Dingus of the week: Everyone pretending Kissinger was actually good
Also, the guy who faked ladies in tech
This is the weekly dingus, the Friday newsletter that makes fun of someone or something that’s made our lives a little worse. Then, I share some good things and a drink recipe. Some weeks the dingus is your uncle, often it’s Elon Musk, this week it’s everyone whitewashing Henry Kissinger’s legacy. More and more people are saying this newsletter is the tiny bit of silliness keeping their sanity intact. Never miss a dingus by becoming a subscriber.
Once, at a dinner party thrown by Barbara Walters, the journalist Peter Jennings looked at Henry Kissinger and asked, “How does it feel to be a war criminal, Henry?” The other guests objected to Jennings’ question, but he persisted. Nancy, his wife, was hurt and offended. Henry simply didn’t reply.
It was a rare moment when Kissinger, the man responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths, was asked to answer for his sins. Money and access are powerful amulets against such uncomfortable moments when reality permeates the rarified air of wealth. Of course, Walters was shocked and appalled. I imagine others at the dinner thought Jennings distasteful. More distasteful than the war crimes themselves.
Henry Kissinger died this week. His death, for the most part, was met with somber tributes in the pages of the New York Times and The Washington Post. The rare exception was an obituary by obituary by Spencer Ackerman in Rolling Stone, which was pointed and clear in its view of history. Ackerman wrote:
Not once in the half-century that followed Kissinger’s departure from power did the millions the United States killed matter for his reputation, except to confirm a ruthlessness that pundits occasionally find thrilling. America, like every empire, champions its state murderers. The only time I was ever in the same room as Henry Kissinger was at a 2015 national security conference at West Point. He was surrounded by fawning Army officers and ex-officials basking in the presence of a statesman.
And they sure did fawn over him. After his war crimes, Kissinger’s second act was as a fixture in the circles of the elite. He was, as Choire Sicha writes in New York Magazine a devil at the dinner parties, noting:
The legendary editor Harry Evans edited his White House Years; legendary pot-stirrer Tina Brown has him for dinner. He receives a handsome sum from AIG to help it with China. The NBC contract runs out and ABC signs him to a new one. The Kissingers are not just neighbors in Kent with Oscar and Annette de la Renta but also run with them each Christmas to the Dominican Republic.
New York City loves him, after a fashion, but there they are, always.
But I mean, what were people supposed to do? Not invite him? In a world where money and image matter more than the body count in Cambodia, what were people supposed to do? Shun him?
And I can hear journalists say — and I’ve heard them say this before about others — he was a good source, so of course they’d hang out with him. Of course, they’d serve him, gladhand him, those tantalizing scoops mean more than the lives in Vietnam.
I remember reporting on so many other people like Tucker Carlson, Michael Sitrick, and Louis D’Vorkin, and I’d always hear the same thing — they were nice men. Respectable men. Good men. Their kids all went to the same schools as the congressmen, newsmen, and various media CEOs that I would call and ask about them. It’s easy to get along when you can close the door of your nice house against the consequences.
Not everyone is so polite. There are the Peter Jennings. There are the Anthony Bourains. In a 2017 profile, Bourdain said, “Any journalist who has ever been polite to Henry Kissinger, you know, fuck that person. I’m a big believer in moral gray areas, but, when it comes to that guy, in my view he should not be able to eat at a restaurant in New York.”
But these voices are rare. More often, the veneer of plush respectability is more important to maintain than ever grappling with the harms perpetuated by their actions.
Of course, when those harms affect us in ways we can’t ignore — when a bomb comes for our own cities or a dictator is elected in our own country — those same people will wring their hands and wonder how it ever got this bad. Who could have done this? How did it ever happen? Ignoring the silent complicity of their comfortable dinners — paid for with the quid pro quo of access.
Morality must be easier when you aren’t in those rooms. I don’t know. I’ve never been invited.
But I wonder how often we do that — let criminals enjoy their meal in silence, just to make sure no one feels bad. Meanwhile, outside the doors of those rooms where people politely cough into napkins, thousands of miles away skulls are stacked in killing fields.
Also, read Parker Molloy on the inclination to not speak ill of the dead.
Dingus runner up: Eduard Sizovs
Once upon a time, a poor lonely, man in tech could not find a woman. To be fair, he did not look very hard. So, he made one or two of them up with AI. After all, what is artificial intelligence for if not for tech nerds to fake girlfriends?
Sizovs even went further, putting his fake women on tech panels for a conference hosted by DevTernity. Sizovs worked for DevTernity as a conference organizer.
When he was caught putting fake women on panels, people pulled out of the conference and the event was canceled. Sizovs then took to Twitter to decry cancel culture and the woke mob. Those women, he insisted, were just placeholders.
Per Ars Technica Sizovs is NOT SORRY.
"The amount of hate and lynching I keep receiving is as if I would have scammed or killed someone," Sizovs posted on X. "But I won't defend myself because I don't feel guilty. I did nothing terrible that I need to apologize for. The conference has always delivered on its promise. It's an awesome, inclusive, event."
That post has a community note—X's fact-checking method—that says, "Sizovs has been shown creating fake female speaker profiles for his conferences. He is claiming one of them was a test/bug, but investigation uncovered he's done this for multiple years with multiple fake speakers. This presented a fraudulent focus on diversity."
I hope that Sizovs and his harem of fake women are happy, wherever they are.
And now for something good:
I read this story about two macaws in Rio de Janeiro and now there is something in my eyes…help. It’s leaking out onto my face. I don’t understand. Are these? FEELINGS?
Gen Z and Millennials are bringing print books back! I love print books because I love the feeling of carrying a book with me and I love writing in books. That’s right. I deface my books with little notes.
What I am drinking:
My Thanksgiving punch from last week was a huge hit. So, I will share the recipe. But I am going to be honest, I was just absolutely winging it.
In a two-gallon glass dispenser, I mixed two bottles of the cheapest sparkling red wine I could find, two liters of cranberry juice, and 1.75 liters of Fireball Whiskey. I added six sliced tangerines, cinnamon sticks, and a bag of frozen cranberries. I served with blackberries as a garnish.
Honestly, by the end of the party, I was just adding in cheap red wine to make it last a little longer and no one complained.
And it was a lovely night. I got to chaotically mix a bunch of friend groups and feed them all cheeses of various varieties. Then make them all take a shot of Malort and let my dogs benevolently harass everyone.
This week, my drink of choice has been Cherry 7Up, which is one of my favorite holiday drinks. I like to mix it with cranberry juice and sip it like a little cocktail during the week.
I once made a name for myself in a neighborhood cooking club by bringing a bottle of Cherry 7Up and mixing it with gin. I still stand by that drink. But I do believe it made all the neighborhood ladies slightly tipsy. And every once in a while, my friend Kristie will say, “REMEMBER WHEN YOU BROUGHT CHERRY 7UP AND GIN AS A DRINK!?!” And we will laugh. And I will defend the drink, while everyone tells me it was nasty.
And I’ll think to myself that this must be what it’s like to belong somewhere. It means people remember your nasty concoctions from 15 years ago, from before you had children, and your life went sideways, and you had to build it up again. And here these people still are — remembering your drinks, your heartbreaks, and celebrating your triumphs. Their kids are so big now and so are mine. And we wonder where the time went? What happened? But we know time went into our hair and our skin and our hearts.
Have a lovely weekend.