None of This Matters

 

Another week, another dumb internet outrage. This time it was about the Covington kids. Before that, it was the fake news story and that celebrity who said the thing and a mean lady who yelled at a nice man and the bad man who was mean to the dog.

Each time, the usual suspects bellied up to their keyboards and rage-typed at each other until the next “scandal” made them type at different people. If you want to remain sane in the face of today’s Outrage-Industrial Complex, I’ll let you in on a secret: Twitter doesn’t matter. The viral video doesn’t matter. Our opinions don’t matter. This article doesn’t matter. None of this matters.

Conan O’Brien gets it. From a New York Times interview about his retooled talk show:

At this point in my career, I could go out with a grand, 21-gun salute, and climb into a rocket and the entire Supreme Court walks out and they jointly press a button, I’m shot up into the air and there’s an explosion and it’s orange and it spells, “Good night and God love.” In this culture? Two years later, it’s going to be, who’s Conan? This is going to sound grim, but eventually, all our graves go unattended.

Interviewer: You’re right. That does sound grim.

Sorry. Calvin Coolidge was a pretty popular president. I’ve been to his grave in Vermont. It has the presidential seal on it. Nobody was there.

He continues:

I had a great conversation with Albert Brooks once. When I met him for the first time, I was kind of stammering. I said, you make movies, they live on forever. I just do these late-night shows, they get lost, they’re never seen again and who cares?

And he looked at me and he said, “What are you talking about? None of it matters.”

None of it matters?

“No, that’s the secret. In 1940, people said Clark Gable is the face of the 20th Century. Who [expletive] thinks about Clark Gable? It doesn’t matter. You’ll be forgotten. I’ll be forgotten. We’ll all be forgotten.”

It’s so funny because you’d think that would depress me. I was walking on air after that.

That quote went semi-viral when some people worried about the talk-show host. “Is Conan ok?” More ok than a lot of us.

Much of the current hysteria is fueled by people who don’t get this. Some saw the first Covington video Saturday night, didn’t catch a context, and moved on. Many other ill-known scribblers saw it and decided, inexplicably, that their opinion mattered. Hundreds of blue-checks needed — needed — to Issue Their Official Judgment on this non-story for inclusion in the annals of hot-take history. As if the rest of us mooks were slapping our refresh buttons, desperate to know what [insert journo with 13,172 followers] thought about a staredown between some teenager and an old dude.

I can pop off my opinions all day; hell, I’m paid to do it. Albert Brooks can make movies and Conan can entertain millions on late night. But none of it matters in the stretch.

What does matter is holding a damp towel to your sick kid’s forehead and bringing in the groceries for your elderly neighbor and surprising your wife with take-out from that Vietnamese place she loves even though you hate fish sauce. Almost no one will notice it; certainly not the strangers who “follow” you online or the historians of the next age. These little acts still matter more than anything.

But Twitter, the internet … this? None of this matters.


This is part of Ricochet’s Quote of the Day series. Join Ricochet and sign up for a day next month to create your post.

There are 62 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  1. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Ah, perspective. We glom onto the latest hysteria, when we are suddenly called to live our lives, just as they are. Such a relief. Such truth. Such beauty. Thanks, Jon.

    • #1
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. Kevin Schulte Member

    Yes, and no. Yes, relationships are king, especially when they impact the eternal. No, in this respect. Our culture is crumbling by a million cuts. Those who only got the evil white dude version of this outrage, well, this is another cut.

    • #2
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:17 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  3. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    The world is ending in 12 years anyways, so…

    • #3
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:19 AM PDT
    • 22 likes
  4. Franco Member

    This reads like someone just lost a game.

    I fully understand the concepts, being a non-famous musician.

    But the timing of this little insight ( big insight?) gives us a possible clue. This especially since this entire site is premised on things ‘mattering’.

    In fact things do matter.

    People, like the author of this post, Clark Gable, Conan and myself don’t endure. So what? Didn’t we sorta know that?

    This was 1976:

    • #4
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:26 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  5. Jim Chase Member

    So many verses from Ecclesiastes to quote, so little time.

    • #5
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:27 AM PDT
    • 21 likes
  6. John Peabody Member

    Oh, this is very good. Way to go, Conan! I never watched him, but I watched his first presser after being hired to replace David Letterman. When asked what he thought of a “relatively unknown” being tapped for the slot, he objected: “No, sir! I am a COMPLETE unknown!”

    • #6
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  7. EJHill Podcaster

    • #7
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • 16 likes
  8. The Reticulator Member

    It still matters to the kids who were the victims, and it will matter for a long time, for good or ill.

    • #8
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:35 AM PDT
    • 23 likes
  9. cdor Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    What does matter is holding a damp towel to your sick kid’s forehead and bringing in the groceries for your elderly neighbor and surprising your wife with take-out from that Vietnamese place she loves even though you hate fish sauce. Almost no one will notice it; certainly not the strangers who “follow” you online or the historians of the next age. These little acts still matter more than anything.

    But Twitter, the internet … this? None of this matters.

    And there you have it. Thanks for the reality check, Jon.

    • #9
    • January 25, 2019, at 8:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. DrewInWisconsin, Thought Leader Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    It still matters to the kids who were the victims, and it will matter for a long time, for good or ill.

    Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. And given what was done to them, anything less than sheer outrage feels like minimizing it.

    • #10
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  11. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    It still matters to the kids who were the victims, and it will matter for a long time, for good or ill.

    This. Absolutely.

    People were encouraging physical violence against the kids and trying to get them blacklisted. That matters, and the people involved should be held accountable.

    • #11
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:02 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  12. Vance Richards Member

    • #12
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:04 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. Jim Beck Member

    As The Reticulator said not only does it matter to those who become the object of mob scorn, but the comments on twitter tell us what is in the hearts of individuals and what are the undercurrents in our culture. That one is not remembered over time is not the measure by which one decides whether something matters. George Bailey certainly would not have been remembered out side Bedford Falls, and with in a few generations he would not have been remembered there. This is true for all of us, there are few Newtons, or Platos.

    Not only are humans just a vapor but we repeatedly forget truths we have known. Marcus Aurelius, “Consider everyone you have known; how many things you have witnessed, which have already changed and how many people who have ceased to be. Observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a little mucus, tomorrow will be a mummy or ashes. Be not troubled, for all things are according to nature and in a little while you will be no one and nowhere.”

    The fact that we are a vapor does not change the fact that we are responsible for the platform of life we are given. Because we are small and easily forgotten does not mean that what we do in any arena does not matter, it does matter.

    • #13
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:06 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  14. Hang On Member

    Nihilism distilled.

    • #14
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:07 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. James Gawron Thatcher

    Jon,

    I’m in a really weird mood this morning so I thought I’d throw this into the mix.

    Vance beat me to it!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #15
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:07 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Zed11 Lincoln

    Tripper Harrison (Camp North Star) was so ahead of his time.

    Am literally one of the five people who grew up in Silicon Valley in the ’80s who knew this from inception, and avoided the meat grinder. #NoRegerts (Yes, considering a move. Grandparents had a house in Bakersfield, but man Arizona seems hot.)

    Walking into the same room for over a decade, trying to get my mom—multi-infarct dementia—to calm down or, heaven forbid, smile…no one on Twitter or any other platform gets to decide my worth.

    Always appreciated, Chief.

    [Edit: credit to Vance for beating us all to the Meatballs clip.]

    • #16
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  17. DrewInWisconsin, Thought Leader Member

    I will agree that any “news” story that is based on “some rando said something mean on Twitter” isn’t really news.

    The Covington Smear happened because “journalists” picked up what some rando posted (deliberately hoping to provoke) and turned it into “news” because it confirmed their biases.

    • #17
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:13 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  18. James Gawron Thatcher

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    The Covington Smear happened because “journalists” picked up what some rando posted (deliberately hoping to provoke) and turned it into “news” because it confirmed their biases.

    Drew,

    Did you see the NBC interview with the MAGA hat boy from Covington? The NBC newsperson (I’d like to use another appellation but COC) even though she already knew that none of the allegations were true kept at the kid for 15 minutes trying to trick him into a bad response. The kid was so straight she couldn’t do it.

    More than confirmed biases, this was a confirmed lack of integrity.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #18
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:44 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  19. Percival Thatcher

    Jim Chase (View Comment):

    So many verses from Ecclesiastes to quote, so little time.

    Habakkuk, Job, and Ecclesiastes? We’ve just been Old Testamenting to beat the band lately.

    • #19
    • January 25, 2019, at 9:57 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Percival Thatcher

    And even, and even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we win! Even if we play so far over our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days. Even if God in Heaven above comes down and points his hand at our side of the field. Even if every man, woman and child held hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn’t matter, because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk cause they’ve got all the money! It just doesn’t matter if we win or we lose. IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!

    — Bill Murray, Meatballs 

    • #20
    • January 25, 2019, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  21. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.

    In the past fewer scandals managed to break through the filters of authority to become part of the national zeitgeist. On the other hand the scandals that did break through were more likely to have staying power and and/or result in revolution.

    Today, more scandals break through to become part of the zeitgeist. On the other hand they tend to go away relatively quickly and are less likely to result in revolution.

    Whether or not you approve of the trade-off depends on how much you long for revolution.

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    • #21
    • January 25, 2019, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Instugator Thatcher

    James Gawron (View Comment):
    The NBC newsperson (I’d like to use another appellation but COC) even though she already knew that none of the allegations were true kept at the kid for 15 minutes trying to trick him into a bad response.

    Try Commissar.

    As in Commissar Savannah Guthrie.

    • #22
    • January 25, 2019, at 10:39 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. Jim McConnell Member

    I don’t think Jon was saying nothing matters, as some seem to interpret his post.

    My take on what he is saying is that we must each make a decision on what matters in our individual lives, as opposed to what’s going on in the media. We most affect those with whom we are closest.

    • #23
    • January 25, 2019, at 10:57 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  24. Franco Member

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I don’t think Jon was saying nothing matters, as some seem to interpret his post.

    My take on what he is saying is that we must each make a decision on what matters in our individual lives, as opposed to what’s going on in the media. We most affect those with whom we are closest.

    All decent, although somewhat obvious points. But we’re being told this now because his friends are getting blasted having shown themselves to be trigger-happy virtue signalers, caught regurgitating the enemy narratives. 

    Now it’s, can’t we just drop this? It doesn’t matter! 

    • #24
    • January 25, 2019, at 11:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Franco (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I don’t think Jon was saying nothing matters, as some seem to interpret his post.

    My take on what he is saying is that we must each make a decision on what matters in our individual lives, as opposed to what’s going on in the media. We most affect those with whom we are closest.

    All decent, although somewhat obvious points. But we’re being told this now because his friends are getting blasted having shown themselves to be trigger-happy virtue signalers, caught regurgitating the enemy narratives.

    Now it’s, can’t we just drop this? It doesn’t matter!

    I supported the Covington kids from the jump and criticized those pundits who foolishly attacked them and fell for an edited video.

    • #25
    • January 25, 2019, at 11:50 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  26. Franco Member

    Now, I’m late for my shift at the food kitchen after which I will be taking care of my sick wife, before I go to work at 4am to the coal mine to put food on the table for my foster children.

    My gosh, you people!

    • #26
    • January 25, 2019, at 11:53 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  27. James Lileks Contributor

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    The fact that we are a vapor does not change the fact that we are responsible for the platform of life we are given. Because we are small and easily forgotten does not mean that what we do in any arena does not matter, it does matter.

    Agreed. This Conan anecdote has been a popcorn hull in my gums for a few days. In the sense that the sun will eventually gutter out, sure, nothing matters, and yes, most of us will be forgotten. But history tells us that much is remembered, and we have the tools today to preserve and spread the memories and achievements. Just because Coolidge’s grave wasn’t attended doesn’t mean – well, it doesn’t mean anything. 

    As for the larger-yet-still-petty conflicts of the culture, they matter as they accumulate, and shape a worse culture than otherwise might be – one in which lots of people will have to live. It’ll matter for them.

    I also get Jon’s larger point.

    • #27
    • January 25, 2019, at 11:59 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  28. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    What really matters most, is my relationship with God. Everything else is after that. 

    • #28
    • January 25, 2019, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  29. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    What really matters most, is my relationship with God. Everything else is after that.

    Amen and amen.

    • #29
    • January 25, 2019, at 1:15 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  30. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Nihilism distilled.

    More like Stoicism with a healthy dollop of Orthodox Christianity.

    • #30
    • January 25, 2019, at 1:18 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3