Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman took a break from posting i-aint’-reading-all-that slabs of text on X to be interviewed for a profile in the new issue of New York magazine—and his nominatively deterministic theories about how people end up in their professions had posters raising their eyebrows.
“I have a view that people become their names,” Ackman told the magazine’s reporter, Reeves Wiedeman. “Like, I’ve met people named hamburger that own McDonald’s franchises.” Ackman struggled to come up with something for Wiedman’s last name, so he told the reporter his first name, which Ackman misheard as “Reed.”
“Read … write,” Ackman pointed out to Wiedeman. “So, my name is Ackman—it’s like Activist Man.”
Some posters couldn’t believe that the scene was real, comparing it instead to un-scriptable satire.
“Is this a deleted scene from Silicon Valley?” asked @tealtalk.
“Even the greatest comedy minds of our generation could not have scripted something this beautiful, it’s perfect,” answered @definetigers.
Others pointed out that there were better alternatives if you’re going to go down the nominative deterministic path.
“That moron went from Ackman to Activist Man when Bill to Billionaire was right there,” posted @theycallmeshwaz.
“I mean his last name isn’t Smart or Wise,” added @kittensnotkids.
The New York profile tried to answer why Ackman, a long-time Democratic party donor and activist investor, has been spending so much time recently inveighing against campus DEI initiatives, threatening to sue Business Insider (who published articles documenting plagiarism by his wife Neri Oxman), and posting long, long, long, long tweets laying out his grievances.
After the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel last year, which killed over a thousand Israelis and set off a new phase in the war in Gaza, Ackman became involved in the internal debates on Harvard’s campus in response to the attack. Ackman, who studied at the university, took the side of a contingent of students and faculty members who believed that some students’ responses to Oct 7 were antisemitic, and elevated criticism of the administration that they weren’t doing enough to address it.
That controversy snowballed into a raft of plagiarism accusations against now-ex Harvard president Claudine Gay. Gay stepped down after the plagiarism in her work surfaced by anti-woke activists like Chris Rufo was affirmed by the university’s administration and widely criticized.
After the Gay affair, Business Insider published its reporting on plagiarism by Ackman’s wife, which Ackman claimed was an unwarranted attack on him and his family, as well as being totally without foundation.
Ackman’s response to the plagiarism accusations against his wife—which consisted of longer, longer, and even longer posts on X—had some people convinced that his doubling down again and again meant posting had claimed another fine young mind, an impression that the profile didn’t help dispel.
“I understand the argument that Elon Musk went psycho for reasons of economics and policy,” posted @crulge, “but the Ackman piece provides evidence for the alternate thesis: reply guys on Twitter can make you triple-down on going insane.”
@crulge based that theory on a paragraph in the profile discussing Ackman’s encyclopedic defense of his wife. According to the magazine, Oxman didn’t think his constant diatribes were doing anything to help her.
“Please don’t tweet anymore,” she reportedly said at times.
But Ackman justified continuing by pointing to online memes that he thought cast him as the hero of wives everywhere.
“There’s a meme going around that apparently I’m causing a lot of marriages to have trouble,” Ackman told the magazine. “Like this one where a husband emails his wife, ‘Honey, I did the dishes.’ And she’s like, ‘Big fucking deal. Did you see what Ackman’s doing for his wife?’”
And while some people were turned off Ackman’s comment, one poster took the profile as an opportunity to reflect on how lucky we are to live in the time we’re living in, concluding that “we are in a golden age of dumb guys.”