It’s a tale as old as Twitter itself: Person says stupid, offensive stuff in the past, person comes to prominence, old tweets get dug up, person apologizes, the internet holds court. The whole performance has just taken place once again, this time featuring Crystal Dynamics’ spokesperson and game design lead on Marvel’s Avengers, Brian Waggoner.
As Rock Paper Shotgun reports, over the weekend a bunch of old tweets by Waggoner were unearthed, which today led to his apologizing, and Crystal Dynamics following up to say how disappointed they are, and that they’re taking away Waggoner’s spokesperson status. Now all involved, having followed the prescribed script, are presumably hoping it’ll go away.
Waggoner’s tweets, dating from around 2010 to 2016 (during which time he worked for Marvel and Gazillion), were pretty grim. Some were clearly attempts at jokes, at least one relying on lazy, racist stereotypes, while another just flat-out mocked people with disabilities. However, others appear to be just brazen dogwhistle racism.
As so often appears to be the case, Waggoner reports he’s since had a complete change of personality, these historical messages from the distant annuls of six years ago now moot, given his reformed ways. “Over the weekend,” he explained in a statement on his ongoing Twitter account, “old tweets I wrote from before my time at Crystal resurfaced and I apologize and take full accountability for the hurt they caused to my followers, the community, and those I work with.”
The boiler-plate apology text continues, “Since that time, I have learned and grown and the content I posted doesn’t reflect who I am today.” For those unconvinced he adds, “I understand if you cannot accept my apology because of the pain I have caused. I will continue to listen, learn, and work to improve myself.”
Crystal Dynamics then followed up, stating:
It’s incredibly disappointing to see language & views from employees that don’t align with our studio values. We apologize to our community & coworkers who are rightfully upset by the content. Brian will no longer be a studio spokesperson or communicating about studio projects.
Look, you don’t need my opinion about any of this, because you already have your own, and honestly, this feels like a story we’ve written three hundred times already, just with a different bloke’s name at the start. But heck, I still have opinions.
What I hate about all of this, every aspect of it, is that none of it is truthful. On any side.
Those scripted “apologies” are designed to save face, to cover all bases, and to “draw a line under it,” without ever actually saying sorry to anyone for anything. It’s empty, performative, only fooling those entrenched in the corporate thinking that writes them.
At the same time, Waggoner’s tweets weren’t wantonly causing untold hurt to vast communities. They were shitty, bigoted comments that were ignored at the time (a single ‘like’ on one, a lone retweet on another), and now reappear to be used as evidence in the Online Courts to (possibly rightly) condemn him. People pretending they’ve finally brought down this tyrannical menace from his campaign of hate are being ridiculously dishonest, and it’s equally deceitful for Waggoner to “apologize” as if that’s what had happened.
Crystal then throws in too, with nonsense about “language and views” that “don’t align with our studio values,” as if the corporate entity itself is some sort of moral creature, possessing a pure-driven platonic perfection of ideal values. Ever noticed that? Every company is morally impeccable, without needing to ever state how, instead allowing the individual to assume this means its values happily match their own. A person at the company causes outrage, at which point this nebulous immaculateness adapts to not be that, and everyone is asked to assume that this aberration in their perfection has been erased.
People say and do stupid stuff. People hold awful views, or make nasty jokes. I know because I do. We all do. Even the most prurient-presenting champions of wokeness have shitty thoughts, say stuff they regret, or hope that thing they said that one time stays private forever. Sometimes people surround themselves with so many others like them that they lose sight of how dreadful such things sound when said publicly on social media. Later that comes back to bite them on the ass. And it should!
I just wish people’s responses were honest. “God, yeah, I really was being a dick, wasn’t I? Damn, I really need to think before I speak.” Or, “You know what, that’s a bigotry I’ve always held, and I really need to do something about that.” Sure, in this specific case, Waggoner may well be reformed, but this idea that the views we held last Tuesday don’t reflect who we are today is so tiresome, and the attempted implication is that we’re perfect now, if only everyone else would catch up.
And no one, anywhere, just says, “I’m sorry.” It’s always with caveats and justifications, and almost always the word “apologize,” too. An action, rather than a feeling, a semiotic difference that externalizes the procedure, rather than speaks from the heart. It seems it really is the hardest word.
Oh, and then let’s not forget us, the braying gallery. “He hasn’t been fired!” We have no damned clue if he deserves to be fired, or if he’s a champion for good these days. But more importantly, let’s stop pretending we care if this person you’ve never heard of before today, who said some things a decade ago you didn’t notice, gets to keep his job. What people want is for offensiveness to go away, and the idea that an ignorant public claiming this guy’s head will somehow achieve this is damned idiotic. If he’s a dick to work with, then Crystal should fire him. But let’s all be honest, too, and stop acting like we know what’s best in every goddamn situation.