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It seemed like a perfect gotcha moment. Lyz Lenz, author, journalist, celebrated call-out culture cultist, had “Creepy Uncle” Joe Biden against the rails. It was at the LGBTQ presidential forum at Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lenz, a writer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, had a heated exchange with Biden, where he revealed his misunderstanding of the difference between biological sex and gender. When it was through, Biden called Lenz a “sweetheart.” The nerve of the guy! Lenz took to Twitter to tell the world about it.
Lenz got some instant support. Articles backing her up and trouncing Biden came from Vox, Rolling Stone, Jezebel, and The New York Times. They all mentioned the sweetheart moment, noting that it was basically condescending and dismissive. Just another moment that supposedly proved the pattern of Biden being problematic.
After all, this is a presidential election, and no one but Trump is allowed to have a personality. Democratic candidates are all supposed to have the same goals then posit different ways of getting there and we voters are meant to decide which way we think is the most direct.
Throughout the thread of support for Lenz’s deft handling of “Creepy Uncle Joe,” some dissenting voices began to pop up. Apparently, while she was up there noticing Biden’s tone and vocab, other people were noticing hers. And things quickly turned ugly for Lenz.
She went from calling out Biden to being called out herself. Apparently, it was noticed that the way she asked Senator Kamala Harris a question about making sure inmates in federal prisons have access to trans surgeries and the way she asked Senator Elizabeth Warren a question about making sure inmates have access to trans surgeries, showed that Lenz was racist.
The questions weren’t about whether or not inmates of people on medicare should have their gender-affirming surgeries funded, but why Harris and Warren had ever thought they shouldn’t be. Lenz asked Harris how she thought trans people could ever trust her, after her refusal to back gender-affirming surgeries for prison populations, while her question to Warren was basically, how do we get other people to agree that these surgeries should be taxpayer-funded? The argument is that she grilled Harris, but lobbed a softball to Warren. The internet decided that this could only be explained by racism.
Lenz has a history of calling people out, and acting malicious online. She wrote a damaging profile of Tucker Carlson, decrying him for, among other things, shouting while he said he was just talking loudly. She goes on to say that “Carlson’s PR person was concerned about silencing, too. [The PR rep] demanded that Carlson be able to respond to every criticism in this piece. And then, if the people who made those criticisms had a response, that Carlson be able to respond to that.” Clearly Lenz didn’t think this was reasonable, because she didn’t acquiesce.
She piled onto author Stephen Elliott after he was listed on the “Shitty Men in Media List” for anonymous and completely untested allegations, saying that he made her feel uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is a crime now, if you’re keeping track, and whoever made you feel uncomfy deserves to be publicly humiliated. When Bari Weiss wrote about Elliott’s plight in The New York Times, Lenz held a grudge that she wasn’t invited to comment despite the fact that it was a straight opinion piece and wasn’t even about her. She tweeted out her anger about it over a year later. Apparently, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.
It’s not a surprise that she pledges allegiance to another social justice grifter, Lauren Duca, who recently was called out by Buzzfeed of all places for blatant careerism and pedagogical incompetence.
These writers do not want a revolution unless they’re leading the charge.
Lenz went from calling out Vice President Joe Biden to being called out herself for racism, all within about two hours. She’s clearly comfortable with the format of public shaming, seeing as she’s engaged in it a couple of times. Perhaps she knows the right way to respond to this kind of mobbing, since she’s been on the other side of it, and presumably knows what it takes to call off the dogs. Or maybe not. Callout culture will always take down those who participate in it; it’s just a matter of when.