What a shitstorm of a year this was, huh? Depending on who you ask, it could actually be the worst year in the history of years -- which is saying a lot when you take into account just how many came before it. Well over 2,000, and that's just counting the post-Jesus era. In fact, 2015 was so full of awful that it seemed to just leap out at us from the shadows unexpectedly at every turn, often in the form of terrible people whose names we'd never heard before that moment. We talk about some of the terrible people 2015 sprung on us on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Lahna Turner and Cracked editor Alex Schmidt. That's also what I'll be talking about in this column today. Here goes!
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I know it's a weird thing to say, but when you get right down to it, there was no real reason for Martin Shkreli to be as big of a news story as he turned out to be in 2015. If the name doesn't ring a bell, holy shit, how much do you work? Is it so much that you just have zero time to consume news in any format, or so little that you can't afford to? Whatever the case, to give you some background, Martin Shkreli is the punchable-faced pharmaceutical executive who bought the rights to an AIDS drug called Daraprim and promptly jacked the price up from $13.50 a pill all the way to $750 a pill. That's a 5,556 percent increase, if you're keeping score at home.
Don't get me wrong, that's a deplorable thing to do, and people had every right to be outraged. But it's also a thing we've had plenty of opportunities to be outraged about in the past, and not once did we raise this kind of commotion over it. Granted, in those other cases, the increase wasn't quite as extreme, but in all, there have been at least 19 drugs over the past few years that shot up in price by anywhere from 300-1,200 percent in pretty much the exact same way.
The difference is that in a lot of cases, the drugs in question were relatively cheap to begin with. Like the pain relief drug Vimovo, which spiked from $1.88 to $23.86 after its patent was purchased by a company called Horizon Pharma. Those numbers don't look as outrageous, but seeing as how it's a drug that's used for general pain relief, chances are it's way more commonly used in hospital settings than an antiparasitic like Daraprim. Either way, it's a company maximizing profits on the back of the general public's need to feel better. That's gross.
Of course, the other difference was Shkreli himself. This was a year characterized by people publicly embracing the most extreme aspects of their thought processes and refusing to back down, no matter what criticism came their way as a result. It worked (and is still working) terrifyingly well for Donald Trump, who just gets more popular every time he puts a face to your drunk uncle's most heinous holiday outbursts.
Martin Shkreli tried to do the same thing. He pointed out that maximizing profits for his investors was what he was hired to do, and refused to budge on the price of the drug that made him infamous. He was also obnoxious as shit on Twitter, engaged in a weird flame war of sorts with Bernie Sanders, and broke the hearts of emo fans the world over when a picture of him wearing a Brand New shirt made the rounds online.
That part was pretty funny.
His final (for now) act of awful, weirdly enough, actually happened before most of the world ever heard of Daraprim. Remember that Wu-Tang Clan album that they recorded and swore they'd only sell to a private buyer for a minimum of $1 million? Well, back before the drug pricing scandal, Martin Shkreli agreed to be that buyer. That news finally broke in early December, and once again, Shkreli acted like the biggest piece of shit possible over it, vowing that he was saving listening to it for a rainy day, but would reconsider if Taylor Swift wanted to hear it. He also took to YouTube to post names of other artists he'd consider paying a huge sum of money to in return for an album that only he could own.
Rather than run the risk of living in a world that isn't allowed to hear every Gucci Mane song ever recorded, the feds decided to pull the plug on his shenanigans and arrested him for securities fraud, alleging that he ran a "quasi-Ponzi scheme" at a previous company.
Before you ask: No, the FBI did not seize the Wu-Tang album as part of their arrest, as confirmed in this tweet:
So if you were hoping your tax dollars would finally be spent on something worthwhile, keep hoping.
4The Fat Jew
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The Fat Jew (real name Josh Ostrovsky) was the kind of story that, to paraphrase Cracked editor Alex Schmidt, made a person wonder if they were living on the same planet as everyone else. By the time I had any idea who this guy even was, he already had more followers on social media than there are people in most cities I've lived in. Even worse, he'd found a way to turn all of those followers into money by stealing bullshit memes and tweets from around the Internet and reposting them as his own.
At least he's subtle about it!
All that said, I still didn't give a shit. I've been writing for Cracked for a long time, and as a result, I've grown unfortunately accustomed to having my shit stolen and posted elsewhere online. In most cases, the thief in question is just some random Tumblr blogger who gets little-to-no traffic anyway. But not always! I've had articles of mine read verbatim by morning radio DJ's with zero credit or acknowledgement. If anything, I was mostly just impressed that someone managed to make money using Instagram.
Besides, with the outrage over his thievery mounting with every career milestone he achieved, I assumed the problem would work itself out eventually. Which it totally did. Almost as soon as word spread that he'd signed a deal with Comedy Central, that deal was dropped.
Here's a rare look at a scene from the pilot episode.
A subsequent book (and the tour to promote it) was also a total disaster, with a stop in Los Angeles cancelled altogether. The official story was that a "stalker" was the cause of the cancellation, but several of the people who RSVP'd for the event were disgruntled LA comics who were planning to protest.
And now? The guy is nowhere to be found. I mean, he still exists, but his evil has been effectively neutralized. The moral? I was right to not give a shit. I certainly thank the brave men and women who fought to free me from the oppression of the Fat Jew, but it never really felt like my fight in the first place. Nevertheless, I did at one point decide to do a little Googling just to get a better sense of what this man's online world looked like, and that's when I found this ...
... an entire Tumblr blog built around the premise of one of my most successful Cracked articles of all time. On the bright side, all of the entries are submitted by users of the site, so I can just steal them all and write another sequel to that article six months from now. That's your circle of life at work, ladies and gentlemen.