Barstool Sports Hit Piece Reaction: Stop Falling For the Same Tired Narratives

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/barstool-sports-persistence-traditional-masculinity-sports-culture-n1057061

As a community of liberal and aspiringly liberal thinkers—clearly I’m referring to the classical sense of the word, meaning robust, nuanced, and able to comprehend multiple perspectives—we should thoroughly dissect this author’s opinion piece (disguised as reporting, of course) in an effort to help fully appreciate both the disingenuous nature of modern media and the criticality of developing reasonable assessments while consuming said media.

If you choose to constantly educate yourself, to occupy a headspace of dispassionate logic, and therefore to transcend the trappings of am emotionally-fueled, often manic-depressive media landscape, then you will also face a deluge of hyperbolic anger from a vocal constituency of lunatics who think the preferred way to overcome man’s frailties is to humiliate a delicately evolved species into docile submission. The incredibly wide-sweeping pains of politically correct culture undermine all that it means to be human: messy, difficult, exhausted; but also forgiving, empathetic, and achieving. They would rather nuke an entire culture than optimistically transform humanity through setting an example of positivity and helpfulness. Why? Other than the brilliant minds who have been slowly perpetuating the PC myth for generations and have gotten incredibly wealthy because of it, the vast majority of its purveyors—now bastardized into “cancel culture”—accept the new religion because of ignorance or plain stupidity. Because it is easily understood, it delivers a tidy emotional dividend, it gives purpose to a generation with no respect for their own blessings, and it fulfills the very human need to quantify the world as good and evil. The same theory plagues economics, among many other fields: that is, simple minds cannot fathom how decisions ripple across multiple iterations of impact, and instead of considering the bigger picture, they aggressively lean in on the first splash, always failing to consider how non-PC traits like leadership, aggression, off-color humor, camaraderie, or dominance might be of great use in a chaotic society.

If you want to achieve the kind of success that actually means something, that people will remember, you mustn’t fall for the deliberate trappings of mindless, hypocritical drivel like the opinions espoused below. Let’s take a look.

Original article in bold; my thoughts in italics.

When the news broke Sept. 10 that a lawsuit had been filed against NFL star receiver Antonio Brown accusing him of rape, Barstool Sports, like many other websites, published an article about it. But it was the comments on that article that told the real story.

Remember my call to action: learn to read critically, so that you can detach from the intended persuasiveness of the author. Classical journalism reports the facts from a fair and balanced perspective and let’s the reader decide his or her own outcome; this yellow fodder means to guilt you into submission and subconsciously challenges your intelligence if you take an opposing viewpoint. Not only does NBC fail to mention the civil, not criminal, nature of the lawsuit, but it immediately frames the ensuing coverage as positive versus negative. The reader of this piece already knows that the “real story” will implicate Barstool in a messy faux pas of NBC’s own fingering. At least they didn’t bury the lead, I guess.

Two comments alone — “I hate this guy but I think this is all BS and some chick is trying to get paid” and “Most obvious extortion attempt I’ve ever seen” — racked up hundreds of “likes” on the sports and culture blog geared toward young men. A majority of replies to the article on Twitter elicited jokes about rape or crude remarks and captured a perspective popular with Barstool Sports’ readers.

So now we know the piece aims to excoriate Barstool based on the replies of its readers; maybe? Honestly, we can’t tell if the quotes are from Twitter, the website’s comment section, or from an aforementioned article by a Barstool writer. This lack of clarity and failure to attribute not only breaks the fundamental principals of reporting, but also clearly aims to frame Barstool as a bastion rape apologists and assault deniers—a giant wishing well of hate in which angry, dangerous young men throw pennies and hope for the dismantle of society. After all, if you don’t immediately believe a rape allegation, you must obviously admire Barstool…or something.

That was a direct and deliberate contrast to the ascendance of political correctness.

The perspective that is popular with Barstool readers is one of surviving, thriving, and laughing in a tough world that has always tested human beings, but now aims to vilify men for many of its woes in addition to still reigning down constant turmoil as it has since our species’ inception. Obviously many young men deal with overwhelming aggressions as they try to come into their own as responsible adults. This very website and community wants to deliberately help the transition with words of encouragement and doses of difficult truths that will make them better leaders one day, while “journalism” like this explicitly aims to shame men, acting like men in a non-violent albeit distasteful way, into shameful submission.

The current Congress is the most diverse in U.S. history, and American women have won more attention for sexual harassment issues in the years following the birth of the #MeToo movement. But Barstool Sports has found a base hungry for its politically incorrect content — all the while also creating a steady stream of controversy.

How exactly does the election of more women and minorities into Congress correlate in the slightest to the published works of a comedy and satire website? What exactly will happen to the world if Barstool is allowed to continue writing sports, culture, and fart jokes? Barstool launched while I was finishing up high school and really took off when I got to college because they wrote in a completely authentic, matter-of-fact, hilarious way. This was over 10 years ago, and nobody read that site because we were hungry for politically incorrect content, nor did it create a steady stream of anything. That’s why they called it the pirate ship, because we all felt like we were a part of a community that called a spade a spade, laughed at the absurd, and valued honesty and toughness, two traits that have meant something in this world for generations. Controversies only began when “journalists” like this one started viewing men’s humor as some perceived threat to female empowerment, as if men would all of a sudden side with a misogynistic heckler over their own wives, girlfriends, and female family at the behest of Dave Fucking Portnoy. What???

Just last month, Barstool Sports’ founder and president, David Portnoy, made headlines when he threatened to fire employees “on the spot” for discussing unionization. Last week, the company announced it was moving some of its videos that violate Instagram’s terms of service to an app favored by the so-called alt-right.

These two sentences exist explicitly to enrage ignorant, easily-manipulated readers into forming inherently negative opinions about a brand that they likely have never even heard of, and thereby poison the well of potential readers for the company. Unionization and its benefits/drawbacks are such complex issues that even trying to educate the public via public education or state college is rarely attempted, but Twitter seems like a fine place to take a stand. If you passionately believe in either side of the debate, then you clearly owe your financial livelihood to that side of the debate; or, more likely, you lazily pick and choose what issues that you don’t understand whatsoever should run your daily train of thought. I’m sure a comedy website that actively engages its viewers in interesting and creative ways (which, by the way, creates that magic engagement rate that other brands so badly envy) should certainly be expected to set the bar in Twitter-fueled unionization discussion. Shame on them for not rising to the occasion and adopting the modern media mandate of virtue signaling—I bet it would have been hilarious. As for the bit about the so-called- alt-right app, don’t even get me started on the asinine implications of such a self-righteous statement. Do you know what else the alt-right favors? Food, shelter, clothing, you know, things that exist. NBC would have you believe that if you buy your jeans from the same store as a neo-Nazi, then you probably burn crosses on the weekend. And why must we all kowtow to Instagram, as if they are the pinnacle of goodness on the internet? If Instagram doesn’t like it, then it must be bad, right? Oh, are we no longer #freeingthenipple? Maybe don’t buy in to every single line of a corporate behemoth’s terms of service, or their shoddy journalism.

Rather than being an errant blip amid an increasingly woke generation, Barstool Sports seems to exist as a parallel culture.

Anything that slightly deviates from the media-mandated code of decency and ethics is now considered a parallel universe, I mean culture. Please adjust your spaceships accordingly.

“Not only has it been parallel, I think a conservative, reactionary response to women increasing prominence and equality is institutionalized by a place like Barstool Sports,” said Soyaya Chemaly, a women’s rights activist and the author of “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger.” “I don’t have any sense that #MeToo or even Trump’s election was ever going to make a dent in that culture.”

Egalitarianism is not the same as equality, which becomes all the more clear as one-sided quotations like these mount but, according to the activists themselves, our world devolves into more putrid anarchy and misogyny daily. Read quotations like this for what they are: cheap, meaningless opinions from a source that was guaranteed to deliver an opinion that coincided with the author’s thesis.

Conservative ideology appears to be a core part of Barstool Sports — especially its portrayal of gender roles, with hypermasculine, sports-loving men and hypersexualized, submissive women. The site’s reinforcement of conservative American values is what makes its content stand out from its competitors, Marie Hardin, the dean of Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, said.

“In many ways, Barstool has resisted some of the more progressive discourse around sports. And I think there’s a niche for that,” she said. “There’s a market there and they’re able to capture that.”

Sigh. Hypermasculine? Submissive women? Never mind the biological imperative of the male/female mating ritual to usually take on a leadership role for the man and a complimentary, hypergamous role for the woman across all species; to make such a statement about gender roles both implies women of Barstool are relegated to secondary status and conservative values must be avoided if both genders are to flourish. Do not fall for this brand of unscientific, politically motivated discourse.

The market exists for everything but “woke” reinforcement, as that is the only pervading doctrine of acceptability, and therefore creates a demand out of limited supply for rational and original. But at least Dean Hardin gave a quote rooted in fairness instead of self-righteous indignation.

Portnoy founded Barstool Sports as a weekly New England sports-centric newspaper in 2003. From its beginning, the brand labeled itself as an outlet “by the common man, for the common man” and has, in recent years, ramped up its chauvinistic coverage of pop culture, memes and women. (See: Barstool Smokeshows, a subset of Barstool Sports that’s dedicated to posting hypersexualized photos of women.)

The only thing it has ramped up in recent years is private equity funding. Old Barstool was much edgier and smut-driven; all of this has been toned down since their acquisition by The Chernin Group. This writer believes in this sentence because Barstool is firmly established as a national brand now and generates more viewers than before; a classic correlation versus causation relationship. Don’t expect such self-awareness, though, from an NBC journalist. Also, sexual images of women rule every facet of the internet. To only finger one brand, who doesn’t even post nudes, would be akin to branding Miller Lite as an evil corporation because they sell alcohol. Yeah, so do lots of companies.

The company appears to be moving away from sports coverage and focusing more on manliness. (See: “Saturdays are for the boys,” a tweet from one of its contributors that went viral and became the company’s catchphrase to describe drunken debauchery.)

While I do think this catchphrase certainly ushered in a new era of annoying Stool readership, and effectively ushered out my generation of original readers because of its silliness, if we are literally trying to burn down companies because they cater to men (boys even!) then about half of all companies will perish. Having a fun albeit extremely dumb catchphrase to pass around on a Saturday afternoon doesn’t make you toxic, aggressive, mean-spirited, or dangerous. But “manliness” implies all of these characteristics these days, and the author of this garbage will happily imply as much for the woke clicks she garners.

 “I think Barstool is a nostalgic callback to the idea that the more offensive you are, the more free you’re being, and it’s also a kind of cultural preservation project for bros,” said Lisa Nakamura, a professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who studies the intersection of digital media and race, gender and sexuality.

Barstool Sports, Nakamura said, strikes a chord with its primary target audience — young white men — because it casts them as the “persecuted ones” of mainstream, politically correct culture. Men who feel disadvantaged by the world around them see the platform as a safe space where freedom of speech means voicing unpopular and sometimes offensive opinions without consequence.

So then why exactly were we reading and engaging with Barstool before the dawning of excessive thought auditing and language policing from the politically-motivated left? Don’t skim over this section, as it encapsulates the very essence of our modern dilemma: the notion of freedom to many modernists (post-modernists if we’re being specific) essentially equates to a desire to act outlandish and offensive. I can’t stress enough how important the language is here, because is implicitly suggests that the best way to deal with such “nostalgia/persecution/unpopular opinion” is to limit freedoms. Unpopular by whose standards, exactly? About half the country, politically, but in the case of Barstool specifically, likely far less than that even. Believe me, I overhear plenty of social conversations in the progressive hotbed of Los Angeles about Barstool properties, most of which aim to share in their success. Don’t slowly give up your right to freedom of speech because a minority of dissenters falsely equates your brand of humor with “sometimes offensive opinions.” Puritanism, their ideological enemy, aimed to accomplish the same feats.

“We will not bow down to the winds of PC culture whichever way they may blow,” Portnoy said in an email to NBC News. “If that makes us perceived as counter culture then so be it. I’d say we represent the silent majority. There is always a line that can’t be crossed. Anything that is said or written from a place of hate will never be acceptable behavior at Barstool.”

We need to re-categorize the notion of silent majority in favor of a more substantial moniker, but the gist of Dave’s quotation here is important. Barstool wouldn’t exist if it promoted an unsafe or unfair work environment, which bring us to a common corner of online arguments: facts versus perceptions.

(Also notice the placement of the first balancing quotation from the story; how many opinions were listed prior to the founder’s in this piece of journalism? Remember, read actively.)

The niche for a conservative callback culture built around sports seems to be growing. In the past two years, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, Barstool Sports has almost doubled its Twitter following, according to Social Blade analytics, and now has almost 1.8 million followers. Over the past month, its account has gained about 1,700 followers a day.

Fact: Barstool continues to grow because they received an influx of money, and therefore talent, leadership, and facilities. They have branched out to dozens of new ventures, like gaming, gambling, and outdoors as a result, and their social numbers support that growth.

Perception: Because the #MeToo movement simply EXISTS, the timing of Barstool’s rise suggests that men hate women and want them living in a world where they feel unsafe and unable to speak up about sexual aggression. Can you see the #insanity of this logic? Reading between the lines has never been the job of journalists, but now they feel they are dropping the ball without attempting to do so.

Portnoy’s Twitter following has also doubled in the past two years. The site’s main Instagram account now has more than 7 million followers. Barstool Sports also owns 38 podcasts, dozens of side Twitter and Instagram accounts and a growing women’s blog called Chicks, which brands itself as “One of the Boys, All for the Girls.”

Fact: Men like feeling that they a part of something, especially a place where they can relax and have a laugh without being persecuted or judged out of context.

Perception: Although we believe gender to exist as a purely social construct, separating the genders as a matter of personal preference and delight harkens back days of sexual repression and aggression. Don’t believe us? The #MeToo movement confirms that a “problem” has always existed, and to deny that simple truth (by enjoying chauvinistic media from Barstool and the likes) means you inherently deny women their right to live as equals.

The falseness in this logic is so ironclad that it cannot be defeated by reason; you just have to rise above it.

Barstool Sports isn’t just about sports, and it never billed itself that way. But outside its sports coverage, Barstool has found itself entangled in controversies of its own — or Portnoy’s — doing.

Most recently, he tweeted about hating unions and threatened to fire any of his employees “on the spot” if they reached out to anyone for union information. Earlier this year, comedian Miel Bredouw documented her fight with Barstool Sports after she claimed it ripped off her content on Twitter, which she said eventually led to harassment from multiple company accounts.

Another lazy jab at unionization jokes which perfectly fit into the comedic tone of Barstool and its readers. Repeating this sentence verbatim from above represents just how highly the author of this piece thinks of you, the reader. Have you ever been so “not in” on a joke that your ignorance and absurd reaction just made the surrounding laughter stronger? Sounds like a high school hell, which is another reason journalists react so violently to Barstool and its readers. The lack of self-confidence and inability to ease into even the slightest bit of self-deprecation permeates our culture so strongly now that we would rather fight than shake our heads with a chuckle and move on with our lives.

Last year, several female reporters accused Portnoy and Barstool fans of verbal harassment, making light of sexual harassment and doxxing them.

Unattributed indictment with absolutely no contextual efforts to frame this piece in a fair or balanced light. Doxxing has become the preferred method of torment of the far left, going so far as to publicize Trump donors recently in an effort to engender hatred toward their businesses, so to make a claim like this without a hint of irony is truly reprehensible.

“You can’t put Barstool in a box however hard you try,” Portnoy said in the email. “We’ve worked with 1000’s of women, and almost all of them will say it’s one of the most progressive job environments they’ve ever been in.”

“We have a primarily female leadership team, not because they are women but because they are the most qualified. We have 3 of the most successful female podcasts in the world,” he continued. “The facts just don’t support the narrative of those who hate us.”

Portnoy unfortunately takes the bait here and decides to speak to the company’s egalitarianism, hoping that facts will alleviate perceptions to his enemies, but we know that isn’t how their antics work. The socially conscious media will never appreciate a female-driven leadership team because factuality isn’t what drives this crusade. If Barstool wants to find these battles at all, which, at this point might not be worth their time, they need to attack the ideologies of their enemies. A company of common men might not have the gusto to silence the fringe opinions, but as they gain popularity, stronger PR pushback may become a necessity.

The antics aren’t always without repercussions. Portnoy is now being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board for the tweet about unions. Two years ago, ESPN cancelled its collaboration with Barstool Sports due to pushback from female employees after one episode of the TV show based on Barstool Sports’ popular podcast, “Pardon My Take.”

If you think the Labor board is going to sanction Barstool in any way, much less “investigate” them at all, then I have a timeshare in Mexico I’d like to tell you about.

ESPN was also in the midst of its most politically-driven, anti-comedy era, a tumultuous period for the company that built unwavering loyalty (much like Barstool) by delivering engaging, funny content without radical political opinion attached. The primary executive who led ESPN down this path resigned for drug problems, and since then the company has made obvious strides toward moving back to sports only. But Barstool, bad!

And just last week, it announced on social media that it would be moving some content to Telegram, an encrypted app that has been used by members of the “alt-right” when Facebook, Twitter and Instagram cracked down on its content.

If it’s not in the Gram, then it must be alt-right. Could someone please give me a definition of alt-right?

“Our goal has, and always will be, to stay true to Barstool Sports and as a result, it means that we, too, will have an ever-changing set of content and ever-evolving set of platforms,” Erika Nardini, the CEO of Barstool Sports, said in an email.

Ms. Nardini’s quotation should have more prominently featured in this article, and it should have struck back directly at the hypocrisy being lobbed directly at her. Articles like this effectively accuse her of selling out an entire gender in order to make a buck, which is patently false. To transform a small men’s media brand into a behemoth undoubtedly took courage and an incredible amount of savvy, and to turn her into a co-conspirator completely discounts what it means to be a strong woman in a cutthroat business climate. Surely by now you can see how the woke feminine imperative undercuts itself at every turn, and therefore damages women and their actual plights in the process.

Marcus Messner, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, called Barstool Sports’ social media strategy “sophisticated” in achieving its goal: branding. That includes its move to Telegram.

Another professor! Universities, so important!

“There’s always a new channel where the more outrageous content can be posted,” he said. “Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — they’ve received a lot of scrutiny over their misleading content, violent content, outrageous content, that users are flagging and that they’re going to take down. A more non-traditional platform like Barstool can just move to a different platform that won’t regulate it in its initial stages.”

Actually big social media platforms can arbitrarily decide what content it deems outrageous or misleading, and for some crazy reason it keeps flagging centrist or conservative content first. If you were a business that relied on a broad spectrum of customers, wouldn’t you want to engage with them in a way to valued unilateral input, not just the permissions of a few tech giants?

So Barstool still rises. “Pardon My Take,” one of the most popular football podcasts, tops weekly charts on Apple and Spotify and hosts the biggest stars in the NFL, past and present. Former New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski was on just last week.

Womp womp; all this bullshit we throw at them only acts as fertilizer.

“They will not have a reckoning until they no longer reflect a good portion of this country’s values,” Hardin, who has researched gender in sports since the late ’90s, said. “Is Barstool a reflection of our values or is it reinforcing our values? It reflects and reinforces — the only way Barstool could ever die is if it no longer reflects. But we’re not anywhere close to that as a culture.”

“Angry progressives have a long way to go before fully realizing our dream of total ideological dominance. Keep fighting comrades!”

Introducing progressive ideas, she said, takes work when it comes to changing American sports culture, which is riddled with conservative values. Barstool Sports is just “amplifying what’s already there.”

“Barstool would not exist if we did not have a spectator sports culture that positioned men and women in a certain way, in a way that we really take for granted,” Hardin said. “So many people don’t even think about the signaling about gender that spectator sports do every weekend on television. Those are things we aren’t thinking about enough as a culture — and Barstool would not exist without that.

Let’s end with a vague quotation that essentially demonizes sports, a set of activities that has done far more good for boys and girls than bad, because we haven’t figured out a way to regulate progressive emotions in these activities just yet. Such a statement requires far more depth and discovery, but detail and nuance isn’t what’s important to this piece of journalism. So here you have it: you are not thinking about gender signaling enough in your life, whatever the fuck that means. By engaging with a brand like Barstool, you are amplifying your miserable existence. And what’s worse, you don’t even fully realize how disgusting you are—these are the tenets of good reporting now? And we wonder why anxiety, depression, and mental illness continue to skyrocket? We wonder why young white men feel that malevolence is the only solution to a world with no meaning, and then decide to act in horrific and despicable ways? As an active participant in this world and a leader of men, I implore you to understand the repercussions of such drivel like this article and actively stand up against its flawed ideologies. We need to be working together from a place of respect and commonality, instead of persecuting attitudes which we find different than our own. Transcend the insanity and refuse to believe such lies.

For more opinion rooted in truth and rationality, be sure to keep an eye out for my new book, The Blue State Letters, coming in early 2020.