The 6 Most Clueless Assholes To Ever Exploit Tragedies
People deal with tragedy in many different ways. Whether it's a moment of silence for a beloved member of the community who recently passed away or a candle-holding ceremony for all the Pomeranians lost to the scourge of coyote attack, folks just need to express their grief in a way that's both solemn and tasteful. Or, for the low, low price of $9.99, you can get your hands on an authentic piece of shrapnel that's guaranteed to come straight from the skull of someone involved in the latest act of senseless violence. Just to prove that cashing in always takes precedence over common decency, we present you with ...
The 9/11 Gift Shop
Within the first hour of a plane colliding with the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City on 9/11, eBay hawkers began selling chunks of the buildings online. No joke. It was a pretty gruesome testament to our species' capacity for callous, hyena-like greed, but eventually a memorial was constructed that gave Americans and visitors from around the world a place to reflect while remaining free from all the exploitative crap. Unless you count the T-shirts, key chains, rescue dog plush toys, tote bags, and ties.
"Never forget ... to check out our half-price sale on smoke detectors!
The savings are practically a crime against humanity!"
When the 9/11 Memorial Museum was opened to the public last year, many were more than a little perturbed by the inclusion of a gift shop that peddled items that seemed less appropriate for the site of a tragedy and more befitting of the impulse bin in one of those Hudson News stores at the airport. While at least there weren't Mets jerseys emblazoned with "Mohamed Atta" on the back, in addition to the aforementioned items there were also 9/11-themed mugs, mouse pads, toy firetrucks, and jewelry on display. And -- before it was removed on the grounds of parasitic revoltingness -- a cheese plate in the shape of the United States with little hearts marking the points of impact for each of the hijacked planes.
"Our tote bags are so sturdy that in a pinch they could even double as a parachute
in case you need to jump off a high-rise! Ha ha!"
Obviously, the people who actually lost friends or family members on that day weren't especially enthused with the inclusion of a Spencer Gifts-style tchotchke-fest at the memorial. Diane Horning, whose son not only lost his life in the Towers but also remains there to this day, as no traces of him were ever recovered, sure wasn't:
"To me, it's the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died. Here is essentially our tomb of the unknown. To sell baubles, I find quite shocking and repugnant. I think it's a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they're willing to do it over my son's dead body."
Maybe the conspiracy dipshits can have their own kiosks like the people
at the mall who sell kitten calendars.
Presumably, she did not make this announcement while wearing a "darkness hoodie," which you can apparently still buy right now for the reasonable price of $39. Oh, by the way, during the formal opening of the museum, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended, it was announced that plans were in the works to open a cafe at the site. Public outcry has led to some adjustments to the current presentation, though, and hopefully prevented the sale of lunchtime options like a "melted girder cheese sandwich" or a "lingering effects chili bowl."
The Website That Traffics In Serial Killer Memorabilia
A lot of people, myself included, find the subject of serial killers rather intriguing. But, though I may have a morbid fascination with the real-life monsters in our midst, it doesn't mean I have any plans to decorate my den with John Wayne Gacy paintings, my kids' rooms with Charles Ng origami sculptures, or to keep a Satanic Bible signed by "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez on the dresser of our guest bedroom (I usually prefer deploying a sackful of feeder crickets to scare off visiting relatives). Apparently, there are people out there who enjoy collecting heinous stuff like that, though, and luckily for them a man named William Harder has a website designed specifically to serve their creepy-ass needs.
Why does it always have to be fucking clowns?
Describing himself as a "murderabilia" collector, Harder is the proprietor of MurderAuction.com, which introduces itself with a clammy handshake of a quote from renowned taxidermist/Buffalo Bill-prototype Ed Gein: "Every man needs a hobby." The site makes available all sorts of touching mementos from history's most bloodthirsty psychopaths, including banal items such as court documents, signed baseballs, and even high school diplomas belonging to the absolute worst specimens mankind has produced. There's technically nothing wrong with keeping items like this in your home, I suppose, if you're a fan of the "social pariah" lifestyle or enjoy the occasional poltergeist infestation.
Framing for this type of artwork is not recommended, as glass shards only give
the vengeful spirits more to work with.
Harder isn't just interested in the items alone. He's taken quite a hands-on approach with those who provide him with his wares, visiting convicted murderers in prison and appearing in buddy-buddy photographs with the likes of Charles Manson. OK, now the hobby just walked out of Creepytown, boarded the skullfuck train, and is headed straight toward Maniacville. But it's a living, I guess, and there's no law saying he can't engage in these types of activities. But what can be illegal about the whole "murderabilia" shtick is when the murderers are making a profit as well, based solely on their criminal notoriety. It's at that point that people just might stop defending your "unorthodox hobby" and start looking for another website that sells torches and pitchforks.
Take, for example, the good citizens of Jasper, Texas, who were at the flashpoint of one of the worst hate crimes in memory after white supremacist John King dragged James Byrd to death behind his pickup truck. Thinking perhaps that they had seen the last of King 15 years ago, they (along with Byrd's family, obviously) weren't overly pleased when they saw his face, grinning at them from death row, on a signed photograph up for sale on Harder's site. But let's let one of Byrd's sisters, Louvon Harris, do the talking:
"That's unbelievable, unacceptable to me. And, as a victim of a hate crime, I think that we've been slapped in the face."
We can only hope a daily regimen of slapping is the mildest thing Hell has in store for this guy.
For the record, Harder isn't the only one out there trafficking in "true crime collectibles." And he absolutely denies paying prisoners for memorabilia (although he does admit that he's given King money "to help pay for toiletries and other necessities"). Also, keep in mind that, even if Harder did pay death-row inmates for stuff to auction off, it might not meet the standard set out by the Son Of Sam Law, which prohibits people like King from profiting directly from their crimes. But the Texas Department Of Criminal Justice clearly didn't give two convulsive shits about any of that and went ahead and banned Harder from any future visitations.
Making it all the more difficult for those looking for just the right piece
to make their child's nursery really pop.
When the Ebola scare was enjoying its run as the "end times are upon us" catastrophe of the moment, it seemed only natural that unoriginal shitheels would dress up in a hazmat suit for Halloween and/or walk around sporting T-shirts making light of the situation. And with the existence of companies like Zazzle and Etsy, just about anyone could take advantage of the panic and market their own idiotic designs online.
There hasn't been anything this shocking since the "No Fat Chicks" epidemic of 1989.
And T-shirts weren't the end of it -- you could also purchase all the standard novelty stuff, like mugs, earrings, and thongs.
Because too many people underestimate the erotic lure of violently fatal diarrhea.
Such a mountainous cavalcade of whimsy hasn't come on the back of an international public health cataclysm since the Middle Ages, when "Bubonic, Shmubonic" jerkins and "Sure there's a devastating plague of Biblical proportions ... in my pants!" codpieces were all the rage. But there are some out there who claim that this sort of thing can be considered a form of (not at all pretentious and misguided) activism. Like James Granado, who claims that his "Curse You, Ebola" T-shirt design was intended to spread awareness, presumably for all those people who thought the whole 24-hour-news-bombardment thing was some sort of elaborate viral campaign for a new series on the CW:
"We would love for even ourselves to be as much informed as possible so more lives can be saved. Spreading awareness. I believe everyone is cursing Ebola as we speak."
In case you were wondering where all the inscrutable, 20-year-old bullshit you see
in the dustiest aisles of Goodwill stores comes from.
Seemingly in possession of a somewhat more realistic sense of his own priorities, "Shayne Of The Dead," owner of the Etsy shop "StuffOfTheDead," explained exactly why he sold items like a "Because Fashion Is Infectious" Ebola-themed handbag:
"It was a 'what will be hot this season' type of thing. Looks like I was right. Ebola has caught the imagination of America. I mean, it's scary, comes from monkeys, and you bleed out of your eyes. Only a zombie apocalypse could 'hotter.'"
Since he reportedly hadn't sold a single one of these bags at the time of that interview, hopefully an impending meteor strike will be announced in the near future just so he can manage to keep his business afloat.
Or maybe he could black out a couple letters and sell the things as a tribute to fashion icon Manute Bol.
The Boston Marathon Bombing Sales Extravaganza
When a couple of idiotic (but boy-band-pretty) extremists set off two pressure-cooker bombs that killed and/or injured hundreds of people whose only crime was to take part in a televised long-distance race, the people of Boston needed a rallying cry that let the world know that they were bloody yet unbowed. The "Boston Strong" slogan (which is a pretty good one, even if it does owe its origin to Lance Armstrong) quickly emerged, and lawsuits over trademark ownership followed soon after. And then the rapid slide down the slippery slope of aggravatingly stupid tastelessness began in earnest.
They forgot to add "Ya f@#%ing re-taaaahd!"
I'm not going to dwell on the isolated instances of people choosing the "injured runner" motif for their Halloween costumes, since there are plenty of dopier examples of this kind of behavior out there, and because the girl who became famous for it has probably suffered enough (but absolutely not because she's kind of hot *cough*). But I really can't see a reasonable limit to the well-deserved scorn-heaping anywhere on the horizon for those who try to make a buck off of stuff like this:
The perfect accompaniment to your collection of baby seal bludgeoning hammers.
Those would be the property of race participants whom the sellers claim were present at the time of the bombing. If you want, you can take a look at an appalling list of further eBay malfeasance that some Reddit user compiled. In addition to finishers' medals and used runners' property bags, if you were really desperate to get your hands on a piece of human suffering you could have even bid your hard-earned cash on a couple of empty protein bar wrappers.
Which leads to the burning question: Who the hell is buying this stuff? Granted, there were only two bids on the wrappers at the time of this writing, but that still means there were at least two people on Earth who wanted to spend their money on tragedy-related trash. Although, when you think about it, this could also explain the limited yet continuing popularity of The Plastic Ono Band.
Sending a psyops team into a few select Syrian mosques to replace the morning call to prayer
with incoherent screeching could be a more effective weapon than a thousand airstrikes.
Ferguson Fashion On The Runway
Over the last few years there's been a lot of controversy surrounding the relationship between young, African American males and law enforcement. There are those who believe that grave injustices are taking place, and what better venue to honor those who you feel have died as a result of systemic abuse than at that weighty bastion of international gravitas, New York Fashion Week?
It's basically the U.N., only with a lot more barfing.
When Kerby Jean-Raymond, fashionisto and founder of Pyer Moss, came up with his "They Have Names" T-shirt design, which features the names of victims of police aggression, he initially intended it as a personal statement and was a little wary about wearing it in a public forum. But wear it in a public forum he did, and not just to take his dog for a poop around Central Park -- he wore it among the greatest collection of vapid dunderheads outside the Reality Dating Show Union's annual venereal screening. While shmoozing it up with New York Fashion Week attendees such as Usher and a likely gaggle of Hansel McDonalds, cellphone cameras started firing off, and suddenly his creation was all over the Internet.
Psst, don't turn around unless you want to give everyone wearing
an overabundance of hair product a word-seizure.
Suddenly, the design Jean-Raymond originally had no intention of putting on the market became a hot property on par with those mega-trendy-in-suburbia "Feed The World" shirts from the mid '80s that no older reader will likely admit to ever having worn (I'm going to need to see a signed affidavit and some video footage before admitting to mine). But, naturally, he refused to cave to the pressure of monetary gain and stayed true to his principles. Bah, there's no fooling you. Of course he began selling them immediately.
Well, not immediately. According to him, he "hesitated for three months" before offering 1,000 "limited edition" shirts for sale, and even then he seems to have been on the fence about it:
"I'm surprised I had the nerve to go through with it. Friends told me not to, because we knew there would be people who would attack me as making money at other people's expense. But then, I thought: 'The option is to do this or do nothing. And doing nothing is worse.' So we decided to do it as a way to raise money and awareness."
How long until somebody takes this idea and perverts the entire ... oh, never mind.
To stave off those critics who found the whole thing rather crass -- the shirts cost 70 goddamn motherfucking dollars -- Jean-Raymond teamed up with the ACLU, promising to donate all proceeds from the first 250 shirts sold (and the profits after cost of the rest) to the often-controversial organization. Yet he still harbored a few concerns.
"Still, you really can't win," he said. "I know no matter how transparent we are about where the money is going, people will say I am exploiting the problem."
Surely his friends in the world of high fashion will be there to serve as a guiding light to a future that's replete with selfless acts and a dignified devotion to the welfare of his fellow man. Just so long as he keeps them plied with bionic killer biker jackets and megaman lounge pants.
Immediately following the toast, a guy wearing a pastel trenchcoat poured out a bottle of Moet
in honor of all the homies who died as a result of polyester allergies.
Charlie Hebdo On The Red Carpet
The Charlie Hebdo massacre was especially troubling for anyone who's ever tried to make a buck by way of dick jokes. But it was a relief to see that, along with all the requisite victim-blaming, there were still plenty of people willing to stand up for the rights of satirists to make fun of whoever and whatever the hell they want. Some held up signs in public protest, while others changed their Facebook avatars to the offending cartoons. Also, thanks to a few quick-thinking entrepreneurs, a few were able to covertly express their support for a civilized nation's right to free speech in the smelliest way possible: via their socks.
In a pattern that's already become familiar if you've made it this far into the article, it took all of maybe two seconds for the tsunami of Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) mugs, bumper stickers, and other assorted gewgaws and jimcracks to sweep across the merchandising landscape. It's an easy and lucrative enterprise, to be sure, though the smarter catastrophe merchants are always careful to remind any critics that they plan to donate at least a smidgen to charity:
"Our goal was never to profit from the sale of these T-shirts but to help raise awareness to help support the French population. We have received a couple negative comments as well from a few French citizens who believe the American people are 'a--holes' trying to profit from such tragedy, which was never our intent."
The statement above comes from Danica Harcourt, Etsy peddler and owner of Imperfect Circle Apparel, a company that is "passionate about making a difference in the world" (one ladies sleeveless Bohemian poncho at a time) and which donates 10 percent of all profits to charity.
"We even donate the sleeves to hobos to make bindles with."
That's certainly a nice thing to do, and Harcourt purports to donate all proceeds for certain items. So far she hasn't made a decision on the Charlie Hebdo stuff, though, and who could possibly object to her pocketing the 90 percent remainder to make more vintage unisex Hotel Marijuana tees and whatnot? Even the guy who came up with the Je suis Charlie logo in the first place and who admits that he "regrets the commercial uses of it" probably wouldn't mind seeing his creation slapped onto an original "how to roll a joint" 100 percent cotton tee, right?
But, as we all know, your cause becomes truly legitimate only once a celebrity flounces around on a red carpet while proudly displaying your brand. So when George Clooney appeared to accept his lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, those toiling in the Je suis Charlie novelty-button-sweatshop industry surely rejoiced at the sight of him with one of the fruits of their labor pinned nobly to the pocket of his tuxedo:
Oh dear. This is going to lead to a lot of confusion when police find him
wandering around and need to figure out where he lives.
For more from Ross, check out 5 Cases Of Free Speech That Will Make You Hate Freedom and 6 Human Beings Who Just Invented New Forms of Sucking.
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