Stating the obvious.

I have to say: I totally don’t get the Roger Ebert “controversy” over tweeting (I still wince, using that as a verb) a mildly critical comment about a dead guy, a few hours after he died.

The dead guy, Ryan Dunn, is part of the “Jackass” crew, a bunch of young men who do heedless, outrageous stunts on camera and release them as movies, which people pay to see. I guess that makes him an actor, although “personality” seems to be a better word for it. Whatever, I think we can all agree one line we don’t want in our obituaries is “was famous for inserting a toy car into his rectum.” But there you go.

You can read about what happened elsewhere, if you haven’t already — Dunn died and gossip sites posted photos taken hours earlier, of Dunn drinking at a Philadelphia-area bar, while police agencies weighed in, estimating that Dunn was traveling far in excess of posted speed limits, maybe as fast as 100 mph. Adding 2 + 2, Ebert said on Twitter, “Jackasses don’t let friends drink and drive.” A “firestorm” ensued, led by the Jackass crew member Bam Margera, and blah blah blah, now it’s a full-fledged “controversy.”

For what it’s worth, I thought Ebert’s partial walkback was artfully done, and contained just the right amount of apology, which boiled down to, “maybe there’s a time for observations like this, but it’s not in the immediate aftermath of a painful event, and I’m sorry I did.” I rather wish he’d gone further and said, “maybe we should all stay away from Twitter and Facebook for, like, a week. See if the world goes on without it. See how we feel about it.” But he didn’t. Alas.

But yesterday must have been a slow news day, because in my perambulations around the web last night, it seemed every major news outlet had a little piece on it. None of them said what I feel like saying, however, so I’ll say it now:

What the hell?

It seems to me that when you make a living doing outrageous things, when you’re an edgy envelope-pusher and toy-car-up-the-butt shover, when you’ve made a nice buck making the mothers of 13-year-old boys around the planet hate your guts for reasons so obvious they don’t even bear repeating here, when you’re known far and wide as a very fast driver and you pose for photos in bars slurping up liquor with your buddies — when you’re all that, and you then die in a fiery car crash, and the worst thing anyone says about you is a mild observation of the obvious, well, maybe you got off easy. Someone else died in that crash, a Jackass hanger-on who was a passenger in the car, which makes you guilty of second-degree murder in many states. You have now officially lost all claim to my sympathies. Jackass.

But also, this: You can track the outrage over this along demographic lines, don’t you think? The younger you are, the more likely you are to be offended that an old man said something mean about a young man who died so tragically, so unfairly. Young people have a hard time believing they will ever die, ever ever ever, and dislike being reminded they will. Plus, old people disapprove of “Jackass” because they’re old and their bones break easily. I remember riding in an elevator at the Columbus Dispatch after the Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati, and listening to some geezer copy editor thunder about these young people “trampling their own kind,” as though that’s what the stampede was about — hey, screw those people if they can’t stay on their feet, I wanna get Roger Daltry’s sweat on me! No one ever did that at a Benny Goodman show, by cracky. I seethed. I kept my mouth shut. I’m sure, had Twitter existed, I’d have marched to a computer and said something stupid about it.

Well, every generation has its Jimi Hendrix moment, I guess. The lesson remains: Friends don’t let friends drink and drive.

A little bloggage today?

Jon Stewart runs down the list of Fox News lies. Very funny.

Newt Gingrich: The other diamond earring drops.

Michele Bachmann’s first dude, Marcus. Fascinating.

Another busy day awaits, but today it pays me some actual money (I hope). So off to do it.

Posted at 10:22 am in Popculch |

36 responses to “Stating the obvious.”

  1. Bob (not Greene) said on June 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

    RE: Michelle Bachmann. There’s a guy in Minnesota who has made it his job to pull the curtain back on Bachmann and the interesting cast of characters she surrounds herself with.

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  2. John C. said on June 22, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I did a series on teen suicide back in the day, after a tragic flurry of them. I recall one expert saying that high profile suicides are known to be triggers, especially for young people. This person had high praise for Courtney Love for not romanticizing Cobain’s suicide, but instead talking about the pain it caused. In that light, I think Ebert was right on. Young Jackass fans likely see this guy’s death as part of some live-fast-die-young lifestyle. What needs to be said – and Ebert did it rather politely – is that this guy selfishly unleashed a whole heap of pain on his family and friends, and those of the passenger and friend he killed.

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  3. Randy said on June 22, 2011 at 10:59 am

    The Jackass/Ebert controversy makes me recall the fallout from the Vancouver riot last week. A whole bunch of people were caught on phone cameras, doing nasty things to property and/or people, and the pictures spread everywhere within hours. The most jarring example: a 17-year-old member of the national water polo team, bound for university on a scholarship, son of a doctor, photographed *trying to set a police cruiser on fire*. Now that he is losing his scholarship and his place on the water polo team, he wants forgiveness for his “youthful stunt”, that only happened because he was “caught up in the moment”.

    It’s hard to make sense of this, because he is just one example of otherwise average people you could not imagine being in the centre of a riot. But, they were, and they were happy to be there, rioting. Very weird. If you want to read and see pictures about the riot, just google the Vancouver Sun, or the Vancouver Province. There’s some good stuff there.

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  4. Peter said on June 22, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Re: Ebert – I feel for Roger; any one of us could have (should have, probably did) make the same comment and it would just be stating the obvious. This is just the very latest example of people whose sole purpose in life is to obsessively and compulsively search for any perceived slight and just whine and complain for their 15 minutes. Thanks to Fox News and 24 hour news cycles for that.

    Re: Who – I’ll never forget this one. The very next day after the stampede, Who tickets went on sale in Chicago, and of course, being the late ’70’s, people were waiting in line all night, which made for easy local TV pickings. The reporter asked one guy in line if he had any guilt over buying tickets to the Who, or if he was nervous, and his response was famous: “What’s the big deal? They probably would have OD’d inside anyway!”

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  5. Mark P. said on June 22, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Those Jackass fans are so sensitive. The slightest hint of mauve in their pink undies makes them swoon all day.

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  6. alice said on June 22, 2011 at 11:59 am

    The Internet: All is well until people get involved. I read how Carrie Fisher made the mistake of googling her name & was hurt & horrified by what she found. It’s ok to make a living human feel rotten, but a dead person is an automatic saint (although without those good citizens, how would Carrie ever know she’d gained weight & gotten older?). No tears for dead Jackasses in my camp.

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  7. moe99 said on June 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I was 29 when John Belushi died and I seem to recall there was an awful lot of carrying on about how drug abuse can kill you. I don’t recall having my fee fees hurt by that.

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  8. nancy said on June 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I also recall how pissed his friends were when Bob Woodward wrote about that very event. Which probably proves there’s nothing new under the sun.

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  9. moe99 said on June 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    ps. the reviews on Bristol Palin’s “book” are not very positive:

    And Sarah Palin has prematurely ended her bus tour. Why does this sound familiar?

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  10. Bitter Scribe said on June 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Regarding Belushi, Mike Royko (who had known him before he was famous) wrote a column after his death mourning him, and another one later trashing the people who had sent him smug letters about how Belushi was a no-good druggie who deserved to die.

    But Belushi didn’t hurt anyone other than himself (and of course, by extension, his loved ones), while Master Jackass killed his passenger and risked the lives of everyone who had to share the road with him. A pretty significant difference, IMO.

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  11. Jeff Borden said on June 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    RealClearPolitics offers the theory that SheWho bailed on her bus tour because she was no longer attracting big media attention, which is enough to briefly lift my spirits about the national media. And, as noted by Moe, it’s not like the snowbilly is inexperienced when it comes to quitting something halfway through. I guess it is too much to ask that the media will continue to ignore this horrible woman, but for now, simply turning down the spotlight has led her and her grifter family to return to the warm embrace of Wasilla. Anything that takes this exceedingly stupid, nasty, boorish hack of a politician off the national stage is all right by me.

    As for the revirginized Bristol, she appears to have inherited Mommy Dearest’s capacity for perceived umbrage along with an inability to tell the truth. The knocks on the equally brainless Meghan McCain and her whining that people backstage at Dancing with the Stars were mean sounds a great deal like Mooselini’s constant whining about all those folks who loathe her. And if the story Bristol is peddling that Levi screwed her when she was blackout drunk on wine coolers, well, then Levi is a rapist, right? Yet he was paraded before the RNC back in 2008, when the fantasy was that the high school dropout lovebirds were going to get married. And remember, the idiot Bristol was briefly reengaged to the guy last year, right? Does any of this sound like the kind of behavior a young woman would feel toward a guy who took advantage of her?

    I wonder if it is some genetic predisposition that no one in the Palin family can tell the fucking truth??

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  12. Deborah said on June 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Someone sent me this link yesterday of RFK Jr being interviewed by Tavis Smiley

    It’s kind of long but in it RFK talks about his frustration about how the media concentrates on Britney Spears et al, and ignores really important issues. This seemed timely for me to watch after reading the brouhaha about Ebert and the Jackass. Sorry to all of you journos here, he gets down on reporters in the interview too.

    I forgot my earphones at home today so I can’t watch the Jon Stewart link at work, darn.

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  13. LAMary said on June 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    “I wonder if it is some genetic predisposition that no one in the Palin family can tell the fucking truth??”

    They don’t need to tell anyone’s truth but their own. Apparently lots of people like Palin truth. It fits an agenda. I have a sister-in-law who is the same way. According to her my nephew’s first wife tricked him into getting her pregnant so they would have to get married. Here I thought he was just a horny 21 year old hitting on a waitress. Silly me.

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  14. Mark P. said on June 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I saw a report ( ) on Dunn: “Tests show he had a blood alcohol of 0.196 percent, twice the legal limit.”

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  15. nancy said on June 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Well, there you go. The old man is vindicated. BTW, that’s high enough for an extra-special DUI ticket in Michigan. Point-17 is the threshold.

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  16. alex said on June 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm


    JeffB you rock!

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  17. paddyo' said on June 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Re: Ebert and the 24-hour news echochamber . . .

    Slow news day or not, in our present age of non-stop news coverage abetted by the ‘Net, a distressingly vast majority of short-handed-but-lazy news orgs simply pass along the false-news crap (“Ebert’s controversial tweet!”) because . . . well, BECAUSE.

    It’s exactly the same as when everybody’s jerk brother-in-law, annoying co-worker or high-school-acquaintance-renewed-at-the-reunion spreads toxic BS via email. You know the type. Their rallying cry is: “Jeez, I was ONLY forwarding it, I’m NOT a racist!” etc. etc.

    As a longtime and now-ex newspaper journalist, I imagine some among my former compadres using the same sort of excuse for pushing this Ebert’s-CONTROVERSIAL-tweet non-story along. It’s a dead horse, but they throw it on a dolly cart or hand truck, wheel it out, and cover it like it’s a Triple Crown thoroughbred . . . or, maybe, like it’s a float in the Homecoming parade.
    Well then, in that case, with a tip of the freshman beanie to Animal House, I say to them all: EAT ME.

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  18. paddyo' said on June 22, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Oh, and speaking of Bachmann, the new Rolling Stone has this Matt Taibbi takeout/takedown. Scary . . .

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  19. MaryRC said on June 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I think we’re going to start hearing some public statements from the family of Dunn’s passenger, Zachary Hartwell, who apparently are angry about the circumstances of his death …thereby giving the media a new “controversy” to latch onto.

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  20. MaryRC said on June 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I notice that the article on Michele Bachmann’s husband repeats her claim that they “raised” 23 foster children. It’s commendable that they opened their home to children who needed foster care but they didn’t raise these children. They were licensed to care for 3 foster children at a time between 1992 and 2000 and according to this article, the children stayed in their home from a few months to a year at most.

    Saying that they “raised” these children kind of implies that the Bachmanns saw these kids through K-school to graduation, doesn’t it? That’s the impression I had when I first heard it. And of course her claim gets repeated without question.

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  21. coozledad said on June 22, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Heal thyself, Marcus:

    There’s some remote possibility that Marcus is a GASM, but Shelley Bug-eyes makes that possibility even remoterer.

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  22. alex said on June 22, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Not to trade in vulgar stereotypes or anything, but no wonder La Bachmann acts like someone who hasn’t had a good fuck lately. As for her husband, it’s amazing how people with zero powers of introspection end up with doctorates in psychology. Did he get his diploma from Pat Robertson too?

    As I see it, the only “choice” I ever had in the matter of being gay was whether to be myself or live a lie. From a moral standpoint, I simply cannot do the latter. But, hey, since when did moralists ever have any business moralizing? Has anyone ever met a moralist who didn’t hate his neighbor and bear false witness the way the way Marcus Bachmann does?

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  23. Rana said on June 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Jeff B, with a mother like that, and an upbringing like that, I can fully believe that Bristol would have thought that it was the “right thing to do” to marry her rapist. She probably thought that it was her fault that he raped her – because she drank and was alone with him – and since rape to such abstinence-rah-rah fundamentalists still counts as sex, it’s also likely that she thought that being raped by him meant that she was obliged to marry him in order to salvage the situation.

    It’s effed up, this thinking, but I can understand it. And it’s not just fundamentalist abstinent young women who blame themselves for rape instead of their rapists; there’s a lot of effort in this society devoted to convincing women that they – and they alone – are responsible for their own rapes, rather than putting the emphasis on the rapists where it belongs. Never mind that rape is inherently a crime of non-consent – somehow, with disgusting frequency, rape victims are presumed to have asked for their own violation at the hands of criminals who are treated as helpless before the power of the situation.

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  24. coozledad said on June 22, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Alex: I think they want everyone to be ashamed of themselves. They just seem to want gays to be more ashamed.
    One day I might convince myself these bastards didn’t just burst full-formed out of Satan’s skull, but I’m already old. Time’s running short.

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  25. susan said on June 22, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Heh. This comment on Nancy’s dailybeast link by “sfdennis1”: …Oh honey, listening to his YouTube rant…this flaming self-hater opens his mouth and the purse falls out! My gaydar pings off the charts with this one…unfortunately, because we don’t want him.

    Marcus’ possible [repressed] proclivities have been caromming about the internets since Ms Bachmann reran for her congressional seat at least two election cycles ago. It all makes perfect sense, in the weird Republican sense, that is.

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  26. nancy said on June 22, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Rana, you’re very generous in even calling whatever-it-was rape in the first place. That story — I was drunk, and the next thing I knew, I woke up without my clothes on, etc. — is too familiar to me, and not because of roofies. It’s the standard southern-belle sexual initiation, I’ve heard it from several of them, and I never believed it.

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  27. Dexter said on June 22, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Regarding the copy editor’s statement nance referenced in the sub-lede, my dad was sort of like that. Dad was of the WWII generation…what was it that affected so many of those guys in such strange ways?…Dad was hard-working, church-going, non-drinking, but a Pall Mall puffer at worst. But like so many guys his age , he thought “they should have sunk the boat The Beatles came over on..”, playing with the fact that by 1964 nearly everyone flew over on BOAC or Pan American.
    However, it went deeper than that. For example, a few times it seemed appropriate to tell Dad a few stories of some of the things I witnessed in Vietnam, some tales relating to Cobra gunship helicopters working out on a hillside, tales of fire and action, and Dad would sit there half listening, maybe flashing back to his Navy days, and always saying “that Vietnam wasn’t anything but a brush fire war, a flash in history, nothing more.” I quit talking to him about it decades before he passed ten years ago.
    Even more troubling, I was home on Army leave (vacation) on May 4, 1970. The morning of May 5 I was talking to Dad for a minute as he was getting his coffee and toast and heading out the door to work, and he said it was a damned shame the National Guard didn’t kill “all those goddam hippies.” He was talking about the incident remembered today simply as “Kent State.”
    Well, I hope the apple fell a bit far from the tree; at least I don’t hate Lady Gaga and I do recognize the trauma and pain the Gulf War and Afghanistan vets are experiencing. I probably did poke fun at Grenada vets, those of Reagan’s pitiful war, but other than, vets, you’re all good.

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  28. Dexter said on June 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Ohio’s requirement for DUI convicted drivers:

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  29. KLG said on June 22, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Actually, among Southern Belles “it” doesn’t count until you do it in a bed or standing up in a shower. Until one of these things happens virginity remains happily intact.

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  30. brian stouder said on June 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    thanks to Paddyo for the link to Taibbi’s Bachmann essay; it was entertaining, enlightening, and more than a little confusing. I was particulalrly taken aback by her reaction (inalterable opposition!) to government school standards/NCLB (No Child Left Behind).

    I was about to recognize a somewhat attractive populism therein, before the next several paragraphs showed us that what she wants is church standards/NCLB (wherein the Left Behind refers to Tim LeHay, et al, and those apocalyptic books) for our schools.

    She is a beautiful woman, and indeed – I think Taibbi is correct that she may well win in Iowa, and then in New Hampshire, and then South Carolina. She may be it. One wonders who she’d pick for a running mate; presumeably she’d go for a Cheney-like consigliere like Jim DeMint or Haley Barbour…or maybe a Supreme leaves the Court and runs with her – John Roberts or Clarence Thomas.

    Taibbi is right – no one can afford to laugh at Bachmann. She needs to be treated seriously and taken seriously, and answered back seriously.

    btw, Alex said “As for her husband, it’s amazing how people with zero powers of introspection end up with doctorates in psychology”

    and one of the articles (either Taibbi’s or the one Nance linked) points out that he earned his degree from a correspondance school(!)

    Aside from her, Cooz’s sentence about ‘Shelly Bug-eyes’ husband –

    There’s some remote possibility that Marcus is a GASM, but Shelley Bug-eyes makes that possibility even remoterer.

    threw me off.

    What is a “GASM”? Gay Abstinent Silly Man? Goofy, Awkward, Suppressed and Mendacious?

    Or maybe Gratified Anually in a Single Moment?

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  31. Brandon said on June 22, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    See definition number six:

    It’s another way of saying Effeminate Heterosexual.

    For instance,

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  32. Dexter said on June 23, 2011 at 12:06 am

    MichaelG…it doesn’t get much worse than this out there , does it? Dateline Sacramento:,0,1606080.story

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  33. Rana said on June 23, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Nancy, I hope for her sake that your version is the correct one.

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  34. alex said on June 23, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Actually, among Southern Belles “it” doesn’t count until you do it in a bed or standing up in a shower.

    It also doesn’t count as long as you take it up the ass or in the mouth, so I’ve been told by a few debs who were quite relieved to get their weddings over with.

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  35. Deborah said on June 23, 2011 at 9:46 am

    The stories out there about Bachmann’s family life don’t add up in many ways. It will be interesting when one of those anorexic foster girls pops up with her version of life at the Bachmann’s. Bachmann said she worked until her second youngest was born, and somehow they were all home schooled. The woman must never sleep.

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  36. MaryRC said on June 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I’ve just read the Rolling Stone article on Bachmann that paddyo linked to and it really does get weirder:

    But in 2008 — 10 years after any of her foster children had been in her home — Bachmann was talking as though she was still dashing home from Congress to cook for them. “Every weekend now when I go home, I will go to the grocery store, I’ll buy food for the family,” she said. “We have five kids and 23 foster kids that we raise. So I go to the grocery store and buy a lot of food.”

    It’s one thing to coyly substitute “raised” for “took into my house for a few months” in order to give your audience the impression that you made a long-term commitment to these children but this is just a flat-out lie. And as for her biological children, I think she may still have a teenager at home but her two oldest sons were in their 20s in 2008, surely capable of going to the grocery store on their own. Imagine if Hilary or some other Democratic politician had said something like this.

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