As you know, renowned journalist and author Jeffrey Toobin got in trouble this week for jerking off on Zoom in front of his New Yorker co-workers. The specifics of the incident summon up profound new frontiers of intrigue with each passing day, but the way I interpret the thorny reporting, Toobin was restlessly horny during an "election simulation" made up of New Yorker all-stars that, on paper, reads like a bizarre Beckettian stage play. People like Jelani Cobb and Masha Gessen were taking time out of their day to impersonate the various factions of modern American political life, (Toobin was representing "the courts,") and honestly, that alone is headline news to me. Is this what people do when they start making more than six figures in the media? Group LARPing what Donald Trump might say if he loses Ohio? It sounds like an improv game from hell. Becca and I are currently watching The Vow, and the mass hysteria you'd need to stir up in order to convince ordinary people to participate in a hot night of Election Discourse Wargames is taken right out of the NXIVM handbook. If you're starting a cult, borrow first from whatever the political bureau of The New Yorker thinks is a productive use of their time. Whatever they're on, I want some.
Anyways, at some point during this… "exercise," Toobin went silent, pointed the camera towards his crotch, and started going to goddamn town on his hog. We don't know how long this went on for, ("Did he finish?" will be a query passed around in clandestine DMs for years to come,) but The Toob then returned the camera to its rightful, God-fearing place, and continued the simulation as if nothing happened, leaving the rest of the participants wondering if they just had an out-of-body experience. A horrified Toobin would tell Vice that he thought he "muted" his Zoom feed, which, in the most charitable narrative possible, leads eagle-eyed readers to believe that the man was carrying out some sort of extramarital cam-sex quickie in a separate window while on the clock.
You probably have questions! So do I. Did the staff complete the simulation before informing Toobin that he had pressed the wrong button and now nothing will ever be the same again? Has Toobin been in this business long enough that he's completely transcended his own human proclivities, and leads a cyborg-like existence where he becomes unspeakably, desperately aroused when he encounters a Total Wonk Singularity, (TWS,) which a D&D-ification of the 2020 election made up of the elite Blue Check gentry almost certainly entails? We will probably never get these answers. Toobin has been suspended by both CNN and The New Yorker, and the way this year is going, I imagine the Zoom dick incident will become a distant memory in a matter of days as the first shots of the Neo Civil War are fired. That said, I think the verdict nearly everyone reached after ruminating on the news is that it’s a little bit telling that a man as powerful as Toobin did not seem particularly concerned about pounding one out on the company's dime.
But 2020 has been an unprecedented vortex of takes. It simmers at times, but there is always another knuckleball around the corner ready to darken the storm. The Toobin Saga revealed one of the ugliest truths of modernity; that everything — even a rich dude who disrespects his colleagues enough to JO in their digital vicinity — is worthy of interrogative discourse. These are The Top Three Bad Tweets of the Toobin Saga, sorted in their own respective categories.
A Tragedy The Likes Of Which We've Never Seen
Football players are "sidelined" when they tear an ACL. The camera pans over to the glowering athlete, now dressed in street clothes, looking on with a thin-lipped vacuous glare as the ruthless passage of time trudges on without them. Fans everywhere empathize with the harsh malfeasance of a star being robbed of their God-given ability by the physical chaos on the field — it forces you to confront how the burdensome restrictions of mortality ensures that we’re all one freak accident away from living a very different life. In the tweet above, Stelter uses the term "sidelined" for Jeffrey Toobin who, I have to say it again, is in hot water after lowering his webcam and cranking his knob in front of his coworkers. Dak Prescott, writhing on the AT&T Stadium turf, tears in his eyes, pointing down at his mangled ankle; Jeffrey Toobin clicking back over to his non-deviant Zoom room and being greeted by a shocked Evan Osnos. In Stelter's worldview, at least, these are commensurate tragedies.
The story Selter links to is 214 words, and it's headed by this amazing picture of Toobin, taken on October 13, where he looks like Frank Sheeran in the minutes before he pulled the trigger on Jimmy Hoffa. Toobin is a regular CNN panelist, and the crux of Stelter's lament is that his self-destructive haphazard horndoggedness is robbing the American people of a crucial public service. Toobin's New Yorker timeout will likely persist beyond the election — which means that we will have one less greying Writer's Guild appendage sitting in a way-too-bright cable news set, making the same arguments about Donald Trump's overt corruption that they've been repeating since roughly 2015. To me, that's another thing that Jeffrey Toobin doesn't have in common with Dak Prescott — he is entirely a replacement-level talent. There are thousands of guys who can slink in his spot and perform the role perfectly. CNN is a machine built to administer the same vector of threadbare political wonkery with literally any combination of Atlantic/Post/Times Concerned Boomer Emerituses, and with Jeffrey out of the picture, they won't even need to worry about installing blackout tablecloths in the Situation Room.
This Is What I Do, So I Am Here To Do It Again
(German's tweet was deleted, shortly after Donald Trump Jr. picked up the scent on it. So these screenshots will have to do.)
From what I can glean, German Lopez is on the public health beat at Vox, and I'm sure he has written more good stories than bad ones. That said, I most frequently encounter him after he decides to mount a no-win, hardline, psycho-contrarian warfront against the day's trending page. Lopez seems to do this out of sport; dreaming up a DEFCON-level take, dispensing it to the timeline, digging in, watching the quote-tweets zing by, and enjoying another orgasmic round of lacerating, bad-faith debate with enemies, co-workers, and 10-follower bystanders who've come to see the show. (As I've written before on On Posting, this disease seems to be quite common among the Vox intelligentsia.) Still, nothing in Lopez's back-catalogue can eclipse his Anti-Carceral Defense Of Jacking Off At Work. After being offered two options — A) commenting on Toobin being a careless weirdo and moving on, or B) saying nothing at all — Lopez managed to blow past all the warning lights and miraculously, found himself in a torrid, breathtaking Column C.
"A key contributor to problems like mass incarceration is our propensity to punish people with little regard to proportionality." We could argue about some of the finer points here: Who, exactly, is saying that Toobin should go to jail? Is Jeffrey Toobin, with a reported net worth of $10 million, truly the avatar of America's draconian penitentiary system? But that's not the point. Lopez didn't arrive at this conclusion because he earnestly believes that Toobin is like the hapless kid in 12 Angry Men; he's here because he's put in long, grueling hours to be This Guy. The world may reiterate over and over again that it is funny and contemptible to be beating meat on a Zoom call, but Lopez will lock eyes with that indisputable judgement, squinting like he's trying to see the zebra in a fucking Magic Eye, until he's able to serve up heaping spoonfuls of astral hell-logic to the masses. Actually, we are the monsters for clowning on Toobin while the U.S. has the highest prison population among founding NATO nations! What? What does that have to do with anything? Oh I get it, I get it. This is your thing. Well played, see you next time.
It Is Actually The Illuminati, The Freemasons, Who Are At Fault.
Libertarianism is the occult. We all know this. There is no force on earth that inspires men to be more paranoid and downright spooky about the erosion of civil privileges that they are uniquely entitled to enjoy. So this controversy — cranking at work vs. Randian individualist gobbledygook — was a one-of-a-kind unstoppable force/immovable object situation. As was foretold as soon as we heard the news about Toobin, some guy named Jonathan Kay at the Quillette brought out all the autocratic bogeymen to defend his Promethean honor. "Who are these Victorian Stasi who ratted him?" Kay says, citing the core tenet of natural law that guarantees all men the right to go Live and Uncut for any audience they choose. That's what Atlas Shrugged is about right? 900 pages about railroad policy, and an additional 200 of raw, full-frontal action.
Kay literally hosts a podcast called “Wrongspeak,” and represents the center-right, free speech-obsessed media contingency who work day and night to paint any opposition to their worldview as no-fun dweebs. But now, after an incredibly wealthy man beams his dick and balls to his colleagues, they're the ones playing the censors! Everything is a gigantic farce. You either die a hero, or post long enough to become the villain. Stay safe out there, and if you’re reading mom, I’m sorry that I put you through this.