Saturday, 22 September 2012

Famous For Foul-ups: How To Leverage Failure

Cartoon of Cecilia Gimenez dreaming of glory after botching the Ecce Homo restoration
It's a sad fact of life that people with zero talent and little social value often end up being more famous (and make more money) than those we might consider to be more deserving. They often end up unintentionally spawning whole industries, then believe they're owed a slice of the pie. Is that fair?

I'm going to take a look at some of the most famous cases of piggy-back industries and make-lemonade efforts that arose from responses to failure,  how they were exploited by the people involved, and how not to do it.

Ecce Homo botched restoration


Sweet, well-meaning octogenarian Cecilia Gimenez was moved to tears at the deterioration of the hundred-year-old Elias Garcia Martinez fresco at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza, Spain, and "only wanted to help." She claims that the local priest had granted her permission to restore the painting, which was a bit of a tourist attraction. In the best "Oh, [insert expletive here]!" tradition, she did the best she could and the results are reproduced above as a "before" and "after" in my cartoon of the old lady and her dreams of glory.

Piggybacks and makin' lemonade


The ever-reliable Huffington Post reported that a London-based advertising agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, has set up a website with an app that lets you do your own restoration in order to win a prize: a poster of the botched restoration. As a marketing tool, it's an excellent idea. Here's the site, if you want to have a go at it yourself: Cecilia Prize. It's become a bit of a craze and it's still got millions of people hopping in to try out their skills on the clunky tools provided by the site (that's the idea!).

Meanwhile, the church is charging a 4 fee to see the botched effort in all its glory and Irish budget airline Ryanair is laying on a special flight to Zaragoza airport to cash in on the craze. Canny website owners are exploiting the meme and the name, and selling Ecce Homo-based merchandise.

The delusion of entitlement


If there's money to be made, why not? Besides, when the craze wears off, the church will need the money to pay for a proper restoration. Which brings us to the news that Cecilia wants to get her slice of the pie because it's "her" work. Somebody needs to sit her down and explain that if she had painted that herself on canvas and tried to sell it, no one would ever have heard of her. It's because she destroyed a work of art (and local tourist attraction!) that she's famous, and the church just made the most of the opportunity afforded by gawkers coming in to see the mess. Apparently, she's not aware of the merchandise, etc., or she'd probably be after that, too. Quite frankly, she needs to get over herself.

Innocence of Muslims incendiary video


I've already blogged twice about this. The first time was a plea to compromise and be more tolerant. The second was to stop believing you're superior to others because you believe (or not) in a particular deity (or absence thereof). Well to cut a long story short, some Egyptian Copt got a bit too friendly with right-wing whackos in America and cobbled together a badly-acted wreck of a video that, when it failed to produce WW III, he sent (translated into Arabic) to Egyptian journalists. Result: mass fury from people already annoyed about being bombed and constant interference in their political affairs.

Piggybacks and makin' lemonade


Well, it seems that all this mayhem is inspirational to people intent on throwing petrol on the fire. Anti-Islam groups intend to screen the film Innocence of Muslims in the U.S., Canada and Germany, with backing from that idiot Terry Jones and whatever other trouble-makers can be found. Anders Breivik would no doubt join in if he wasn't in trouble for mass murder. I'd like to see anyone sit through that tripe and say they enjoyed it. I managed 30 seconds of wooden acting and lousy production values.

Meanwhile, in France, satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is running a story on the case, featuring inflammatory cartoons, as you do. Think "hornets'," "nest," and "poke." Needless to say, when they get to the part about "stung," they'll whinge about what happens when you annoy people after banning religious expression via hijab. Yes indeed, if you cover your hair in France with a hijab, or your face with a veil, you can be expelled from school or fined. Does anyone really think that the current anger-fest is only about the cartoons and that stupid video?

The delusion of entitlement


While the Grand Mufti of Egypt calls for calm, "actress" Cindy Lee Garcia, understandably outraged about being tricked into taking part in Innocence of Muslims, has launched a court case to demand that the video be removed from the internet. I kid you not, she honestly believes that a judge in a courtroom in America can force the removal from the entire internet of a viral video. Can you say "Streisand Effect?" The minute YouTube pulls it, multiple copies will go back up on other platforms. It then becomes a game of whack-a-mole that no-one can win. Don't forget that she has now identified herself publicly, opening herself and her family up to more of the death threats and public opprobrium she's complaining about. Shouldn't she be suing the people behind this mess instead? Apparently she is. That's the part she's likely to win. Much of the ridicule she's complaining about is probably due to her refusal to face the reality of the internet: when something goes viral worldwide, you have to hunker down and wait till it's over. Trying to stop it just makes things worse.

Toxic politicians, AKA the Walking Dead


We all agree (those of us who are actually reasonable) that the Republican Party of America has been infiltrated by ignorant whack-jobs who are now pulling the strings, putting their kind of people in power to carry out their agenda. Here's the problem: when the people you put in power think and act the way you do, and the way you do is only acceptable to you, it's a recipe for disaster.

Piggybacks and makin' lemonade


Todd Akin, whose "legitimate rape" comments are actually mainstream in the Republican party, however much they try to deny it, flailed against his opponents Claire McCaskill and Jonathan Dine in a televised debate. Meanwhile, Democrats are riding high on the tidal wave of toxicity provided by the smarmy Mitt "the Twit" Romney, slimy Paul "I haven't done the math yet" Ryan, and slithering snakes of that ilk. It's one of those fights where you just stand still and watch,with your arms folded, as your opponents hit each other and occasionally punch themselves in the face. When Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) had his debate against Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, all she had to say was, ‘I support Barack Obama for president. I think he should have another term.' Game over.

The delusion of entitlement


The Republican Party supporters, nonetheless, believe that their man ought to be in power. This is mostly driven by the delusion that Romney cares for anyone below his $250 million net worth and that Paul Ryan is a towering intellectual who can actually fix the economy. He can't even sort out his own district. I'm still waiting for debunkage on this post. I'm confident of getting none.

Conclusion


It's easy enough to leverage other people's failures when you see the opportunity. You might even be able to use some of the examples here to leverage your own. Some means are more ethical than others, but the trick is to be aware of the opportunities and minimise the risks to yourself.

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