Discover more from Spoook - the Substack of James McMahon
And you're cancelled. And you're cancelled. We're all cancelled.
The Dalai Lama had a shocker this weekend, as news emerged that the elderly Tibetan spiritual leader had asked a small boy to “suck his tongue”. Yeah, that’s a thing that happened. I often wish that Adam Yauch was still alive. Mainly because he died far too soon and the Beastie Boys were dope, but I must admit that there was a small, mischievous part of me that did, upon reading the aforementioned, perfectly-appropriate-to-2023-news-story, think, “I wonder what MCA would have to say…”
Obviously cancel culture and online shaming is a tool deployed by the very worst people, the most morally duplicitous, and the enemy of all that is good, decent, empathetic and kind, but I’m having a day off from that and instead have written about other people you think are good but should take up residence in the bin.
An avatar for kindness for at least one whole generation, Mother Teresa sure was a malicious merkin. The journalist Cristopher Hitchens, a man who was right about basically everything other than his support for the invasion of Iraq - the Van Halen III of his intellectual career, if you will - wrote of the Robert Maxwell loving, Donald McGuire supporting, Enver Hoxha devotee, “[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction." She also perpetually looked like she’d fallen asleep in a hot bath.
If you have an issue with Leonardo DiCaprio’s penchant for younger women, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to apply similar critiques to the great anti-colonialist Mahatma Gandhi. Both men undoubtably achieved great things. Gandhi drove the British out of India and inspired civil rights movements across the globe. Leonardo made his film debut in Critters 3, and that film is fucking fire. Aged seventy-seven and living in his Ashram in Gujarat, the aging Gandhi slept naked at night alongside his teenage nieces, allegedly to test his ability to remain celibate. This seems excessive. I managed to remain celibate for much of my twenties, simply by being myself.
Jameson Irish Whiskey is, by some distance, the best-selling Irish whiskey in the world. Even if you’ve never drank a tipple yourself, you’ve almost certainly come into contact with someone who has on the wretched last tube out of central London on St. Patricks Day. In 1888, because colonialism, James Sligo Jameson, an heir to John Jameson, the founder of the company, went on an expedition to the Democratic Republic of Congo. There he met Tippu Tip, slave trader and local fixer, whereupon Jameson expressed doubt at the claims of cannibalism in the Ribakiba region. Tippu told Jameson, “give me a bit of cloth and see”, and so for the price of six fine handkerchiefs, the whiskey rich explorer watched a ten-year old girl be tied to a tree, murdered, and then eaten. An interpreter on the expedition claimed that the Irishman asked for the child’s execution to be delayed until he had time to make a sketch.
I get that Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet phoenix, was sometimes useful in the storied battle against Lord Voldemort and all that is evil, but let’s not forget that the headmaster of a school - a school stocked with very old, flammable books no less! - kept a pet that sporadically burst into flames. This is a clear health and safety issue, especially in the vicinity of children. Sometimes it surprises me that J.K. Rowling never inserted a book into the Harry Potter series entitled Harry Potter And The Third Degree-Burns. Utterly irresponsible behaviour from the otherwise kindly Dumbledore.
Walt Disney was unquestionably racist and sexist, but everyone was racist and sexist back then and I do not intend to put everyone on this list because, frankly, Substack’s word count just isn’t big enough and I don’t have the time. But I do struggle with Disney’s invitation to Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, director of Triumph des Willens, perhaps the most notorious propaganda film of all time (the film chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, Hitler himself is credited as executive producer), a mere month after the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938. In Neal Gabler’s excellent 2006 Disney biography, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, the writer argues that Disney’s alleged anti-Semitism was rooted less in a hatred of Jewish people, and more in his association with the unquestionably anti-Semitic Motion Picture Alliance. But Bambi broke my heart as a child, so fuck you, Walt.
We all make mistakes. The first album I ever bought with my own money was Pocket Full of Kryptonite by the Spin Doctors. I’ve often considered pulling up the notes app on my phone and contemplating writing an apology for that. However, describing wearing blackface as a ‘mistake’, as nauseating faux liberal puppet Justin Trudeau did when photos of him doing so at a fancy dress party emerged in 2019, has never sat well with me. Here’s the thing with mistakes, IMAO; whether they can be explained away as such, depends on the number of exit ramps that exist on the road to the mistake being made. When I bought Pocket Full of Kryptonite, I got my pocket money together, I sat on a bus, I went into Our Price, I asked for one of the most excretable records that has ever been made. There are multiple points on that journey where I could have come to my senses and thought, “I think I’ll buy chips instead”. I deserve my shame. Similarly, at what point, when you’re getting your make-up bag together, you’re sitting in front of the mirror, and you’re applying the blackface do you not think, “this is a very bad idea? I’ll just go as Where’s Wally?, like every other cunt…”
1939’s immortal The Wizard of Oz concerns The Wicked Witch of the West chasing the cherubic Dorothy and her lovely-if-unkempt little dog Toto, half-way around Oz, in pursuit of a pair of a ruby slippers. May I remind the jury that the slippers in question were not Dorothy’s own property but were requisitioned from the barely cold corpse of the Wicked Witch’s sister, inadvertently killed by Dorothy when the Kansas born invader’s house crushed her to death? The slippers are a family heirloom, by all rights the property of TWWotW. Dorothy is a thief. She almost certainly should be facing a manslaughter charge. And Toto should probably be on a leash, too.
IBM is the largest industrial research organization in the world, with 19 research facilities based across over a dozen countries. Unless you’re a wanker like me who bought into the Apple hype of two decades ago and can’t seem to escape the cult, you likely own one of their products. The company’s technology also facilitated the Nazi genocide, which is something to consider when you’re next playing Solitaire, eh? Without sales to Hitler’s Germany of machinery that made the tabulation of punch cards possible for the collection of census data, the correlation ghetto statistics, train traffic management, and concentration camp capacity that resulted in the Holocaust couldn’t have been managed with the murderous efficiency it was. I should have ended this with The Wizard of Oz thing, really, because there’s no punchline coming, just a reminder that capitalism is bad and money the jism of the devil.
Don’t let that stop you from taking out a paid subscription though!