Strickland for The New York Times

It's easy to hate Matt Colvin, the hand sanitizer guy.

In the midst of a crisis, sometimes all we want is a bad guy to lash out at so we can unload all of our pent up fear, upset, and aggression. We want this bad guy to be a real cartoon villain, the type of immoral monster who we can feel good about attacking. We also want this bad guy to have a really punchable face. Enter Matt Colvin, the hand sanitizer guy.

Hand sanitizer guy Strickland for The New York Times

Profiled by The New York Times right as the fear over America's Covid-19 pandemic started to kick into full-swing, Matt Colvin is a "FAMILY MAN" (according to his stupid shirt) who spent three days at the beginning of March driving a U-Haul truck across Tennessee and Kentucky to buy up all the hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes he possibly could. Then, after clearing out every "little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods" that he and his equally trash brother, Noah Colvin, came across, Matt listed everything on his Amazon store for an insane mark-up—up to $70 per bottle.

Matt Colvin, whose brain might be diagnosed as "literally melting" if medical professionals had the bandwidth to deal with anything other than the coronavirus right now, rationalized that he was fixing "inefficiencies in the marketplace" by selling hand sanitizer to parts of the country where people needed it most. "I honestly feel like it's a public service...I'm being paid for my public service."

The larger article follows the response to Colvin's actions, namely by Amazon, which pulled his listings (and later banned his account), and the Tennessee attorney general's office, which sent him a cease-and-desist letter and opened a case investigating his violation of a state price-gouging law that prohibits charging "unreasonable prices for essential goods and services, including gasoline, in direct response to a disaster."

By the end of the article, Matt—who concluded that if he couldn't sell his ill-begotten hoard online, he'd need to unload them locally—had a nearly fourth wall-breaking revelation: "I'm not looking to be in a situation where I make the front page of the news for being that guy who hoarded 20,000 bottles of sanitizer that I'm selling for 20 times what they cost me."

Frankly, it's hard to fathom why, if that were the case, Matt Colvin would have ever agreed to this interview. Perhaps his hubris and self-delusion is indicative of the very plight of humanity, we arrogant primates certain of our superior position in the universe right up until we're wiped out by a microscopic virus that looks like an off-brand suction cup ball.

coronavirus

Sure enough, almost immediately after The New York Times' article went live, Matt Colvin went from being a nameless douchebag scalping items from a storage unit to "that guy who hoarded 20,000 bottles of sanitizer that [he sold] for 20 times what they cost [him]" and, more importantly, a social pariah.

In a follow-up interview the day after publication, Matt Colvin cried to The New York Times. After his name trended on Twitter, he became the subject of mass public outrage. He was promptly doxxed and inundated with death threats. Amazon and Ebay both suspended his accounts (which were apparently his livelihood, through which he made over $100,000 per year scalping various items). The storage facility he rented space from to store his items kicked him out. "It was never my intention to keep necessary medical supplies out of the hands of people who needed them," he said. "That's not who I am as a person. And all I've been told for the last 48 hours is how much of that person I am."

Now, under active investigation by the state of Tennessee, Matt Colvin is being forced to donate all of his remaining hand sanitizer.

On one hand, it's very hard to feel bad for Matt Colvin. No bones about it, the guy is a steaming, albeit presumably very sanitized, piece of human sh*t who has brought the hatred of a nation upon himself entirely through his own intentional, despicable actions. We're talking about a man who, drunk on a cocktail of stupidity and selfishness, potentially put countless needy lives at risk to profit off of a pandemic.

But at the same time, one has to wonder—Why is it so easy to hate Matt Colvin, but most people don't get nearly as angry about the CEOs who do similar things on a much wider scale?

Sure, it makes sense to hate Matt Colvin—a random, seemingly very stupid man in Tennessee being a selfish d*ck right now by trying to profit off of the coronavirus. But why don't we also hate Ian C Read, the former CEO and current chairman of American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, under whom the company increased their prices on 100 medications in 2018, far outpacing US inflation. Undoubtedly, Ian C Read's price gouging targeting people in medical crisis has damaged far more lives than Matt Colvin. But is Ian C Read getting targeted with public outrage? This man has made at least 219 million dollars, at least in part by profiting off human suffering. Is anyone even looking his way?

Ian C Read, slimeball

Worse, Ian C Read is just one example. Look at any American pharmaceutical company that has hiked up necessary, life-saving medications to outlandish prices. Google their CEO. Why don't you despise them nearly as much as you despise Matt Colvin? Is it because they're wearing suits?

The point here isn't that Matt Colvin deserves sympathy. He's a horrid grifter whose selfishness outs himself as unfit for a functioning society. The point is that he's a symptom of a much larger problem, and that if we're going to go after him, we might as well go after all the wealthy, powerful CEOs who are much, much, much worse.