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Media Meltdowns

Dear God, Bill Simmons Is Talking About Cancel Culture Again

Ringer impresario Bill Simmons talking.
Amy Sussman/Getty Images via the New Yorker

On yesterday's Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons interviewed YouTuber/prizefighter Jake Paul. It was a pretty stilted conversation between two millionaires who seemed to have only the vaguest idea of what the other one actually does or why they were talking to each other. But they were able to find something of a groove when Simmons got going on one of his favorite topics: Cancel culture. After a few minutes of fawning over Paul and his brother Logan Paul for revitalizing the sport of boxing, Simmons mounts his hobby horse:

You and your bro, coming up, you're basically 16, 17 as all of this new technology is swinging your way, right. Instagram is already in place, Twitter is in place, TikTok is coming. Facebook is probably peaked by 2016-17. But you have all these devices, the phones are moving your direction. YouTube obviously is massive. It feels like your generation was the first generation who took advantage of all these things. At the same time, you're making mistakes in real time. The cancel culture stuff is really starting to kick in, like 2017-18 range, and people are just getting mad constantly. And at some point it seems like it either breaks you or you kind of figure out, "All right, where do I fit into this whole thing?" And one of the things I thought was interesting about both you and your brother is you both had these moments, you work through them, and you figured out, all right, I'm just gonna kind of own this. This is a roller coaster ride. People might hate me one day, they might like me the next day but I'm on the roller coaster and I'm not getting off. Is that a fair way to put it?

The Bill Simmons Podcast

It's not clear exactly what is being put, here, regardless of how fairly it is or is not being put. This is because Simmons didn't bother to offer any specifics about what "moments" Paul and his brother "worked through." But we can hazard a guess. Earlier this year, multiple women accused Paul of sexually assaulting them at the Team 10 mansion, a group-living situation in L.A. that Paul managed and which former residents described as a complete hell hole. From the New York Times:

In a YouTube video posted on April 9, Justine Paradise, a 24-year-old TikTok influencer, accused Mr. Paul of sexual assault. The incident, she said, involved forced oral sex and took place at the Team 10 house in 2019.

"In a situation like that, there was nothing I could do," Ms. Paradise said. "I was physically restricted, and I felt emotionally restricted afterwards to even say anything about it." Three friends whom she told directly afterward about the incident corroborated her account. Ms. Paradise said she plans to file charges.

In a public statement posted to Twitter, Mr. Paul denied Ms. Paradise’s allegations, calling them "100% false." Mr. Paul’s lawyer, Daniel E. Gardenswartz, said in a statement to The New York Times: "Our client categorically denies the allegation."

Railey Lollie, 21, a model and actress who began working with Mr. Paul when she was 17, said he often called her "jailbait" and commented on her appearance. She said that one evening in late 2017, after filming a video, Mr. Paul groped her. She forcefully told him to stop, and he ran out of the room.

Other influencers who lived in the house accused Paul of being a racist creep and general dick. Also from the Times:

[In 2017], Ivan and Emilio Martinez, two YouTubers from Spain who had lived in the Team 10 house, spoke about their decision to leave. In a YouTube video, they said Mr. Paul bullied them, terrorized them with pranks and made racist comments mocking their background and language skills. (The two speak English as a second language.)

In a 2018 interview with the YouTuber Shane Dawson, [YouTuber and former Team 10 member Alissa] Violet described what it was like to date and work with Mr. Paul. "He’s not a physical abuser, but mentally and emotionally, 100 percent, every day, 2,000 times a day," she says in the video. "I can’t even remember a conversation where it was me walking away feeling good about myself."

"If we filmed a video, and he had to push me into a bush, normally, you’d nudge someone or pretend to push someone. He would actually shove me," she says, as she shows scars to the camera. "He would just do it way too hard."

Back to the interview. After Simmons asks about "riding the roller coaster" of cancel culture, the conversation continues:

Paul: Yeah, 100 percent. And the audience is very fickle—

Simmons: Yeah.

Paul: You know, one minute they love you, one minute they hate you. So you can't get too attached to the highs or lows. You just gotta know who you are at the end of the day. It was rough at first, going through these cancelled moments and being hated on. I had no one to look to or talk to about this because it was the first time kids that this young were exposed in the internet for everything they've done—or not done. [Laughs nervously]

Simmons: Right.

Paul: People make shit up all the time. So it's like this fake stuff is happening, what's going on, it's this crazy life and L.A. is full of sharks. It took a big toll on my mental—I developed anxiety and was scared all the time and living in fear. It was a hard thing to go through but it made me super super strong. And I had to over the years figure out who I was and truly love myself to the point where it doesn't matter what the Twitter people say, because it's not real.

As he makes clear in the podcast, most of Simmons's knowledge about Paul and other content creators comes from observing his own children's respective influencer obsessions, which means it's definitely possible that he was unaware of the specifics of the allegations against his podcast guest. Some interviewers would be given pause by something like this, but not knowing shit about a given topic has never stopped Bill Simmons in the past, especially not when he sees the narrowest opening to rail against cancel culture. A 24-year-old YouTuber his son likes has clearly been attacked for no reason because of cancel culture, which is a free-floating cloud of censoriousness and envy that has sometimes settled over L.A., starting sometime in either 2017 or 2018, and which tries to prevent people from achieving greatness. And that's all there is to it!

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