series in the meantime.
For now, recognize one thing: These cancel-happy sorts are insanely jealous of Dave Chappelle, not only because they can’t knock him off his perch—the guy’s material is universally worshipped by anyone who has any honest sense of humor at all—but because he has what they want, which is getting paid gobs of money for saying whatever he feels like with relative impunity. They know he is comfortable with who he is in so doing, while none of the Wokish are happy with themselves despite their confident blaring and even though many of them are as functionally prosperous as Chappelle.
For Chappelle’s part, this all must be especially painful for him to behold even if it doesn’t pack any material wallop. This is because—and I’m convinced that this is true even though I can/t prove it—Dave Chappelle is probably one of the fifteen smartest people in the world whom all of us regularly hear from or about. In finding mass insanity intellectually grating and mining that discordance for his most brilliant material, he is no different from any other top comic, today or ever. And one of the reasons he’s taking what he’s called a long break from specials is probably the fact that, even if he can’t be cancelled as a performer, any live performances he does going forward will essentially force him to broach the mess anew in his routine. And Wokish people have stopped being funny after only a few years of implacably infantile antics.