Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Creepy American Stuff: Clowns & The Bitter Ghost of Andrew Breitbart

Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King's 'It'
Well it's the end of August and Labor Day is a mere five days away but the Halloween decorations, along with absurdly large bags of discounted candy, are already on display in my local ACME so fall is truly upon us.

Artfully displayed orange and black Halloween streamers strewn across the aisles along with the obligatory cutouts of witches and black cats hanging from the ceiling?

It reminded me that there is some seriously creepy stuff going on in America.

Have you read about those weird reports of clown sightings?

Last night before bed I made the mistake of reading a New York Times article about the strange reports the Greenville County, South Carolina sheriff's office has received from terrified locals of groups of clowns seen in different parts of the area; some reportedly offering children candy to follow them into the woods.

According to the Times article, one woman claims to have seen a large clown waving at her from under a streetlight as she was driving by at night.

Whether all this clown business is some kind of elaborate hoax or not is still not clear, but it's possible it could be some kind of weird underground guerrilla marketing campaign designed to build up buzz for the 2017 theatrical film adaptation of Stephen King's truly creepy 1987 novel 'It' .

It's not a short read by any means (the original hardcover copy on my shelf comes in at a whopping 1,138 pages...), but if you enjoy a well-layered novel with plenty of back story 'It' will creep you the %$#! out if you've never read it.

Warner Bros. is preparing to release the 1990 two-episode television miniseries on DVD on October 4th, which featured the brilliant Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown (pictured above) and which was quite well done in my humble opinion.

Funeral for 6 family members killed in Chicago in February
On a more serious note, nothing is creepier than the alarming headlines coming out of the city of Chicago revealing that there have been more than 400 people shot and 78 homicides in the Windy City during the month of August.

And sadly, there are still a few hours to go on this final day of the month so those shocking numbers are sure to rise before the night is through.

As the beleaguered African-American SNL cast member, comedienne and actress Leslie Jones has learned the hard way in recent weeks, there's some serious creep-factor happening on the internet as well.

The trolls who have mercilessly hounded her recently hacked her personal Website and turned it into a toxic platform of racist, denigrating hatred by not only posting her personal information like passwords, they also reached into the Jim Crow playbook and posted a photo of a gorilla meant to represent her and even posted nude photos of her as well.

Online harassment of her has gotten so bad the Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into the hack.

Back in July the unmistakable aroma of misogynistic hatred accompanied the tide of negative fanboy feedback leveled at the four female actresses tapped to play the title roles in Sony's remake of the classic 1984 comedy Ghostbusters.

SNL cast member Leslie Jones
To the degree that the highly anticipated release of the film on July 15th was overshadowed by media reports of the vicious Twitter campaign against Jones; a truly vile social media campaign which was engineered by unhinged conservative Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

The disturbing mix of racist and misogynistic Tweets aimed at Jones by many of Yiannopoulos' 338,000 followers led her to close out her Twitter account in a highly publicized statement in which she leveled criticism against the social media site for not doing enough to put a stop to the trolling.

Her departure prompted Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to release a public apology to Jones and on July 20th Yiannopoulos' Twitter account was finally shut down.

After all that drama, reviews of the Ghostbusters remake were unsurprisingly lukewarm; typified by critic David Rooney's July 10th review in The Hollywood Reporter in which he gave some praise to Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon for their performances, but savaged the writers who came up with the mediocre screenplay for what could have been a hysterical comedy.

Former Sony Pictures studio head Amy Pascal was the one who developed the Ghostbusters remake, but I'm not even sure she could have envisioned the level of resentment that would come from the notoriously prickly fanboy community over casting women in the original roles.

Andrew Breitbart
It's a pretty sad comment on the current state of media that the mainstreaming of the type of irrational, divisive, anger-fueled hysteria slung by conservative media figures like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter who influence the broader Republican message, now seems to have seeped into mainstream social media platforms.

(Where it's now Republican gospel.)

Online platforms where the anonymity of the internet inspires people to feel comfortable uncorking the racist and misogynist views that so clearly still simmer below the surface of this nation. creator Andrew Breitbart may have died in 2012, but four years later the kind of skewered, attack dog, sleazeball "reporting" he tried to peddle as journalism has metastasized like a cancerous growth to the point that Breitbart News now basically pumps out a slightly more polished version of white supremacist views recast with the more digestible moniker of "Alt-Right."

Little surprise that Donald Trump hired the former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon to run his rambling train wreck of a presidential campaign.

Regardless, the creepy online hate campaign against Leslie Jones stoked by Milo Yiannopoulos is a reminder that the devisive tone of intolerance and bigotry that characterizes and permeates the current Republican party is not the exclusive domain of Donald Trump.

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