5 Awful People We Were Forced to Know In 2015
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!
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:
Make your move, Bill Murray.
So if you were hoping your tax dollars would finally be spent on something worthwhile, keep hoping.
The Fat Jew
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.
Remember when Robin Thicke and Pharrell beat up the ghost of Marvin Gaye and stole the music for that "Blurred Lines" song, and everyone loved it for like 13 months before realizing it was kind of a sleazy anthem for budding sexual assaultists? Am I crazy, or does The Weeknd have like three years' worth of songs like that waiting to catch up to him? If you're unfamiliar, he's the man behind the best song about cocaine this side of the 1980s ...
... and several other hits of today. He's also one of the creepiest Canadian exports of all time. On the surface, he's not too much unlike his entertainment countryman, Drake. In fact, the two are so similar that a bunch of songs on Drake's Take Care album are a lot more like The Weeknd songs featuring Drake.
But the similarities end at country of origin and similarly whiny Canadian brogues. Their vast differences can best be described in terms of the best Christmas movie ever made. That, of course, being Gremlins. If Drake was Gizmo and you spilled water on him, The Weeknd is what would pop out of his back. Like, they're mostly the same, but then you notice that one of them has weird hair and acts kind of rapey around the family cat. I say that because, while it's not on display quite as prominently on his most recent album, this dude has real thing for songs ...
... about drugging women ...
... and then having sex with them (sometimes with lots of friends in tow).
I don't know how things work in Canada, but we kick people off The Voice for behavio(u)r of that nature in this country. I get that these are just songs and all, but a quick glance at the lyrics of those songs makes listening to them and enjoying them sort of like stumbling upon a pro-date-rape website and liking it on Facebook because the web design is on point.
I understand how and why Kim Davis initially became a name we recognized from the news. After the Supreme Court decided that gay people should be able to get married, she expressed her dissent by way of refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couples at all -- same-sex or opposite-sex.
It was a move that some rightfully compared to Alabama Governor George Wallace's famous stand in the schoolhouse door, when the flamboyantly racist (at least, at the time) career politician physically blocked two black youths, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from entering the University of Alabama to register as students. He delivered a speech while doing it, thus allowing President Kennedy time to mobilize the National Guard and send them to the campus. At that point, the Governor moved away and allowed the Malone and Hood to enter the building.
Pictured: a "simpler time."
It was a huge and very unfortunate deal, but collateral damage in the form of people acting out in extreme ways is to be expected when change of that magnitude happens. However, even with all of the attention that was paid to this story taken into consideration, it still at times seemed like people didn't realize exactly how important the story really was. The general consensus was that this was just some hillbilly yokel using their bigoted beliefs to get attention. But if that was the case, then we gave her exactly the attention she wanted, by way of an endless array of memes like these:
Memes fix everything!
Try as I might, I was never really able to grasp the exact meaning or purpose of those memes. It's basically mocking Kim Davis for valuing her religious beliefs over a paycheck or the word of the government. You know who responds to a meme like that? People who feel like they're living in a country where their religious beliefs are mocked, disregarded, or outright attacked. All of those people you laugh at for claiming "Christian values" are under siege point to memes like this as evidence that their perceived war is real and that their already-rabid followers should fight even harder. If anything, it will just inspire more people to "not do their job" in the name of their religious beliefs. It's preaching to the choir on every front imaginable.
It also makes light of a story that, as stated before, is more important than people realize. Kim Davis isn't just some redneck doing a menial job; she's an elected official. The reason she hasn't been fired is that she can't be fired. To remove her from her position would require goddamn impeachment proceedings ...
Totally worth the hassle!
... and she didn't just give up the fight because Twitter made her into a punchline for a couple weeks. As recently as November, she was still filing appeals.
She's also not the only county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. There were two others in Kentucky, the same state Davis calls home, who not only refused, but also faced little-to-no fanfare or legal hassles for it. Granted, a lot of that has to do with the fact that there just aren't that many same-sex couples in their particular section of Kentucky for it to be a concern, but it should still serve as a reminder that a story doesn't cease to matter just because its associated hashtag isn't trending anymore.
Man, where the fuck did Ben Carson come from? Prior to his decision to seek the highest political office in all the land, I'd literally never heard his name even once. Then, just out of the blue (in terms of popularity, at least), he seemed to be well on his way to becoming the black Donald Trump that Morris Day and the Time once fantasized about being one day.
Well, not just in terms of popularity. He also said his fair share of insane shit -- which seemed to be a wildly popular strategy among Republican presidential hopefuls in 2015. Like that time he said that the Jews would've fared better during the Holocaust if only they hadn't been subjected to all those pesky gun control laws. That's stupid, of course. There weren't nearly enough personal firearms in circulation for that to have mattered at all, and the Nazis successfully invaded plenty of countries that did have guns.
Even if it was true, it's still the kind of thing that only the most out-of-touch asshole says in a public setting to prove a point, and this asshole was running for president! I mean, he still is, but as far as his standing in the polls goes, the threat seems to have been somewhat neutralized. Now, he's mostly just further proof that only one man gets to say literally anything that's on his mind without repercussions of any kind.
Seeing as how they're both political outsiders with proven success in their respective fields and radical ideas on how to "fix" America, I honestly have no idea what it is about Trump that makes him seem like the better choice among the candidates' shared base of racists and xenophobes.
What could it be????
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that Ben Carson seems to have disappeared from political importance almost as quickly as he got there. Much like Martin Shkreli, his time in the spotlight came and went at Vanilla Ice speed, and it left just as many questions as to exactly where the fuck he came from in the first place.
As it turns out, my lack of prior knowledge of Ben Carson mostly boils down to me not watching the right news channels. For example, if I was the Fox News type, I'd know that he worked as a correspondent for them in 2014. Knowing that probably would've had me in on the ground floor when people started clamoring for him to enter the political arena, which apparently happened after he littered his speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast with his views on various social and political issues.
I missed all that, though, so the potential presidency of Dr. Ben Carson just kind of sneaked up on me. It was as if, overnight, we all of the sudden had to know his name, lest we seem like the most ignorant of stereotypical ignorant Americans. That seemed to happen a lot in 2015.
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