This week, the bedraggled, accursed masses searching desperately for anything to enjoy about Sunday’s presidential quarrel were finally thrown a bone—a Ken Bone, the merry, mustachioed gentleman who briefly made being an undecided voter in the middle of goddamn October seem sort of huggable. Viewers sparked to Bone’s cheery red sweater and surname, a positively adorable euphemism for fucking. Hashtags were drafted. Halloween costumes were sold. Americans, hoarse from screaming at each other, suddenly had a lump in their throat, and its name was Ken Bone. And now, we are choking on it.
Bone’s rapid rise to viral fame received its official coronation Thursday, in the form of a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session. Unfortunately, Bone made the fatal mistake of abandoning his beloved name to log in under his usual Reddit alias, “StanGibson18.” In addition to revealing that Bone is apparently a huge fan of supplemental characters on Netflix’s Daredevil, thanks to Reddit sleuths who bothered to click on his profile, it soon emerged that Ken Bone had pulled several ken-boners in his time there, posting several things that clashed with the wholesome, Kohl’s-clad image the nation had projected upon him. For example, there was the time he weighed in on the hacking of Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos:
It seemed Bone also once admitted to committing a tiny little bit of “felony insurance fraud”:
And in the post that’s drawn the most heat (to the point where he’s since gone back and deleted it), Bone once said that the killing of Trayvon Martin was “justified”—although he also said that he believed George Zimmerman was a “big ole shitbird”:
It also seems Ken Bone once wandered into the “PreggoPorn” subreddit, deeming a photo of pregnant women in bikinis “beautiful human submarines”—but then, who are we to judge?
America, that’s who. And we demand wholesale righteousness from all of the people whom we unwittingly thrust fame upon, because we are bored and irritable and we need something fun to focus on amid the relentless churn of misery from this exhausting shit-show of an election. Why not the guy with the funny name? It kinda sounds like “Can Bone”!
The truth is, though, Ken Bone was never meant to be our hero. His debate question, which was somehow held up as a paragon of good sense amid so much infuriating rubbish, was actually kind of shitty. It combined a generic bromide about our energy remaining “environmentally friendly” with a self-negating mishmash about keeping fossil fuel plants in business. But it wasn’t about groping, and it didn’t give Trump an opening to ramble about ISIS, so we embraced it. We embraced it like a teddy bear of a man in a cozy sweater who looked like a quirky, lovable Jon Polito character, God rest his soul.
It apparently didn’t even matter that Ken Bone was basically just looking out for Ken Bone: As the press very quickly discovered, Bone works in the coal industry, at one of the dirtiest plants in the nation—and one that’s routinely dodged compliance with current legislation to be “environmentally friendly.” In some of his other Reddit posts, Bone proposes his own energy plan of shutting down only “older” coal plants in the short term along the way to phasing it out entirely. Still, in the meantime, and “over the next 20 years or so” of that slow phasing, he’d obviously like to keep his job. And his “hero” question was basically, “Can you pay lip service to the environment while assuring me I’m still gonna get paid?”
It also doesn’t matter that Bone’s Reddit posts also paint a more complex picture of his person than today’s shaming reports actually present. Suggesting why he’s still an undecided voter, he says he’s “a pretty conservative guy (in fiscal policy anyway, do what you want with your own body), but I like Obama.” He wrote this compassionate response to a rape victim; he offered this fiery condemnation of Stanford rapist Brock Turner. He studies taekwondo. He is Ken Bone, and he contains multitudes.
But memes have no room for such complexity. The internet abhors nuance, and it adores digging out old posts. And so it seems Ken Bone’s time as America’s favorite squeezable stress toy may already be at an end. The initial backlash began early on Thursday, when Bone—taking advantage of his skyrocketing Twitter following—posted an ad for Uber that violated FTC regulations, prompting Bone to take it down and issue an apology, and for the cries of “sellout” to begin in earnest. By that evening, the scrutiny of his internet past had begun. This morning, Ken Bone has been dubbed “seedy,” “unsavory,” and “awful.”
It’s clear that Ken Bone will be completely picked over and tossed to the dogs by the weekend. From the black, yawing abyss of this election, we now see, no light may escape. Time to throw another Bone on that foreboding pile of skulls.