The New Quantum Leap Series is a Steaming Pile of Creatively Bankrupt Bullshit

I absolutely adored the original Quantum Leap series. It was quirky, imaginative, emotionally honest, and breathtakingly original. It was buoyed by the considerable talents and charisma of its two leads: Scott Bakula, who played the time-traveling scientist Dr. Sam Beckett, and the late Dean Stockwell, who appeared as Al, Sam’s cigar-smoking holographic guide, and who regularly wore flashy and often hilarious suits that seemed to be designed by some insane tailor obsessed with clashing pastels. The original series had the guts to tackle social issues with emotional sensitivity, such as the audacious episode in which Dr. Sam Beckett leaped into a rape victim. It had the confidence to tinker with daring premises, such as Sam leaping into a chimpanzee in the early days of the space program. And this go-for-broke high-concept approach made Quantum Leap one of the most fascinating shows on television in the 1990s. It greatly helped that showrunner Donald Bellasario was smart enough to hire top-notch writers. And because Sam could leap into anyone, the show was essentially an all-genre production in a way that hasn’t quite been seen since — unless you count such amazing shows as Farscape and Fringe. Quantum Leap could be a goofball comedy one week or a trenchant drama the next. It was also not afraid to embrace juicy melodrama, such as the very fun Evil Leapers who were introduced in the fifth season. Above all, the original series had heart and passion and guts. And this is arguably why the series remains so well-loved today.

But now NBC, fueled by corporate greed and knowing full well that fans are easily manipulated and will bob their heads up and down over the most mediocre storytelling, has “continued” this series and completely destroyed what was once a must-watch show. The first episode is poorly written garbage made by vile mercenary hacks who have clearly not studied what made the original series so enjoyable and who have neither the talent nor the inclination to carry on with the inventive tradition. I mean, when Bakula himself has completely distanced himself from this series in the classiest way imaginable, you know that the producers of this hideous affair shit the bed and then some. Bakula, so integral to the series, dodged a bullet. I hope he sticks to his guns and isn’t involved at all with this amateurish and shoddy production.

In Dr. Sam Beckett’s place, we have a dull and manipulative clod by the name of Dr. Ben Song, played by Raymond Lee. While it’s great to see an Asian American actor as the leading man in a television series, Lee, to put it charitably, is a hopeless stiff. An actor who clearly doesn’t have the thespic range of John Cho, Steven Yuen, or Sandra Oh — all of whom would have been perfect as the lead here. He appears to be deeply uncomfortable in the role. And his character is established in the first episode as a man who betrayed his partner, Addison (played by Caitlin Bassett), by injecting some new code into the supercomputer Ziggy and leaping, leaving only a thoughtless video message for her. To add insult to injury, Addison has now taken the place of Al as the holographic guide. So that means Addison now has to watch her fiancé regularly get it on with people in the bodies he leaps into. And if the show is committed in any way to the original concept of “putting right what once went wrong,” then it has established a morally bankrupt and incredibly selfish man in Sam’s place. The original series had the good sense to leave Sam’s wife out of the picture. Since the paper-thin Addison doesn’t possess the temperament of a cuckquean, it’s doubtful that she wants to see her partner fuck other people in her presence. So in an attempt at gender parity, the showrunners have succeeded instead in creating a misogynistic scenario in which Addison is more in the role of victim rather than guide. And given how Quantum Leap lives or dies on this vital character dynamic, the new series has already painted itself into a disastrous corner. It certainly doesn’t help that Sam’s “Oh boy!” has been replaced with Ben’s “Oh shit!” Perhaps this is a subconscious act from the producers in which they are offering a honest assessment of the new show’s true worth.

The new series also spends far too much time in the present day Quantum Leap Project, assembling a cast of tepid characters which include a nonbinary “architect” named Ian Wright (played by Mason Alexander Park with high camp) and Ernie Hudson reprising his role from “The Leap Home (Part 2)” as Herbert “Magic” Williams. Hudson, at least, has some fun with his role with big chewy lunges. He probably would have made a more interesting holographic guide than Addison. But Mason Alexander Park, because of the piss-poor writing, is reduced to yelling at DJs to play insipid song choices (“Come Dancing” instead of “Dead End Street”? Really?) and looking more like a thoughtless nonbinary caricature rather than an interesting three-dimensional character. Rather than keep the Quantum Leap Project secret, as the original series did, the mystery of the program is now needlessly revealed. And given how bereft of imagination this “continuation” is, the show’s producers have killed all the wonder that kept us rapturously watching three decades before. By keeping the show’s focus primarily on Sam, we were able to get to know him over time. And it also naturally guided the writers to mine the personal histories of their two central characters — often with emotionally moving results. (Who can forget the heartbreaking moment in “The Leap Home” when Sam sings “Imagine” to his sister when he leaps into himself and she knows, upon recognition of John Lennon’s telltale style, that he has to be from the future?) But because the new series now splits the story between Ben’s journey and the present day environment, we have less screen time with Ben. And with writing that is decidedly much inferior to the original series, the show is a veritable snoozefest and an insult to audience intelligence.

The other main problem is that, because a leaper can only travel within his own lifetime, Ben’s time range isn’t nearly as interesting as Sam’s. While Sam could inhabit the 1950s, the 1960s, and the 1970s, Ben can only go back to the 1980s at the earliest. And given the jejune and witless writing that now drives this colossal disaster, I doubt very highly that the writers will investigate, say, the collapse of the Soviet Union or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Their commitment to history is cheap nostalgia, seen in such obvious song choices as David Bowie and a-ha and memorialized further with a double bill of The Goonies and St. Elmo’s Fire seen on a movie theatre marquee.

The original series also had a sense of humor. I mean, the producers had to be funny given how goofy the conceptual hook was. But this new show is completely devoid of humor. In the original series, Al’s handlink had a number of weird squeaks and wheezes attached to it. And this brought a peculiar atmosphere to the series. But Addison’s tool is a generic circular device that can display holographic data in which there is no real commitment to sound design.

Change, of course, is inevitable. And reboots and remakes can work. Before the talentless Chris Chibnall utterly ruined the show, Doctor Who produced some of its best episodes when it returned in 2005. The American iteration of The Office is arguably better than the British original. Or what about Mad Max: Fury Road? Or Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica?

But based on a social media search I conducted last night, the fans have gobbled this truly terrible show up without question. And they are aided and abetted by dopes like Primetimer‘s Mark Blankenship, who actually had this to say:

Not every television show has to be an aesthetic breakthrough, because if everything were that compelling, then we’d never get the laundry folded.

This is anti-intellectualism. This is settling for mediocrity. Television, at its best, is art. And art has the duty to grab you by the lapels and not let go. Television isn’t something that should drone on in the background to alleviate lonely domestic duties. It should be about something.

And Quantum Leap isn’t about anything other than the need to fill up plutocratic coffers.

Fan entitlement now means accepting corporate “entertainment” without intelligence, craft, or wit and proclaiming this as “great” simply because you have some dim memory of the original series being great. It now involves surrendering your capacity to feel or to practice critical thinking. It involves possessing a Borg-like mind and becoming some slavish lemming to a corporate empire that does not give two fucks about quality storytelling and wants to take as much time and money from you as it can.

What NBC has done here is a shameful calumny. By employing talentless mercenaries as writers and producers, it has committed a significant crime against True Art. (And I am willing to hold up several episodes of the original series as True Art — indeed, Quantum Leap was some of the best television in the 1990s.) The Peacock has taken all that was great about Quantum Leap and created a steaming pile of insipid shit that is the greatest possible insult to originality. And because most people’s standards have plummeted, Quantum Leap will undoubtedly be a huge hit, perhaps expanding and becoming as smug and as bloviated and as vapid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Gray Area Season 3 Research — Reading List

The third season of my audio drama, The Gray Area, is likely to be the most ambitious project that I have ever attempted and, given the multiple time periods and multiple universes, it has required a great deal of research. What follows is a list of books I have read so far. I estimate that I am about 65% into my research. I still have a few dozen books to read (and have the towering piles to prove it!). My hope is to complete the scripts and start production sometime in 2023.

Mid-Century America:
Dorothy Baker, Young Man with a Horn
Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye
Eric Dregni, Let’s Go Bowling
Brett Harvey, The Fifties
William Hitchcock, The Age of Eisenhower
Andrew Hurley, Diners, Bowling Alleys, and Trailer Parks
Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier
James Kaplan, Frank: The Voice
James Kaplan, Sinatra
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Robert Lenzer, The Great Getty
Shawn Levy, Rat Pack Confidential
William Manchester, The Glory and the Dream
Harry & Bonaro Overstreet, The Strange Tactics of Extremism
Doug Schmidt, They Came to Bowl
Howard Stallings, The Big Book of Bowling
Gay Talese, Fame and Obscurity
Gay Talese, The Bridge
Nick Tosches, Dino

Michael Azzarad, Our Band Could Be Your Life
Lester Bangs, Mainlines, Blood Fests, and Bad Taste
Lester Bangs, Psychic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
Jim DeRogatis, Let It Blurt
Nelson George, The Death of Rhythm and Blues
Nelson George, Hip Hop America
Duncan Hannah, Twentieth Century Boy
Anthony Haden-Guest, Studio 54 ,Disco, and the Culture of the Night
Tim Lawrence, Love Saves the Day
Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me
Leonard Michaels, The Collected Stories
Richard Meltzer, The Aesthetics of Rock
Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming
Peter Shapiro, Turn the Beat Around
Patti Smith, Just Kids
Paul Wilson, Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story
James Wolcott, Lucking Out

John Brooks, Showing Off in America
John Brooks, The Go-Go Years
Paul Fussell, Bad
Ryan Holiday, Trust Me, I’m Lying

Black Studies:
Arna Bontremps, Black Thunder
Sarah Broom, The Yellow House
Jessie Redmon Fauset, Plum Bun
Rudolph Fisher, The Conjure-Man Dies
Nelson George, Post-Soul Nation
Langston Hughes, Not Without Laughter
Nella Larsen, Quicksand
Claude Mackay, Home to Harlem
Trussie McMillan Cottom, Thick
Ishmael Reed, Complete Works
George Scuhlyer, Black No More
Harvard Sitkoff, A New Deal for Blacks
Wallace Thurman, The Blacker the Berry
Jean Toomer, Cane
Mary Helen Washington, The Other Blacklist
Albert Woodfox, Solitary
C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow
Richard Wright, The Man Who Lived Underground
Richard Wright, The Outsider

Robert D. Ballad, Exploring the Lusitania
Greg King and Penny Wilson, Lusitania
Jennifer Kewley Drasrau, Lusitania, Tragedy or War Crime?
Erik Larsen, Dead Wake
Fionbarr Moore, et al, RMS Lusitania: The History of a Wreck
Diana Preston, Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy
David Ramsay, Lusitania: Saga and Myth

Brian Aldiss, The Horatio Stubbs Saga
Allan Berube, Coming Out Under Fire
Rachel Devlin, Relative Intimacy
John D’Emilo and Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters
Martin Duberman, Stonewall
Alex Espinoza, Cruising
Cynthia Heimel, But Enough About You
Cynthia Heimel, Sex Tips for Girls
Gayle E. Pitman, The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets
Anka Radakovich, Sexplorations
Anka Radakovich, The Wild Girls Club
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, Sex at Dawn
Stejpan Sejac, Sunstone
Lisa Taddeo, Three Women
Gay Talese, Thy Neighbor’s Wife
Lisa Wade, American Hookup
Moira Weigel, Labor of Love

Great Depression:
Caroline Bird, The Invisible Scar
Robert S. McElvaine, The Great Depression
Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man
Studs Terkel, Hard Times

Joel Beckerman, The Sonic Boom
Nick Bilton, Hatching Twitter
John Braithwaite, Crime, Shame and Reintegration
Alan Ehrenhold, The Lost City
Claire Evans, Broad Band
Matt Fortnow, The NFT Handbook
David J. Hand, The Improbability Principle
Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism
Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time
Camilla Russo, The Infinite Machine
Lucy Sante, Low Life
Laura Shin, The Cryptopians

Pat Barker, Regeneration
A. Scott Berg, World War I and America
Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth
Elizabeth Cobbs, The Hello Girls
Paul Fussell, The Boys’ Crusade
Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory
Paul Fussell, Wartime
Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That
Stephen L. Harris, Harlem’s Hell Fighters
James Jones, From Here to Eternity
Ernest R. May, The World War & American Isolation 1914-1917
Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato
Tim O’Brien, If I Died in a Combat Zone
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man
Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer
Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier

Women’s Rights:
Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her
Ann Fessler, The Girls Who Went Away
Linda Greenhouse, Justice on the Brink
Jane L. Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA
Patricia C. Miller, The Worst of Times
Michelle Oberman, Her Body, Our Laws
Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Renee Rosen, White Collar Girl
Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady
Rebecca Traister, Good and Mad
Daniel K. Williams, Defenders of the Unborn
Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, The Brethren

Sam Adams: A Hubris-Fueled “Journalist” Who Refuses to Produce Receipts

Sam Adams is one of those sad, witless, and not very bright fuckwits who, like many deplorable and shady opportunistic hot take merchants whoring whatever remains of his questionable soul to Slate, truly believes that he’s above journalistic scrutiny. He’s akin to a corrupt cop who believes that he’s above the law. Except that there isn’t an internal affairs department and Adams will carry on with his ignoble hackery, regularly banging out doggerel like some suborned deadbeat. You see, when you sign onto the Faustian bargain of toiling (or, more appositely, trolling) for Slate, you immediately understand (or should theoretically understand) that you’ve just sold your feeble spirit for a certain cynical discount deal. The masters exist to be destroyed, even if you can’t produce the receipts. And Adams, who is so dimwitted and so incompetent that he can’t even observe the plain-as-day fact that Beyoncé attended the Oscars with her husband Jay-Z, believes that he has what it takes to take down Robert Caro! This fatuous gasbag claims to have uncovered four major errors in The Power Broker. But rather conveniently, this grasping amateur, inexplicably collecting a regular paycheck for his steadfast gaffes, has failed to produce any evidence. And when publicly called out by a principled bald man in Brooklyn via Twitter and TikTok, Adams has refused to respond. Because Sam Adams is, like most media people, a bloodless coward. He is a colossal shit stain on journalism and I wish I could summon the spirit of Janet Malcolm to rise from the dead and beat the living daylights out of this unprincipled, talentless, and self-serving hack.

Adams is one of those moribund fucks who lives to destroy. He thinks that he’s Fred Kaplan, but he’s really more of a hopeless fuckup: the Andy Dick of the media world. Say something provocative. Don’t offer proof. And continue to win the attention of a hopelessly corrupt media elite who you have managed to charm over drinks.

How piss-poor of a “journalist” is Adams? Well, this pathetic fuck can’t even get the title of the Succession Season 3 finale right! This, despite the fact that the episode title is remarkably easy to corroborate. This sad basketcase can’t even look at the calendar to know the day that Debbie Reynolds died. This mediocre man can’t even spell Margery Sharp’s name correctly — and, frankly, this isn’t all that great of an ask. Properly spelling a name composed of a mere twelve characters ain’t exactly the equivalent of free-versing in French for five minutes.

And now, Sam Adams, you really believe you have what it takes to take out Bob Caro? The Power Broker has been in publication for almost fifty years. You’re truly arrogant enough to believe that you — of all enervated minds — are the guy who can take Caro down? Well, where are the specific examples, you supercilious fuck?

I want to be clear that I fully welcome a reappraisal of Robert A. Caro’s work. But if you cannot provide evidence, then you are no different from some ambulance chaser. You are a sick and twisted opportunist who knows deep down that you do not have the balls or the acumen or the social gusto to go toe-to-toe with one of our greatest living historians. And you certainly don’t have what it takes to cultivate sources in the masterful way that Robert Caro did.

Samuel A. Adams, why aren’t you pumping gas in New Jersey? You have no business being a journalist. Coffee is for closers, you dumb useless son of a bitch.

Oh, and if you’re going to do dopey podcasts for Slate, learn how to speak properly and, for fuck’s sake, don’t use your goddamned computer mic. It’s embarrassing. Take an elocution course and invest in real audio equipment. I recommend an AKG C414, which has nine pickup patterns, one of which will probably provide succor for your adenoidal and illiterate voice. Or, if you can’t afford that, a C214. I could do your job in my sleep. You can’t even perform your job duties in your waking hours.

How TikTok is Censoring the Left

This morning, I logged onto my main TikTok account, @finnegansache, only to learn that I had received a permanent ban. I had just come off a seven day ban from posting videos, leaving comments, and even sending direct messages to the many friends I have made across the world. I tend to get one of these seven day bans at least once every month.

It goes down like this: Right-wingers target my account, which presently has 26,410 followers, by falsely mass reporting videos that have managed to get through to a sizable audience (quite a few of my TikToks have had viewership in the six figures) and in which I speak out against Republican tyranny (as well as smug Democratic inaction). But because I have racked up enough community guidelines violations — largely factitious — TikTok hits me with a seven day ban, even when I appeal every single one of these falsely flagged videos and win the vast majority of my petitions.

TikTok’s ongoing censorship of marginalized voices is nothing new, but it has yet to be rectified. And the company’s war on free speech is incredibly dangerous during a time in which we need to hear from those who are denied and restricted from other platforms. In March 2000, The Intercept intercepted internal documents at TikTok that revealed a company edict that ordered the moderators to suppress posts made by the poor, the ugly, and the disabled. Not long after this article dropped, Time reported on Black creators also being suppressed by the shady China-based tech giant. The BBC reported that transgender users were censored. The upshot is that, if you aren’t a wildly attractive, white cis hetero type who never talks politics and who looks good while twerking, TikTok and its moderators will go out of their way to silence you — even when the users enjoy your content.

On my TikTok account, I have spoken out against racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, income inequality, climate change deniers, disinformation, fawning Trump acolytes, anti-choicers, sinister misogynists, white supremacists, political corruption, corporate greed, capitalistic ills, the ongoing war on the homeless, conspiracy theorists, and the lachrymose yahoos who attempted insurrection on January 6th. None of these topics are verboten under TikTok’s community guidelines. I have always been a man of the left. A godless heathen who stands for empathy and dignity and human understanding and who isn’t afraid to tell the truth. And because I can’t be bought and because I have always done everything on my own terms (and have won audiences and awards this way), the media ecosystem has gone well out of its way to ignore me or, if they can’t do that, they invent false stories about me. I’ve been kicking around for more than twenty years at this creative game and they’ve never been able to get me on my work. Fragile and talentless egos — which would include the TikTok moderators — tend to be terrified of anyone who pulls a faster gun.

TikTok, on the other hand, has been a welcoming place for an eccentric outlier like me. On TikTok — at least when it works — I’ve been tremendously humbled and honored to listen to other people’s stories and I do my best to live up to my quite accidental and newfound duties of sticking up for the people. With great power comes great responsibility.

Whenever I synthesize recent news into thoughtful and entertaining 60 second videos — all edited in camera with Sam Raimi-style angles to get people to care about increasingly dystopian developments — my TikTok videos have proven to be enormously popular. Perhaps because there is no other voice out there who is speaking out against injustice quite like me and because I have a theatrical panache. I honestly don’t know. I didn’t go onto TikTok to win an audience. It just happened.

Still, I’m cognizant enough to recognize that TikTok — far more than Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — is the public agora. And if I want to persuade people to give a damn about vital issues, even if it’s only a few dozen, then I have to be on there. And honestly I have enjoyed it.

There are now 1 billion active users on TikTok. If I can get through to at least a small sliver of that vast audience and get them worked up enough to care about social ills or to change things, then, as far as I’m concerned, I’m doing the bare minimum at preventing (or perhaps postponing) the United State of America from sliding into vile despotism. I feel that it is my moral responsibility to raise hell and to call out bullshit in these troubled times and to do so within the framework of the community guidelines. Will I post a thirst trap or dance ridiculously or pick up my guitar and sing and improvise a silly song in order to give people an additional incentive to stand up for abortion rights? You bet your ass I will.

TikTok has also been a healthy outlet for me to perform creative ablutions (roughly six to nine TikToks each day, most of them recorded in one take) just before I roll up my sleeves every weekday morning and get on with the often difficult but always enjoyable business of writing. And, unlike Twitter, I have found that the good people on TikTok are quite capable of behaving like adults, engaging in civil disagreement, and hashing out ideas without getting involved in some jealousy-fueled character assassination campaign predicated upon lies, libel, and unfounded rumors. On TikTok, the Establishment is on an equal footing with the vox populi. Several celebrities have tried to join TikTok and they have been hilariously and mercilessly shot down by an audience that is increasingly less willing to tolerate their clueless and privileged vapidity. The punchy Gen Zers and the fierce millennials on TikTok have restored my faith in the generations who will follow me long after I drop dead. On TikTok, you can’t coast on your fame or your blue checkmark. You actually have to create interesting content that is of the moment. You have to listen to other people. And by simply listening to other people, which I have always done, even a middle-aged punk like me has managed to get through to younger people.

But on TikTok, there’s an altogether different Establishment — a shadow Establishment that is using a wide variety of facile tactics to muzzle anyone who stands against tyranny. The “community guidelines” — much like the constantly revised rules in George Orwell’s Animal Farm — are subject to the whims of some miserable bastard toiling in a 996 perdition.

I can’t win every appeal. Because the TikTok moderators — some of which are reputed to be based in red states and who take out their trauma on those who play by the rules and who work for slave wages — are complicit in silencing my voice. If you mention the Holocaust — even when you are citing specific historical examples — you will be flagged for hate speech — even when you are speaking against hate. If you speak out against bullies, you will be accused of bullying. The TikTok moderators are quite happy to gaslight you. They have deliberately failed to address at least twelve of my videos that were falsely given the ol’ CGV treatment, letting these videos rot in appeal purgatory and accumulate artificial “community guidelines violations” when I have, in fact, not violated any community guidelines in these videos.

While it’s certainly true that my personality defaults quite naturally to anti-authoritarian rebel and that I have a low bullshit threshold, I still abide by community guidelines. And since I tend to be a creative prankster, I decided to prepare 100 TikToks over the course of a week to upload at one time: at the very moment that my latest seven day ban was lifted. This was a ban that was artificially consummated by conservative snowflakes and their willing executioners over at TikTok. (As I said, I won every goddamned appeal against me. But the ban remained enforced.) By the time I had uploaded 45 of these videos, my account was hit with a permanent ban. I had pulled such a stunt before without retribution.

And even though there is no official TikTok policy limiting how many videos one can upload at one time, I was still targeted by the moderators.

Let me be clear that I have had videos falsely targeted for “nudity and sexual activity” when I have merely rubbed my belly while wearing a shirt. I have been targeted for “bullying and harassment” when criticizing the likes of Ron DeSantis and Lauren Boebert for their stupidity and cruelty using objective facts. Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old girls are allowed to dance in skimpy thongs without rebuke and white supremacists and misogynists and pedophiles have been allowed to spread their bilious hatred without being silenced.

About twenty minutes after I received the “permanent ban,” I learned that my account had been restored, although I was hit with another seven day ban. And it is abundantly clear that the TikTok moderators have gone well out of their way to attenuate my voice. Because when you cannot regularly upload videos, your views, followers, comments, and likes take a significant hit. In my case, I have seen up to an 80% drop in engagement every time I am hit with one of these sham timeouts. (You can see from the accompanying image just how much of a hit I took in the last seven days.)

And I’m one of the lucky leftists. A wonderful and well-loved user by the name of @mdg650hawk has been forced to create nine separate accounts, six of which have been permanently banned. He now shuffles between his three remaining accounts. He is a voice of progressive sanity. I’ve never seen the man do anything untoward. But the TikTok moderators have it in for him. A user named @levantinewitch has also been banned for leftist sentiments. Or how about Savannah Edwards? Banned for being a progressive and smart-as-hell Black woman. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of vital progressives who are either banned or who are, like me, on the cusp of being banned. None of them violated any community guidelines. Or, if they did, it was certainly not frequent enough to merit an outright gag on their vital work. Their only crime was to speak truth to power and get through to a lot of people. This is a noble and peaceful practice as old as politics. But TikTok seems to act as if a principled stand — one that is only “offensive” to the chickenheads too intoxicated by the rapturous voices of a fictitious deity and an orange-tinted megalomaniac — is on the level of some creepy guy in a trenchcoat flaunting his junk at a playground.

The optimist in me still believes that TikTok has the potential to be the greatest place that the Internet has ever created. But when such a repugnant autocratic streak pours like some white stripe of paint turning an innocent cat into a skunk for Pepe le Pew to woo, one wonders if there’s any hope for democracy. The pungent smell of a corrupt company with corrupt moderators is simply too malodorous for TikTok’s otherwise promising clime. If TikTok cannot fix this problem — and it seems very much that they can’t and they won’t — then it’s time for some tech entrepreneur to roll the VC dice and beat TikTok at its own game. The panoply is too important for us to settle for anything less.