Dingus of the Year: Jeff Bezos
He’s the dingus, and the villain is capitalism
This year, I had guest judges Sarah Weinman, Molly Jong Fast, Claire Zulkey, Elon Green, Sarah Jones, and Josh Gondelman help me round up and roast a host of dingii. They all refused to let me pay them, so I donated $750 to Nikole Hannah Jones 1619 School in Waterloo, Iowa. If you love your weekly and yearly dingus round ups, consider becoming a subscriber.
This is the second annual Dingus of the Year award. It’s a high achievement given to only the lowest of humans.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single dingus in possession of a good fortune is looking for a country to ruin. And this year, we had plenty such chucklefucks assembling like some janky Voltron to bring our country as near to the brink as we could be, given the circumstances. I suppose it could be worse, but there is always 2022. So, we have that to look forward to.
This year, I crowned weekly dingii, such as Josh Hawley, Nancy Mace, and people taking horse dewormer. The Olympics were pretty bad and remember when that boat got stuck in the canal? And of course, my nemesis, milk. There were so many of them, but no matter how many dingii there were, it was never Jonathan Franzen.
But in the end, there can be only one loser to rule them all. One person so egregiously dingusy that we all felt our lives get immeasurably worse because they were here.
Once again, I’ve invited some of my friends to help me round up this year’s top dingii. And you all voted, too, for the people’s choice award. So, settle in, because this is going to be fun. It’s going to be cathartic. You are going to laugh at the foolishness and weep for our nation.
I try not to pick murderers or self-proclaimed Nazis. And we only punch up. And we try not to excise personal vendettas, unless those vendettas are hilarious, then okay. In the end, the ruling ethos of this award is this: The world is full of fart faces and chucklefucks, people whose buffoonery not only makes our lives harder and more unbearable but is embarrassing, plain and simple, and all too often, they are the people in power. And there isn’t much we can do about it, except vote them out, or call them out as loudly as possible. And that’s what we are doing. These awards are offered in the spirit of the late columnist Molly Ivins, who said, “So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.”
Dingus of the Year: Jeffry Preston Bezos
Name me one person who has destroyed more of the American economy, mistreated workers, profited from the pandemic, doesn’t pay taxes, and now, after ruining earth, is on a mission to ruin space, than Jeffry Preston Bezos.
Jeffry Preston Bezos was beat out by Elon Musk for Time’s Person of the Year. So he sucks at sucking. But while he might have lost the Time Person of the Year title to Musk, as my friend Ryan pointed out, he can still win that coveted title, Most Divorced Person on Mars.
Jeff Bezos is so bad that literally all the money in the world couldn’t make his wife stay.
Jeff Bezos looks like Sloth went to prep school. Like evil Daddy Warbucks. He’s the 2021 answer to the age-old American question: How can a man make money as immorally as possible?
J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Leland Stanford are all in hell, looking up at Bezos and shouting that he’s gone too far. This Christmas, the ghost of William Randoph Hearst came to visit and was like, “Jeff, maybe the whole employees peeing in bottles thing was a bit much, and I literally beat up children?”
Jeff Bezos is the Ebenezer Scrooge of not paying taxes.
The only thing Bezos has innovated is corporate greed.
He started his business in a garage, so now more Americans can live in them thanks to his paltry wages.
He owns an entire media company but can’t come up with a better name for a spaceship than Blue Origin. Democracy dies in darkness. But profits flourish in dimly lit warehouses.
HIS KINDLE IS JUST FILLED WITH SELFIES. SOMEHOW.
Amazon has a larger carbon footprint than the country of Switzerland, and that’s just the emissions from Bezos’ head alone.
Recently, six Amazon employees died in a building collapse, after they were forced to work through a tornado. Bezos marked that occasion with the sensitivity and gentleness of a hurricane-force wind ripping up Kansas. Just hours before the collapse, he was posting about taking another little quick trip to space. I guess, why would we expect better from someone whose company came up with a booth employees could cry in, rather than paying them a living wage.
It’s incredible that a man with so much money can’t think of literally anything else to do with it besides make the world an immeasurably worse place. Truly, this is American ingenuity at its finest.
Remember when he was going to team up with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan to fix healthcare? Neither do they, because they failed.
I’ve got a lot of things I could say about Bezos, but Elizabeth Warren has roasted this guy with tweets hotter and more powerful than his NASA-cosplaying space phallus.
Elon Green is the author of Last Call and many of your favorite internet articles. He has so far not been named a dingus.
I used to joke that I hated Meet the Press host David Gregory for making me nostalgic for Tim Russert, whose legend rests on asking politicians obvious questions and, for some reason, using a whiteboard. And now I hate Chuck Todd for making me nostalgic for David Gregory, whose existence would be entirely forgotten were it not for his rap routine with Karl Rove. The [self-appointed] arbiters of quality journalism adore Todd. In an old profile, which was dated upon arrival, Columbia Journalism Review cited the man’s “refreshingly calm and watchable presence.” Meanwhile, Poynter couldn’t get enough of his “excellent interview skills of the top newsmakers” and kvelled that “his accessible delivery make him THE voice when it comes to news in these politically divided times.” The vicarious embarrassment I’m feeling is real, and it’s spectacular. Because: what an odd stance to take about a man who, more than anyone else in the business—conveying vital information to an audience—mainstreams authoritarianism.
Matt Negrin, whose day job is at The Daily Show, took it upon himself to catalog Todd’s sins. I’m sure this has taken a toll on his sanity, and the profession of journalism owes him a debt of gratitude. In less than a month, Todd has platformed Roger Marshall, a senator who opposed an inquiry into the January 6 coup, telling him, “I appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective with us, sir”; Senator Mike Braun, who spreads lies about voter fraud, and told Todd’s audience to oppose vaccine mandates; and Tate Reeves, the Mississippi governor who declines to say that Biden is a legitimate president but will happily tell Meet the Press viewers why abortion shouldn’t be a right.
These poisonous liars are invited on to the country’s most important Sunday show week after week. It’s a feature, not a bug.
If the purpose of journalism is, at minimum, to leave your audience smarter than you found it, Chuck Todd fails every time. And for what? The Republican Party already has a slew of networks on which they are encouraged to tell lies without pushback. It’s not clear to me what niche Todd and his producers think they’re filling.
A dingus for the ages.
Sarah Weinman is the author of The Real Lolita, Unspeakable Acts, and her new book, Scoundrel, is out on February 22. She is also the crime books columnist for The New York Times.
Criticizing a several-times-over billionaire has about the same effect as criticizing the sun. They will continue to accumulate money regardless of how much or little (usually little) they do to give back to society, and remain, inexorably and infuriatingly, immutable, set apart from the system even as that same system revolves around their needs again and again. There’s always the chance, though, that the billionaire will make a fatal mistake, like Icarus flying too close to that celestial body. But before that happens, the damage is already done. Accumulating billions has a pesky side effect of removing oneself from meaningful human interaction. But hey, private space flight and electric cars!
Anyway, I’m not here to lob direct critical missiles at the person anointed as TIME’s Person of the Year. Not when quotes from the women once closest to him will do the trick.
Justine Wilson, author of the novels Blood Angel and Lord of Bones, met Musk when they were students at a Canadian university. They married in 2000, had six children (the eldest dying as an infant of SIDS), and divorced in 2008. She then wrote an essay detailing what happened in their marriage for Marie Claire in 2010.
“He’s not a man who takes no for an answer.”
“I am your wife,” I told him repeatedly, “not your employee.”
“If you were my employee,” he said just as often, “I would fire you.”
“Elon made it clear that he did not want to talk about Nevada’s death. I didn’t understand this, just as he didn’t understand why I grieved openly, which he regarded as ‘emotionally manipulative.’”
“I realized the kind of social world I’d been living in: The females who populated it were the young wives and girlfriends of wealthy men, or the personal assistants who catered to them. Women disappeared after some point in their 30s, and any female ambition other than looking beautiful, shopping, and overseeing the domestic realm became an inconvenience.”
Riley, who was married to Musk from 2010 to 2012 and again from 2013 to 2016, has not, to my knowledge, commented directly on their relationship. She did, however, write a rom-com, Acts of Love, whose main character appears to be modeled upon herself and whose love interest bears more than a passing resemblance to her ex-husband.
“She wanted to be worthy of a literary romance in order to encounter a man more loving than her father, and all her favorite heroines were described as being impossibly, otherworldly attractive.” – from Riley’s novel, Acts of Love (2016)
“It’s not so much how I think as how I feel. Sometimes I feel so weak and helpless, because of everything I was told. Feelings can overpower thoughts, no matter how hard you try to rationalize them.”
Grimes, the professional name of the singer/songwriter Claire Boucher, had a relationship with Musk from 2018 through 2021. She gave birth to a son, X Æ A-12, in May 2020.
“I love you but please turn off ur phone or give me a [c]all.. I cannot support hate. Please stop this. I know this isn’t your heart.”
Garossino is a public affairs columnist for Canada’s National Observer and a former Crown prosecutor. She is also Grimes’s mother.
“If your partner went through a challenging pregnancy and childbirth in the last two weeks... And you were over 16 years old, Would you be blaring MRA bullshit on Twitter right now?"
Sarah Jones works for NYMag, where she writes the most amazing columns. And I’ve yet to see her have a bad take. Here is her very good take on Chris Cuomo.
Andrew Cuomo is the biggest monster in his family saga. But spare a thought for his little brother, my dingus of the year. Chris earned my personal enmity this year for being terrible while being a journalist, or at least, while playing one on TV. Put a little more seriously, I think the full extent of the family’s corruption only becomes clear when Chris, once a leading CNN anchor, is taken into account. The Cuomos are no strangers to nepotism, but when COVID hit, Chris truly perfected the art. Cuomo family members, including Chris, received special priority for COVID tests while the rest of the state struggled to get them, early in the pandemic. That’s bad enough but lo, it gets worse! After multiple women accused his brother of sexual misconduct, Chris not only advised him but offered to dig up dirt on the former governor’s accusers. Here, my dingus committed a serious error. CNN was willing to stand by its anchor—at first. (They shouldn’t have, but I digress.) Chris misled the network about the extent of his work for his brother, which cost him a gig he likely would’ve held for the rest of his natural life. Finally, Chris faced his own sexual misconduct allegations. Malicious, dumb, and allegedly creepy: that'’ the Cuomo trifecta, baby, and that’s why Chris Cuomo is my dingus of the year. Sorry, Cuomosexuals.
Claire Zulkey was one of the first writers I began to envy on Al Gore’s internet. I send her article about babies being babies to every new parent I know. She’s also the author of many a fine book and lots more, including a parenting newsletter. I eventually wrangled her into a friendship. Her dingus is Ted Cruz.
I tried my hardest, or, at least, I tried to be even-handed about Ted Cruz. I wanted to find reasons why he might not be the dingus he appears to be. I asked Texans, I looked through the news, and I couldn’t find anything. My favorite was a Quora post asking “Why do some people not like Ted Cruz?” with the most-liked answer beginning, “That’s not entirely accurate. The general consensus is that no one likes Ted Cruz.”
There are dozens of examples to choose from when it comes to Ted Cruz’s dingus year, and they start to sound like a new version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Refusing to wear a mask at Bob Dole’s funeral, blaming his kids for his Cancun trip, screaming “virtue signaling,” spreading big election lies, threatening a shutdown, teaching teachers not to teach, blocking each ambassador, fighting with Seth Rogen, fighting with Dr. Fauci, fighting with freaking Big Bird, what else do I have to say?
I think the worst thing about Ted Cruz is that his slimy spinelessness, his joyful unpleasantness, his rank hypocrisy makes Donald Trump look good by comparison. You know how when you’re picking up dog poop in the yard and you’re confronted by either a wet slimy shapeless mass of sick dog crap vs. some dried-up crusty turds and you find the crusty turds pleasant in comparison, easy to fling and pleasing that they maintain their shape? Cruz is the slimy poop. At least some of Trump’s acolytes, who I won’t mention here, seem to come by their dingusness more honestly in that they’re actually legitimately inexperienced, unintelligent, and disenfranchised. Somewhere inside Cruz is an experienced politician and human who received an elite education who should know better. And yet, he behaves the way he thinks Trump fans would enjoy. He trolls as if he has the beloved audience of a true troll, yet he won his seat by just short of 215,000 votes and, famously, nobody likes him. He is a copy of a copy of a troll. He seems to spend zero percent of his time actually standing for things rather than standing in the way of things, which is galling in even the best of times, and heartlessly damaging during a year of actual crisis.
Louie Buller Gohmert Jr.
Maybe you know her from the internet, maybe you know her from her podcast, or from her writing, maybe you know her because once-presidential candidate Marianne Williamson asked Molly’s mom to make Molly stop tweeting. But however you know her, the truth remains, Molly Jong-Fast is a super hero of writing, politics. Here is her take on Louie Gohmert.
I know we throw around the moniker “dumbest member of Congress a lot,” but I do think that Louie Gohmert is probably the all-time dumbest member of Congress. Perhaps it’s no surprise that he hails from Texas 1st district, which Cook Political Report has as having an R plus 25 rating.
Louie is also a disgusting racist. He once said on the floor of Congress that “I read last year that one of the basic goals of Black Lives Matter was to destroy Western-style families.” Daily Kos pointed out that, “There was the time Gohmert accused President Obama of trying to start up a new Ottoman Empire, or the many times he’s claimed President Obama is in league with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Louie was also involved in the January 6th insurrection. Though it’s not entirely clear just how much, he did sue then-VP Pence in December 2020 in the hopes of getting him to decide which votes to count: “Under the Twelfth Amendment, Defendant Pence alone has the exclusive authority and sole discretion to open and permit the counting of the electoral votes for a given state.”
Look, even Gohmert himself has admitted that a lot of people think he’s “the dumbest guy in Congress.” But Louie may not be the dumbest member Congress for long: he’s running for attorney general for the “great” state of Texas. Challenging the one person who might be sketchier than he is, Ken “under indictment” Paxton.
Josh Gondelman is an Emmy award-winning comedian who writes for the show Desus & Mero. Josh is also upsettingly kind and a good friend. And will, like Franzen, never be a dingus.
Joe Rogan is the Guy Fieri of Jordan Petersons (and goodness knows we don’t need any more Jordan Petersons). He’s a relatable stand-in for the audience’s point of view, a surrogate for our joys and hopes and fears and confusions. In Fieri’s case, the point of view is goddamn, hamburgers taste good! For Rogan, the perspective is more like I’m just asking common sense questions, here. There’s one crucial difference between the two men, though. In addition to being a lovable food enthusiast, Fieri is also an authority on the subject. He’s the Mayor of Flavortown, not just an ill-informed citizen at a Flavortown Council meeting, demanding the freedom to marinate his steaks in turpentine because he read on Facebook that it works better than barbecue sauce. Rogan, on the other hand, opines on life and death subjects like vaccine efficacy regardless of whether he knows anything about them, and he often enlists guests to inform him whose opinions aren’t “controversial” so much as they are “fully debunked” and “wildly reckless.” He is a classic “do your own research guy” (although it’s unclear how much peer-reviewed experimentation he did before committing to the Goopish-in-scope supplement stash he uses, endorses, and sells).
Rogan is a talented and charismatic broadcaster in the same way UFC is a legitimate sporting event. (Doesn’t do it for me, but I trust the consensus.) And it’s unfair to say that he’s always wrong. It can be a virtue to possess a healthy skepticism towards authority figures, many of whom can behave in craven and self-interested ways despite their obligations to the public. There’s no inherent problem with “just asking questions.” After all, that was pretty much Socrates’s deal. The issue is what those questions are and who you’re looking to for the answers. One question worth asking, for example, might be: “Is it harmful to my audience for my roster of guests to include a smattering of noted assholes and amoral grifters?” Another might be: “At what point do I become responsible for actually knowing about the things I talk about to millions of listeners?”
When Rogan himself contracted COVID, he claimed to have received “kitchen sink” array of treatments ranging from ivermectin to monoclonal antibodies, a variously relevant battery of medications that is out of the price range of most Americans (while the vaccine, I should note, remains free if shoddily distributed). And sure, this combination of medicines seemed to work for them. (Although, in terms of the inclusion of ivermectin, a Charleston Chew would also seem to your reduce symptoms if you combined it with medically recommended treatments.) But obviously Rogan was going to be fine. It’s easy to Mr. Magoo your way through life when you can afford to shut down a highway before you blindly cross it. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of sick and dead people, even the ones who like your podcast, don’t have that luxury.
It’s okay to be stupid. I, myself, am an authority on almost nothing. I have few practical skills and no idea how anything works. In a post-apocalyptic situation the best thing I could do would be to offer myself up as food before my muscles got stringy from trudging. (And I would do that, because I care about other people.) You don’t have to know about vaccine science to host a podcast! To paraphrase the great Tim Robinson: Not everyone knows how to do everything and epidemiology isn’t the only thing! But you can’t NOT know things and then act like that makes you an authority. Stupid plus popular doesn’t equal smart. And stupid plus $100 million plus a giant platform and no incentive to get smarter is scary and dangerous. And frankly, smart enough to know better but willing to play stupid for money and attention is even more despicable than that.
Joe Rogan is a dipshit masquerading as a dumbass, and for that reason he is my 2021 Dingus of the Year.
People’s Choice Award: Joe Manchin
From screwing up democracy to screwing over poor people, Joe Manchin has done the most to be the worst this year. And his contribution to pulling out all the threads of our unraveling democracy did not go unnoticed by Americans. Manchin was previously roasted in another newsletter.
But here is what a few of you had to say.
“I mean, the list of possibilities is so long it’s hard to choose just one. Still, Senator Coal Baron lives on a yacht in the Potomac and is almost single handedly blocking all progressive change, some of which obviously would affect his own wealth, while bleating on about bipartisanship.”
“Obstructionism, capriciousness and general ass-holery.”