6 Attempts at Damage Control That Caused Way Bigger Problems
Mistakes are an inevitable part of human nature, but there's a system for dealing with them the right way -- The Four A's: Assess the damage, Acknowledge your role, Apologize sincerely and Assassinate all accusers. But no matter how simple and logical this process may seem, there are plenty of idiots out there who just live for the chance to make a bad thing so, so much worse.
Fawlty Towers Ruins the Reputation of a Crazy Person
Despite only running for 12 episodes, Fawlty Towers is considered one of the best British sitcoms of all time. The show's success was mostly due to the character of Basil Fawlty, who utterly enraptured audiences in spite (or because) of the fact that he was an absolutely awful human being. John Cleese eventually revealed that the character was based on Donald Sinclair, a hotel owner he'd once encountered. However, his widow didn't like having her husband's name attached to one of the most successful British sitcoms in history, presumably because money once tried to take advantage of her in an airport bathroom and she never forgave it. So she adamantly denied that her husband was anything like the character in the show and, rather than chocking the whole thing up as some kind of situation or scenario employing falsehood or embellishment to comedic effect (if only there was a word for that), she loudly and repeatedly objected to the way Cleese portrayed her husband for 30 years after the series had finished. Which we imagine is 29 years past the point when anyone gave a damn.
No mention of whether she protested the portrayal of that hair.
Rather than letting the story fall into the sarlacc pit of pop culture's collective short attention span, Sinclair's widow revived the controversy again, just before she died. Unfortunately, this time it prompted a former waitress from the hotel to publicly refute her, stating that, if anything, Sinclair was even worse than Cleese had made out. If the widow Sinclair had just left the story alone, not only would nobody care, but it would be her and her husband's word against Cleese's. Worst case scenario, they come off as a couple of humorless buzzkills. Instead, she had to reiterate the story one last time and accidentally provoke the only witness to stand up against her in 30 years.
OK, we take back the hair comment.
Then she passed away, leaving the whole world to remember her as "that crazy lady who hated jokes."
Ryan Giggs Tries to Sue Twitter
A super injunction, aside from having the most bitchin' first name of all the injunction family, is a bit of legislation in the British legal system used to prevent the press from mentioning any part of a story. A regular injunction blocks a single key detail of a report; a super injunction swats that shit out of the air completely while yelling "THIS IS MY HOUSE." So when an anonymous Twitter user started leaking the hell out of a bunch of them like it wasn't a thing, people took notice. One story in particular stood out: That of famous soccer player Ryan Giggs, who had an "alleged" affair with a reality TV star.
But instead of scheduling a press conference to passive-aggressively apologize and laugh maniacally at the sharp upswing in endorsement deals -- you know, the good ol' fashioned American way -- Giggs immediately sued Twitter to have the information removed.
"If there's one good way to hush something up, it's to make a scene."
He was just another drop in a bucket full of many other super injunctions being leaked by the Twitter account. But, by suing, he now stood out from the crowd. So not only was there a sports/celebrity sex scandal being brought to public attention, but also the news reporting on it couldn't actually name the accused -- because it was forbidden ... taboo ... naughty. It was the perfect storm of media clusterfucks. Of course the people went looking when the news said "Mystery sports star nails mystery celebrity and we can't tell you about it." And they immediately found the details on Twitter. After the story broke, one paper published the following graph of Tweets related to Giggs' name:
17 viewers? England is weird.
The story became such a sensation that a member of English Parliament even got sucked into the hype, breaking the super injunction himself by naming Giggs, stating that, "It would not be practical to imprison the 75,000 Twitter users who had named the player." Because apparently British Parliament discusses everything, even where soccer players like to stick it on their down time.
But hey, at least Giggs got some of that sweet Twitter money from the settlement, right? Well, he would have, except for this law that states a company (like Twitter) cannot be held accountable for the actions or words of its customers.
To recap: Information about his super injunction leaked, and he tried to plug that leak with a stack of lawsuits, which created so much attention that Parliament itself broke the injunction just to essentially call him an asshole, and then it turned out that he was suing the wrong people anyway.
What's that thing that Homer Simpson says? "Oops," or something like that?
And then he slipped on a banana peel and fell down a manhole while "Yakety Sax" played.
Like most cognizant life forms, Helen Steel and David Morris think McDonald's food is pretty shitty. Unlike most cognizant life forms, however, when these environmental activists dislike a meal, they don't simply avoid the restaurant in the future: They make libelous photocopies and hand them out while standing in front of said restaurant, presumably because Yelp wouldn't be invented for another couple of decades.
Deciding that the best way to counter claims made by two isolated hippies with a copy machine -- claims that McDonald's was an underhanded company that operated unethically -- McDonald's allegedly hired private investigators to infiltrate Greenpeace and possibly even rob their office. When the case finally went to court, it looked open and shut, especially when the "McLibel Two" chose to represent themselves -- the legal equivalent of calling in sick to work because the dog ate your pants. However, despite staring down a billion dollar legal clusterfuck with nothing but good vibes and a dislike for processed chicken "meat," the pair held their own.
"We're English. Nothing they do to us could be worse than January."
The couple turned the proceedings into the longest libel case in English legal history, lasting a whopping 20 years. McDonald's spent millions in legal fees over a span of decades and eventually, finally, agreed to drop the case under the condition that the couple only criticizes McDonald's to their friends from then on. Seeing a potential end to a pointless lifelong legal battle, the couple jumped at the offer. Oh no, wait, they told the corporation that they'd agree to the terms if McDonald's agreed to only advertise to their friends as well.
Jesus, we hate it when they forget the free toy in the Happy Meal, too, guys, but maybe it's not worth an entire generation of court battles?
"When the Hamburglar kills us, our children will continue the fight."
McDonald's eventually prevailed, winning a 40,000-pound settlement. This would've been good news, if they hadn't already spent 10 million pounds and 20 years to get it. Still, though, it's a matter of principle: McDonald's won, and we're sure they put that money to good use. Or they would have, if the couple didn't then refuse to pay up. The pair later successfully sued Scotland Yard for unlawfully disclosing details of the case, and actually managed to come out 10,000 pounds ahead.
The lesson here being: If you want to sue someone, make sure they have something better to do with their time.
Oh, by the way, they're still doing it today.
Barbra Streisand Fucks With the Wrong Geologist
Kenneth Adelman was a man with a mission: To take thousands upon thousands of photos of the California coastline to document coastal erosion.
Hey, not all missions can be of the impossible variety.
All in all, over 12,000 photos were taken, one of which contained a grainy image of Barbra Streisand's home in the top corner. Now obviously this was a massive invasion of Streisand's privacy, as any one of the zero people actually interested in sifting through 12,000 photos of coastline erosion could potentially see an aerial photo of one corner of her swimming pool.
If you squint, you can see her doing a 720 jackknife off of the high dive.
So she did what any reasonable person would do when they didn't like how a photo turned out: She sued the photographer and the website hosting the image for millions of dollars.
Streisand's lawyers sent several threatening cease-and-desist letters to the site, which were immediately leaked online. News outlets jumped on the story and in the process sent half a million people to the site in a single month, making it the second most viewed website in coastal erosion history (just behind swallowmysediment.com).
It's actually more surreal than sexy.
The lawsuit eventually fell through, although not before ensuring that millions of people stared in confusion at an innocuous photo of Barbra Streisand's backyard. The offending site is still active today, complete with the original photo and a new page containing links to every news story about the spectacle, transcripts of everything Streisand's lawyers sent and a note basically telling her to go fuck herself. Not to mention as a final insult, she was court ordered to pay their legal fees.
Which she afforded by shaking the change out of her couch.
It's like the old saying goes: Never, ever, ever fuck with a geologist.
Trafigura Pulls a Giggs
Some people actually care when you dump toxic chemicals into the ocean. Mostly aquamen and little mermaids, sure, but even they can whip up some effective resistance with the help of an old friend: incompetency.
"Hey, fish are cooked in oil. We're just cutting out a step."
The oil-trading company Trafigura was accused of illegally dumping waste into the ocean, and they promptly filed a super injunction banning any mention of the story (hey, we're starting to think those things might not work). An unintended side effect, however, was that the injunction effectively stopped some reporting on Parliament itself, something that had never actually happened before. Intentional or not, Trafigura were gagging the political news, and that in itself was a way bigger story than any possible environmental infraction.
Which then prompted 600,000 variations of this picture to be used by every news organization in existence.
People reported the story anyway, somehow managing to completely ignore the "super" in "super injunction" (maybe they had a chunk of rare, deadly injunctionite) and leaked all the documents involved. When the story hit Twitter, Trafigura and the gagging order trended worldwide. The sheer weight of the campaign forced Trafigura to to drop the injunction entirely, allowing the details of their toxic dumping to be reported on after all ... but only after first creating a worldwide scandal about it.
The King Kong Remake
We know what you're thinking: You're thinking this is going to be about the time Peter Jackson had everyone who called his 2005 version of King Kong "insufferable" or "like eight hours long, dude, seriously" thrown into the slave mines of Old Zealand. But no, this is about that other King Kong remake. The one by Dino De Laurentiis, the producer responsible for Flash Gordon, Dune, Blue Velvet, Othello and Racism and Robots.
Haven't seen that last one? Oh man, have we got some spoilers for you:
For instance, that's not a real ape!
De Laurentiis had his fuckup son Federico act as producer for King Kong, and the process got all the way to the illustrious "posting audition notices" phase before he screwed the whole thing into the ground. De Laurentiis thought that the best way to render a gigantic ape was to take a step backward from the 1933 version and just straight up put a dude in an ape costume, and that's fine. Some costume work is actually better than even the most advanced special effects, so long as it's handled carefully and subtly and -- oh yeah -- doesn't contain the words "Wanted: Tall Black Man to Play Ape."
That's Federico on the left, probably saying something about how happy he is to be part of the "master race."
Well, hold on, it's not like he said it's because black men are "closer to primate roots."
He did? Oh, shit. This is going to be one hell of a ...
Having accidentally (?) insulted an entire race and created a national scandal, De Laurentiis decided that the best way out of his problem would be to distract the world with the biggest, shiniest thing he could think of: He declared that if he couldn't have a racist caricature, he would settle for a giant robot Kong instead.
"With, like, a hilarious Chinese accent!"
Th-those are the only two options you see, De Laurentiis? Set race relations back a hundred years, or gargantuan steel monkey machine?
After weeks of malfunctions and several million dollars -- most of which was just to cover the framework with black horse hair (he bought all of it ... in the world) -- Mechakong was used in only a few shots, for a total screen time of no more than a few seconds. And Dino had to go back to a guy in a suit for most of the effects after all.
But don't worry; it was a white guy in there.
Ironically, he was only 17 inches tall.
Oh, so Laurentiis wouldn't employ a black man after all? Psh, racist.
For more predictable disasters, check out 6 Man-Made Natural Disasters Just Waiting to Happen and The 5 Biggest Disasters in the History of Marketing Ideas.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover David Wong's method for dealing with the protesters occupying his house.
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