As if more evidence was needed that the social media platform Twitter provides an abundance of opportunity for people to reveal their inner jerk, former game show contestant Ken Jennings has offered certifiable proof of that reality. Jennings, whose success on the trivia game Jeopardy! catapulted him into a curious assumption of celebrity, decided that mocking the mom of a deceased special needs son would earn him some cool points with his crowd.
What motivates that level of callousness? Perhaps this is a case of a man most likely picked on and bullied as a kid, sensing his long-awaited moment of getting to join the bullies had arrived. Perhaps it’s a situation where the rich and well-educated seize on any opportunity to mock and condescend towards those they deem less than themselves. Or perhaps this is just a guy revealing himself to be a jerk.
Whatever the case, Jennings deserves to be famous not for his mastery of game show trivia, but for this. It all started when a woman named Diane took to Twitter to express her happiness that the 80s-era sitcom Alf was being rebooted for television. It seems that the show was one of the few joys her special needs son Timothy had in his difficult life before passing away at age 24. She wrote:
“ALF was my son’s favorite character. He had so many ALF puppets. When he died we buried them together and had an ALF engraved into his head stone. Then my daughter got an ALF tatoo [sic] in honor of her brother. No matter what, ALF is special to our family.”
“We watched the show with my son [because] he enjoyed it,” Diane told me over Twitter. “We bought him so many puppets, and I still have the talking doll. It’s broken but I have it. And my mother got him the ALF doll which we buried him with.”
What does any of this have to do with Ken Jennings? Nothing. But bullies who think way too highly of themselves don’t worry about such things. They see an opportunity to lash out at someone they find less than themselves and they go for it. And for Jennings, whose hatred of all things Donald Trump, the fact that Diane’s Twitter bio included a “MAGA” reference was just icing on the cake. He quoted her tweet and mocked:
“This awful MAGA grandma is my favorite person on Twitter.”
For those who are stunted in their ability to detect sarcasm and condescension, Jennings is laughing at her for liking Alf. For him, it’s the perfect embodiment of the cartoonish caricature he has of all less-enlightened cretins who support Donald Trump. It’s classic Jennings – pompous, pretentious, and haughty.
Scripture counsels us that “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” or in this case, the fingers type. Given that the authority of those words rest in the being of God Himself and are thus trustworthy, it is fair to conclude that Jennings’ heart is a miserably cold place. For kicks and giggles he thought it would be cute to mock a woman’s sentimental attachment to a silly TV show. Not only does that reveal quite a bit about Jennings’ own moral compass, but also what he thinks of his followers. Not that this conduct is anything new for the Jeopardy! winner. His superiority complex towards those with whom he disagrees politically has been on display many times before.
But this time it goes beyond unhinged political drama and centers around the man’s apparent lack of basic humanity. Of course, ultimately this is Jennings’ own character flaw that he will either have to confront and repent from or allow to consume and define him. We can only hope that making this kind of insensitivity and cruelty widely known will help diminish his pseudo-celebrity and bring to him moments of personal introspection that might yield the former rather than the latter.