Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Roger Ebert vs. the World on Ryan Dunn's death [UPDATED]

The internet mob mentality can be an ugly thing.

We saw this in the response to the Vancouver hockey riots last week. After a real-life mob let loose on the city, ironically a virtual mob formed to shame, harass and threaten the individuals who were photographed participating in the riots. Roger Ebert expressed astonishment at the vitriol and was then himself attacked as a defender of the rioters like Nathan Kotylak. Yesterday, he clarified himself on Twitter:
O Canada! I wasn't defending Nathan. I was recoiling from some of the venomous remarks on the Facebook page.
While that was exchange was winding down yesterday, he became embroiled in an even bigger online spat. Ryan Dunn of the Jackass movies was killed overnight in a fiery car crash. Many people posted information on this on Twitter in the morning including Ebert who tweeted,
"Jackass" star Ryan Dunn, RIP. His Porsche flew through 40 yards of trees.
Nothing unusual there. He posts RIP, quotes the article and provides a link. But soon afterwards, he followed up with this tweet.
Friends don't let jackasses drink and drive.
True enough. The reaction, though, was immediate. People jumped on this as a criticism against Dunn rather than his friends. Many accused him of leaping to conclusions about drunkenness and speeding. That was hardly mere speculation, however, since a picture posted online (shown above) showed Dunn (left) drinking with friends just prior to the crash. One of the friends has since been identified as Jackass production assistant Zachary Hartwell (right), who was the passenger killed in the crash.

Fuelling much of the anger towards Ebert was blogger Perez Hilton who posted a brief article "Roger Ebert Responds Insensitively To Ryan Dunn's Death." Interestingly, however, most of the flood of comments on the article were in complete agreement with Ebert. Ebert noticed this and tweeted the following:
Perez Hilton's readers agree with me and not with Perez about my tweet on Ryan Dunn. He drank, he drove, 2 people died.
Of course, this just fueled the backlash even more and started something of a twitter war. Some barbs were mild, such as this tweet from Sofia Coppola (Coppola was in a relationship with Jackass associate Spike Jonze):
Others were seething with rage, such as these two tweets from Dunn's Jackass colleague Bam Margera.
I just lost my best friend, I have been crying hysterical for a full day and piece of shit roger ebert has the gall to put in his 2 cents

About a jackass drunk driving and his is one, fuck you! Millions of people are crying right now, shut your fat fucking mouth!
From there, it escalated into outright hate speech and nastiness on both Facebook and Twitter. People took to swearing and insults about his health problems and appearance, without the slightest awareness of any hypocrisy on their part in complaining about Ebert's supposed insensitivity. Complaints by Dunn's mourners led to Ebert's Facebook page being taken down this morning. It has since been restored, but is being inundated with ugly comments, many wishing him harm or even death.

Ebert backtracked and posted an apology of sorts this morning. He began by saying "To begin with, I offer my sympathy to Ryan Dunn's family and friends, and to those of Zachary Hartwell, who also died in the crash. I mean that sincerely." Of his offending tweet, he wrote:
What did I mean by that? I meant exactly what I wrote. I wasn't calling Ryan Dunn a jackass. In Twitter shorthand, I was referring to his association with "Jackass." I thought that was clear. I note that Bam Margera uses the word "jackass" in the same way in his tweet.
He goes on to say:
I don't know what happened in this case, and I was probably too quick to tweet. That was unseemly. I do know that nobody has any business driving on a public highway at 110 mph, as some estimated -- or fast enough, anyway, to leave a highway and fly through 40 yards of trees before crashing.
Some people may find that he's still not apologetic enough, but if anything he is bending over backwards. We do know some of what happened, and that Dunn had at least six drinks before he got into his car. Therefore, he was drinking and driving. As for the speeding, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a car flying 40 yards through the air would be the result of speeding.

Anyhow, this hasn't apparently quelled the rabid, angry masses who continue to bombard his Facebook page with vicious hatefulness. This is still ongoing, and there are too many of these to keep track of. But it is clearly an ugly mob mentality that is shooting the messenger for merely speaking the truth.

Here is just a sample:
David Vallez

Jesse James
i came here to say fuck you good sir, you are a worthless piece of shit, whos job isnt even really a career you watch fucking movies and review them any asshole can do that, Ryan Dunn put his ass on the line every day he worked for our entertainment, get a heart you fucking prick! let the guy rest in peace, you really need to be an asshole the day of his death? fuck you ebert....fuck you... oh and fuck the woman below me too!

Ben Newberry
Insensitive prick. What do you do, critique movies? Go screw yourself, at least Ryan Dunn lived life to the fullest, not just watched life pass by on a movie screen.

Jude Sullivan
Roger, obviously nobody close to you has ever died in a drinking related car accident or you would not be so incredibly inconsiderate of a man who made it his job to make people laugh and of the friends and family that loved him. I had always thought of you as one of the worst film critics around but now I can also say that I hope you die in a car accident. RIP Ryan Dunn.

Shaun O'Donnell
What kind of sick fuck makes fun of and jokes about someone dying, no matter who they are and what they've done. You are a sick human being... If you can even be called one.

Kevin Couch

Hey man FUCK YOU you talent-less fucktard, if critics had any talent they would be artists and not sit on their asses and judge so suck a fat dick you fucking blob. Delete my shit bitch, but the truth hurts you fucking asshole.
These fans of Jackass may think they are defending the honour of an idol, but really they are just leaving him a hateful and repugnant legacy.

[UPDATE, June 22] Last night, Roger Ebert tweeted two more final comments before returning to his usual stream of film and general interest messages.
I should clarify: Anyone who drinks and drives is a jackass. That included me in my drinking days. Some are lucky enough to find sobriety.

My name is Roger, and I'm an alcoholic.
That second tweet links to a two-year-old column in which he confessed to being a recovered alcoholic. These comments provide a context -- that his original "insensitive" tweet was criticizing himself as much as anyone and that he was speaking from personal experience.

The vandalism on Roger Ebert's Facebook page has been removed and he has blocked comments on his wall. The flaming continues, however, with over 2000 comments left on his post which explains that he blocked comments because of the obscenities.

Details are slowly emerging about Ryan Dunn's death. TMZ and others reported the crash was so violent that the Coroner's office was unable to determine if they died from the impact of the crash or from the resulting fire. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that in the past 13 years, "Dunn was cited at least 23 times, including 10 stops for speeding and careless driving and three more for driving with a suspended license." The Daily Mail reports that a friend said that Dunn was ordering drinks for the whole bar. Reports are now emerging that Dunn's blood alcohol content (.196) was more than twice the legal limit (.08) and was traveling between 132 and 140 mph, more than twice the speed limit (55mph).

A private funeral for Ryan Dunn will take place today.


  1. Great assessment. It's rather disappointing the way we tend to jump in and offer half-baked judgments, and Roger Ebert is someone I really respect. Anyone, I probably shouldn't expect much nuance from die-hard 'Jackass' fans, but there's no need to get panties all up in a bunch. ESPECIALLY since drinking and driving is such a big issue.

  2. Shaun O'Donnell
    What kind of sick fuck makes fun of and jokes about someone dying, no matter who they are and what they've done.
    guy got it spot on, plus what are you talking about nobody will ever think of ryan dunns legacy as hateful regardless of what his fans are saying, plus how can anybody defend robert ebert he made a joke about somebody dying...1/2 a day after it happened

  3. He wasn't making fun of Dunn or making a joke. He was simply making an observation that Dunn would still be alive today if his friends had the good sense to stop him from drinking and driving. Bam Margera's own mother was much more critical, saying that Dunn had crashed before and she was always telling him to slow down.

    As for what am I talking about regarding Dunn's legacy "regardless of what his fans are saying" I'm merely pointing out that his legacy is endangered BECAUSE of what his fans are saying. You need to get a grip. Attacking someone with smears, insults and threats will not bring him back. It only tarnishes his memory.

  4. It's not too early to say something like that and Roger used the right words at exactly the right time! Maybe somebody sees this at the reason, to change some risky behavior! Maybe lives will be saved because of this.

    I lost 4 people, because their life have been taken away by drunk drivers! My fathers brother died when I was very young, but I still remember. One friend riding a bike was hit by a car, because of a drunk driver lost his lane and 2 other friends (couple) were killed because of a drunken truck driver. There's no excuse for driving drunk!

    Maybe Ryan Dunn was respected for his efforts in Jackass, but wasn't he driving drunk and didn't he kill his passenger, who served as a Marine in Iraq and was newly wed? Being able to shove a racecar up his butt makes a man a Legend nowadays? Times really have changed...

    After what I've witnessed yesterday, I've just deactivated my Facebook - Profile. 

    By watching a few 1000 of hate spewing comments on Roger Eberts (twitter: @ebertchicago ) Facebook profile, I learned not only that the US education system must suck real bad,
    I learned also that the Facebook people seem to relish this kind of aggressive and violent behavior.

    Here's what I wrote to them:
    I have to use this way, because Facebook does not offer a email address for his members to write to. So, here's my story
    Yesterday Facebook deactivated the profile of Roger Ebert. Right after that profile got activated again, a stream of a few 1000 extreme aggressive, hateful and violent comments were posted. Many of these people did wish Roger Ebert to die and made hateful comments about his cancer fight. 

    Facebook did NOTHING to help Ebert! 
    Mindful people like myself stood up for Ebert.
    I lost my wife to cancer years ago and I already lost a few people through drunk and reckless driving! Because of that I stood up for Roger and I posted many  defending comments using proper language and I reported many of those people, who were using extreme foul language. 
    After a while Facebook blocked my ability to post any comments!

    Shame on you! You should have blocked all those people who were using extreme hateful and foul language, instead you block people who are standing up for an amazing intelligent writer and cancer survivor by using proper and thoughtful language!"

    At the moment I don't know if I re-activate my profile again.

  5. Destroying your own life is fine.

    Risking the lives of anyone who happened to be on that road that night is disgusting.

    How long until America joins the rest of the civilised World in recognising that drink driving is simply not ok any more?