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Dingus of the Year 2022
All the people and things we loved to hate this year
This is the third annual Dingus of the Year. The Dingus Awards began as a little Twitter joke when I worked at my local newspaper. The Iowa GOP had called me crass, so I decided to be more ladylike with my language and use the word “dingus” instead of a whole host of other words that are perhaps more apt. I still got fired. And the lesson I learned was that when people want you to be less, they never wanted you in the first place.
When I started the newsletter, the Dingus of the Week began as a regular feature for the Friday newsletter. Through the years, the dingus has become about finding humor and joy and eking a little witch cackle out of the mess of humanity. It’s the release valve, the steam hole in the kettle, that lets out the pressure of this human existence.
We have to find humor in the fight. We have to point out the oddities, the eccentricities. We have to say out loud that emperors are naked, it’s not okay to “both sides” trans rights, and that, actually, NFTs are a scam, and Amazon is evil. We have to call a dingus a dingus when we see it.
The Dingus of the Year has also become a little fundraiser. A way to highlight the good work being done in the world to counteract the dingusry. Last year, I donated $700 to the 1619 School in Waterloo. And this year, I am donating $1,000 to One Iowa.
One Iowa is an advocacy group working to advance rights for LGBTQ+ people in a state that is working to pass laws to limit them. I’ve seen firsthand how One Iowa has stopped many anti-trans bills and helped advocate for queer people in the state.
So, this year, with the help of special guest the comedian Vinny Thomas and the incredible writers Parker Molloy, Claire Zulkey, Josh Gondelman, Megan Greenwell, Laura Lippman, Kelsey McKinney, Virginia Sole-Smith, Elon Green, and you, I’ve rounded up the top dingii of 2022. Let’s go!
Blue Check Customers by Vinny Thomas
What is a blue check? You can’t touch it. You can’t eat it. A blue check bears no fruit or meat. A blue check cannot be burned for fuel, nor passed down to your grandchildren. If I had to explain what a blue check was to a medieval pauper, they would spit at me in confusion. Then, they would burn me at the stake for witchcraft…and homosexuality (my fault for going to Europe in 1482).
And so, dear reader, given all of the things that a blue checkmark cannot do, why the fuck would you pay for one?
Enter a group of sloppy zealots, so starved for conspiracy that they’d pay $8 a month for what is essentially a shape and a color. Don’t be fooled, these underdogs have been systematically ostracized by the leftist cabal at Twitter. Their lack of engagement surely has nothing to do with their annoying complaints, damp energy, or anonymous profiles (stormpatriot69, et al.).
Never mind that Twitter’s algorithm already had a bias toward right-leaning politics. No, it’s gotta be the checkmark.
It’s hard for us to understand why someone would send money to a billionaire for a virtual sticker, but one must remember that for piglets, the instinct to suckle is intense.
The New York Times by Parker Molloy
Few news organizations have disappointed me more in 2022 than The New York Times, which seems to have decided this was the year to go from simply being mildly anti-trans to full-on embracing the right-wing moral panic about everything ranging from trans athletes to trans teens to trans… well… anything. The paper put out a “reported” piece about “the left” trying to supposedly abolish the word “woman,” even though it cited precisely zero instances of anyone calling for such a thing, then followed it up with a handful of unhinged anti-trans opinion columns by Pamela Paul (who also, without citing a single example, accused “the left” of trying to abolish the word “woman”), a few poorly reported pieces (including one that quite literally explained that the two sides were as follows: “Doctors who treat transgender patients typically describe the use of puberty blockers as a safe, reversible way to press pause. Republican politicians and other critics say the treatment is dangerous, even likening it to child abuse”), and most offensively, an opinion column from one of the paper’s liberal-leaning columns called the attack at Club Q in Colorado “only a matter of time” and had the audacity to include the line, “There are, I believe, legitimate debates over questions like when puberty blockers should be prescribed or gender-confirming surgeries performed on minors” — again, in a column specifically about people getting shot up by a terrorist.
It’s all very depressing. I’ve long since stopped pitching the Times (or The Washington Post or, well, most places) because while these outlets all really want to write about trans people, they don’t seem to have any interest in actually letting trans people speak for ourselves. I’m sick of it, and it’s time people realize that these outlets (especially the Times) have played a major role in life becoming a living hell for trans people.
Parker Molloy is one of the smartest writers and the most analytical mind holding the media accountable. Subscribe to her newsletter.
All Those Losers by Claire Zulkey
I took satisfaction this year observing that proud stupidity and meanness seem to have worn out their welcome in terms of a winning electoral strategy. Of course, there will always be jerks, especially on social media, who get off on trolling or owning the libs (“the libs” usually indicated by some crying/yelling woman in a meme). People like Ron DeSantis serve as a clear warning that some politicians still thrive using cruelty and spite as a policy measure. But the results of the midterms (particularly Herschel Walker and Kari Lake’s losses), MAGA’s vocal disappointment in Trump’s “big announcement” about his muscle-man NFTs, and the evidence that Elon Musk’s lame thirst is a sloppy business technique all give me a little bit of pleasure in 2022. Is it ironic that I take joy in other people’s losses? No! Only a beta cuck would think that.
Claire Zulkey is a hilarious genius. Freelance writer, author, and evil witch behind the evil witches newsletter. Subscribe.
Tom Brady by Josh Gondelman
This year, as part of what could credibly be called a quarter-life crisis (I’m assuming he will live to be 180 years old), Tom Brady got divorced from Gisele Bündchen after 13 years. He recently said that the split was amicable, and that going forward he hoped to focus on taking care of his family and winning football games. And sure, excising someone from your family does make it more manageable to focus on, I guess. At the time of this writing, Brady’s Buccaneers are a middling 6–7. At that rate, he might as well have continued dividing his attention between work and keeping his marriage afloat (or simply retired from football at age 45 with his body miraculously intact, excepting what he allegedly did to his own face).
It’s also worth noting that Brady is under investigation for possible securities violations related to his cryptocurrency promo, which is an impossibly dorky scandal for him to be involved in. It’s like if Vin Diesel got caught blackmailing a reporter who had a video of him crying after losing at chess.
Josh Gondelman is a comedian and author. You know him from his work on the TV show “Desus and Mero” and from his appearances on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and most importantly, his contributions to this newsletter. Watch his stand-up special “People Pleaser” immediately.
Sam Bankman-Fried by Megan Greenwell
I almost talked myself into believing that SBF shouldn’t count as a dingus. After all, his whole shtick these days is claiming he’s just too much of a dingus to have any idea what was happening with his companies. “I’m just a wee widdle child prodigy!” screams the 30-year-old white dude who has never known anything other than a life of extreme privilege. “I can’t possibly be held accountable for billions of dollars in customer funds somehow moving from one of my companies to another and accidentally funding all my personal expenses!” This has made the saga very, very funny, obviously — funnier still because he was repeatedly held up as not only a financial genius but the guy who would literally save the world from pandemics and revolutionize our political system — but claiming dingushood as a legal defense should arguably get one banned from the dingus roster.
And yet! Watch 30 seconds of any of the many, many, many, many, many, many interviews the man has done — seriously, only 30 seconds, any more is almost certainly hazardous to your mental well-being — and you will be forced to conclude that Samuel Benjamin Bankman-Fried is a gold-medal dingus. Seeing him dribble pamplemousse LaCroix down his chin while perched in front of a fake fiddle-leaf fig was bad enough, but his desperation to blame his sometimes-girlfriend/hand-picked CEO for orchestrating an elaborate con at his expense is just painful to witness.
There’s stiff competition, but the absolute most pathetic part might be his planned congressional testimony, which he didn’t get to deliver because he got arrested instead. The draft opens with him saying “I fucked up” (because he’s edgy, see?) but then spends many thousands of words complaining that nothing was actually his fault, and, in fact, he’s the only one who could fix it all, but the meanies in charge of the bankruptcy won’t let him. For bonus points, he a) implies it’s antisemitic to go after him for fraud, b) insists he’s never been drunk, for some reason?????, and c) suggests that his biggest failing was scaling his working hours back from 18 hours a day to a mere 13 in 2022, which prevented him from seeing the fraud that everyone around him was doing, which he definitely would have stopped.
Look, the entire crypto industry is one giant dingus. In the now-infamous words of SBF himself, people decide to put money in a box that people like him have disguised as a “life-changing, world-altering protocol” even though it is literally just a box, and then suddenly that box is worth billions. (In the now-famous words of Matt Levine, this is what we call a “Ponzi business.”) But the King Dingus is the guy who claimed to be trying to regulate the industry to stop all those bad guys while also saving the world from itself through the mostly bullshit “effective altruism,” but in fact just doing normal old fraud to benefit himself.
He’s not a dingus because his inexperience caused him to lose track of what was happening at his companies, as he claims. He’s a dingus because he somehow still thinks whining to every journalist alive plus the House Financial Services Committee is going to get him off the hook for wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy, and money laundering. It’s possible to be both a moron and a criminal, and becoming world-class at both earns a person automatic entry into the Dingus Hall of Fame.
Meg Greenwell is a brilliant writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter (while it lasts).
Book Bannings by Sarah Weinman
This fall, I found out one of my books, The Real Lolita, was banned in several state prisons. At first, I took it as a badge of honor to be banned, and in a way, it is. That The Real Lolita would upset prison systems in Texas, Florida, and Oregon on the grounds (in the latter state) of being a "threat to national security" is bizarre and hilarious. But it's also indicative of far more serious and alarming problems, because the velocity of book bannings in America haven't been this high in decades.
According to The Marshall Project's just-published database, more than 54,000 books are banned across eighteen state prison systems, a drop in the bucket compared to what's likely a far larger number — and that's just in prisons. Add in libraries, colleges, high schools, elementary schools, and several not-exactly-grassroots campaigns from groups like Moms for Liberty, Florida Citizens Alliance, and the Freadom to Read Project, and the bannings continue to metastasize. A recent report from PEN tracks at least 50 groups, and the vast majority of chapters have formed since 2020.
Naturally, the focus is on books by or about marginalized groups. If you're on the LGBTQ+ continuum, or Black, or Indigenous, you know, the backlash that comes from writing about people and topics that don't conform to the purported fantasy being pushed by the MAGA faithful. Books are banned when fear spikes, and granted, the last few years have provided much grist for the grievance mill. But that's no excuse to disappear books from schools and prisons — run by the state — in clear and total violation of the First Amendment.
2023 promises to be a weird and unpredictable time. But one way it can be healthier than in years past is to stop with the book bannings. Society functions more effectively when people have access to all kinds of books. Bans must be fought at every turn.
Old Navy by Virginia Sole-Smith
My Dingus of the Year is Old Navy and every retail fashion brand that’s pretending it knows what it’s doing with plus sizes. Old Navy gets a special mention because they launched Bodequality, complete with a dancing Aidy Bryant, promising to be size-inclusive (No more special plus section! Everyone together on one rack! The biggest sizes finally available in stores!) and then less than a year later canceled the campaign and quietly pulled plus sizes out of many stores. But this award is very much shared by every retail brand that tokenizes fat bodies by using one or two plus-size models (or worse: thin models padded to look bigger) on their websites, by sizing up without properly grading or fitting garments so the higher sizes aren’t actually wearable, or by relabeling a size 14 as a 2X so they can claim to be size-inclusive without actually making bigger clothes. Fat people are over it.
Virginia Sole-Smith is the journalist behind the newsletter Burnt Toast, about bodies and size and food. Subscribe here!
Jack Dorsey by Laura Lippman
My Dingus of the Year is Jack Dorsey, about whom I know almost nothing, and in the spirit of the disinfo-laden website he founded, I’m not going to do any research for my nomination, although if I did do any research, it would be my own research, and I would share it with the smug satisfaction of a Dorito-spackled incel who doesn’t even know what a primary source is. Jack Dorsey sold my favorite social media platform to another guy about whom I also know very little other than the fact that he cannot land a joke to save his life, bless his heart. I guess the sale unburdened Jack Dorsey of a knotty problem — Twitter does not make money, and it requires moderation, which is not an abridgment of free speech, FWIW — but the sale has created problems for those of us who actually love the site. I’m one of the stalwarts hanging in there because I’ve decided that occupying an online space full of Nazis, white supremacists, misogynists, and garden-variety racists isn’t that different from living in the United States right now. And there are still bright spots; just the other day, all the film people I follow on Twitter persuaded me to go to a matinee of Glass Onion. I hate Jack Dorsey more than I hate Bob Irsay, who moved the Colts in the middle of the night, and that’s pretty much the hate benchmark for a Baltimorean of my generation.
Ticketmaster by Kelsey McKinney
There is a form of apology that I thought was employed only by bad boyfriends and bad bosses. It’s technically not an apology because no one says “I’m sorry.” Instead, it is a gift, a promise, that relies on the idea that we both know that I deserve an apology and that I am not going to get one. Sometimes, that is a little raise. Sometimes, a piece of jewelry. In Ticketmaster’s case, the terrible gift that has been raised to me as a pseudo-apology is the same carrot hanging six feet ahead of me that existed a month ago before it was so rudely yanked away. The promise is “the opportunity to request to purchase 2 tickets to Taylor Swift I The Eras.” It is for this reason that my bad boyfriend, my terrible boss, my Dingus of the Year is Ticketmaster.
To understand what happened, you have to understand that Ticketmaster royally fucked everyone years ago. They used to be a little stand in the mall where you could buy tickets. Then they became a little stand online where you could buy tickets. But on account of the United States having basically no anti-monopoly regulation to speak of and people in power who are more than happy to close their eyes if slipped a handful of cash, Ticketmaster became a mammoth. They merged with LiveNation in 2010. The DOJ actually ruled that this merger would drive ticket prices down. I can only assume they thought this because not one of them was awake for the trial.
So now, 12 years later, Ticketmaster owns the stadiums themselves, the ability to sell the tickets, and how much they are priced at. Because Ticketmaster tried to do it all, they rapidly became bad at everything. They dramatically failed at stopping bots from swooping in and buying every ticket to all of their shows. This must have been annoying because the bots made extra money and Ticketmaster didn’t, so they took over that as well. They invented Verified Fan, which doesn’t actually keep out bots but does allow Ticketmaster to email you all the time, raise the fees they charge on every ticket, and partner with banks for extra advertising money in exchange for “presales.” Ticketmaster also employs something called Dynamic Pricing, which just means that if everyone wants the tickets, you will pay more for them.
The problems with Ticketmaster have existed for 12 years, growing worse every year. BTS fans have been yelling about this for years. So have fans of any major touring group. I whined about it very early this year when Harry Styles tickets were impossible to get and outrageously priced. It is happening to Bad Bunny fans in Mexico right now. But the biggest pop star in the world is Taylor Swift, and when her tickets went on sale a few weeks ago, every flaw in the Ticketmaster system might as well have been painted with a neon brush and broadcast to primetime TV during Monday Night Football.
I spent an entire day trying to buy tickets through the “verified fan” program that had promised to fix this problem. So did hundreds of thousands of other people. After almost seven hours in the virtual queue, I was released to buy tickets only to find that there were no tickets to buy. They were already gone. Now, weeks later, Ticketmaster is extending the worst olive branch I’ve ever seen in my life: some tickets they didn’t sell the first time (why? how?) for only a few of the fans who were stuck in the queue (how do they choose?) for a to-be-determined show and time (sick). It’s not an “I’m sorry.” It’s not a promise to change. It’s a meaningless gesture they know doesn’t have to do anything because we have no other options. We are stuck here with them.
Ticketmaster is a broken company and a broken system. Like so many things in America right now, it’s a company running billions of dollars in profit while making its product actively worse for consumers. They are my Dingus of the Year. I truly hope for their own sake that they figure this out before Beyoncé tours again.
Lee Zeldin by Elon Green
Through several election cycles, until this last one, I never had a yard sign. Why is it anyone’s business who we’re voting for? That’s how I’d looked at yard signs — statements of support, of intent. But during the midterms, that changed. I’d been living in a state of semi-obliviousness. I mean, this is Nassau County, after all, so it was a near-certainty that some neighbors were surely fascism-curious. But I couldn’t know for sure until the signs for Lee Zeldin — an aspirant for governor who ran on a platform of tormenting trans children, imposing segregationist marriage policies, and lying about his desire to force women to birth a rapist’s child — began to appear. I thought of the old line, “It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fascist than to put a Zeldin sign in the yard and remove all doubt.”
I wanted to plant a flag, literally. Yes, we live here, but we do not blame cash-bail reform for everything under the sun. We do not think immigrants are the reason our car, which we refuse to lock, was burglarized. Many of my fellow Nassau voters actually do believe this, and they are terrible, heinous people who would happily restrict the rights of millions of New Yorkers just because some asshole in Sands Point lost a catalytic converter.
In sum, I hope our governor punishes Nassau County. Bulldoze it and build skyscrapers high enough to blot out Long Island Sound.
Elon Green is the author of Last Call. He’s a good friend and, it pains me to say, an incredible author.
And, Finally, the Dingus of the Year Winner for 2022: Elon Musk
Samuel Alito can breathe a sigh of relief because this year’s dingus is Elon Musk.
It didn’t have to go this way. Musk could have shot himself into space and made barely functional electric cars using other people’s technology and continued fathering children and naming them after math equations, and we’d all pretend he was smart instead of just born inside an emerald mine. But then, Musk bought Twitter. He was going to bring back free speech, he promised. But what he actually did was let Nazis back on and banned journalists who were mildly critical of him.
He could have used some of that cash and papier-mâchéd over himself to create some thicker skin. He could have used the money to wipe away his tears every time someone on Twitter called him a silly-head or said, “Hey my Tesla is exploding, is that normal?”
But no, instead, he paid too much money for a social media website so he could play Edgelord of the Internet and make everyone think he was a special boy, but in the process, he destroyed the site, is getting himself sued, tanking Tesla’s stock, and revealed himself to just be the biggest dingus.
Recently, I was in a conversation with a Musk apologist, who was like, “Not every kid born with emerald mine money would have done what he did! Most of them would have just done coke in a castle.”
To which I respond, “Good! Please, just go do hard drugs in a moldy castle in Scotland. Do literally anything other than undermine our democracy and throw your money around as a cudgel.”
But also, let’s look at what he’s done. Space X was almost out of business until it got an infusion of cash from NASA. He was removed as CEO of the companies he helped found. Tesla has been plagued by faulty cars and accusations of fraud. His businesses rely on government subsidies and without them, it’s possible the whole house of Musk could collapse. What Musk has really done is use the money to create for himself a fig leaf covering of genius. But there is no great wizard, just a sad little man behind a curtain using smoke and mirrors to convince us all of his superiority. It’s nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. A naked Emperor standing before us insisting he’s wearing very cool clothes. And will probably ban you from Twitter if you dare say, “Sir, you are naked.”
This is the lesson Americans keep learning and forgetting: Just because a person has money doesn’t mean they are smart. It doesn’t even mean they have that much money. Rich people are just like us. Their sons can be real duds too!
The only advantage the rich have is capital. And capitalism works if you have capital. So, capitalism is working for Musk, not because of his genius, but because of his capital.
Musk has spent much of his time as Twitter CEO screaming about free speech, while banning journalists. He tweeted that jokes are legal, then banned accounts that are funnier than him. He says he’s innovating, but he’s forcing employees to stay the night at Twitter headquarters. Sir, slavery was already invented.
I understand why someone would want to believe in the Myth of Musk. Americans love our titans of industry. The myth of the bold, complicated, male genius is the model for so many men in America. A man who has been a horrible father, cheated on his wife, and never vacuumed a floor is always forgiven if he can build something with his life. But what if what a man builds is also bad? What if what he creates is made with exploitation, theft, and hidden labor? And if we fact check the Myth of Man, where does it leave the rest of them? We are all too deeply implicated to let this one go.
But that doesn’t change reality: This Emperor is Naked and kind of bad at running companies.
People’s Choice Awards:
Elon Musk also won the popular vote for dingus. Runners-up include Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and one woman’s soon to be ex-husband.