When I first heard about the Dan Price scandal and started writing this blog post about it, its title was going to be, “No Freakin’ Way!” Then, I started to read up on it, and I decided to change the title to, “Say It Isn’t So, Please”.
And then I read the article in the New York Times.
At first I read it with shock, thinking that the Times isn’t usually up for an all-out vicious attack on someone. They are usually more measured in their reporting. But by the time I finished the article, and read the quotes from something like 75 sources, I realized that there were too many allegations, too many accusations, too many lawsuits, and too many stories for me to continue to deny that they don’t all hold at least a kernel of truth. And given how despicable the stories are, even a kernel of truth is enough to put me off Dan Price for good.
That leaves me wondering how to cope with my sadness and disappointment. I really wanted to believe that the public persona Dan had worked so hard to promote was real. I wanted to believe that there could actually be a rich guy out there who spoke out against corporate greed and corruption. I wanted to think that maybe there was someone in power who actually gave a crap about the little guy. I’d never seen that before, and I wanted it to be true so badly that I fell entirely into Dan Price’s thrall. It’s no comfort at all that so many women have done the same and lived to regret it.
Way back in 2015, I wrote a glowing blog post entitled, Dan Price: Man of my Freakin’ Dreams. And I meant every word of it. Now I read that post and I cringe. But I won’t take it down, because it will forever be a reminder to me to never, ever fall for the branding.
Back then, Dan reduced his million-dollar salary in order to give all his employees a raise to at least $70,000 a year. Every single one, right down to the guy who mops the floors at night. And since then, that figure has increased to somewhere around 80k to 100k, depending on what source you read. I mean, who does that?
Dan Price does. And that’s laudable. I can still stand by that, at least. But that’s not a get out of jail free card for rape, domestic violence, and emotional abuse. And if it turns out that it was just a show to get out of a lawsuit with his brother, as is credibly laid out in this Bloomberg article from 2015, then even that good act came from a bad place.
While doing research for this post, I came across a Facebook post that I wrote nearly a year after my blog post that I mentioned above, in which I gave its link and gushed, “Omigod, a friend went to see this guy at some public speaking event, and I jokingly told her to have him read this blog entry, and she DID! And he DID! He thanked me and said he hoped we’d get to meet some day.”
With hindsight, that Facebook post seems as surreal to me as the current situation. I doubt seriously that the man stood there at that busy event and took the time to read my blog post. Oddly enough, I have no memory of that conversation, or even whom I had it with. But it was obvious that I had stars in my liberal eyes. Now I can see that I was a total fangirl, and I’m nauseated by that realization.
For me back then, Dan was the guy who proved that you can walk the talk and actually prosper while at the same time not grinding your employees down to a mere shadow of their former selves. (You’ll never see Jeff Bezos doing that. Amazon warehouse employees are treated like crap.) But Dan impressed the hell out of me. He led me to conclude that he was a guy who cared about people.
I convinced myself that he had proven that it really is possible to fix capitalism. I’m sure that had a lot of corporate fat cats on edge. They don’t want to be forced to do the right thing. They don’t want to think of anyone but themselves. I was sure that those rich white men would love nothing better than to see Dan Price disappear. (That reminds me of an art installation I saw when I lived in Holland. It was an electronic marquee that said, over and over again, “If you behaved nicely, the Communists wouldn’t exist.”)
I allowed myself to think that Dan was being targeted by someone very rich who was probably paying people off to say these horrible things about my hero. I was still trying to believe that this whole mess was pure fabrication. I comforted myself with that theory for a few days. Because, you know, he really did give those raises. He did.
But in order to write this post, which I thought would be full of righteous indignation, I had to first do my homework. I started off by reading these articles:
They were not particularly credible in my eyes. I refused to allow them to be true. I was still allowing myself to stay in Dan Price’s cult of personality, where I felt safe and where everything was so warm and fuzzy. Without that faith in mankind, where would I go? What would I do?
But as the evidence mounted, I tried to tell myself that maybe this good guy just snapped under all the pressure. (As if that would be a valid excuse.) Being a poster child for anything at the age of 38, after having been sued by your own brother for doing the right thing (as I thought that situation had played out at the time, based, in retrospect, solely on Dan’s version of events), and his not knowing who his friends truly are anymore, must come with a great deal of stress. At the very least, it’s a safe bet that Thanksgiving dinner in the Price household is somewhat tense.
“Poor little rich boy,” My inner voice whispered to me.
But I wasn’t ready to escape the cult just yet. For me, Dan symbolized what is possible if you have integrity and morality and decency. He made me believe that the world could turn around if enough good people did good things. Maybe this big blue greedball on which we all live could alter its trajectory and stop hurtling straight toward the fiery sun. It could happen.
Why would anyone want to give up on that faith in mankind? I clung to it like a drowning man clings to flotsam. I really didn’t want to let go.
Next, I came across a whole series of articles by a guy named Doug Forbes. He had written them over the space of several years. Each one was a damning opinion piece about Dan Price.
But, you know, I tend to take opinion pieces with a grain of salt. I wanted truth, not opinions. This guy was saying he talked to dozens of people, but he did not cite any of them, except, I think, Dan’s ex-wife, who, I told myself, was probably bitter. And this guy Forbes, I told myself, must hate Dan for whatever reason, and he’s given himself this forum to spew his speculations into cyberspace.
I told myself that the accusations against Dan were so disgusting and extreme that the charges had to be trumped up, right? I mean, who resorts to waterboarding a woman? Who drowns a dog in a swimming pool? Who rapes women in their sleep and emotionally abuses employees? (Well, actually, a lot of men do that last bit. But not the good men, right?)
But, just as with so many other cult members who start to wake up, a lot of conflicting thoughts were running through my head.
He’s such a nice guy! This can’t be true! At that point my inner voice was whispering, “But you used to think that about Bill Cosby back in the day, didn’t you?”
There are some sick people in this world, and that’s a fact. I just didn’t want Dan Price to be one of them. Not that guy.
During my research, I kept seeing links to the New York Times article about him. When I’d click on it, I’d get their website, and a few tantalizing sentences, but in order to see more I’d have to subscribe. I have a great deal of respect for the New York Times, but I didn’t want Dan Price to be the reason I got a subscription. Instead, a friend (Hi Tracy!) was kind enough to gift me the article from her subscription. (If you know someone with a subscription, they are allowed to “gift” 10 articles per month to people. It’s perfectly legitimate.)
I read the entire article, and any fantasies that rich white fat cats had created this scandal to destroy Dan Price’s squeaky clean reputation fell by the wayside. In retrospect I can’t even imagine why I entertained such a fantasy to begin with. I don’t believe in conspiracies, because large groups of human beings find it impossible to keep secrets, and those evil rich men would have had to find nearly a hundred people who would be willing to lie about Dan for money.
But the final nail in Dan Price’s coffin, as far as I’m concerned, is that he admitted, before two witnesses who were both willing to speak out, that he used to restrain his wife, but he admitted to them that that was not the right thing to do.
Ya think? And yet you did it, Danny Boy. This was a choice you made, multiple times. That’s seriously twisted.
I began looking back at his interviews with Kelly Clarkson and Oprah Winfrey, etc. through a more cynical lens, and I realized that the people interviewing him were total fangirls, too. Heck, even Trevor Noah compared him to Jesus! They all wanted a feel good segment for their shows, and this guy fit the bill. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s good looking. Why scratch that sexy surface?
Now I realize that Dan Price is his own spin doctor. I discovered that all the memes I had shared about him had originated from… Dan Price. I never allowed myself to think that a humble man doesn’t need to toot his own horn so much unless he either a) knows that he’s not really that popular in real life, and this is his only way to get admiration, or… b) he has something to hide.
And I was even more disgusted that I fell for all these wonderful liberal memes when I learned that he didn’t even write them himself. He hired someone else to do it. I had always imagined him kicked back on his couch after a long day of decently paying his troops, typing away, speaking from the heart. Instead, he told the guy the image he wanted to have, and the guy provided it. And I inadvertently helped to prop up this image by sharing those memes on Facebook.
Now my inner voice is quoting a dearly departed loved one: “Even if you pour syrup all over something, that doesn’t make it a pancake.”
I need to own the fact that it was highly simplistic of me to think that a member of my flawed species could be pure and good and devoid of tarnish. That’s too much to expect of anyone.
It is possible to do good deeds and be a scumbag at the same time. That annoys me. It would be so much easier if Dan had just picked a side. I really hate shades of gray.
Of course, none of us will ever know the complete truth about Dan Price. If there’s a despicability spectrum, we’ll never be certain where to place him on it. But he’s definitely on the spectrum, and so I’m done with him.
That leaves me in an awkward position. Should I hope the accusations are completely true so that I can at least be comforted by the idea that justice is real, or should I hope they are mostly false, only to watch his carefully honed and oh-so-appealing brand be destroyed by them?
There’s no good answer.
I had always read that breaking free of a cult is hard. I never thought I’d have to struggle through self-deprogramming. I feel like such a fool, and it leaves me wanting to boil myself in bleach.
So, yet another bubble burst. Damn, but it was such a lovely fantasy. I’m going to miss it. And that hurts.