King isn’t the tragic victim some say he is

Peyton Downing, Columnist

For better or worse, everyone in Iowa knows the name Carson King for two reasons: his massive GoFundMe to donate to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the subsequent revelation of small tweets of his from when he was 16 years old.

Now, this just seems like one of many stories of someone doing something and digging up old tweets dug with which to bash them. But King’s case is somewhat different. Here, King did everything right and came out for the better unilaterally.

King still has money flowing into the Venmo campaign for the donation. He participated in the wave at the most recent Hawkeye game. Iowa even has Carson King Day now. The fact that he made these tweets hasn’t changed public perception of him at all.

If anything, King is more of a hero now. He’s the archetypal redemption story of “did dumb stuff as a teenager and corrected his bad ways,” in the smallest of ways. The publication of his tweets has only humanized him. If the social-media reaction is any indication, most Iowans are solidly on King’s side.

To the credit of the Des Moines Register, the reporter asked King about his old tweets before publishing. According to the paper’s executive editor Carol Hunter, the news organization had not yet decided whether it would publish any information regarding the tweets before King called a press conference to address the posts. King took this revelation respectfully and with poise, gracious to his detractors. He even made sure to absolve the Register of any wrongdoing.

But there are three other things that must be said. First of all, nothing destructive happened because the Register published this information; the donations to the Children’s Hospital are still coming in. Second, the Register has been thorough in explaining their decision making; they have also changed their back- ground-check procedures to protect the actions of minors. Finally, it still would have happened had media outlets had not gone looking through his social media.

Busch Light canceled its association with King before he even made his apology and before the Register reached out to contact him. People still would have asked questions about why Busch Light canceled such an amazing guy, and they would have pointed to the tweets.

When the Register reached out for comment, King didn’t attempt to make excuses or shift the blame. He owned it. He immediately recognized what he did as wrong and took proper steps to apologize for his actions.

And that is the root of the issue.

In a day and age where everything online is being recorded and noted by the government and corporations, every mistake we make is forever. For better or for worse, your job, your family, your friends, can see everything. And the worst part of it is, most of it will be seen out of context.

It’s the old rule of, “If you wouldn’t say it in front of your grandmother, don’t say it at all.” Because unlike your grandmother, the internet is not going to forgive you as quickly or as easily.

A perfect example of this is Aaron Calvin, the reporter who went digging for though King’s years-old Twitter posts. A spot check of his own account found several offensive comments, sparking outrage and claims of hypocrisy on behalf of the Register — except, there is no hypocrisy. Calvin lost his job. King is still king.

As for the larger societal impact, “cancel culture” isn’t taking over, especially in King’s case. It’s not as though those who wanted to see King canceled managed to do much. If anything, King is even more supported because of this story raising his profile. He may have a few enemies, but he has many more supporters.

King may have a little tarnish on his reputation now, but his original cause is still thriving. More than $2 million has been raised thanks to his efforts. Corporate sponsors haven’t backed out amid the media firestorm. Whatever fault there may be in cancel culture, the kids are still being helped.

Everyone makes mistakes, but words said on the internet last forever. King understands this. It’s time the rest of us do the same.