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What’s wrong with Ebert

June 21, 2011
Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert's tweets about Ryan Dunn yesterday drew ire from the online community, including Bam Margera.

Roger Ebert doesn’t want to apologize. He doesn’t want to apologize because he’s a recovering alcoholic, but more importantly he doesn’t want to apologize because he believes the content of his tweet yesterday was inherently correct.

(Note: Ebert wrote a blog post saying that people were jumping on him for a “‘refusal to apologize'”, suggesting that others were somehow in the wrong and that he apologized. As far as I can tell, Ebert did little to reconcile the situation over the past 24 hours besides shift blame with statements such as “I also regret that my tweet about the event was considered cruel.” He also found time to get into a fight with Facebook. Neither one of those counts as an apology.)

If you don’t know the backstory on this, Jackass‘ Ryan Dunn died early yesterday morning after driving his 2007 Porsche through 40 yards of trees, where it was engulfed in flames. He and Zachary Hartwell were both killed in the fiery crash, and Dunn had to be identified by his tattoos.

As the Twitter world began to mourn, reports emerged that Dunn had been drinking the night before. This was affirmed by a picture on his Twitter of he and two friends drinking beer.  Of course, this led to the immediate unspoken speculation and conclusion that Dunn was intoxicated at the time of the crash.

The key word there, of course, is unspoken. The only person opinionated enough to call out a man who had died fewer than 24 hours before was Roger Ebert, who wrote:

I have no way of knowing if Ryan Dunn was drunk at the time of his death.

Right, Roger. You had no way of knowing, no conclusive proof. As of right now, we know that Dunn had three beers and three shots over the course of the night. We still don’t know what his BAC was because the toxicology tests haven’t come back yet. For all we know, he may have been under the legal limit and just driving way too fast. He had a history of that, you know.

You violated that most basic of tenets, Roger, and jumped to an immediate conclusion with naught but circumstantial evidence backing your conclusion up.

Here’s what I don’t think you understand, Roger: Two men are dead. We can be snarky, clever and even assign blame later. For right now, though, there are two families mourning their sons, their brothers and their boyfriends. In these situations, being right doesn’t matter. Grieving does.

Furthermore, even if your initial tweet was spot-on and Dunn was drunk, everyone knows that friends don’t let friends drink and drive. You couldn’t avoid being sly, though, and just had to slip the term “jackasses” in there, completely aware of its double meaning. It doesn’t matter if Dunn was a jackass, Roger, and it doesn’t even matter if you meant jackass or Jackass because the man is still dead, beyond the range of clever quips.

All your tweet was going to do, from the very get go, was find the sensitive spots in people who were already mourning and raise their collective ire. You’ve hijacked the story of two deaths, Roger, and taken it away from that of  men taken too early into that of a critic unaware of the impact his insensitive comments would have on a mourning public.

Man up, Roger. Take the time to write another blog post. Avoid loaded language, conditional statements and making this story about your own battles with the bottle. Apologize.

Otherwise you’re the real jackass here.

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