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Sauce Gardner Is In The Muck With Everyone Else

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 7: Sauce Gardner #1 of the New York Jets on the field against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 7, 2024 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.(Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Winslow Townson/Getty Images

You know what's a great Simpsons joke? It's from "Lisa's Wedding," in which Lisa gets a vision of the future and sees herself as an adult who has brought her fiancé home to visit. There's a scene where future Marge and future Homer are lying in bed, watching television, when Marge says, "You know, FOX changed into a hardcore sex channel so gradually, I didn't even notice." It's a perfect joke about the FOX network that eventually became a perfect joke about life online, and the way the internet normalized some of the more antisocial behaviors.

I thought about this joke when star Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner went on a streaming show this week, hosted by a guy named Adin Ross, and said that Jewish people run the world.

"I'm gonna be honest, like no funny weird shit," Gardner said to Ross, who is Jewish, "y'all run the world."

Ross—who last broke into the mainstream news cycle for talking live on stream about Andrew Tate's plans to flee Romania, which was followed by Tate being detained by Romanian police—laughed off the comment and later came to Gardner's defense online. Gardner tried to clarify on Twitter that he meant his comment as a compliment, before eventually offering up something like an apology.

Scenes like the one Gardner created are starting to become distressingly familiar. There are of course echoes of Kyrie Irving and Ye in the substance of what he said, but there is also a familiar formal element at play here. Celebrities, athletes, and influencers of all sorts go on these ramshackle hangout shows, streams, and podcasts, and things rarely go well. These platforms are almost always geared towards a male audience, and usually hosted by "anti-woke" comedians, addled try-hards, or second-generation Gamergaters. This was once a darker corner of the internet, but someone like Gardner ending up stuffed into Ross's damp streaming cave is evidence of how mainstream it's become.

Spend enough time watching what goes on in Ross's world and you can see its influence leaking into more mainstream corners of the media industry, like Shannon Sharpe's Club Shay Shay podcast, or even Pat McAfee's daily ESPN show. When Gardner goes on a stream to delve into antisemitic conspiracies, he's working in the same register as Aaron Rodgers when he spends hours complaining to McAfee about vaccines, or Katt Williams when he commandeers Sharpe's show to burn every bridge he's ever crossed. They are all following a similar set of cues that ask them to be "bold truth-tellers" who thumb their noses at what's appropriate by saying whatever stupid thing they can think of. Sauce Gardner going on a stream to say that Jews run the world is, in many ways, just what media is now.

Why is Stephen A. Smith or Shannon Sharpe wading into gender-war discourse? Why is your favorite rapper or athlete so eager to go on sweaty Twitch streams and debase themselves? Why is every hip-hop adjacent podcast or YouTube show also a cesspool of misinformation and homophobia? I think what we're seeing here is the result of traditional forms of media, which are in a constant state of collapse, suffering from the distorting effects of a new media ecosystem that has its roots in a 4chan-adjacent culture. One can understand the attraction: a venue like this provides the opportunity to speak to a large audience without any of traditional media's gatekeeping or mediation. These streams are a place to leave behind any PR training, "be real," and speak without fear of being misquoted. Turns out, though, it's maybe not a good idea to have everyone constantly expressing their innermost thoughts off the cuff.

Muck merchants like Ross build platforms by feeding their audience's antisocial tendencies. Throw in a few celebrities who want to look cool and down to Earth, and suddenly you have a recipe for disaster—not just for the celebrities themselves, but the people who watch and are influenced by this stuff. Gardner's been sufficiently chastised for what he said, and maybe he will even learn something. But the "days since a celebrity said something stupid on a stream" sign won't count up for very long. The opportunities for attention are too plentiful, and the incentives too perverse, for it to be any other way.

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