Several thousand people have sent in this article over the last few weeks, and with good reason: It is, in every way, the absolute nadir of mainstream media coverage of modified people, written by a stupid man who is entirely committed to his thoroughly unenlightened views. Which is not to say he’s not entitled to them — by all means, hate to your heart’s content! — and it’s not that he’s stupid because of his views, but rather because his views seem static; he’s counted out the possibility of ever wavering on his ideas about tattooed people.
In previous instances of this sort of post, I’ve looked at articles by smart people (Jason Whitlock) and innocent, dumb-yet-harmless people (Sarah Robbins). Those are fun because the authors, though misguided, seem to be of a mindset that allows for the evolution of thought; Paul Carpenter is just hateful, and critiquing his silly missive would be akin to flogging the gaping asshole of a very dead horse.
But you know what? While recuperating from BMEfest and ModProm the other day, I was playing with my 11-year-old dog, and she started walking on just her hind legs while begging for a treat; to my knowledge, she’d never done this before. And you know what? It made me rethink my decision to not give Carpenter the benefit of the doubt. I mean, I figure he has to be at least half as smart as my dog, and if she can learn a new trick, maybe there’s hope for this old coot yet.
So, I relent. Let’s dive into this rotten ruby of the Internet, FJM-style:
I bet it does, Carpsy. I fucking bet it does.
You can tell where a culture is headed by examining whom its members seek to emulate.
Oh, sweet synecdoche! Of all the issues with this sentence, the largest is probably that it adheres to the antiquated notion of “culture” as Just One Thing. Which, of course, is problematic, especially when speaking of modern Western culture, which is, at this point, a glorious amalgamation of too many cultural movements to count. And culture, of course, is fluid: To suggest that it is going in a single direction is not just silly, it’s an impossible assertion.
But go on.
Just a few centuries ago, there was a culture still mired in the Stone Age, with no written language, no science, no math, no architecture, no nothing requiring thought. Its members had not even managed to invent the wheel.
But the proud residents of Lehigh Valley, PA, home of The Morning Call, resisted the urge to return to the muck whence they came, and now enjoy such modern treats as running water, paved roads and delicious Hungry Man Dinners! (Check the back page for coupons!)
That culture’s only contribution to the world was the decorative ”tatu.” In most other parts of the ancient world, tattoos were disfigurements used only to identify criminals or slaves.
Oh. I guess you weren’t talking about Lehigh Valley, PA, home of The Morning Call. Well, at any rate, claiming that something is bad because it was once used to identify criminals or slaves is hardly an indictment of its modern applications. Australia was once literally nothing but a home for England’s criminals, and look at it now! It’s well upon its way to becoming a legitimate, respectable country. Keep hope alive, Aussies! Yes you can!
Now that Polynesians can read, use wheels, count and appreciate musical instruments other than drums, they’ve advanced to a point where most of them have abandoned tattoos.
Yeah, stupid indigenous tribes! It’s about time you got mothafuckin’ Imperialized®! Put down that shitty drum, quit tattooing each other, have a cheeseburger and listen to the dulcet sounds of Michael McDonald.
Also, reading, wheeling, counting and music have fucking nothing to do with tattoos.
But go on.
As one culture ascends, it seems, another declines.
“Culture” is not a zero-sum game. Not even close. Insane argument.
This week, we learned that 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have tattoos. It was just last year The Morning Call reported that 16 percent of all Americans were thusly self-mutilated.
Really? I thought those numbers would have been higher, to be honest. Come on, culture! Get with the times!
The sight of Mike Tyson’s gorgeous artwork, no doubt, has persuaded millions to flock to tattoo joints. Or maybe it’s the growing popularity of ”mixed martial arts” bloodfests, which put tattooed subhumans into cages to brutalize each other.
Mike Tyson has long been considered a world-class crazy-person and, your sweet sarcasm aside, I highly doubt that anyone has ever looked at him and thought, “You know what, bra? Right after I get done raping my wife, bra, I am totally gonna get some sweet tribal ink right on my face. Shit’s gonna be epic, bra.”
As for inexplicably lumping in mixed martial arts, psst! Your crotchety-old-man-osity is showing.
”Proud parents bear tattoos honoring their kids,” said a headline over Monday’s story.
True story: My dad got his first tattoo when he was 55, a piece he designed himself, with my brothers’ and my initials as the centerpieces. It’s awesome, and about as surprising a move as one could expect from a man who, when a teenaged me would come home with new piercings, would often respond with a succinct, “Ugh! Disgusting!” See? Evolution of thought. My dad’s a smart guy.
”You’ll never find a more meaningful tattoo than one for your kids,” said Kiel Ferrari, described as an ”artist” at the Minds Eye Tattoo in Emmaus. (I also have seen graffiti vandals described as ”artists.”)
I’ve seen columnists for The Morning Call described as “writers,” too. Fucking weird.
And look, I think graffiti is largely pretty disrespectful, but that doesn’t mean it’s not occasionally well done and pleasant to look at. Everything is not binary — things can embody more than one set of traits concurrently. I can enjoy the work of Wagner without goose-stepping around my apartment in tribute, my status as a self-loathing Jew notwithstanding.
Along with the story, there were photographs of bodies mutilated with hideous ”artwork.” One was of an arm with a truly unfortunate depiction of a child’s face. I am sure the real child is cute; no child could actually be that homely.
There are lots of bad tattoos.
On the very same day that our eyes were insulted by those vulgar photos, the paper ran another story elsewhere, plugging the premier showing of a new television program about the joys of prostitution.
So, you’re upset because a newspaper was … reporting … news?
I can’t say I’m an expert on prostitution. I’m too parsimonious to gain first-hand knowledge. (Stories on Eliot Spitzer’s $4,300 dalliances nearly gave me apoplexy.)
Methinks the lady doth protest too much.
Nonetheless, I’ve said a lot about both prostitution and tattoos, which, come to think of it, always seem to go together.
Wait, what? Why? Since when? Because you said so? Is there some overlap between tattoos and prostitution? Sure, because tattoos overlap with everything. To say they “always seem to go together,” though?
… Go on.
No one can deny that the heaviest concentrations of tattoos occur in the lowest segments of society — prostitutes, pimps, pugs, prison inmates, Ku Klux Klansmen and the members of street and motorcycle gangs.
I spend about 17 hours a day in front of my computer on the Internet. I’m almost always reading something. I’ve read a lot of dumb things. And yet, I feel comfortable saying that the above paragraph makes the Top Five Dumbest Things Jordan Has Ever, Ever Read on the Internets. Holy fucking fuck. If only black street gangs and the KKK knew how much they had in common!
Now, according to this week’s story, 36 percent of young people have decided to emulate such lowlifes.
“Emulate” typically means to imitate. Simply doing something that other people do is not “emulation” unless it is consciously done as a form of imitation. Guys in prison exercise all the time — are health nuts just emulating the prison population? Are hateful idiots who write absurd, pointless missives in their own low-rate local papers emulating you?
And some news media want to glamorize them.
Reporting does not equal glamorizing. If you were a professional writer, you would know this. Just because you have concocted the most specious of reasoning to link prostitution (and, by extension, gang members and the KKK — God, what a crazy fucking sentence that is) and tattoos does not mean that a single news feature covering parents who get tribute tattoos for their children is somehow indicative of a massive trend towards “glamorizing” tattooed people.
Do not glamorize accomplishment. Do not glamorize intelligence, insight or integrity. Don’t glamorize courage, generosity, leadership, skill or diligence. Such qualities are for nerds. By all means, glamorize pimps, prostitutes and those who emulate them. That is the future of America’s culture.
OK, I’ll admit one thing that impressed me about this paragraph: That is one hell of a straw man you’ve crafted there, Carpsy. Seriously, take a bow. And then, while you’re down there, go fuck yourself.
Aware of how some of these devoted self-mutilators are going to react, I am compelled to emphasize that I do not favor any restrictions on personal behavior. If an idiot wants to get a tattoo, he or she should be free to do so. I just think responsible news media organizations should not glamorize them. What’s next? Glamorizing child molesters or kluxers?
This is exactly why I hesitated to comment on this article — this very line. What’s the point of engaging a person who comfortably lumps together tattooed people with rapists and racists? It’s not even detestable as much as it is pitiable — it’s actually kind of unbelievable that this sort of delusion still exists, much less finds a publisher.
But then, this article was never about tattooed people at all, nor was it even a requiem for a culture the author feels has wandered off the noble path: It is the sad admission of a man whose own obstinacy has prevented him from relating in any meaningful way to the world around him. It is not an indictment of the so-called “culture,” but rather a cautionary tale about the fate of the mind that outright rejects the wonders of a dynamic approach to learning and personal growth. Not that body modification (or the appreciation of it) is necessary to be a happy and well adjusted person — not by any means. But to be repulsed by it on such bizarre terms?
Carpenter has conflated all the things that he does not enjoy or understand in an attempt to simplify his life, but in doing so, he’s become a more confused and depressing man than ever.
Carpenter’s initial column garnered so much mail that he wrote a follow-up. With much apprehension, I’ll tackle that one shortly.