The founders of OKCupid, a free online dating site, made a splash last week when they joinedthe campaign against Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. But before they wereoutspoken critics of Eich, the same four individuals founded a sitewhich promoted a “Dis” generator which included insults aimed at gays.
Chris Coyne, Sam Yagan, Max Krohn and Christian Rudder are the fourHarvard grads who founded dating site OKCupid. Their previouscollaboration also started out as a dating site called “Pimpin’ Cupid.”According to this 2001 piece in the Crimson,the dating site was popular but was soon overshadowed by somethingelse. The founders created a site called The Spark which offeredSparkNotes, an online rival to CliffsNotes, i.e. chapter summaries for asteadily growing number of oft-read literary classics.
SparkNotes was eventually bought out by Barnes and Noble. The Sparkcontinued for a while as a kind of proto-Onion site featuring humorarticles, quizzes, etc. In 2000, when it was still fairly new, the site announcedits first downloadable Windows application, an insult generator calledbisexual woman and is capable of “generating over 32 trillion insults.” By the following year, The Spark was offering “Deliver the Dis” with the following description “A lighting quick insult generator. Our first Windows application.Face it, hate sells.”
The app is still downloadable via the internet archive and does produce an endless supply offlorid insults. The rules used to generate the insults from smaller bitsof speech don’t seem particularly complicated. They repeat frequentlywith different words in the blanks. Most of the insults could bedirected at anyone but some of them are clearly aimed at gays or perhapsat insulting people by insinuating they are gay.
The simplest example is, “You are a homo.” That’s really as bland asit gets. Another “dis” reads, “You are such a viral mangled homo.”Again, this is a mix-and-match generator but “homo” and a variationwhich shows up repeatedly, “Hey Lesbo” as in “Hey Lesbo, I know youwould bone a homo.”
Then there are some tasteless references to HIV and AIDS such aseveryone who has HIV or AIDS is gay but clearly it’s a very sensitivetopic in the gay community and was back in 2000 when The Spark waspromoting this. To be fair, the insult generator isn’t aimed primarilyat gays though you only have to click through for a few minutes to seeexamples like these.
The Spark also wasn’t particularly sensitive to women. For instance, a humor piece by Christian Rudder mock-advising young men how to get lucky on a date contained some potentially offensive advice.
Despite advances in technologies like feminism, the coldtruth of dating is that you must pick up the tab. Women earn less than menfor the same work, so men must pay more for the same meal. You’ll looklike a cheapskate if you don’t offer to pay.
She’ll think it’s chivalrous of you to extend that concept. Offeralso to pay for her body, and make sure to tip generously.
This is accompanied by a photo of Rudder slipping a $10 bill into a woman’s cleavage as she rolls her eyes in exasperation. The caption reads “enlarged to show failure.”
Brendan Eich was ushered out the door over a 6-year-old donation to acampaign which garnered a majority of the vote in California (and alsoover a 22-year-old donationto Pat Buchanan). His choices weren’t a joke or a satire. They alsoweren’t part of his work behavior. By contrast, the “Deliver the Dis”app was a product promoted by The Spark. It was always intended as anobscene joke aimed at high school kids, but does that make it okay?
As the recent “cancel Colbert” incident has demonstrated, saying something is a joke or satire isn’t always enough.Suey Park, who got the #cancelcolbert hashtag trending last week afterthe show’s Twitter account sent out a joke mocking Asian stereotypes, told the New Yorker,of progressivism more comfortable.” Jay Kang, who wrote the piece, saysPark “does not defer to white liberals who point out that the joke wasmeantto satirize white racists, nor does she believe that a debt of gratitudeis owed to the good intentions of white liberalism.”
I contacted OKCupid to ask if they saw any of this differentlytoday, especially in light of their stand against Brendan Eich. I alsoasked if they thought it was fair for people to judge their fitness torun a tech company based on something they had done years in the past.No one at OKCupid offered a response.