David Foster Wallace, who took his own life in 2008, was a courageous man. He was a university professor, a prolific writer of essays and novels, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, but none of those things made him notably brave. What made him brave was that he accomplished what he did while fighting a major depressive disorder, and survived it until he was 46. He achieved even as he struggled to balance the disruptive side effects of his medications with their life-preserving qualities. Many who face depression know that private struggle.
But John Ziegler, a pundit, radio talk show host, and writer for Mediaite and The Bulwark, thinks that Wallace was a coward whose suicide demonstrates that his work is not credible. Twitter is the perfect forum to say angry, mean, ignorant things, and that’s where Ziegler shared his view of Wallace:
Yep! Only 3-4 blatant inaccuracies in the first paragraph and the author killed himself soon afterwards. Very credible!— John Ziegler (@Zigmanfreud) January 5, 2020
That you used the guy's suicide to discredit him within seconds of some random ass dude commenting on twitter pretty much confirms everything in the story. Btw, it did seem like he liked you more than he expected to. But your lack of empathy comes through as clear here as there.— John Adams (@manleyadams1) January 5, 2020
LMAO the dude selfishly and cowardly chose to kill himself despite having a family. I’m sorry, but in the rational world that is a legitimate fact to consider when evaluating that article he did on me. More important were all the blatant inaccuracies in the first paragraph.— John Ziegler (@Zigmanfreud) January 5, 2020
This is contemptible, but there may be two reasons to give Ziegler a break. The first is that Wallace utterly savaged him in a column here at The Atlantic in 2005, and Ziegler has never gotten over it. In a ruthless and brilliant portrait, Wallace captured the banality and smallness of Ziegler’s life as a bomb-throwing right-wing radio host. Wallace had a rare talent for portraying human frailties, and he limned Ziegler as a huckster selling insipid resentment alongside “male enhancement” pills and hair restorers. It was a column ahead of its time; it could have been written about half of the programs on the air today. The Wallace who nailed Ziegler to the wall would have had no difficulty recognizing, for instance, Alex Jones. (Ziegler has arguably moved on. Bless President Donald Trump, the safety school for angry pundits of all political stripes and levels of ability: Ziegler has since transitioned to the popular and undemanding anti-Trump-conservative beat and the somewhat more esoteric Jerry-Sandusky-was-framed beat.)