James Taranto is not a twitter troll. James Taranto writes for the Wall Street Journal. And James Taranto tweeted this. He later wrote a “mea culpa” column but it wasn’t so much a mea culpa as a backpedaling.
What a sorry thought. A man who thinks this after such a tragedy clearly has issues with either heroism or selfishness or maybe even women. So my first thought was to feel sorry for James Taranto that in the face of such tales of heroism he chose to twist those tales to be something else.
Does one ask a fireman, after he rushed into a burning building to save a trapped child, if he thought that child was worthy of him risking his own death? Has anyone ever spoken thoughts like this aloud after someone dies saving another person from drowning?
What makes a person worthy of sacrifice? What is James Taranto’s idea of worthy? What is the metric by which you determine if a person deserved to have someone literally take a bullet for them? Did they need to have lived pure lives? Have meaningful jobs? Be kind to their parents and small animals? Vote Republican? What? I’m not sure what exactly he means by worthy. Because everyone’s life is worthy is some way. All those girls are daughters. Some are sisters or aunts or best friends. There are people who know these girls - people who are not James Taranto, columnist - who do not ask if the girls were worthy of having their lives saved.
Maybe instead James should have said something like “The men who died saving their girlfriends died worthily.”
When I put this image on Facebook last night Glenn Reynolds commented “Meh. If the genders were reversed, people would be falling over themselves agreeing with it.”
I really didn’t think anyone would defend the tweet, but there it was. I disagreed with the comment. Even if the genders were reversed it would still be thoughtless, cold, unnecessary statement. I would still be wondering what James Taranto’s idea of worthiness is.
I wonder if the girls or the family or friends of any of the girls referenced saw this. I wonder how they feel about it. Imagine being faced with death then in a cruel twist of fate your life is spared thanks to the death of the person you were sharing your life with. As if that’s not enough trauma to take on, someone out there - a journalist for a prestigious media outlet no less - wants to know if you were worthy of your boyfriend’s selfless death.
I can’t imagine the mindset that made James Taranto think this was an ok thing to say.
In Taranto’s follow-up column he said the tweet was meant to provoke thought. Which is exactly what one says when they can’t take back a controversial statement. “Meant to provoke thought” is a cop-out, an excuse, an admittance that you fucked up but want to find some way to make it right because on the internet, your words live forever in screenshots and there’s no such thing as denial. Might as well backpedal and pretend you were just starting a thoughtful conversation. Taranto also offers some nonsensical crap about the girlfriends of the dead guys going forward and living worthy lives to make sure their boyfriends didn’t die in vain, but again, who is he to judge that? Whether these girls go on to cure cancer or just live ordinary lives who is anyone to judge if their lives at any point now or in the future were worthy of being saved?
The thing is, Taranto’s tweet did provoke thought. Just not the kind of thought Taranto wanted. It made people think - probably not for the first time - that James Taranto is a vile human being.
In his “mea culpa” Taranto wrote:
These three women owe their lives to their men. That debt can never be repaid in kind, because life is for the living and cannot be returned to the dead. The closest they can come to redeeming it is to use the gift of their survival well—to live good, full, happy lives.
These women are probably going to need therapy to deal with the aftermath of this for a long, long time. They may get over it, they may never get over it. But they certainly don’t need some judgmental stranger writing a column about them in which he tells them how to live out the rest of their lives so they can be worthy of what their boyfriends did for them. If they took Taranto’s words to heart they’d be spending the rest of their lives wondering if every bit of unhappiness in their lives, if every future breakup or career disappointment or even their inability to move on from this tragedy means they are a disappointment to the memories of their dead boyfriends.
What a damning thought to put on someone’s head.
Guess I’ll spend the next thirty seconds wondering - again, not for the first time - if James Taranto is worth whatever money WSJ is paying him to write his drivel.