Now Paging Doctor Bones
From Medium by Prosper Bonhomme (January 23, 2020)
I’ve started smoking again.
It’s not allowed in the house, just the back deck. It makes the whole thing sort of futile when it’s nine degrees outside and I’m sniffing so much snot back into my sinuses I can’t even taste the tobacco. There’s a joke about how smoking takes seven minutes off your life, so it’s a good thing American Spirits last nine minutes, but in this weather I put it out in the snow a third of the way through and go back inside.
Stepping in the sliding glass door, I look at my reflection and think the same thing I did when I saw myself in the glass on the way out:
Gods damn, I miss Doctor Bones.
What Poor People Do in a Hurricane is still a masterful essay. That’s indisputable. It was one of the first things Bones wrote that started to distance him from anybody else in the anarchist writing game. It wasn’t some heavy handed academic struggle session; you could argue that it wasn’t even anarchist at all if you squinted a little and tilted your head a bit. It was just a story about some guy in Florida making it through a hurricane with his friends. But there were still lessons in it, the struggle of poverty in the face of an uncaring government, how a community of neighbors stepped up against perceived lawlessness when the police were busy making sure the rich white people were taken care of. It showed how a community could come together and take care of its own, how it takes an act of God to make people see their neighbors.
You don’t get content like that anymore, there’s no grit left in the game. You get impassioned grandstanding and vampire costumes with green screen castles. Bones used to record his videos on a cell phone; he didn’t need a high definition camera or makeup to do his work for him. The strength of his content was enough. The lessons were enough. That was why people brought him on planes to speak instead of being content to see him in a video, because seeing Doctor Bones in person was worthwhile, it was filling. When you left, you were inspired. You never left wondering “is this all there is?”
And BreadTube is fucking worthless without him.
I used to joke (sometimes, I still do) that the only way we knew Doctor Bones wasn’t Hunter S Thompson’s reanimated skeleton was because Hunter had the sense to get himself cremated. I was shocked when he told me he’d never read Transmetropolitan because I was almost sure that, were I to shave him bald, I’d find a spider tattoo on his scalp. That was the flaw everyone always liked to lean into, how he was unoriginal in how vitriolic he was. We’ve seen it, it’s been done! Everyone’s watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, get a new bit! Now, I’m not so sure. There isn’t that same sort of anticapitalist, egoist venom anymore; it’s all gone a bit tasteless.
If you lined every so-called leftist personality up side by side and handed them a Molotov, do you think they’d throw it? Or would they be more inclined to take a selfie with it, make a video about how a single Molotov wouldn’t solve the world’s problems (but like, subscribe, and donate, that will!) and then ramble for an hour about how, actually, the unlit, unthrown Molotov is just a symbolistic construct about how fucking boring they all are?! In the end, there isn’t a single scorch mark, just a line of trophies on a shelf they can point to with a pouting “Am so!” when someone suggests they aren’t as radical as they say they are. Radicalism isn’t meant to be a conversation piece. It’s meant to be a call to action.
Besides, Contrapoints might break a nail! Inconceivable.
“BreadTube” has become the celebrity left. Merriam Webster defines a celebrity as “a famous or celebrated person” and famous as “widely known, honored for achievement.” It doesn’t take a genius or an academic to apply those brushstrokes to Contrapoints, Angie Speaks, and Peter Coffin. Angie makes $1,351 a month from 402 patrons as of this article’s writing; Contrapoints and Peter Coffin have (wisely) not disclosed the amount their patrons give them. But if we assume their patrons are as generous as Angie’s, we can divide her average and apply it to their numbers: Coffin’s 1188 patrons would make him around $3,992 a month, Contrapoint’s 12,704 patrons have her raking in $42,694 per month.
Nobody’s saying people shouldn’t make money off their work, but there is a lack of transparency as to where that money’s going. Forty-two thousand dollars in a month means that in a year, Contrapoints is making a little over half a million dollars. That’s enough money to pay off a person’s house and their student loan debt in the course of a year. All that, for videos whining about how people are mean to her on the internet, and for praxis like “are traps gay” and “are nonbinary people actually people?” Give me a break. And leftists online wonder why there’s no unity in the left. How are we supposed to take them seriously?
Bones put his money where his mouth was. People like to joke about how one of his articles was essentially “my first may day rally” but when did you see anybody else with his level of recognition going out and attending protests? Where do you expect to find an antifascist protest in Florida anyway, land of Trump and Mar-A-Lago? He wrote articles about slumlords threatening apartment complexes and workers who needed two, sometimes three jobs to survive.
We crucified him because it “went to his head” but at this rate, maybe it’s that the survivability of leftist renown is 0.
At the beginning of February, a little over a month after I —
(This is always hard for me to write. What do you call it? Did I out Doctor Bones as a predator? Did I take him down? Did I, Gods forbid, “cancel” him for “clout?” The narration always pivots to him, and what I did to him. In this case, perhaps in a bid of selfishness, let’s turn the spotlight back to me, and the impact this had on my life.)
— spoke my truth, I got a visit from the FBI. I was living with my father at the time, in the off season of my work. He let the two agents into the house before he came to wake me up. They knew my name. They knew who I was on Twitter. More importantly, they knew I was affiliated with Doctor Bones. They knew his name, they knew where he lived, and they wanted to ask me questions about him: they wanted to know if he, to my knowledge, had ever engaged in child pornography.
I laughed. I told them no. I told them they had the wrong guy. They left.
After Doctor Bones exited the stage, people theorized that he would come back. I thought the same, assuming he’d sneak back into the community under another penname and would eventually end up unmasked again. To my surprise, this was not the same view others had of him; they suspected he would be back, but carrying the banner of the alt right, fleeing to another radicalized community with stories of how “unhinged” the online antifa were. He would write articles about white supremacy and the banner of safety that libertarian belief held over the heads of the people.
I laughed. I told them no. I told them they had the wrong guy. They stopped talking about it.
There were a lot of crazy theories back then. Bones was an FBI plant. Bones was a cryptofascist. Bones was a serial rapist, working his way through marginalized communities. Bones wasn’t pagan at all, but a Christian trying to undermine the community. I’d say there was a theory about him selling his soul to Satan, but that would have made him sound cool.
I laughed. I told them they had the wrong guy.
Bones was just a guy that was in an unhappy marriage. That’s all.
What is the shape of justice? What constitutes as remuneration? Can you put a price on pain? If someone had asked me last January what I thought justice looked like, I would have told them I thought things should have been worse for Bones. He lost his income and he lost his audience, he lost the trust from his marriage and his dignity. But had he really lost enough? What more could I make him lose?
That changed in February, when the FBI showed up at my house. I thought about Bones sitting in jail. Just one word from me could have made that happen, not on pedophilia charges, but on a number of other misdemeanors that Uncle Sam would have loved to jump on to put an anarchist behind bars. The thought crossed my mind. I was being forced to rehash the trauma I was able to walk away from online. I was in a delicate place. I won’t claim that I took a moral high ground when I said nothing; that was just me being a decent fucking person. There shouldn’t be praise for that. If anything, the idea of selling Bones out to the FBI in the first place should have earned me a cancellation of my own.
Looking back a year later, I’m a lot less angry now. Alas, one of my character flaws is disassociating my current self from my past self. What happened almost two years ago, in March of 2018, is not something that happened to me. Maybe if had happened to someone else I would be more upset, I would still see them as them, still feel that venom bubbling up between my teeth like I did for so long. Now I just wonder: who gets to carry out the sentencing of justice? In the court of the people, who is the judge and the jury? What qualifies as an adequate sentence? I never wanted Doctor Bones to go to jail because I don’t trust the government’s prison system. I fight against the injustices of that system.
What qualifies me, or any of us, to pass our own judgement?
A favorite among BreadTubers is “cancel culture,” the idea of “clout” and what “chasing” it looks like. It all started when, in the wake of Doctor Bones’, the issue of Laurelai Bailey came up (again) and people were calling for her to be shut out of the community (again) which led Peter Coffin and Angie Speaks to start rallying against cancel culture. Once they realized that’s all they ever need to talk about for the next 15 years, they’re more than happy to beat that dead horse until it stops spitting out money.
Angie approached me after I spoke up about Bones claiming he also tried to “groom” her as well. I believed her claims at the time, and have since come to doubt them. It’s neither here nor there, really, except that I find it hard to believe she would go through that experience just to turn around and stick up for a rapist that’s giving her money. I can’t speak for what she’s gone through, but I can say that if it’s true, that makes her a shitty person in my eyes. Not that it took much to think that anyway.
As I finish writing this, the current fever pitch left twitter has been whipped up into is how twitter user @CoffeeSpoonie had the audacity to stand up for her rights under the law as a disabled person. The short version is that she had been denied multiple rides from multiple Uber drivers, filmed an interaction because non-disabled people couldn’t believe it was happening, and then, upon verification it was happening, they had to find another avenue to harass her. So, when the worker got fired, they started coming after her.
Gods damn, I miss Doctor Bones!
Could you imagine what he would have written about this? Oh, it’d be scathing. If I close my eyes I can all but read the headline, something along the lines of “Say It Ain’t So! Discrimination? In MY Gig Economy?!” He would haved banged out an article in a week. He would have told some fake egoist who had the audacity to question whether I was disabled because I didn’t “appear” to be apart. But the best part is, Bones has never half-assed any article he’s ever written. He would have interviews, he would have statistics, and he would have plans of action lined up in neat little rows, all with language you don’t need a dictionary just to make sense of. No using it to grow his Twitter audience. No expectation of blind compliance, no softness around the edges to keep from alienating his base.
You either liked Bones or you didn’t. There was no in between.
All this to say, I made a joke when all of this first started: “I burnt down The Conjure House.” And I did. I threw gasoline on that shit and I lit it on fire, I watched that motherfucker burn with glee and I danced in the ashes, did cartwheels in the ashes, snorted those ashes like a line of coke. I won’t pay penance for my joy. You can’t make me.
But over the year, as those ashes have been swept away, I’ve found the truth of it, as always, is that you can’t burn down an idea. Those foundations are going to stay there, rock solid concrete. Even with the scorch markers, there’s no getting rid of it. Standing on that foundation, I don’t feel pain anymore. I don’t feel like I have to take a sledgehammer to it in some deranged twisting amalgamation of “justice.” It’s overgrown, it’s forgotten, and there’s something almost… Sad.
This is Prosper Bonhomme, paging Doctor Bones. You’re needed on the floor.
It’s time to rebuild The Conjure House.