A few days ago, after attending the funeral for James Gandolfini, Alec Baldwin got home to find that a reporter working for the the UK’s Daily Mail had written a (really dumb) attack piece criticizing Alec’s new wife for allegedly updating her twitter during the funeral. Alec Baldwin is not a man who calmly or rationally handles any thing so he disproportionally reacted in a fashion that Alec Baldwin may well go down in history as making an artform out of.
Ending there would have been bad but of course he continued:
Buzzfeed has a roundup of the tweets in which Baldwin labels Stark a “toxic little queen” and a “lying little bitch.” And that’s hardly the worst — see tweet #5, the one about where Baldwin would like to stick his foot.
So like a child getting spawn killed in a game of Call of Duty (editor: is this how we get the youth page views?), Alec Baldwin resorted to the worst and most pathetic insults he could think of, and just like the child, he gay bashes. Because when you’re angry at someone and you want to hurt them, they can’t get any worse than being gay, right? It’s getting old, I’m getting sick of it, and we need to be more vigilant in our condemnation of this kind of behavior (especially when its our friends, the ones who value our opinions and want our respect). But I’m sure Alec Baldwin will get tarred and feathered because at this point we’ve been doing it so long and so frequently that we don’t really know how to stop.
Even while the world collectively scrambles to get another hit of pure, uncut outrage – this time targeted at Alec Baldwin – we must admit that Alec Baldwin isn’t really a homophobe. Not in the traditional sense, not in any sense. Unlike Paula Deen whose revelry in “Southern Culture” makes it unsurprising to find that she has a backwards view on what is appropriate and what is racially insensitive, Alec Baldwin is one of the “good guys”. As he correctly points out in his (non)apology letter, he does have a lot of ties to the gay community. As GLAAD correctly points out in their response to his (non)apology, he has been a huge supporter of gay activism and has donated both time, money, and recognition to gay rights issues.
Let’s face it, Alec Baldwin doesn’t hate gay people, not even a little. Which is why it may seem odd that he can so publicly and hurtfully attack a person using shamefully ignorant slurs. But a closer examination makes it a lot more understandable (if not justifiable).
Just like when Paula Deen tried to explain her use of the n-word as being in response to an aggressive act by a black man, making her “not too happy with him”, Alec’s use of gay slurs arose out of a place of anger. In Alec’s case, judging by his tweets, he was beyond the point of rational thought and was seething with a blind anger only felt by Rocky Balboa after Ivan Drago kills Apollo Creed or Alec Baldwin when his wife got attacked by a gossip magazine writer. In that state, the prefrontal cortex that is in charge of impulse control and “better judgment” is suppressed and your reptilian lower brain has the upper hand. It’s in this state, I would argue, that the deeply normalized beliefs are allowed to come out unfiltered. And the n-word and gay slurs that come out of even kind and caring people seems to suggest that what we normalize is kinda nasty.
We’ve got work to do as a culture, and that means from the ground up, to reduce the subliminal levels of hate towards the gay community. It’s easy to laugh off an angry bigot crying about marriage being ruined because same sex couples get to share it too, but what about the implicit stuff? What about gay jokes in movies and on TV that aren’t meant to be taken seriously but still lightly suggest that there is something different about gay people? What about “no homo”? And what about the stereotypes that Jason Collins is helping to dispel but still pervades sports that gay people can’t play at the same level as straight players? These are examples, and by no means a complete list, of areas in which we are still struggling with the inclusion of LGBT people into our larger in group. And when Alec Baldwin got mad enough, he went there. That’s not a good sign.
GLAAD was right to accept his apology, even though they are already experiencing intense backlash for their perceived capitulation to a “celebrity”. But with these cases, we have to take the whole scope of the person into consideration before we declare them unredeemable. In Alec’s case, as I’ve already said, I think it’s safe to say he’s done more good in the gay community than bad. Even though this recent outburst was wrong, it should be embarrassing for Alec Baldwin, but not damaging for the gay community. The people who are overtly homophobic (like, for example, owner of Chick-fil-a, Dan Cathy) aren’t really huge fans of Alec Baldwin anyway, and the people who are fans (or at least like him on 30 rock) are probably not going to go around beating up gays.
Anderson Cooper tried to highlight the hypocrisy of the relative pass Alec Baldwin is getting compared when he tweeted:
Why does #AlecBaldwin get a pass when he uses gay slurs? If a conservative talked of beating up a “queen” they would be vilified.
— Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) June 28, 2013
Yes, I’m sure they would be vilified, but let’s remember that unlike Alec Baldwin, many conservatives are actively pursuing to withhold rights from homosexuals. If they gay bash, it comes from a place of truly hating the idea of gay people. Alec Baldwin is just an angry blowhard with zero impulse control, but one who still thinks gays should be allowed to marry.
Instead, if I were Alec Baldwin and in anger I said something as vile as he has, I would feel like absolute shit. And that’s good. That means you don’t want to think that way. That means you’re truly sorry for what you said. And that means we should forgive him, if not forget his transgressions.
When a 15 year old boy scribbled his name into a 3,500 year old Egyptian monument, he probably wasn’t thinking it would lead to an international incident, or an intense internet manhunt. He probably wasn’t thinking about anything at all other than the “heh heh” laugh that 15 year olds do and Beavis and Butthead parody so well. Unfortunately, international incident and intense internet manhunt are what he got.
When the Chinese blogosphere got a hold of pictures depicting a priceless ancient Egyptian artifact defaced by one of their own, they did not handle it well. They launched an intense investigation to ascertain the identity of the idiot who did this. Who they found was Ding Jinhao, a 15 year old Chinese boy who, several years previously, had visited Egypt with his parents.
China has recently surpassed the U.S. and Germany as being the largest spending tourist nation in the world. Each year the Chinese spend around $100 billion on international tourism and that number is expected to continue to rise as a burgeoning Chinese middle class is poised to continue to seek out the comforts and leisure that, until recently, were not financially possible.
This comes with the added visibility that their individual citizens have as tourists and representatives of China. A stigma like the “self centered American tourist” image that the U.S. has so painstakingly cultivated is something that the Chinese are desperate to avoid. Defacing a national treasure is not something that the Chinese wanted and the condemnation was swift.
While I too am saddened by any ancient work being destroyed or damaged due to stupidity, callousness, or oftentimes, for reasons as stupid as jingoism, I don’t think we should be condemning this boy to a life’s worth of punishment. What he did was stupid, but it also reminded me of just how stupid all of us were at his age.
Even the words he chose to write (“Ding Jinhao was here” in Mandarin) scream “I’m a bored teenager here against my will” rather than malice. It’s such an innocent statement, “I was here” that if it had been written on a toilet stall wall and not on a national treasure, it would have been almost quaint. It’s a statement that comes from someone who thinks he is the center of the Universe, and at 15 we all did.
Now, before I get too far, obviously it must be pointed out that not every 15 year old is dumb enough to do this, nor would want to. And I know that at 15 you are aware of right and wrong and have the beginnings of a thing that later in life will make you long for being a 15 year old again: Self Control. But my only point is that, given how many bored 15 year olds are passing by the ancient monuments every day, this was bound to happen.
It must also be noted that because of the relative lack of funds that Egypt has for protecting its ancient landmarks (especially since the Arab Spring ushered in a new government and new level of disorder), there is an almost criminal lack of supervision at many of these sites. This can be seen as good and idiotic. Anyone who has ever waited in line at the Louvre to see the “Mona Lisa” only to get to the front and find that the picture is small, reaallllyy small, and behind a piece of bullet proof glass that’s thick, reaalllyy thick knows the feeling of wishing safety measures didn’t exist. On the other hand, the curators of the Mona Lisa know people like Ding Jinhao are out there. In every school bus that pulls into the Louvre’s parking lot, there are probably several kids dumb enough or cocky enough to ruin it for everyone.
Now, having identified the boy in question, the Chinese hackers appear unwilling to exercise restraint, as the sacred act of “shaming” always seems to fall on to their eager, self-appointed shoulders. Like wolves licking their lips, they pounced. Hundreds of blog posts with his picture and name were shot out onto the web. His school’s website was hacked and in its place was a “message making fun of him.” One blogger wrote:
“It’s a disgrace to our entire race!” said another angry micro-blogger.
Yep. It has went that far. Perspective, never the internet’s strong suit, is entirely lost and hyperbole has replaced it. Far from being a disgrace to an entire race, this is more of a disgrace on the Egyptian government’s part who show little to no effort to keep these priceless artifacts protected. It is also one of those things that will occasionally happen. We need to admit that. This is going to happen.
Teenagers are at a weird point in their lives. They know right from wrong, but they often times don’t care. I think back on my high school years and, if viewed objectively, see instances of behavior from classmates that was borderline sociopathic. None of those kids, as far as I know, grew up to be violent killers or unfeeling monsters. It was a phase. They were occupying a period of life where childhood was behind them, adulthood ahead, and in the middle was a whole lot of stupid acts of bravado and arrogance.
By all means, condemn this act. Call it stupid, or callous, or shameful, but this young boy does not deserve to be a punching bag for the rest of his life because he happened to do something stupid in the Internet Age that manufactures and feeds on outrage, at the expense of human decency. This is no different than a witchhunt or gladiatorial bloodsport; A form of entertainment built around watching a fellow human being squirm, loosely justified (black magic! different god! stupidity!), with audience participation. Well, it needs to stop and it can do that by each of us refusing to fall into the trap of manufactured, self perpetuating outrage. We also need to stop this idea that we are all responsible for “teaching” transgressors a lesson. With hacking, great power comes great anonymity and what results is sometimes vigilantism that is worse than the original offense. With any witch hunt, the justifications are used to give unending power to those employing them, whether that be a church or an internet forum. They deserve this. No, they don’t and it’s not helpful. But do we have the self control to admit that or, on the internet, are we all 15 years old?
Well that didn’t take long. A mere day after the terrible news that Moore, Oklahoma was hit with a devastating tornado that left dozens dead and hundreds injured and a path of destruction that is absolutely breathtaking in its scope, the attention seeking hate group Westboro Baptist Church led by attention seeking hate group leader Fred Phelps tweeted out an explanation to the question on many people’s minds: “Why did this happen?”
According to them it’s about basketball.
— Fred Phelps, Jr. (@WBCFredJr) May 21, 2013
Yep. the death and destruction was brought upon a random suburb of Oklahoma City because a basketball player who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder told another team’s basketball player that he was proud of him for coming out of the closet. It’s so great that God gave us the Westboro Baptist Church because His punishments would be EXTREMELY hard to decipher if they weren’t here to connect the dots.
I’m going to assume that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church mean what they say, because the alternative is even worse. The idea that a group would spout this hateful vitriol and NOT mean what they say is entirely more offensive. So, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt (how very Christian of me), and take them at their word. Here is what the world looks like when you are member of this congregation:
The Biblical God is heavily active within the modern world. He has a chosen people, Christians – well, some Christians – and he hates pretty much everyone else. He hates a lot of things: scientists, homosexuals, politicians, Americans (generally), Americans (in specific groups), the troops, minorities, the Chinese. The list goes on and on. He hates a lot of people okay? Almost anything you can imagine doing (and I’m not that imaginative) he hates as well. When a person, especially if they are well known, does something or is someone that God hates, he lashes out. But not right away. And not the person doing or being the thing He hates. Maybe a couple of cities over. Or a city in an entirely different state. So by Jason Collins coming out of the closet, it was only a matter of time before God got payback for his transgression: Which was telling people he was gay. Remember, he’s been gay for his entire life. So it was the telling people he was gay part that really must have irked God. And then, he was probably going to let it slide (don’t say God isn’t merciful), but then God was browsing twitter and saw something that he COULDN’T let slide: Kevin Durant sent a tweet expressing support for Jason Collins. It was then that, according to the WBC worldview, God decided that in a month he would level two elementary schools…11 miles away.
According to the Westboro Baptist Church, God does this a lot. He has an incredible amount of beefs – many probably overlapping within the same person or community – and His only way of expressing himself is through knocking things over. Maybe the Teletubbies had it right. It’s sounding more and more like God is a giant sky baby.
It gets creepier. God also hates entire countries (he has a huge problem with China for reasons that only Fred Phelps seems to fully understand) so he will occasionally send earthquakes or landslides or Django Unchained over to their lands in order to punish them for, actually I don’t know on this one, being Chinese? Living in China? Seeing Jamie Foxx’s junk? His punishments are beginning to look less like “teachable moments” to enlighten the sinners of the folly of their ways, and more like violence for its own sake. God is The Joker, a chaotic force hellbent on nothing more than causing fear and pain.
And sadly, God is apparently a bumbling idiot. Neither able to anticipate upcoming sins or reverse the tides of change that seem to be rising all around Him, he rages on. In an increasingly directionless fury, he lashes out like a confused and stubborn shell of a once All Powerful being. The Westboro Baptist Church have intentionally and unintentionally been left behind (not the Kirk Cameron kind) in a world that has increasingly embraced diversity, science and compassion. This is no country for bigoted men, not any more. Fred Phelps is a living, breathing representation of hating what you don’t understand. He doesn’t understand the world and he hates it and his God hates it. It has often been noted that the image of God tends to reflect that of the people who worship it. No truer could this be than with the Westboro Baptist Church. A clan of closed minded, bigoted Americans worshiping a closed minded, bigoted, hateful God, what are the odds? So if we were to imagine what God looks like to this family of imbeciles it would have to be a reflection on the family themselves. Not a sun baby, nor a Joker, I imagine their God looks a little like this:
How sad it must be to live in a world you hate, surrounded by people you hate, doing things you don’t like. How uncomfortable and cruel it must be to live with a family that teaches you that people deserve to die because they think differently than you. Theirs is a small God. A God concerned with hall monitoring and strict rules. A black and white world divorced from moral wrangling and self doubt. It’s a world of cowboy hats and wood paneling, and not at all about truth seeking and compassion building. Fred Phelps will one day die, and when he does he will have left this Earth having never once experienced the joy of uncertainty or of changing his mind or the thrill of reaching out. He will close his eyes, release his last breath, and hope that he will soon join a God who doesn’t mind exterminating dozens to avenge a tweet by a basketball player. How bizarre.
The Anna Louise Inn acts as a home and safe haven for hundreds of women fleeing abusive relationships. It’s also been located in the heart of Cincinnati for over 100 years. In short, it is a great resource and amazing testament to the power of dedicated, caring people working to make real change in the lives of others in their community. And a fortune 500 insurance company wants it. *cue thunder sound effect* And I guess I should clarify, this Fortune 500 company (which goes by the stupid name “Western and Southern”), doesn’t want the Anna Louise Inn. No, actually they just kinda like the land that it sits on. They’re like the bad guy in every 90s kids movie.
After the owners of the Anna Louise Inn rejected a low ball offer from the Insurance conglomerate and were awarded to 12 million dollar government Federal and State tax credit to renovate the house, Western and Southern CEO and Disney villain impersonator John F. Barrett demanded that the house should be evicted and his company should be allowed to buy it on the legal basis of “I’m rich, they aren’t, why can’t I have everything I want?”. The owners of the Anna Louise Inn vowed to fight this hostile takeover, which I’m sure they loved pouring their energy into instead of doing the positive community work that they dedicated their lives to.
Unfortunately, no scrappy kids on skateboards and rollerblades were able to come to the “good guys” rescue. We live in real life and in real life, we live in a world where the good guys often times cannot prevent the bad guys from winning. We live in a world where the legal code, the financial system and the society as a whole colludes to protect the privileged few who have dedicated their lives, not to public service, but greed. Greed may or may not be good, but it definitely holds the power to get things accomplished, even if its at the expense of the public good and in this case the lives of victims of abuse. A strong government could protect the powerless from the powerful but the government is not strong and John F. Barrett is probably a hell of a donor.
In the end, the legal expenses and time were too much for the Anna Louise Inn, which has now agreed to sell the home to Western and Southern. In the next two years, they are to find a new home, vacate the premises and turn it over to a corporation which has calculated that this land could make more money as a “boutique hotel” than as a community conscious “safe haven” to people in real need.
Barrett thinks this is a “win-win”, but for who, he doesn’t specify (himself and his companies shareholders?). He also has said he thinks it was time the women’s refuge got out of the way of “economic development”, which seems like something Cruella Deville would say to justify puppy skinning. But again, and I can’t stress this enough, people like Barrett are the “winners” in our society. They get what they want because we’ve made it impossible to stop them even when we know that what they are doing is wrong. We need to end this reverence of unregulated capitalism, as if it’s the only way. It isn’t the only way and companies like Western and Southern and people like John F. Barrett are constant reminders that we can’t sit by and allow them to get away with it. Grab your skateboard and let’s get to work.
Contact Western and Southern and tell them you find this unconscionable”
If you haven’t been sitting online all day or, you know, care about important things, I will forgive you for not knowing about the supernova scale meltdown of husband and wife team at Amy’s Baking Company. What started as, perhaps, the most ridiculous episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordan Ramsay of all time (including Gordan walking off of his own show) has cascaded into an online public relations disaster for the horrible owners. The Huffington Post gives us the backstory:
One has to wonder what possessed Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, the owners of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Ariz., to behave the way they did on last Friday’s episode of “Kitchen Nightmares.” It’s saying something that host Gordon Ramsay comes off as the reasonable, even-keeled one.
The British chef walked off the program for the first time in the show’s history, after the couple’s antics and finger pointing proved unsurmountable challenges. Some of the more memorable moments: the couple pocketed the waitstaff’s tips, admitted to firing more than 100 people, picked a fight with a customer who’d been waiting an hour for his pizza and served up pre-made frozen raviolis.
While it is impressive that owners Amy and Samy were so awful that they failed at a show called “Kitchen Nightmares”, what happened next is just pure insanity. After the episode aired, their Facebook page was, as tends to happen when you willingly invite publicity into your place of business and then spend an hour making everyone hate your guts, inundated with negative comments about the owners and how they ran their business. Being completely reasonable people, they apologized for their awful behavior, explained it was stress and personal problems, and vowed to make big improvements to earn the respect of their customers again. Nah, just kidding. They flipped out completely.
This was followed by increasingly angry and increasingly caps locked messages that had the only real effect of making the Internet’s self appointed warrior bees swarm.
And just like that, Amy’s Baking Company set themselves up to feel the full wrath of millions of people who thrive on this kind of thing. The troll campaign began in earnest.
Eventually, maybe a concerned friend or relative, called Amy’s and said something along the lines of “Hey, I know you’re upset but, and I’m just spitballing here, maybe you should get rid of the messages that call all of your potential customers and the world as a whole godless morons. Again, not my place but like, maybe even just delete every message and call it a night?”. Sensing their entire business in jeopardy, the intrepid owners deleted all messages, took a break and hatched a scheme to damage control what was clearly very severe damage:
So they said they were hacked. And it worked about as well as when Anthony Wiener tried that excuse. That is to say, it backfired miserably and made them look even worse. I think Amy and Samy might be proving those AA meetings wrong, there really is no such thing as rock bottom. The hole can just keep getting deeper.
While most people either enjoy the terrible owners getting their (pre-made, store bought, microwaved) just desserts or find themselves relishing the sheer idiocy of these people with unabashed abandon, I can’t help but feel a little bad for them. Sure they are entirely responsible for their terrible behavior, but they are also victims of a world that they do not understand. The internet is a wonderful place, and I’m sure they were excited to establish their official restaurant facebook page, but they clearly did not understand how this medium fully works. It was like Cortes’ first meeting with the Aztecs. The disconnect between the two parties was a wide margin.
Samy, the chief writer of the facebook posts, did not know that the world online works very differently than the real world (although, ironically, it works nearly identically to MTV’s “The Real World”). He seemed to be under the assumption that if somebody has a problem with him, they need to settle it in the traditional fashion: Someone insults you, you insult them back, they insult your mother, you tell them to step outside, you throw a few haymakers, friends break you up, you go home and tell your friends how they should have seen the other guy. But on the internet, it’s an ethereal target. There is no location at which to direct your fury. You become a babbling maniac, made even more frustrated by the fact that no one seems to be getting hurt by your attacks. Even worse, the internet doesn’t care about what you say, just as long as you say it. They are like your older brother: They are just looking for a reaction. If it’s in caps lock then even better.
It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Samy and Amy had absolutely no idea how the internet works. At various times they threatened to sue Yelp and Reddit. Get the FBI involved. Challenged the entire internet to come to their restaurant to fight. Didn’t know who Patton Oswalt was. I mean, these guys were clearly out of their league here.
The only consolation that these people have is that they will inevitably get a few interviews with Matt Lauer and Jimmy Kimmel or at the very least Opie and Anthony, and most likely (because we have passed the Rubicon of even appearing to care about anything) they will be approached by TLC to make a show that will last a couple of seasons. So Reddit is claiming victory here (yay, we made stupid people look stupid!), but to the losers go the spoils.