#2. Alcatel Wireless Takes Credit for Martin Luther King Jr.
Via Seattle Times
I think Martin Luther King Jr. is a lot like Hitler. Hear me out. Both are frequently the subject of comparisons that are absolutely outrageous: For every Internet debater you've ever seen call someone a Nazi because they didn't like My Little Pony, there is someone out there who secretly believes in their heart of hearts that they are just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights hero. I once met a woman who said to me -- and this is a direct quote -- "I'm humble, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." I did not say, "No you are fucking not, and that sentence is the reason why," but every day I wish I had. Because I know that it's what Martin would have wanted.
The Marketing Campaign
A few years ago, an Internet company called Alcatel released this advertisement, which seems to imply that King never could've had a major impact on the world without the Internet. That seems somewhat dubious to me, but hey, I don't work in marketing.
He didn't just fail to connect, he cleared the entire National Mall.
Their conceit is that before you can inspire a marginalized and vulnerable class of people to assert themselves and claim their human rights, you must first reach them -- and luckily, they provide that service, because they are an ISP. Unfortunately, just like my friend, they have set up a comparison that just doesn't favor them.
Let's do some quick MLK history. King attained the massive audience of listeners he did by working with violent gang members to earn their trust and convince them to join his cause of passive resistance. ISPs let me download porn. King was subject to constant threats against his life for everything he stood for, but kept fighting until someone actually made good on those threats -- turning him into a martyr, a hero of American history, and someone we can all learn from. Alcatel's customer support is closed on Sunday.
King had a hell of a "come hither" look.
ISPs, on the other hand, don't even have faces. No fuckin' contest.
Here's the great irony of this commercial: Everything that makes this ad offensive also makes it a really bad piece of marketing. If you're trying to make yourself look good at something, don't compare yourself to someone who completely redefined the way everybody does that thing. And definitely don't act like they couldn't have done it without you when history says that's exactly what they did.
#1. Bob Marley's "Low Energy" Drink (Among Other Things)
Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images
This may come as a shock, but it turns out that the guy who wrote "Get Up, Stand Up" and other songs about chasing white people with sticks was actually kind of a radical. Bob Marley viewed racial inequality as just cause for war, openly advocated for a unified Africa, thought Jamaica should have a "black, Marxist government," said that trying to make money off his music would rob it of its value, and believed so strongly in his message that he once performed a concert after being shot in the chest by machine guns.
The Marketing Campaign
I'm really tempted to say that Bob Marley was a political revolutionary whose memory has been co-opted by a bunch of stoner kids with trendy faux-dreadlock haircuts that make them look like poorly thought-out Kurt Cobain statues, so I will. That's exactly what I'm saying. I just said it.
Aside from the obvious irony of throwing his face on the front of a Walmart T-shirt or using "Three Little Birds" to close out senior prom in a gated community, Marley's music has posthumously shown up in Budweiser commercials (even though, as a Rastafarian, he didn't drink) while the people who own the rights to his name have worked to distance him from the word "reggae" because of its "negative connotations," which is like trying to distance Wes Anderson from movies people pretend to like because they're afraid that admitting they fell asleep will make everyone think they're an idiot. But one of the worst examples of his memory being utterly misapplied has got to be Marley's Mellow Mood, which I bought at a gas station a few weeks ago for $1.49, because I am dedicated to my research.
Mellow Mood is an all-natural beverage designed to promote relaxation and dead-eyed zombie vomiting. Its existence proves that at some point in his life Marley ended up pissing off a dark wizard, because memorializing an anti-capitalist revolutionary with a trendy homeopathic sedative is the kind of cruel irony that they design entire circles of hell for.
I'm not pointing this out as part of an anti-capitalist crusade -- I'm fine making money off stuff I create, since my Aviator sunglasses and potato gun parts aren't going to pay for themselves. I'm just talking about basic human fucking decency. Whether or not you agree with the guy's politics, it's sleazy as shit to use the spoils of his work and life to take a big steaming shit on everything he ever believed in.