About a year ago there was a terrible catastrophe on the east coast of Japan. No, it wasn’t Godzilla, but a massive tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake; a disaster of epic proportions. Surely I, like many others, watched the raw POV footage over and over as coastal towns were engulfed by a wave of death. I can still hear the sound of twisting metal that was never intended to twist that way, locals fleeing to higher ground, some not running fast enough and casually absorbed by the invading blob. Though I don’t speak Japanese fluently, screams of horror are a universal language. In times of tragedy one knows exactly what foreign people are saying from behind the camera. It’s the same thing we’d all say if we witnessed someone washed up by a tsunami: Holy Shit! . . . Fuck, this is crazy! . . . Oh my God! . . . Run! . . . Led Zeppelin Rules! . . .
But this isn’t what I want to focus on here. I want to focus on the real issue in the grand scheme of things--the bigger (in a fascistic oppression of the population through language to manipulate thought kind of way) disaster: The firing of the Aflac Duck voice, narrated by the inimitable comic Gilbert Gottfried. Gottfried was sacked for his cringe inducing one-liners posted on Twitter mere hours after the tragedy. Well, comedy is all about timing. Gilbert wasn’t fired for his jokes, though. Or the timing of them. If he adroitly dropped lurid lines of scatological humour in a comedy club in North Dakota, or between friends (if Gilbert has any, that is), or even at a private boardroom meeting between Aflac marketing executives, there would be no problem. The reason for his firing wasn’t the cruel sentiment of the jokes in the (ahem) wake of a national tragedy, but the dissemination of the jokes instantaneously to a huge audience. And Twitter is the king of that kingdom. If enough people have access to a message, a small handful is going to get pissed off and make a lot of noise about it, no matter what the message is. Comedy is low-hanging fruit in the professional outrage game.
Maybe it was the quick turnaround, or the severity of the jokes, or a combination thereof that caused Aflac brass to give in to the pressure and drop the hammer on the man who’s voice has simultaneously entertained and annoyed us for decades.
For a short time the issue reached a fever pitch in the media. At its apex, it reached bizarre postmodern proportions: Gottfried’s insensitive tweets about the tragedy of the tsunami had become bigger news than the tragedy of the tsunami itself. It’s like photographing people who are photographing the most photographed barn in the world. Now, some of the jokes weren’t very good at all—mere throwaway’s. As long as we’re alive and events are happening, whether on a personal or global scale, there will be an endless well of comedy to draw from. That is both a comedy fact and a scientific fact.
A few jokes stirred a chuckle out of me, which you can read out loud or in your head in your best Gilbert Gottfried voice . . .
“I fucked a girl in Japan. She screamed, ‘I feel the earth move and I’m getting wet.’”
“My book Rubber Balls and Liquor was released in Japan. It’s making quite a splash.”
Okay . . . finally . . .
“Japan called me. They said ‘Maybe those jokes are a hit in the US, but over here they’re all sinking.’”
What puzzles and troubles me about the upper echelons of Aflac, and by extension, the people at the top of corporate culture in general, is that Gilbert has been known for the last thirty years as a comic who is by far one of the most abrasive out there on the national and international comedy scene. Anyone who has a passing interest in comedy knows this. Gilbert’s always the first to go there. He’s a too soon guy. Nothing is out of bounds. I’ve busted many guts watching him perform at roasts. Gilbert blurts things out like a crazy old Jew with Asperger’s.
What did a multi-national insurance company like Aflac expect out of Gilbert Gottfried when he was hired back in 2000? That by lending his voice as a shill, gussied up as a goofy duck, all of sudden his past material is, (ahem, again) washed away? I certainly would not buy insurance from Aflac--clearly, they don’t do diligent research on their animated mascots. The left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. The only thing these Aflac Asshats heard was Gilbert’s unique, yet recognizable voice--a nasal, gravely whine, though grating, is definitely unforgettable. Did they know that Gilbert is a dirty comic and figure that no one will care? He’s the parrot in Alladin for Christ’s sake! Surely before making a comic your mascot there is a vetting process to check out a funny man’s entire catalogue to see if he’s suitable to represent your company, or at the very least, what his angle of attack is. A cornerstone of GG’s schtick is to say outrageous, shocking jokes at all times, especially right after a tragedy when the snake’s venom is at most potent. Umm . . . hello? That’s Gilbert Gottfried in a nutshell. Three weeks after 9/11 at the Friar’s Club in New York, he was the first notable comic to very publicly say a 9/11 joke. Something about trying to catch a plane, but it had to make a stop at the Empire State Building first. Whatever. It’s Gilbert, not the president, it’s what he does. He didn’t get swept up in a shit storm like the Japanese tsunami, the 9/11 fallout was more like a shit sprinkle. No matter what you say, 9/11 is old news and you can joke about it and get away with it, too. Time heals physical and psychic wounds. The tsunami in Japan is now old news, too, but it most definitely was not just days after the tsunami. The wound is still raw. There is a week or so period where jokes or any making light of are totally off limits in the media, a window where outrage grows, and then blossoms once some comedian jokes about the tragedy.
A mitigating factor that is difficult to ignore is that Aflac is the largest life insurer of Japanese citizens. You can’t deny the jokes landed too close to home, like two nuclear bombs. The usage of words in and out themselves, is meaningless. Intent and context are king. It’s like playing violent video games doesn’t actually lead to real life violence. That’s the easy way out. It’s the Blame Game and a lot of people sit down at the table.
is compromised when there’s a personal affront involved. If it’s about someone else, well fuck ’em, it’s right there, immortalized in the Charter of Rights & Freedoms goddamnit! Maybe I have no soul but I found it even funnier in a twisted way when I learned that Aflac does most of it’s business in Japan. It adds so many levels of intrigue to the jokes and to Gilbert himself. Did Gilbert know most of the business was centred in Japan? Did he just not care? Did he think it would roll of their shoulders?
On firing Gilbert as the Aflac Duck, the chief marketing officer stated, “Gilbert’s recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly don’t reflect the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac.”
I can’t begin to tell you how many things are wrong and misguided about this statement. First of all, there was about ten jokes that Gilbert tweeted and the three that I have reprinted are actually pretty funny, so the marketing guy is wrong on the lacking in humour part. Secondly, doesn’t it go without saying that the comments don’t reflect the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac? Does the public assume Aflac employees are so morally bankrupt at their cores? Do we need to be reminded they don’t seriously endorse jokes about people dying horrible deaths, crushed by debris, drowning in fetid slew water, their cities and possessions wiped away by an angry planet?
What comes next is a phenomenon, that although is not new, is more prevalent now than ever before in the media. The forced apology. And so Gilbert breaks gives in. Let the healing begin! I don’t even have to reprint the apology because you know exactly how it goes. I’m sorry if my remarks offended…blah blah blah, doot-doota-doot-doo . . . DOO-DOO. Even after his empty apology, Aflac still fired him. Never mind how disingenuous an apology originating from outside the speaker is in the first place, but coming from Gilbert, it’s even more uproarious. An apology for some Twitter jokes coming from Gilbert has about as much sincerity and warmth as Terry Schiavo.
These forced apologies light up the media landscape like fireflies, and it’s been pretty bright out there lately. Today, as I write this, it’s Mike Milbury, a hockey analyst/commentator apologizing for his ‘Punk’ rant on Sidney Crosby. Breaking news: Crosby’s camp has rejected the apology from Mr. Mulbury. Somebody call a Wahhhmbulance.
How will we ever go on in the face of such injustice!?
What is insidious about these forced-from-the-outside apologies is that they undermine the very foundation that genuine apologies are based on. It’s the crying wolf effect. Genuine apologies are supposed to come from within; a growing and learning process whereby wrongs are righted and sins are atoned for.
True apologies don’t penetrate, they defecate.
An apology is supposed to be an expression of remorse for a perceived wrong. It’s also supposed to originate organically from the speaker if it is to retain any integrity. These principles have been usurped by a minority of interweb humanoids that want to build a brand, a public narrative to garner attention and credibility. The FA is now used in the media as a weapon, the lash of a whip made out of the tongues of the infidels, to inflict the sting of the public at large, whoever that is. The pressure from this small minority out there in the ether make the heads force apologies out of their investments. And so we hear Rush Limbaugh, or Don Imus, or Dean Blundell light up the ‘On Air’ sign, and in a sombre tone, profess their sincerest of condolences; that they regret their momentary lapse of reason. Well hoo-fucking-rah.
Consider if you will Rush Limbaugh’s ‘Nappy headed ho’s’ comment, and the subsequent FA. When it really comes down to brass taxes, the comment is pretty benign. Not even that insulting even if you’re part of the group being insulted. Find any black female college basketball player and she’ll tell you she’s had far worse verbosity slung at her than, ‘Nappy headed ho.’ I’ll leave it up to you to come up with a few examples.
You can be outraged and annoyed at Rush Limbaugh for his comments. You have your right to be offended. But if you don’t like what Rush says than just do what I’ve been doing the whole time during the FA debacles: Don’t listen. Just turn the dial. Rush is only on my radar because of all the coverage, the incessant media clips by all the local affiliates that are regurgitating his offensive comments and apologies. Warning . . . this may be offensive to some viewers . . . but here you go folks, we’ll play it for you anyways, over and over, and vicariously re-offend you.
It’s the mark of a truly selfish and hubristic person to take offence to something and then endlessly whine about it, and more importantly, demand consequences. I’m occasionally offended by pundits/entertainers and their nutty ideas (mainly because the hordes who lap it up can’t distinguish the performance from the actual human being playing the character). But I would never want them silenced or taken off the air. For example, I don’t like Ann Coulter. I think she’s smart as well as an opportunistic, contrarian shill that doesn’t believe the things she says and writes, but does it because of her agenda and to get a rise out of liberals and to keep her brand relevant. She wants power and capital. She wants a voice. I can’t blame her. But here’s how a reasonable, intelligent human deals with this particular offense: Either (a) ignore her completely, or (b) postulate using reason and logic why you don’t agree with them and leave it at that. Hope other humans can relate. Hence unprofessional think pieces like this. I don’t want Ann Coulter fired or silenced. I’m not that narcissistic and selfish to try and impose my will on you plebeians! I realize lots of people are entertained by her, and agree with the gist of her politics. I have respect, which is something that is sorely lacking in our internet culture.
Ironically, all these people who are outraged by the comments that give birth to the FA’s don’t even listen to the entertainers they’re outraged by. But they know damn well that YOU shouldn’t be subjected to the aural filth, either. They have a worldview they want to impose on you. The folks who are outraged only hear about the outrageous comments because they hear it re-filtered through the news that they do listen to. They don’t even listen to Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern in the first place, but once they’re exposed to the tip, gigantic, imaginary icebergs naturally form underneath the surface. It’s a big bad world out there and rather than being constantly critical and questioning the foundations of our worldy outlooks, we paint ourselves into a corner and then defend that corner as the right way, the just way. Just turn the dial.
Why would you, if you were so mortally offended by a rape joke, or Don Imus insinuating a woman is a slut because she wants the state to pay for her birth control, be satisfied with a simple, short, forced apology? Apparently, this “I’m sorry, I apologize,” fire extinguisher is usually sufficient to put out the raging inferno of outrage. That’s all you wanted!? An ‘I’m sorry?’ That is the only demand from the kidnapper’s!? Come on Imus, all you have to do is give a sweet little remorseful show of humility, just get on your knees for a minute or two and then get back up, wipe off your mouth with the back of your hand, and carry on entertaining. If I’m truly offended by a comment/joke/person/group/etc., I sure as hell wouldn’t be assuaged by a simple apology, even if it did originate from the offender and not their bosses. The healing process would take time. The relationship may never be the same.
Speaking of Don Imus’s recent FA for calling Sarah Fluke a slut for wanting the state to cover her birth control, why is the abortion issue flaring up again in the States like a bad case of genital warts?
Look at the new law in Texas that forces doctors to perform an invasive, humiliating, intra-vaginal exam on women, accompanied by a patronizing lecture before they can have an abortion. Under the new state policy, a woman seeking an abortion must first be subjected to an ultrasound probe inserted into her vagina. Then comes the weird part . . . “She is then forced to look at the ultrasound image of the unborn fetus and listen to its heartbeat while the doctor points out the parts of the body.” Then the woman signs a document, and is sent home to wait twenty four hours before the abortion is performed. Wha? Come again? This is legal humiliation and state sanctioned abuse. Does the state of Texas think women who get abortions are she-devils with spinning heads, frothing at the mouth, salivating in hungry anticipation of the unformed morsel being sucked out of their vagina? Can I take it home and eat it, doc? Clearly, women want to kill, kill, kill! They enjoy killing the babies inside them.
I don’t even have a pussy and it makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Hey law man, how exactly does forcing a doctor to waste his time pointing out body parts prevent abortions? I’d like to apply to be the speechwriter for the scripted rant that the doctors go through . . . “These are the hands that will one day pull triggers . . . and these are the lips that will one day suck on crack pipes…”
I’m no law expert or politician, but one sure fire way to not prevent abortions is cutting state funding to Planned Parenthood by some 66%, which Texas did in 2011. This law is ultimately benefiting only a select few perverted doctors who are consumed by unnecessary-pre-abortion-intra-vaginal-probing fetishes. Who cares? A fetus isn’t cute at one month anyways, just a gooey mass of nascent semi-formed life matter. Maybe you can make out a toe or two. Big shit. It isn’t going to pay the hydro bill.
If you want to know how sexist any law on abortion is, imagine if the situation was reversed: After nine months of gestating, babies come out of a man’s grossly oversized and bloated penis, cock veins painfully extended to backyard hose proportions, the pregnant penis resembling a snake with a freshly eaten mouse.
Checking in for dinner at the in-law’s place you give in to the ceaseless prodding from the glowing grandparents-to-be, and whip out your pregnant cock so the whole extended clan, little Patrick too, can marvel at the bulging life inside it. Mom-in-law puts an ear to your shaft and exclaims proudly to no one in particular, “I think I felt a kick!”
The next morning, on a stroll through the park, other parents with their kids in tow notice the sizeable bulge in your Levi’s 501 Preggers©, and a gaggle of moms giggle to each other, hands over mouth’s, afraid to actually ask, only whispering cupped conspiratorial messages into each other’s ears, “Is he pregnant or just big?”
Can you imagine a government passing laws forcing all pregnant men to go through invasive procedures prior to the abortions of their unwanted cock-babies? Not in this lifetime, pal.