4 People Who Are Only Famous Because We All Despise Them
Being a useless dickhead won't prevent you from being successful; just look at Piers Morgan. But it's more rare for someone to build an entire public persona around that douchebaggery. Because why, why, what possible purpose could that serve? Is it a desperation for attention? Has the ephemeral badge of fame become worth such depravity? Or are most people just big ol' dummies? Maybe by the end of this article we will have figured it out. Probably not, though.
Martin Shkreli Wants You To Think He's A Jerk
You probably remember Martin "Pharma Bro" Shkreli as the punchable-faced CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that bought the cheap and life-saving anti-parasite drug Daraprim and spiked the price by over 5,000 percent from a shrug-inducing $12.50 per pill to the truly butt-clenching $750 per pill. And as if that wasn't bad enough, he also look likes this:
The muscle spasms you're feeling are from your body trying to give your computer a swirly.
When I first heard this story, my instinct was that Shkreli must secretly be the good guy, because evil is never so bald-faced in its cruelty. Real-life evil hides behind paperwork, or "the system," or just shrugging its shoulders and saying its hands are tied. Shkreli, on the other hand, was standing in front of America with his arms spread wide and proudly explaining that he thought money was more important than human life. Everyone who has ever looked him in the eye has imagined him lowering a gagged woman in a sparkly red dress into a glass tank full of mutant hammerhead sharks. The guy had branded himself as an evil mastermind as effectively as Jennifer Lawrence branded herself as a sexy klutz. All for a drug that only 2,000 Americans use every year.
But what's really weird is that what he did isn't actually weird. The entire pharmaceutical industry runs on this kind of money-gouging malarkey. Every single pharmaceutical CEO in the world does exactly what Shkreli did -- the difference is they don't go on MSNBC to brag about it.
Surely once he realized his mistake, he scurried back into his Millionaire Cave to do more surreptitious evil, right? Wrong.
Why We Still Know About Him
The Shkrells has spent every single day since he hiked that price finding new ways to get his goofy-ass face in front of you in the most punchable contexts conceivable. He agreed to an interview with Vice that not only butchered a bunch of basic facts (he wasn't arrested for price gouging, and he didn't start funding the punk label after the Daraprim scandal) but seemed designed to depict him as a villain. He spends the rest of his time hanging out on Twitter picking fights with anyone who makes fun of him Periscoping images of himself almost playing guitar and pretending to rip up checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Here he is doing the more douchey of those two things.
Occasionally the phone will ring and he'll answer on speakerphone. I've listened to a few of these conversations, and I can only see two possibilities: Either they're more obviously staged than Donald Trump's Twitter support or we live in a world where people call up Shkreli just to introduce themselves, tell him he's their hero, and ask him to make election predictions.
You can also find him making weird, unfounded accusations ...
Those wondering whether that caught on with the conspiracy crowds will be glad to know that it totally did.
... so he can argue with people on Twitter some more. If you go to his account and click on his mentions, you'll see that he spends his days finding everyone who is making fun of him, picking fights with them, and then blocking them.
If I were conspiratorially minded, I'd think that his entire public persona was set up by the pharmaceutical industry to make sure that we all remember this Daraprim scandal as the actions of a lone lunatic rather than using it to pry the broken pharmaceutical industry wide open and get a glimpse at the festering, pus-filled core of this throbbing abscess of an industry. But I'm not conspiratorially minded, so I just think Shkreli is kind of an insecure doofus who needs all the attention he can get, and none of us can help giving it to him.
Or maybe I'm just mad that he picked a fight with me on Twitter and then blocked me.
Kim Davis Is The Puppet Of A Psychopath
Back in 2015, Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis refused to grant marriage licenses to homosexual couples, even though the law said she had to. Her argument was that God wouldn't be into it. Her case became national news, and it seemed to boil down to a simple question: Could the government force someone to do something against their religion?
The answer was more or less "Yup, especially if doing that thing is literally your job and you work for the government." But this story didn't just take off because gay marriage is, like, a really big issue these days for some reason (human dignity, I guess, is important?) but because Kim Davis was intentionally fashioned into a monster by somebody other than Kim Davis
Why We Still Know About Her
There are a couple details about this person that sorta undercut her image as a religious zealot. First off, she converted to Apostolic Christianity in 2011, after she'd already worked in the county clerk's office for two whole decades. Second, she wanted to drop the whole thing early on: She said she'd be fine with same-sex couples getting licenses if the county just took her name off them, replacing them with the name of a deputy clerk. That's, gosh, pretty darn rude of her, but there's a big difference between not wanting to participate in something and thinking something straight-up shouldn't be allowed. And Davis seemed like she only wanted that first thing ... until a man named Mat Staver got involved.
Mat Staver is Davis' lawyer and the founder of the Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT activist organization described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and as a pack of foamy-mouthed wingnuts by me on the popular comedy website Cracked.com. And every single wacko grab for attention you heard about Davis in the news came directly from them.
Remember when she met with the pope and he gave her his popey seal of approval? Never happened. But what a lot of people don't realize is that not only was it Mat Staver and the Liberty Counsel that spread that rumor in the first place, but they doubled down later and said the pope was lying about not having met her. Which is a weird accusation to throw at a guy whose approval you're pretending to have. The Liberty Counsel is also the people who spread that picture of a support rally for Davis in Peru that was somehow held years before Davis was ever arrested. Apparently a bunch of Peruvians heard about a lady named Kim Davis and held a rally in support of anything that might happen to her in the future, because there is fucking nothing of interest happening in Peru. Either that or Staver is completely full of shit and spending his days trying to turn his client into the Rosa Parks of being awful to other people for no reason.
Milo Yiannopoulos Monetized Trolling
Milo Yiannopoulos is the Breitbart writer most famous for supporting the Gamergate harassment campaign in 2014 and then being kicked off Twitter for inciting harassment against comedian Leslie Jones (an incident which has no name because "Ghostbustergate" sounds really stupid, even by "gate"-suffix standards). Aside from that, you pretty much only know about him if you a) like to spend your free time harassing people on the internet, or b) are fascinated by people who spend their free time harassing people on the internet. Yiannopoulos isn't the only person to try to make a career out of telling angry internet people that they're right, but he might be the best at it.
Why We Still Know About Him
The mark of a Milo Yiannopoulos article is that he makes statements that are exactly what angry, lonely people want to hear and are so factually wrong as to be irresistible to people who like to debunk stuff. You see those two steps in all his stuff: It sounds right to one group of people and is fun to disagree with to other groups of people. So he gets attention from hateful jerks on the political right and people on the political left who can't help but argue with hateful jerks on the political right. Let me show you some examples.
Back in 2015 he wrote an article called "Gay Rights Have Made Us Dumber," in which he wrote: "If for no other reasons than manners and aesthetics, we ought to think about shoving the next generation back into Narnia."
From Prince Caspian to Samwise Gamgee, British fantasy literature is the most heterosexual place around.
Technically Narnia is in the back of a wardrobe, not a closet, but more importantly, come on, dude -- he doesn't really fucking believe that. Not just because Yiannopoulos is a flamboyant and proud gay man but because it's nonsense. Nobody believes that. The purpose of a statement like that is to latch on to the irrational anger people feel toward gay pride parades ("Why isn't there a straight pride parade?") and give it a shallow justification: That pride parades are dumb and make you dumb. Obviously that's totally bonkers (this guy has graduate degrees in nuclear science and engineering from MIT and wears high heels to Disneyland), but nobody looks too closely at something that makes their mad feel justified. And that's what makes it excellent trolling. On another note, Yiannopoulos has also said it's a provable fact that Jews control Hollywood. I'm not linking to any of his articles to offer proof because I don't want to give him the traffic; you'll just have to take my word for it.
If you're so inclined, you can go peruse his history and watch his strategy develop. In 2014 he wrote a piece called "Why Men Cheat With Me But Not On Me" that opens with this line: "I've never been cheated on. Obviously." He then went on to explain that he cheats, like, all the time. Which is the kind of comment you write for the bad guy in a romantic comedy so the audience doesn't mind when Hugh Grant steals his fiancee. The guy has always wanted to be hateable, but now he has his hate audience and his mentally ill internet harasser audience. Because that's where the real money is?
So it doesn't matter that he doesn't really believe the stuff he says, anymore than it matters that Chris Pratt isn't really a snarky space-pirate. They're both just playing fantasy roles. I don't see a difference, aside from the fact that Chris Pratt is less likely to ruin somebody's career or get them killed.
Trayvon Martin's Killer Can't Keep Out Of The News
On Feb. 26, 2012, George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, and hey there, welcome to my comedy article. The shooting became the biggest story in the world and then Zimmerman was acquitted a year and a half later, an announcement that led directly to the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Any reasonable person in Zimmerman's position would probably be soured on the idea of fame for life. It's damn near impossible to spin his actions as heroic -- even the most sympathetic interpretation of the evening ends with "scared guy kills kid half his age and three-quarters his size." And here he is, shortly after his acquittal, complaining that he has $2.5 million in debt and is suffering from PTSD. You'd think he'd want to slink out of the spotlight and try to get on with something like a normal life as quickly as possible, right?
Why We Still Know About Him
That article about his debt and PTSD? That interview didn't come right after the trial -- it came months later, in a television interview. Turns out Zimmerman has spent every second since his acquittal trying to keep us talking about him. Apparently forever.
Six months after his trial, he started selling paintings commemorating his, uh, opinions and shit -- including one blood-red one of his prosecuting attorney.
You were expecting subtlety?
Not long after that he auctioned off the gun used to kill Martin. In his description, he called the weapon an "American firearm icon," which is weird because I thought gun-rights activists fantasized about overthrowing tyrannical governments more than shooting kids in a panic. Again -- even his defense clarifies that killing Martin was a tragedy. What makes his gun "iconic"? Bill O'Reilly thinks Zimmerman's an asshole. Bill O'Reilly.
And he's still doing this stuff. This year he approached some people in a bar to brag about who he was, even pulling out his photo ID to prove that, yes indeed, he's that guy you think he is (though on the 911 phone call he made after being punched in the face he somewhat hilariously refused to give his name).
It's really starting to seem like we're cultivating an unhealthy attitude toward fame. Maybe we're encouraging people to be more conscious of their fame and brand and public persona than is healthy. Maybe we've become a culture that is dangerously obsessed with fame, and we all need to work together to fix it. Follow me on Twitter.
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