I mean, who among us, you know?
Yesterday was a fun day on Media Twitter, routinely the worst of all Twitter subcultures. (Except, maybe, leg-washing Twitter, which I have decided we shall never speak of again after the end of this sentence.)
Earlier on Monday, Vice reported that writer and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin had been suspended by the New Yorker for masturbating on a Zoom call that took place last week between New Yorker staffers and WNYC. According to Vice, the call was “an election simulation featuring many of the New Yorker’s biggest stars,” including Jelani Cobb, Jane Mayer, Masha Gessen (playing Donald Trump), and Toobin (standing in for the courts), among others. At one point, Toobin seemingly joined a secondary call, lowered his camera toward his penis, and allegedly — and I believe this is the technical term here — cranked it real good. He left the call, and then later returned, apparently unaware that colleagues caught the whole thing. (Toobin told Motherboard that he didn’t know he was visible on the call while allegedly making mayonnaise.)
Loath as I am to relish someone else’s mini scandal, this one is...particularly tremendous. It has everything: a high-profile media person, his penis, a Zoom nightmare come to life, and an inexplicable “election simulation” that remains unexplained throughout all of this.
Most striking of all, though, is how bizarre it is that we haven’t read a thousand stories like this during the pandemic. We’re almost finished with our seventh full month of quarantine, a hellscape of endless Zoom happy hours (no one likes them and I’m glad we all seemed to agree, at the same time — month three? — to just cut it out) and Zoom work calls (a lot of me not wearing pants and trying to figure out new ways to explain why I can’t go into another room to get a notebook I forgot because, again, I am usually not wearing pants).
Haven’t we all done something on a work call that, in normal circumstances, we’d never do during a meeting? Let he without sin cast the first stone; the benefit of working from home is in the comfort to do whatever you want. Endless snacks without judgment, cigarette breaks at your leisure, Real Housewives on all goddamn day.
Some of you, I’m sure, have turned your video off for a brief moment during a video conference to take a big, hearty pull off a joint, and turned it back on when the smoke finally dissipated and your eyes look, miraculously, droopy. I, of course, have never done this, as I am a good employee and have never done any drugs at all (my review is next week, please be cool), but it would be naive to think that most people aren’t engaged in some fuckery during a work Zoom. That’s the benefit of all this time working from home — the aberration in our routine allows for deviations in our day, which can include pleasure. You’re going to tell me you’ve never taken a quick three minutes midday to crank your hog? To mash your meat? To butter your own muffin? There’s so little joy left in our lives; are we not at least owed the time to toot our own horns?
I mean, maybe not during an active Zoom call where your video is still on. Time and place, I suppose.
But as our home lives and our work lives have fused more and more, it was inevitable that the cracks in our professional demeanors would start to show. The slow ebb of our professionalism is becoming visible in a hundred little ways: bringing our pets to work calls, showing up in loungewear and no makeup, chewing on stale bread mindlessly during quarterly reports. Do we work from home or do we live at the office? Whatever the case, it was inevitable that someone might slip, and let their colleagues witness them at their most primal: hunched over their weiner, choking it frenetically, hoping their colleagues can’t see them at their most crude.
You’re going to tell me you’ve never taken a quick three minutes midday to crank your hog?
The details around Toobin’s act only serve to heighten the tale. What in the fucking world is an election simulation? Is it a coincidence that simulation is very close to the word stimulation? Will the tape of this event — presumably recorded by WNYC — one day be released? If, during an election simulation, the courts start masturbating, what is that a metaphor for? Could it mean that the election results will indeed be tossed to the courts? Does it mean that they won’t have to decide the election and will thus have plenty of free time on their hands, meaning lots of time to put dicks in their hands? Does Jeffrey Toobin know the election results somehow, and has this given him some kind of clarity on the future, fusing his political foresight and all of his urgent, sexual desires into one Zoom call?
What erotica comes up for a law journalist by playing the SCOTUS? I’ve never once felt horny thinking about John Roberts. In fact, I worry that thinking about him too long may force my body to retract its more sensitive parts, sucking them up into my abdomen like a pink turtle hiding in its shell.
Maybe this speaks volumes about where we are — where I am — in terms of global despair. It’s a wretched thing to force a colleague into an unwanted sexual act, but in this context, replete with what sounds like a junior high play about the election, it’s extraordinarily funny. Historically, when men are caught with their pants down there’s often a woman involved who’s not getting justice. Instead, she’s foisted into a high-profile media cycle that destroys her life and reputation. Here, there’s just the visual of an utterly exhausted New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick writing an email to his staff vaguely referencing an “incident” while saying nothing about anyone’s penis. A Republican or Democrat commanding the one-eyed snake might lead to a different election outcome, a disappointed and disaffected electorate, or even some harassment charges. Here, it’s just an opportunity for me to google “masturbation synonyms for penises” on a work computer.
Every day that the news makes us moan in mirth instead of groan in despair is a gift. Take this gift while you can, buy a webcam cover, and learn to watch porn on your phone in private mode like all the teens are doing. ●