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Towards a Typology of Assholes: From the Dumb to the Callous


I’m going to detour from tilting at Google’s windmill for a moment and tend to something that seems to be vastly more important to me lately, as it appears we’re “surrounded by assholes,” in the immortal words of Dark Helmet, and if we typologize them it may assist us in developing a more thorough understanding of their phenomena through careful structuring of our knowledge.

Here’s a recent event that I don’t quite understand. Rush Limbaugh calls a Georgetown student a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she advocated for the need for health plans to cover contraception for women at a Congressional hearing, (a do-over staged by the Dems because the Republicans hadn’t managed to consult a woman during their initial go-around) and his advertisers, one by one, start to disassociate themselves with him. Peter Gabriel even pulled the rights to “Sledgehammer,” Rush’s theme song…because thought suddenly occurred to him that this kind of selling out—to a performer who crossed the line of speaking out against women’s health and reproductive freedom—went just too far. What bothers me most is that these 9 advertisers and Gabriel are acting as though they suddenly (as in just now) figured out that Rush is an asshole.

So who are the bigger assholes? The guy whose job it is to shock people and say horrible things and considers himself an entertainer (who, strangely just got into a lot of hot water for shocking people and saying horrible things, just like ‘Lil Wayne extolled the virtues of owning illegal firearms in his raps and got arrested for doing so), or the companies and the pop musician who are acting like finding out that Rush is indeed an asshole is some sort of new revelation? Hmmmm. Were Peter Gabriel and Rush’s nine advertisers completely oblivious to what Rush is about—slanging wingnut vitriol as if it were primo rock cocaine—before last week? Being oblivious to this makes these folks dumb assholes. If they’re not dumb assholes then knowing what Rush is about beforehand and still choosing to advertise with him makes these folks callous assholes. Doing what he does for a living and working for the sole purpose of pissing people off (and getting in trouble for what he is paid to do) makes Rush an entertaining asshole. There are even fanboy assholes who are strangely mad at Rush now and turning on him, posting something interesting here. I just can’t decide which type of asshole is worse, and whether Gabriel and the 9 advertisers are dumb, callous, fanboy, or all three kinds of asshole.

The popular press should probably be lumped in with the dumb assholes, because they’ve all been acting as if Rush finally saying on a live microphone something that he thinks and keeps to himself at least one hour out every day is somehow surprising. The man has four wives and no children—straight men don’t churn through three exes because of a dearth of misogyny. Nor is it anything new to report that Rush, again, would have to be a hypocrite, since the rhythm method of contraception couldn’t possibly work that well with that many women (or over that much time). Shit, the guy went deaf from prescription drug abuse after saying that prescription drug abusers and white drug abusers should have stiffer penalties than the rest of the drug addled. And who are the pharmacological assholes that keep selling this entertaining asshole Viagra, especially when he doesn’t use it with his sweatpants? (Oh yeah, and 98% of Catholic women have used contraception at one point or another. Does that make them sluts and prostitutes too? I wonder.)

Watching this story unfold is like witnessing a real-life version of The Social Network: everyone in this entire equation is an asshole. Rush’s apology and defense about being a rapper is ridiculous, but partly true. Rappers and shock jocks alike are not role models. Sometimes rappers lose sponsorships because of smacking bitches, Rush loses advertisers from saying degrading things about dem ho’s; but this kind of stuff is soup du jour for rappers and then barely makes the back page of the newspaper.

So, while on one hand I completely applaud the advertisers who pulled their funding from Rush’s show, acting like they just now discovered that this man says things that are sexist, classist, racist, unfair, and untoward for a living makes them look pretty bad. I mean, is it hypocritical to pull your funding from a shock jock whom you pay to say extreme and hurtful things for saying something extreme and hurtful? This reminds me of the Rock Against Drugs campaign of the late ’80s or the time Michael Phelps lost the sponsorship of Kellogg’s because of pictures of him ripping bong loads at a college party, apparently oblivious to the facts that 1) Being a stoner AND winning that many gold medals makes him even more impressive, and 2) the only reason why adults still eat Kellogg’s cereals and respond to the talking tigers and elves in their commercials is because their real lives are like that and crunchy things taste good when you are high. The last type of asshole addressed in this post emerges here: the hypocritical asshole.

The problem with the latter type of asshole is that at one time or another, everyone is forced to become that kind of asshole, as it creeps on you insidiously as your moral framework is forced to disintegrate because of binding political or economic personal necessity. That is how you become a TSA agent, take an oath to protect the Constitution, and search people all day long. It happens whenever your boss asks you to do something that you know isn’t right but you do it anyway because you need the job and you have mouths to feed, debts to pay, operations to get, and dreams to fulfill that scraps of money might somehow cover. In the most free nation on earth, 90% of us are thusly trapped.

In summation, this recent shit storm, caused by a gaping and abysmal and volcanic tornado of assholes that spewed forth still other assholes, is a mere microcosm of the power profile in the technoindustrial complex. Assholes riding on the coattails of other assholes, self-aggrandizing assholes, asexually reproducing and ironically filling up the empty space with more voids. We’re up to our stinking necks.

And now Sarah Palin (none other than the Asshole Empress herself) is demanding that Obama (Bureaucratic Asshole-in-Chief) return the $1 million that Bill Maher, an entertaining asshole, donated to his PAC. According to Palin, Maher should do this because Maher has also made “sexist” and inappropriate comments about women. How does this argument hold any water? Since when are comedians not allowed to make inappropriate comments? Does Palin really think there are enough prudish assholes out there (still alive and kicking) that actually give a shit that Maher has said inappropriate things? And why should we give a shit when Rush does? There have been recent calls in Washington for a “return to civility.” History will show that we never really had any when it came to politics in this country.

The shreds of the appendage of free speech in the U.S. are being held together by their last rotting tendon if the people whom we pay to say asshole things can no longer say them without fear of reprisal. We all know sexism sucks. Finding out that Rush sucks, too, is no fresh or new idea. Bill Maher uses the “c-word.” Suppurating pustules, Batman! The sky is falling!

What is more problematic is that we probably have to choose between political correctness and the First amendment. It reminds me of the time I was 10 drinks and four establishments into a pub crawl and I may have mumbled something obtuse, like “I speak Japanese! Bukkake!”. My (straight male, non-Japanese) friend then very scornfully told me my comment was “disgusting” and stopped being my friend after that. (It wasn’t as though we were eating appetizers with a salty white sauce, either.) If I said that Sunday morning in front of the church elders I would completely understand my friend’s reaction. But not when everyone was 10 drinks into a pub crawl.

It’s furthermore sad that these assholes who crafted the shit-storm about other assholes actually know better. They are trained to consider the source and pay attention to context. Ergo, the biggest assholes in this whole equation must be the journalists who are jeopardizing their own future freedoms of speech. If they’re always talking about how damned important their mission is and why they’re better than Joe Six-Pack with his iPhone at reporting, then why the constant problematization and mountanization of molehills like this one? Oh, right. You know why: you can’t sell a real newspaper and make money at the same time. Hence, why the real ones have almost all gone under.

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