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15 Minutes of Infamy
February 21, 2009 10:52 AM   Subscribe

After appearing last month on the ABC reality television show 'Wife Swap,' "San Francisco resident Stephen Fowler was forced to resign from the boards of two nonprofits, allegedly received e-mailed death threats and stood on the sidelines as his wife, Renee Stephens, issued a public statement condemning his behavior and asking him to get 'professional help.'...Thanks to online TV and easy access to private information, Fowler's 15 minutes of fame have snowballed beyond his control." "What has generated such wrath is Fowler's condescending treatment of Gayla Long, a mother of four from rural Missouri....In wince-producing remarks, Fowler, who is British, wrote off middle America with such pronouncements as 'Your two languages seem to be bad English and redneck.'" Video highlights - 1, 2.

Fowler has since apologized publicly on his wife's blog for his behavior.
StephenFowlerSucks.com

ABC News report.

Fox News report.

Yahoo!TV -- Husbands Behaving Badly.

'Wife Swap' Long\Stephens-Fowler Full Episode: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
posted by ericb (168 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Some of my best friends are Midwesterners..."

*boggle*
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 10:57 AM on February 21, 2009


There are just some people, whether by circumstance or deliberate effort, who deserve a merciless punch to the cock. This guy is one of them.
posted by billysumday at 11:00 AM on February 21, 2009 [13 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by The White Hat at 11:05 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


i've not heard of the show, but it sounds like he was playing a character,no?
i don't get upset when ricky denigrates lucy...or when ralph kramden lays into his wife. "one day alice, to the moon!>
posted by billybobtoo at 11:05 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


C'mon, isn't he just saying what we all secretly think?
posted by Slothrup at 11:06 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


C'mon, isn't he just saying what we all secretly think?

But you're not supposed to say it, you know, to their faces!! As a proud Midwesterner, I take offense at being lumped in so carelessly with my undereducated, overweight, blindly patriotic brothers and sisters.
posted by billysumday at 11:09 AM on February 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


It's funny - from the carefully staged and edited clips they do come off as pretentious, but in fact, they're smart people trying to excel and trying to do the best by their kids.

For example, the kids. You have to push your kids to do things sometimes. My parents got me to do all sorts of things I didn't want to do at the time, language lessons, music practice - there's not a day I don't wish I could call them up and thank them for doing it.

And there is no question in my mind that I'd rather hang out with the Fowlers than the rednecks, nor that the Fowler family will produce more socially-responsible, aware citizens. These are people who care about improving themselves - would that we could say this about most Americans. They did, however, make a terrible decision - to appear on a reality TV show.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:12 AM on February 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


Oh, for heaven's sake, the folks that appear on Wife Swap are encouraged to act outrageously (as are the people on Bridezillas*, Super Nanny, et all. To be patient and understanding of the new "wife" entering your household for a week would not make for interesting television. Let's face it, anyone that agrees to participate in this type of "reality" show has a bit of hambone or outrageous showman already embedded within him (or her).

*An acquaintance of mine was browsing through a NYC bridal salon shortly after getting engaged a year ago and was approached by a Bridezillas producer. He informed her that if she was a bit more snippy with the staff, or threw a tantrum or two, she could appear on national TV.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:14 AM on February 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Jeez, you hit her pretty hard there, Rick.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:15 AM on February 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


C'mon, isn't he just saying what we all secretly think?

No.
posted by naju at 11:16 AM on February 21, 2009 [49 favorites]


If Fowler is so smart, what is he doing as a heel on reality TV?

Similarly, Long is just as much of a caricature but cast in a less mean spirited light. There are many people from the midwest with educations, ambitions, athletic figures, et al. Hands washed of the entire affair.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 11:18 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh my god, this shocking, offensive, fluffy show known for charicaturing people has produced a shocking, offensive, fluffy charicature!
posted by Nelson at 11:20 AM on February 21, 2009


Yes, this evil, snobbish British man dares to say things like... "there are few places in this country I could live?" Because... yeah, we all are about to move to Missouri? And the midwesterners are wrapped that tight? The wife is "not a proud American" because she is married to a damned furriner of the European persuasion and doesn't think that midwestern mall culture is the apex of civilisation?

How horrible! They send their kids to private school and make a big deal about education! They force their kids to take up hobbies! If the hobby in question had been baseball instead of fencing, do you think the show's producers would have gotten such mileage? Maybe if they'd given the British husband a white Persian cat to stroke, he could have been more of a villain?

This guy and his wife are shiny knobs, both of them, but so are the midwestern couple. Really, this is one of those times when I think wifeswap's done a better job of matching than I would have normally expected.
posted by Grrlscout at 11:21 AM on February 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


If Fowler is so smart, what is he doing as a heel on reality TV?

I always get this weird feeling when catching a glimpse of The Real Housewives of [Insert City] or any other show of that ilk. All of the personalities in the show act like ridiculous divas with no concept of reality or manners or maturity or responsibility, and you wonder: clearly they knew they were going to be represented like this, no? So really it's about vanity and having notoriety, and to hell with being seen as an outrageous monster - because if they actually thought that they would come off well on a show that is, pretty much at its heart, about outrageously wealthy housewives, then they must have some sort of delusional mental illness. This guy seemed to be hamming it up a bit, yes, but still - didn't he realize what the editors/producers would do to the footage? And, if not, then clearly he's not quite so savvy as he thinks he is.
posted by billysumday at 11:24 AM on February 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


And there is no question in my mind that I'd rather hang out with the Fowlers than the rednecks, nor that the Fowler family will produce more socially-responsible, aware citizens.

There's no question in my mind that I'd rather hang with the rednecks. The Fowlers showed no sign of awareness of how they'd be percieved by the public, and I'm not at all convinced that their much vaunted social-responsibility isn't simply entrepeneurial marketing aimed at the similarly smug.

That said, I'd much rather hang out with him than with his wife. The shit he gave the rednecks was moderate compared to the way that I suspect I'd respond if forced to spend a week with Mrs. Fowler.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:25 AM on February 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's funny - from the carefully staged and edited clips...I'd rather hang out with the Fowlers than the rednecks...
see what I did there?
posted by Sailormom at 11:26 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mr. Fowler is essentially correct -- if incredibly rude -- about his critique of this woman... but ultimately, this is just entertainment, isn't it?

America *LOVES* hating meanspirited, elitist British, and this show intentionally tried serving it to them in that way... and Mr. Fowler, with his high intellect, presumably knew it and didn't mind playing the part.

Give the guy his own talkshow and be done with it already. He'd get great ratings... and isn't that what's important in America?
posted by markkraft at 11:32 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


C'mon, isn't he just saying what we all secretly think?

Um, no.

I live in Missouri. We're not all uneducated slobs. Even if we were, there's this thing called human dignity that some people take pretty seriously, regardless of where they live.

In addition, judging by Fowler's age and nationality, I'd say chances are very high that he took advantage of the UK's student grant system, which allowed students to go to university effectively for free.

My Dad was born to a working class family in the UK. He worked his way up to one of the best universities in the nation. In his honor I would like to suggest that Fowler eat a bag of dicks.
posted by Monsters at 11:32 AM on February 21, 2009 [13 favorites]


Well, he's definitely an uber-jerk, but - and I'm sure this goes without saying - I'm more than a little disconcerted at the number of newsminutes being devoted to this by major networks. Seriously?
posted by bettafish at 11:33 AM on February 21, 2009


I have asked Stephen to get professional help.

Can "being British" be cured?
posted by octothorpe at 11:34 AM on February 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


Well, thank God we finally got to use the "WifeSwap" tag here on MeFi. Sadly, it was not in the way I'd hoped.
posted by Mikey-San at 11:36 AM on February 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


He needs some of the basics of being human beaten in to him, because a beating is about the only lesson his salary won't save him from having to take at his stage in life. Really, to get to his position in life and still be acting like a spoilt, abusive 5 year old brat speaks far louder of his own socially and emotionally impoverished life than the few extra pounds or simple vocabulary of the "rednecks."

And what an advert he is for his wife's life coaching skills. She clearly doesn't bring her work home with her.
posted by fire&wings at 11:37 AM on February 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


I wonder what they put in the water to compel people to watch these shows. Or is it a matter of "gee, we may be assholes ourselves, but at least we're not that big of an asshole" feeling that people somehow need?
posted by DreamerFi at 11:37 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can "being British" be cured?

The orthodontic part of it can.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:40 AM on February 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


i don't get upset when ricky denigrates lucy...or when ralph kramden lays into his wife. "one day alice, to the moon!>

What's there to be upset about, regarding mankind's early desires for space travel. :)
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:42 AM on February 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


haha, that funny man is convinced the british are sophisticated.
I wonder if he's ever actually been to central london.

no, seriously: he says some abhorrent things but the charlie brooker segment on reality tv editing keeps popping into my head.
posted by krautland at 11:43 AM on February 21, 2009 [17 favorites]


Some news outlets have reported that Fowler says he has received death threats.

This is a cultural phenomena that always amazes me; that someone who is not particularly evil or murderous can hit a nerve which results in actual death threats. The outraged one-- who probably does not take time the time to sit down and write their mother or their congress person-- will take the time to sit down and write a death threat and stamp it and look up the infamous person's address, etc. Why? What does a death threat accomplish? Does writing "You should be taken out into the street and shot like the dog you are" alleviate anger or does the very act of focusing, writing it down, cause the anger to burn hotter?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:46 AM on February 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Funnily enough the way that he describes Long is exactly how a lot of continental Europeans feel about the English.
posted by fshgrl at 11:47 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


In addition, judging by Fowler's age and nationality, I'd say chances are very high that he took advantage of the UK's student grant system, which allowed students to go to university effectively for free.

Not all students; everyone got free tuition, but maintenance grant (ie, living expenses) eligibility depended on parental income.

I'm amused by the grocers' apostrophe in the wife's statement:
When I made the statement about the parents not having advanced degrees, I was responding to direct and probing questions from the director about what level of education I thought the Long’s had.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:47 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]



I wonder what they put in the water to compel people to watch these shows.


Reality TV shows are very, very cheap to produce vs. regular, scripted shows. You don't need a huge audience to make back lots and lots of money. If my mother's family is any indication, the TV is just *on* all the time, registering viewers while people dip in occasionally, burn the soup, chase the cat, or yell at my brother to get a real job already and stop bringing home his creepy friends.

Plus, everyone likes a good trainwreck, even if fake. I always thought these shows do the same thing horror movies do. You get cathardic release from knowing *you* would never act like that and the pleasure of watching someone "get what they deserve" (either the killer or the victims, depending on your level of repressed sociopath-y).
posted by The Whelk at 11:48 AM on February 21, 2009


I watched the episode out of laziness and boredom, and was equally appalled by Mr. Fowler and Mrs. Long.

I think what was going on was more class-related than regional: a large number of Americans (wrongly) perceive all English as "upper-class" when it comes to manners, education, etc. and people of many places perceive Midwesterners as rednecks and hicks. Bring these stereotypes face to face with each other and watch the fur fly!

If Fowler was as cultured as he thinks he is, he never would have taunted her at every turn. If Mrs. Long had stopped for five minutes to think about her blind jingoism and rejection of all things foreign (both geographically and otherwise), there might have been some interesting interactions. But that's not what this show is about.

If you contrast the other faux-family's experience (Mr. Long enjoying French lessons, Mrs. Fowler trying to bring her experience with food into the Long kitchen), it was different, mostly due to the modicum of respect each brought to the other's efforts.
posted by ltracey at 11:48 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, LOLBacon: On Friday, her blog, on personallifemedia.com, was defaced by a strip of bacon. Really? Or did the HuffPo simply get confused by somebody linking to it via using the baconator?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:49 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not going to judge the guy - these shows are edited. My first wife, who was a director on the US 'Wife-Swap' pointed out to me that the producers look for the stories they want to tell, then cast people to fit the pre-ordained narrative; she's given me multiples examples where whole scenes are staged, etc.

Take it all with a grain of salt as they say.
posted by jettloe at 11:50 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Stephen Fowler: Jeremy Clarkson or Simon Cowell?
posted by Phanx at 11:51 AM on February 21, 2009


Wow, I'm kind of surprised to see so many people defending this guy, he was a huge asshole.
posted by delmoi at 11:55 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is a cultural phenomena that always amazes me; that someone who is not particularly evil or murderous can hit a nerve which results in actual death threats. The outraged one-- who probably does not take time the time to sit down and write their mother or their congress person-- will take the time to sit down and write a death threat and stamp it and look up the infamous person's address, etc. Why?

I think it's mainly about lack of options. They don't write their mother a letter because they can call her on the phone. They don't write their ex girlfriend who cheated on them a death threat because they can key her car. But if someone sees a person on TV that angers them enough to want to attack them, what are their options?

For the most part the people who write death threats aren't actually murderers, and they don't do it because they appreciate the lost art of postal correspondence. They do it because they want to write something that they know will hurt the person who reads it, and a death threat is about as far as you can go in that direction. It's the same reason that people call each other gay or threaten to beat each other up in YouTube comments, they are struggling to strike back as effectively as they can given the methods of interaction available.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:59 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


God, I hate the rich.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:59 AM on February 21, 2009


Or did the HuffPo simply get confused by somebody linking to it via using the baconator?

FWIW -- that article was written by the AP.
posted by ericb at 12:00 PM on February 21, 2009


I hate this show and others like it. It's purpose is to judge and shame other families. Rarely does a participant or viewer gain any insight or perspective. In most cases their own prejudices are only reinforced. This guy's prerogative is exactly the prerogative of Wife Swap's target audience: to stare into the weird lives of "others" and then shame and judge them for being "other." Which is exactly why he's getting so much shit. We don't like people who exemplify our own worst qualities.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:01 PM on February 21, 2009


"He needs some of the basics of being human beaten in to him, because a beating is about the only lesson his salary won't save him from having to take at his stage in life."

Way to essentially support Fowler's critique of Americans.
posted by markkraft at 12:03 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's amazing that when they picked an asshole for his ability to act like an asshole and encouraged him to act like an asshole, and probably stopped just short of handing him a script telling him how and when to act like an asshole, then edited together the most asshole parts to make him look like an asshole, that he came out looking like an asshole.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:04 PM on February 21, 2009 [16 favorites]


I dunno. They're both kind of jerks and their jerk behaviors were helped out a lot by editing and the prodding of the producers. The really sad thing isn't that they're jerks; it's that she was so worried about her image that she publicly distanced herself from her husband because of a TV show.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:04 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


BTW -- Fowler is now an American citizen, as per his apology:
"Some of my remarks obviously made me appear unpatriotic. Well that was just dumb. I chose to become a US citizen because I deeply respect the values upon which this great country is based. For the record, I think the US is an amazing country and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live."
posted by ericb at 12:05 PM on February 21, 2009


"One question outstanding: Even if Fowler's performance, as has been claimed, was choreographed by the show's producers, why would he agree to it in the first place?" *
posted by ericb at 12:11 PM on February 21, 2009


I was amazed that Gayla's husband didn't lunge across the table and rip Stephen's ears off and feed them to him. I know I would have had trouble not doing that.

But, then again, if he had treated my wife that way, he would have been dead before the end of the week and you would all be discussing the 2nd degree murder that was caught on tape during the recording of a wife swap episode.
posted by milarepa at 12:16 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Way to essentially support Fowler's critique of Americans.

What have Americans to do with me?

One thing is certain, Fowler would not have been behaving that way to the wife with her husband present. It's no surprise to see someone like him operating the way he does when the target is a lone woman in his own home, and the audience are his children. Put him in a bar or restaurant with the husband and let's hear him rip-forth on all his social, educational and salary-related failings.
posted by fire&wings at 12:16 PM on February 21, 2009 [10 favorites]


Television is a newish medium. It's called a medium because nothing is well done.
posted by netbros at 12:16 PM on February 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Well, he's definitely an uber-jerk"

You know those shows are scripted right? And that those doing the show make it very clear that unless you act absurd there will be no payoff?

At some point someone told the guy, "Unless you act like an uber-jerk this show will never air. Stop wasting everyone's time and do something we can put on TV."

All we know about him is that he was willing to make a fool of himself to get on TV.
posted by aapep at 12:17 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Various websites, such as StephenFowlerSucks.com, have been established in his (dis)honor, and are posting personal info of Fowlers such as his email, phone number, and actual address. Fowler is now threatening lawsuits over releasing his personal info....He is also threatening a lawsuit against ABC for, as he and his wife state, making him a victim of 'Creative Editing.'" *
posted by ericb at 12:18 PM on February 21, 2009


Television is a newish medium. It's called a medium because nothing is well done.

Nor is rare, unfortunately.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:19 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd be the first to question the veracity of any reality show's presentation of "real" people, and have, in the past, gone looking for answers for similarly seemingly terrible behavior on this kind of show. But this guy's case is pretty indefensible; he says downright offensive, insulting, cruel things, unedited. They're on the record and they're a complete embarassment. It infuriates me that this douche didn't think about the damage he'd be doing his city, for example, in the eyes of those unlike him. The moral of the story, of course: reality TV is a cultural blight.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:20 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's like they made a reality show featuring MetaFilter as the heel.
posted by The Tensor at 12:22 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


yeah the thing that always baffles me the most is that people agree to be on these shows. you'd have to pay me more money than i can imagine.
posted by jcruelty at 12:22 PM on February 21, 2009


"I was amazed that Gayla's husband didn't lunge across the table and rip Stephen's ears off"

I'm amazed you actually think this crap is real. The reason Gayla's husband didn't lunge across the table is because he knows it's all fake.
posted by aapep at 12:24 PM on February 21, 2009


Even if we were, there's this thing called human dignity that some people take pretty seriously, regardless of where they live.


None of those people sign themselves up to appear on reality television.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:29 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm amazed you actually think this crap is real. The reason Gayla's husband didn't lunge across the table is because he knows it's all fake.

You've obviously never met anyone who's been on a reality show. They're not scripted, they're directed - real people in fake situations, acting as they really do, with guidance from producers. With real consequences.
posted by billysumday at 12:29 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"if he had treated my wife that way, he would have been dead before the end of the week "

Or, alternately, you could call him a pompous ass, point out that not everyone has the same breaks in life that he has had, and ask him to apologize to your wife.

Of course, that would require intelligence and self control. Could you do it?!
posted by markkraft at 12:31 PM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


If that guy is such a snotty, arugula-eating elitist, then what the fuck is he doing in a trashy reality TV show?! Really, are TV viewers so dumb, or just really good at suspending their disbelief?
posted by Skeptic at 12:32 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Was anybody else also disgusted by the Mrs. Fowler character (I say "character" because I know this is reality TV and not real life, blah blah) as I was? I'm so happy I don't live in San Francisco any more.
posted by queensissy at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2009


Really, are TV viewers so dumb, or just really good at suspending their disbelief?
posted by Skeptic at 12:32 PM


I'd say they're not nearly as skeptical as you are.
posted by billysumday at 12:35 PM on February 21, 2009


Fowler sucks at being elitist. The real elitists are masters at hiding their disdain for their social inferiors. Also, it should be noted that Missouri is a much more outgoing state than California.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:35 PM on February 21, 2009


C'mon, isn't he just saying what we all secretly think?

Seconding the "no" to that.

Anyone who appears on reality TV has a fat lot of business calling anyone else a "redneck."
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:43 PM on February 21, 2009


If that guy is such a snotty, arugula-eating elitist, then what the fuck is he doing in a trashy reality TV show?!
The producers of one of those wife-swapping shows recruited on an internet message board I participated in, and I was really surprised at how many seemingly-smart people there showed interest in participating. They flatter you with the idea that you'll be given the opportunity to represent people like yourself in a positive way, and most people don't realize how easily they can be caricatured.

I don't particularly like Wife Swap, but I am a huge sucker for the nanny shows. There's something oddly comforting about the idea that all your problems could be solved if a nice British lady would just sweep in and show you how to use the naughty stool. It's the allure of easy fixes. It's sort of like how Trading Spaces makes me feel like my grungy apartment could be made awesome with just $500, two days, and a hot glue gun.
posted by craichead at 12:45 PM on February 21, 2009


Christ, what an arsehole.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Missouri is a much more outgoing state than California."

They're outgoing, sure... but not accepting.

It's easy to be friendly with your neighbors, when all your neighbors tend to be very much like you.
posted by markkraft at 12:48 PM on February 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


You've obviously never met anyone who's been on a reality show. They're not scripted, they're directed - real people in fake situations, acting as they really do, with guidance from producers. With real consequences.

Are you saying they've stopped being polite, and started getting real?
posted by The Whelk at 12:49 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can "being British" be cured?

The Irish have been trying to cure them for years, but it hasn't helped.
posted by jonmc at 12:50 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't understand watching shit like that.
posted by wrapper at 12:50 PM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


This show happened to be on the screen when I was at the gym, and I have to say I really was aghast by Fowler. I had brought my own video entertainment on my iPod, but I really couldn't keep my attention on it with this guy on the screen; he was exhibiting some of the most outrageous behavior I've ever seen on television. I realize it is all in the editing (love the Screenwipe link), but all the same, the guy is a tool.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:50 PM on February 21, 2009


You all got TV trolled!

I had an entire paragraph typed out and then I realized I was trolled, too.
posted by PostOfficeBuddy at 12:51 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you saying they've stopped being polite, and started getting real?

If I had lyme disease, I'd open that car door and slap you!
posted by billysumday at 12:52 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I support the social destruction of any individual who appears on "Wife Swap."
posted by nanojath at 12:55 PM on February 21, 2009



*quietly sets tv on curb, tapes "free" sign to it*

There, that aughta fix the problem.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:55 PM on February 21, 2009


You know what's more cruel than a guy telling a woman that she's overweight and undereducated?

A country that initiates a witchhunt against someone with those kind of opinions, to the point that he almost certainly will have to move, if not leave the country entirely.

Meanwhile, Michael Savage is fine and well... still living in San Francisco.
posted by markkraft at 12:59 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


My favorite part:

Mrs. Fowler tries to explain what hydrogenated fat is and why it's not fit for human consumption.

Having digested her advice, Mr. Long comes to the conclusion that she was talking about "some kinda chemical" and suggests the the EPA would step in and take it off the market if it was dangerous.

Mr. Long, you won a buy one get one free Big Mac coupon for that one.
posted by Hammond Rye at 12:59 PM on February 21, 2009


I feel a little bit sorry for Stephen Fowler, after all, it seems like it's mostly insecure, awkward people who boast about their IQs and GRE scores. He probably got carried away by the presence of the camera and forgot that he was talking to a real person. Off-camera, his asshole elitist behavior is probably within the norms for San Francisco and not as outlandishly cruel as it appeared on camera.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:08 PM on February 21, 2009


Snap Roll Truck Roll:

she was so worried about her image that she publicly distanced herself from her husband because of a TV show

and clockworkjoe:

The real elitists are masters at hiding their disdain for their social inferior

WTF were they doing on there in the first place? Makes great entertainment tho.

This and my conversations with US imigration when I visited continue to convince me I don't want to live in the good ol' USA.
posted by fistynuts at 1:12 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]



Or, alternately, you could call him a pompous ass, point out that not everyone has the same breaks in life that he has had, and ask him to apologize to your wife.

Of course, that would require intelligence and self control. Could you do it?!


I was trying to jokingly imply my wife would kill him. I guess my comment required a joke tag since it appears people thought I was being serious. Apparently a failed joke tag. Sigh.
posted by milarepa at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2009


It's easy to be friendly with your neighbors, when all your neighbors tend to be very much like you.

Let me see if I have this right, there's a lot of diversity in California, and Californians can't deal with it so they're rude to people? Is that what you're trying to say?

Anyway, you ought to spend some time in Minneapolis, there's tons of diversity and everyone is still very nice.
posted by delmoi at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Either he is exactly what they made him out to be: an elitist, pompous, inconsiderate ass with disgusting prejudices. Or he's someone who agreed to act this way so he could get on national television surely knowing it would reflect terribly on himself and his family. Doesn't that kind of make him an asshole either way?
posted by Ugh at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Because I am from Alabama I am allowed to call my fellow Alabamians a bunch of lardball mouth-breathing sister-fucking racist dimwits who cling fearfully to an absurd belief system that has crippled them intellectually and morally, leaving a vacuum which they fill with Big Macs, NASCAR, bigotry, and the twisted parody of Wonder-bread Jesus.

But I reserve the right to rise to their defense with great self-righteousness should any non-Alabamian slander my fair state.

Also, a Big Mac sounds really good right now.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:15 PM on February 21, 2009 [26 favorites]


I find it disturbing that so many people seem to take this crap seriously, as if it reflects anything other than the "theme" of the show the producers were trying to make.
It may not be actually scripted, but directed, guided and edited so much that it might as well have been. It's just all so obviously manipulative. Why do people allow themselves to be trolled this way on such a large scale?
posted by Jeeb at 1:28 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


permit me a moment to vent my own prejudices: anyone who participates on any species of reality tv show is submitting themselves to a mass culture industry that profits from the caricaturization and commodification of human beings. if you live in poverty, the short-term monetary gain from such an agreement might be a mitigating factor. but if you have the advantages of the upper/middle class, you are revealing very unappealing character traits by submitting to this. and you stink.

and even more damning to me is dragging your children into this whole disgusting process. as minors, they cannot choose this debasement for themselves, but can be convinced (compelled?) by their parents to participate. and if, with maturity and hindsight, they regret the whole experience? too bad, mom and dad have made the mistake for them and any possible damage may have been done.

(i may regret the snippy tone of this comment later, but i'm getting it out there anyway. it feels good to call this shit what it is: shit.)
posted by barrett caulk at 1:32 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The whole TV episode is a troll. Don't feed the troll.
posted by w0mbat at 1:37 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now here is a specimen ripe for Lacanian/Zizekian analysis. The Symbolic, as presented rather ridiculously by the FOX News clip, is a true asshole who deserves every form of vengeance imaginable. The Real is not Fowler himself, but a classist caricature played to the hilt for maximum outrage (or, as this San Francisco Chronicle article notes, following the producers' demands to be confrontrational. The Imaginary is a man who has apologized to the public for his behavior and who has, by way of a minor mea culpa, atoned for his boorish stance.

In other words, here we have a slick and craven operator who wishes to prey on the bread and circuses impulse he claims to deplore. The more he is kept in the media spotlight, the greater he will rise to some Joe the Plumber-style stature, perhaps granted television shows, reporting duties, book deals, and other assorted media opportunities to sustain the public fury, which should clearly be directed at more pressing matters of national import.

Since Mr. Fowler's motivation was, in all likelihood, personal gain, and since the personal gain was entertainment through pain, humiliation, and cartoonish presentations of existing class division (rather than something more real and more constructive), there seems to me only one solution. Rather than egg the man's house and distribute leaflets identifying the man as "the worst husband ever," the only rightful cure for this disgraceful solipsism is to let this man be an island. Let him obtain no work. Let him be thoroughly barred from every profitable opportunity. Let him have no friends. Ignore the troll. Consider him invisible. And if he does attempt to pop up anywhere, let him be received with deaf ears. Permit him a life in which he is thoroughly aware of how terrible it is to be alone, of spewing nothing more than hate and bile, of being isolated from the great wonders of humanity. For in presenting himself this way, even artificially or with "creative editing," Mr. Fowler has laid his cards quite clearly down on the table and said to everyone that he does not wish any kindness or camaraderie from the human race. He is therefore not deserving of these great feelings of humanity. Let the establishments in Noe Valley deny him tables, deny him service. And then when he comes up for air years later, let him continue to beg for companionship and let him be denied attentiveness and attention. Particularly when he most needs it. (And he will most certainly need it.) Unless, of course, Mr. Fowler can do something truly remarkable -- which is quite a tall order -- to offset the true evil of tearing away people from more important matters.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will go on with our lives, living in a wonderful world in which there is no Stephen Fowler, remaining in awe of the beautiful things, getting in touch with our inner giddy bastards, and being kind, remaining encouraging, reaching out to others without such cartoonish moral judgments. And the Stephen Fowlers won't be included. Decades from now, a withered and lonely old man will be weeping in the distance. Perhaps someone will then take pity on him, listening to his story and truly empathizing with a man who is truly penitent and has finally paid the price for a mistake that has cast away the best years of his life. And it may be one of the saddest stories that this empathetic type will ever hear.
posted by ed at 1:44 PM on February 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


I bet they could switch Fowler with Richard Dawkins without anyone noticing.
posted by Dr. Send at 1:46 PM on February 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, he may have been English once, but he was certainly no gentleman.
posted by Phanx at 1:47 PM on February 21, 2009


It may not be actually scripted, but directed, guided and edited so much that it might as well have been. It's just all so obviously manipulative. Why do people allow themselves to be trolled this way on such a large scale?
posted by Jeeb at 4:28 PM on February 21 [+] [!]


You don't have people upset at Hugh Laurie for being an antisocial asshole on the show House since Hugh is clearly playing a fictional character and Fox does not present House MD as a reality show, or as an accurate representation of the medical practice.

"Wife Swap" is one of many shows that DO claim to be representations of reality, hence people take it more seriously.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 1:48 PM on February 21, 2009


I'm a Midwesterner who has made San Francisco home. I moved here for diversity & xenophilia & less "let's show him! with violence!" & hey, travel & books are not suspect by default. I wouldn't say the entire Midwest is lacking - but if you get away from larger cities or college towns there, these nice things tend to go away, unappreciated.

My guess is that spouting venom at him - or him at her - doesn't vent the spleen, but just deepens the reservoir of hatred.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:55 PM on February 21, 2009


"You see, Mrs. Higgins, apart from the things one can pick up, the difference between a lady and a flower-girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. I shall always be a common flower-girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me like a common flower-girl, and always will. But I know that I shall always be a lady to Colonel Pickering, because he always treats me like a lady, and always will. "

-- My Fair Lady
posted by hermitosis at 1:59 PM on February 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well I'm Midwestern through and through, but c'mon, have you ever been to Missoura? Secess, confederate sympathizers.

My brothers live and work in the St. Louis suburbs. Upon Barack Obama's election one of their co-workers remarked, "that ZEBRA isn't my president". WTF? Granted this is one anecdote, but they share events such as these with me on a regular basis. Down with Missouri, at least the secessionist parts of it.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:03 PM on February 21, 2009


Well, he may have been English once, but he was certainly no gentleman.

"Manners maketh man."

-- William of Wykeham, Motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxford.
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on February 21, 2009


"Let me see if I have this right, there's a lot of diversity in California, and Californians can't deal with it so they're rude to people? Is that what you're trying to say?"

First off, California is hardly at the bottom of the scales when it comes to extraversion.
Secondly, not being extraverted hardly equates to being rude to people. If anything, California's agreeability -- where they are pretty much dead center in the nation -- corresponds more directly to whether someone is rude or not.

Practically every Californian I know is very polite to others, and I've had very friendly and attentive service in stores and restaurants in California as opposed to most other states I've been to. Californians are generally quite polite and efficient, albeit not as laid back as most people would have you think. Relaxed, but professional.

They value prompt service without too much excessive chit-chat, and tend to socialize through coworkers, through community groups and activities, or via their their rich, oftentimes very local online culture. People in other states use social web sites... people in California, though, have the benefit of having the use of such sites being ubiquitous amongst their local friends and peers, and therefore far more useful in many ways to stay in touch regularly or actually do things in real life.

While Californians are somewhat less social with their immediate neighbors, that doesn't mean that they're being rude or antisocial, as much as it means that they have a lot of options for social outlets, and a real wealth of things to do. A lot of it has to do with giving people the freedom to just be themselves and do their own thing...

Frankly, it's a shame you would cite extraversion as a way to smear Californians, when states like Minnesota and Missouri score so poorly on openness to difference and to new ideas -- and to all those who have them. If Missourians and Minnesotans score better on a category that somehow says that being extraverted is based primarily on close ties to their immediate community and to their family, it is because they are oftentimes forced -- for economic, social, and peer-pressure reasons -- to not have as rich of a truely independent social life.

In other words, you hate Californians for our freedom. No wonder so many people in Minnesota and Missouri come here, if they get the chance to do so!
posted by markkraft at 2:10 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was very impressed with the way Gayla responded to his continued abuse. She seemed very self-aware, level-headed, in control, and stayed respectful almost the entire time despite the unapologetically despicable way she was treated. I am proud to share a country with her. And I still cannot believe the way that he spoke about her family's involvement in the military - even if the United States military is incredibly problematic, what that family does is noble so that people like him can continue to be assholes.

That was the most gratuituous display of classism I have seen in a very long time.
posted by lunit at 2:16 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was the most gratuituous display of classism I have seen in a very long time.

Gratu...what? Oh, gratuitous.
That's a big word you're using there.
posted by sour cream at 2:34 PM on February 21, 2009


Well, he's an asshole because he's saying things that are mostly true in a really shitty way to somebody who never asked to begin with. And she's an asshole because she demanded he use "no big words." Now, I am fucking positive this is scripted, but so what? Leaving aside that these people are playing caricatures of themselves, he's a douchebag who's right about everything but says it the wrong way, and she's a roaring moron whose heart is in the right place but who is also an anti-intellectual dipshit who conflates "the military" with "America." Honestly, fuck both these people.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:36 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was shocked and saddened to see the son opening a bottle of wine and being asked to pour it for his father. I would have thought that any parent who really values education and self-betterment would have taught his child how to mix a Manhattan long ago.
posted by ob at 2:36 PM on February 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


So I sat here and watched the whole episode, and yes ... he is an asshole. There is no way to apologize for or justify his behavior. A pompous asshole who seems to think he's the best thing to ever be born on the planet. The ongoing insulting and cruel behavior toward Gayla was not spliced together. These things came out of his mouth willingly and non-stop, and his snide laughter was equally disgusting. He is far from being the enlightened, self-aware, and wonderful human being he believes himself to be.

I feel most sorry for his kids, as their comments toward the end of the show demonstrate that he is brainwashing them into being just like himself and to look down on anyone who is not like they are. And so the circle of asshole behavior will continue.
posted by Orb at 2:38 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's from San Francisco, what did you expect?

Flame on!
posted by cazoo at 2:51 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow...and I here I thought, from reading finance threads on Metafilter, that the entire Midwest was too busy getting foreclosed on and downsized and laid off and in general sent back to the dust bowl days to give too much of a shit about what goes down on fake TV these. Guess I was wrong. Even with thieves in Brooks Brothers suits stealing the American Dream right from under our noses we can still stop for a moment and indulge in a good ole fashion 'let's get riled about about nonsense on tv' pitchfork fest.
posted by spicynuts at 2:54 PM on February 21, 2009


That study claims North Dakota scored highest as most outgoing state of the union. It certainly is... even to fertilized eggs.
posted by terranova at 2:59 PM on February 21, 2009


I have a cousin who married into a Canadian family that pretty much mirrors Fowler's opinion. One evening at dinner, I asked if he had ever considered visiting Canada (this was in England) seeing as how his wife and most of her siblings had spent a considerable part of theirs lives there.

He was aghast. Visiting "the colonies" (as he put it) would be preposterous.

I thought it was hilarious.
posted by purephase at 3:10 PM on February 21, 2009


Fowler does look like an elitist jerk, but the fact that he got death threats bothers me. There are a lot of angry right-wingers in America since Obama got elected, and the ABC Wife Swap episode with Stephen Fowler feels like watching a Two Minutes Hate propaganda broadcast aimed at getting right-wingers riled up about "San Francisco liberals." Take a look at the tags that "markrunon" on YouTube included with his post of Stephen Fowler highlights, and you can feel the hatred: "sf snob closet faggot homo bay area." Another comment on the YouTube said:

"The people in the middle of the country" are the ones who are going to rise up and kill all of you non-American, leftist, socialist types if you don't wake up and change your ways.

We are this country, and you are just "fringe".
We are the RIGHT.
You will burn in your big cities, and all your dirty money won't protect you.


Fowler was an asshole, but some right-wingers are going to focus on traits completely unrelated to his asshole-ish-ness (his internationalism, his "European" taste in wines and classical music, his environmentalism, his lip service to egalitarian gender roles) to stir up violence and hatred against "cultural liberals" in general. As a former resident of the San Francisco Bay Area who knew people that were similar to a non-asshole-ish version of Stephen Fowler, the reports of death threats against this man frankly scare the shit out of me.
posted by jonp72 at 3:10 PM on February 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


Ignoring all the issues of class warfare, un-reality TV, obesity, and love for America, I'd like to ask the one really vitally important question raised in this episode:

Are there really colleges that offer paintball scholarships?
posted by jacquilynne at 3:11 PM on February 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


We are this country, and you are just "fringe".
We are the RIGHT.
You will burn in your big cities, and all your dirty money won't protect you.


Thank you, Rorschach.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:14 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anyone who bothers to watch these shitty shows deserves to be offended.
posted by orme at 3:21 PM on February 21, 2009


Can "being British" be cured?

The orthodontic part of it can.


Clearly, it's only elitist British wankers that mistake snarking at stereotypes for wit.

She's a badly educated redneck, and proud of it. He was a wanker that thinks money and high IQ scores makes it OK to be rude to people. A pox on both their houses. Plus an additional pox on those who think threatening to beat him up or sending him DEATH THREATS is appropriate fucking behaviour.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:27 PM on February 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


He went looking for 15 Minutes of Fame,
But what he got was 15 Minutes of Flame.
posted by Flashman at 3:36 PM on February 21, 2009


I felt so sorry for the children. They were probably really embarrassed by their father.
posted by anniecat at 3:38 PM on February 21, 2009


We're talking here about an opinion on someone stupid enough to participate in a reality show by people stupid enough to think that what they are seeing in a reality show in any way resembles reality. It's as silly as sending hate mail to a fictional character. Nobody comes out clean here; both sides are idiots. I feel dirty just visiting.
posted by troybob at 3:39 PM on February 21, 2009


Wow, I'm kind of surprised to see so many people defending this guy, he was a huge asshole.

I'm not, there are more than enough wannabe fancy lad, cultured up the frog pipe, assholes who read Mefi. They just mostly don't have the balls to say out loud what elitist wind bags they are, usually. This guy's big crime is being so thick as to say outloud what his black little heart was really feeling.
posted by nola at 4:00 PM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


She's a badly educated redneck, and proud of it.

No, she is a person, and shouldn't have to explain herself for simply being.

How would you like to have someone pick you apart, and rate your success as a worthwhile human being by what they judged to be important?
posted by nola at 4:08 PM on February 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm not at all convinced that their much vaunted social-responsibility isn't simply entrepeneurial marketing aimed at the similarly smug.

Bingo!

Where's his damned bicycle?

Meat eating, 1000+ square foot per person dwelling, overly large vehicle driving is your choice (mine too 2 of 3), but leave the tree hugger T in the hamper, jerk.
posted by morganw at 4:08 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"some right-wingers are going to focus on traits completely unrelated to his asshole-ish-ness (his internationalism, his "European" taste in wines and classical music, his environmentalism, his lip service to egalitarian gender roles) to stir up violence and hatred against "cultural liberals" in general. As a former resident of the San Francisco Bay Area . . . . the reports of death threats against this man frankly scare the shit out of me."

Exactly what I was saying earlier. Despite his apology for his dickishness, the guy's is now in danger from attack by rightwing nut jobs, who have his address, all the info about his kids... he'll probably have to sell and move in the middle of a recession, and even then might be tracked by these whackjobs... and the guy lives in San Francisco, which is as safe as he can really hope for!

And yet, Michael Savage lives around here just fine. He gets protested against occasionally, but otherwise, no problem.

Those indignant Americans who want to lynch their fellow American, despite him never committing anything like a crime, are the real shameful villains here. To make it worse, they're the anonymous ones too.

They take offense, in part, because the arguments waged are a bit too close to home. They want to lynch the intellectuals, because they're too friggin' stupid to point out that oftentimes, intellectuals are more arrogant than smart, and lack any semblance of wisdom or personal responsibility. (See Christopher Hitchens.)
posted by markkraft at 4:26 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I was saying re: Christopher Hitchens... pretentious, "intellectual" quasi-foriegner shows amazing ignorance about the cultural norms for another society, behaves in a way likely to incite violence against himself, risks getting a major smackdown.

It all reminds me of something which I consider perhaps the ultimate, most telling American piece of subversive comedy as performance art, in that it says a lot about our country that we oftentimes do not want to admit to ourselves.

And yes, he got death threats for that one, too...
posted by markkraft at 4:38 PM on February 21, 2009


"The people in the middle of the country" are the ones who are going to rise up and kill all of you non-American, leftist, socialist types if you don't wake up and change your ways.

We are this country, and you are just "fringe".
We are the RIGHT.
You will burn in your big cities, and all your dirty money won't protect you.
"

Well, if they think they're going to march to San Francisco when they rise up, they're going to have to get through Oakland first. Good luck with that.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:39 PM on February 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


there are more than enough wannabe fancy lad, cultured up the frog pipe, assholes who read Mefi. They just mostly don't have the balls to say out loud what elitist wind bags they are, usually. This guy's big crime is being so thick as to say outloud what his black little heart was really feeling.
---
How would you like to have someone pick you apart, and rate your success as a worthwhile human being by what they judged to be important?

Classic.
posted by ODiV at 4:49 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


A pox on both their houses.

A pox on both their houses, and a pox on anyone stupid enough to take this show seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:53 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not, there are more than enough wannabe fancy lad, cultured up the frog pipe, assholes who read Mefi. They just mostly don't have the balls to say out loud what elitist wind bags they are, usually. This guy's big crime is being so thick as to say outloud what his black little heart was really feeling.

Just because someone, say, drives a Prius doesn't mean they hate everyone who doesn't. And more then that there is a huge difference between disproving of some aspect of someone and then saying it to their face in the most offensive way possible. I mean, so someone comes across as uneducated, you might consider them that way but there are a lot more steps up the asshole ladder before you actually tell them that and mock them for it.
posted by delmoi at 4:55 PM on February 21, 2009


Meanwhile, Michael Savage is fine and well... still living in San Francisco.
posted by markkraft at 12:59 PM on February 21


To be fair, most of us know that Savage is a professional troll, and find it pretty hilarious that his readers and listeners don't know he boned Allen Ginsberg and has an extensive knowledge of flowers and shit.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:58 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I call bullshit. I think the producers got Fowler to release his inner asshole or something, maybe for an extra bonus of some kind. In other words, he was acting up his part. Not to say he was acting, but he was just exaggerating what he felt. It's as if the producers said "Look, just say whatever you think, even if it's not really true. Just be an asshole." The amazing thing is that he did it, knowing this would be broadcast to, y'know, the whole fucking country. Did he really think being a douchebag would be a good thing for him and his "side"?

Not a very smart thing to do. Which makes him...rather dumb. Ah, irony. This shithead deserves all of this bad press and more.
posted by zardoz at 5:08 PM on February 21, 2009


Frankly, it's a shame you would cite extraversion as a way to smear Californians, when states like Minnesota and Missouri score so poorly on openness to difference and to new ideas -- and to all those who have them.

In other words, you hate Californians for our freedom. No wonder so many people in Minnesota and Missouri come here, if they get the chance to do so!


What on earth are you talking about? I you said that people in Missouri were nice because they all looked like each other, which implies that that you think it's more difficult for Californians because there is more divergence in appearance. That's not what I think; it's the implication of your statement.
posted by delmoi at 5:09 PM on February 21, 2009


"This guy's big crime is being so thick as to say outloud what his black little heart was really feeling."

Clearly, he must be punished!
posted by markkraft at 5:09 PM on February 21, 2009


Not my point at all markkraft.
posted by nola at 5:13 PM on February 21, 2009


Would favorite BitterOldPunk's comment 100 times, were I able.

Only makes me sadder that you missed the B'ham, Alabama meetup, you mouth-breather, you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:20 PM on February 21, 2009


Reality television is a giant machine for finding people as obnoxious and unselfaware as this. Anyone who wastes energy being angry or shocked by Fowler himself has missed the point, which is exactly what the producers were hoping.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:24 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I first read the FPP, I thought this was about Steve Fowler the flutist. I thought wow, that's completely out of character!

Obviously, it's not the same Steve Fowler.
posted by barkingpumpkin at 5:34 PM on February 21, 2009


"Because I am from Alabama I am allowed to call my fellow Alabamians a bunch of lardball mouth-breathing sister-fucking racist dimwits who cling fearfully to an absurd belief system that has crippled them intellectually and morally, leaving a vacuum which they fill with Big Macs, NASCAR, bigotry, and the twisted parody of Wonder-bread Jesus."

I'm confused. I thought this was Arkansas? Or don't they have NASCAR in Arkansas?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:07 PM on February 21, 2009


tell your mama
tell your pa
gonna send you back to Arkansas
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Idiots, all.
posted by a non e mouse at 6:15 PM on February 21, 2009


Just because someone, say, drives a Prius doesn't mean they hate everyone who doesn't. And more then that there is a huge difference between disproving of some aspect of someone and then saying it to their face in the most offensive way possible. I mean, so someone comes across as uneducated, you might consider them that way but there are a lot more steps up the asshole ladder before you actually tell them that and mock them for it.

There seems to be a whole mythology of self imporvement that teaches people to do things, not for the simple joy of doing (education, art, world culture to name a few) but because it makes the do'er a "better person". It's a vague idea, never to be examined by the acolyte, and it takes as many shapes as you can think of. Some people are better because they're attractive or they're well off. But as someone who really loves education, science, art, world culture, simply for its merits it always pisses me right off when I see someone beating a person over the head with things I enjoy. It turns music from something good into a weapon, its a trophy. As for those of you who keep pointing out this is fake all I can say is, no kidding. They represent demi-archetypes, and in that way are very real.
posted by nola at 6:19 PM on February 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Not my point at all markkraft."

I know it's not your point, but I think it needs to be said... there's a bit of a double standard in America about these sorts of things.

If Obama criticizes black families and black fathers for being deadbeat parents, that's acceptable, but when a British-American raises similar criticisms against white Americans, we're supposed to believe that all the vehement anger people are expressing is merely because he's a rude, tactless asshole?!

All I can say is that Jesse Jackson did not want to cut Obama's nuts off because he thought he was rude. He did it because he felt that Obama was lecturing to black people... never mind the fact that Obama's statements were largely on target.

Specifically, there are large elements of white America that are intentionally opposed to higher education, distrustful of book-learnin', disbelieving in science, and victimized by anti-intellectual religious organizations, who, despite having over a hundred year's notice, have been unable to reconcile science and faith, or accept the seperation of church and state.

These people hold themselves, and their children back. Oftentimes, they hold this country hostage.
posted by markkraft at 6:23 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I watched up until the long wife said "I have friends that are from British." That comment combined with all the fast food no vegetables comments makes me shudder. The fact that they and the show keep calling them "American" and "Patriotic" is disgusting.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:35 PM on February 21, 2009


I don't know if anyone else has expressed the sentiment I will. I am not in any way inclined to comb through every comment in this thread. The Fowlers seem, to me, to be obsessed with image and "education". Not intelligence mind you, but education. Education as some sort of social badge or emblem of status. The raw nastiness of the mister seems like the kind of raw emotional invective that stems from deeply held insecurities.

Now I understand that this is television and it is a filtered "reality". Even if he was merely playing a part for the cameras, the viciousness of his statements comes from some very real place.

The lesson here, it would seem, is this: No amount of education nor money nor awesomeness of geographical location can make you alright with yourself.

My prescription for the Fowlers is a simple one. Read The Great Gatsby.

Subsequently, that is my prescription for the other family as well.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 6:39 PM on February 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


People, people. Please. Step back and look at this:

1. Wife. Swap. Wife fucking Swap. (They don't get to fuck, anyway, do they? what kind of wife swap is that? The bullshit kind.)

2. Youtube comments. You fucking tube comments.

Really -- this is beneath everyone, and that's the whole (marketing) idea.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:39 PM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Charlie Brooker's screenwipe is fantastic - thanks for that.
I'll pass on the wifeswap nonsense, though.
posted by Zetetics at 6:52 PM on February 21, 2009


I know it's not your point, but I think it needs to be said... there's a bit of a double standard in America about these sorts of things.

If Obama criticizes black families and black fathers for being deadbeat parents, that's acceptable, but when a British-American raises similar criticisms against white Americans, we're supposed to believe that all the vehement anger people are expressing is merely because he's a rude, tactless asshole?!


White Americans are hardly a protected class when it comes to verbal abuse. Poor white Americans are the last exceptable group you can dump on in this country.


Don't you just hate 'em? Every gap-toothed,inbred, uncivilized, volent, and hopelessly DUMB one of 'em? Jesus, how can you not hate 'em? There's no class of people with less honor. Less dignity. No one more ignorant. More gullible. They're a primitive breed with prehistoric manners, unfit for anything beyond petty crime and random bloodletting. Their stunted, subhuman minds are mesmerized by cheap alcohol, Lotto fever, and the asinine superstitions of poor-folks' religion.They stop beating their wives just long enough to let'er squeeze out another deformed rug rat. They scatter their hand-me-down genes in a degenerative spiral of dysfunction. They breed anencephalic, mouth-breathing children. Vulgarians. All of them.Bottom feeders. They really bring down their race.

Luckily for you, I didn't specify which race that is. If I'd been talking about black trash I might be lynched. If I was talking about white trash, I'd merely be another torchbearer in an ongoing national lynching.
` The Redneck Manifesto
posted by nola at 7:14 PM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I grew up around right-wing redneck bible thumpers, and when I was younger did my best to distance myself from them. Now that I'm older I realize that is what everyone has done, and one of the reasons they stay locked in a permanent orbit far away from everyone else. If you only look at the negative aspects of a group, or lump people into groups in the first place, you'll never find the common ground you all share. Some people find my comments up thread ironic, they're kind of ment to be. I'm trying to turn the sword on it user.
posted by nola at 7:27 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


All I know is... I'm just so turned on by men who express their cultural superiority by owning an entire wardrobe comprised of black t-shirts with pithy ecologically-correct sayings in large white type. Rrrrowwwrrrr! Hot!!!
posted by miss lynnster at 8:31 PM on February 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


If Obama criticizes black families and black fathers for being deadbeat parents, that's acceptable, but when a British-American raises similar criticisms against white Americans, we're supposed to believe that all the vehement anger people are expressing is merely because he's a rude, tactless asshole?!

Are you autistic or something? There is a broad range of ways criticize someone, or some group. Some of those ways are consider helpful, some are considered tactless but not malign, and some make you a huge asshole.
posted by delmoi at 8:42 PM on February 21, 2009


I'm pretty partial to the wisdom of this adorable young woman who hopes this show won't prejudice Americans against Londoners, because London is an awesome place where they drink a whole lot and totally buy you beer.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:01 PM on February 21, 2009


Are you autistic or something? There is a broad range of ways criticize someone, or some group. Some of those ways are consider helpful, some are considered tactless but not malign, and some make you a huge asshole.
posted by delmoi at 8:42 PM on February 21 [+] [!]

The question now is, with your highly insensitive referencing of autism to criticize markkraft, which of your above-outlined categories do you fall into, delmoi? I'll give you a hint: it ain't "helpful".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:36 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


"There is a broad range of ways criticize someone, or some group. Some of those ways are consider helpful, some are considered tactless but not malign, and some make you a huge asshole."

Absolutely. That said, to want to hunt a fellow American down and do harm to them, because they were insulting to a woman on a "reality" TV show?! And to slur him and all British, and all people from around San Francisco in the process?!

That's stupid. And destructive. And misguided. And, indeed, his rude behavior is hardly the main reason so many people seem to want to do this.

"Poor white Americans are the last exceptable (sic) group you can dump on in this country."

Bull.

First off, the people being insulted aren't particularly poor, at least relative to where they lived. They had a middle class standard of living for their region.

Secondly, I don't see the news and the radio talk shows bashing poor Americans constantly, but I do see them insulting educated liberals and scaremongering against foriegners 24/7/365. They do it on talk radio ALL THE TIME, and even religious programming is increasingly anti-liberal, anti-foriegner...

So, if liberalism and tolerance can be bashed on the radio and television all the time, in what sense are poor Americans victims, other than the fact that the conservative media insists upon putting forth a cult of self-victimization.

"They're taking OUR jobs!"
"They're not REAL Americans! We are!"


People like Rush, Savage, all the intolerant evangelists... they're very much the ugly mirror image of people like Louid Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson. They're people who supposedly represent REAL white (trash) Americans, and they want to cut the balls off anyone who lectures to their flock and tells them that they need to get their sh*t together, or they and their kids are bound for failure and mediocrity.

These "White leaders" know they've got suckers under their tent just as surely as P.T. Barnum knew it. The difference is, Barnum was honest about it, and didn't try inciting the mob to attack those pointing the way to the Great Egress.

(Meanwhile, Republican Congressmen debate refusing economic stimulus money their poor states need during a time of economic collapse. Never mind that the same states have -- unlike elitist Californians, New Yorkers, or Bostonians -- taken in more money from the Federal government than they paid in for DECADES! Where do they think this money comes from, I wonder?!)

The big difference is, when you insult heartland white America, their sense of entitlement, their antiintellectualism and their self-defeating, self-victimizing dogma, or their unrestrained, ignorant support for widescale violence against anyone they disagree with, you get death threats... and if you insult liberals, that's not the case.

Why is that?! It's because those who internalize liberal values handle free speech in generally peaceful, non-violent ways, in accordance with the law, while anti-intellectualists are generally quite tolerant of violence that serves their goals of trying to maintain cultural control over others, oppressing and marginalizing many millions of Americans, impedeing human progress, and generally pushing this country towards an intolerant Dark Age.

Fifty years from now, if this self-marginalized 20% finds their grandchildren picking lettuce in the fields, overseen by educated foriegn agribusiness graduates, they'll have no one to blame but themselves.
posted by markkraft at 12:06 AM on February 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Actually, I should clarify... Republican governors are debating refusing stimulus money that is badly needed by the people in their states. Republican Congressmen voted pretty much unanimously against their people even getting such funds in the first place.
posted by markkraft at 12:49 AM on February 22, 2009


Just to make things clear. He's nor British Upper Class, he's British Middle Class. Or Upper Middle Class, if you want to get it exactly right.

If he were upper class,
- His house would be messier.
- He'd have been drunker.
- He'd have got on with the woman.
- He'd have probably spent the entire episode hunting with the boy.

Oh - and on this "Only 10% of Americans have passports" shit (which annoys the hell out of me). If you count the number of Brits who have been to places other than those in Europe, you'll probably find that the percentage is lower than 10% too.
posted by seanyboy at 2:27 AM on February 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


One of the few good things about the authoritarian government in China is that they have the authority to unilaterally ban this kind of television. The ban is very, very strict, and I'm glad for it every time I go near a TV set.
posted by saysthis at 2:45 AM on February 22, 2009


Seanyboy, way to go with the Brideshead Revisited stereotypes. A night in Boujis would probably change your mind about the charm of the British upper-upper middle classes. And the 10% with a passport thing? It's 20% these days, mainly down to the requirement that you need one to fly back from Canada and Mexico. Until fairly recently, an EU citizen didn't need a passport to travel within the EU.

Anyone here saying he was awful to Mrs Long is right. He didn't have to tell her she's overweight and undereducated and underachieving, even if she is all of those things.

That being said, if someone like Mrs Long came to your house to live, with all of her patriotic American love-it-or-leave-it downhome folksy Wal Mart junk food and TV for your kids, with her endless illiterate chatter, you'd lose the plot, too. Particularly if you were scripted to do so. Hell, I'm from Bakersfield, and I'd lose it after a week this woman.
posted by Grrlscout at 5:09 AM on February 22, 2009


Seanyboy, way to go with the Brideshead Revisited stereotypes.

What? That makes no sense.
I'm happy to admit that I was stereotyping, but Brideshead revisited? God - If anything, I was going for more Fast Show than Brideshead.
posted by seanyboy at 5:47 AM on February 22, 2009


he's British Middle Class. Or Upper Middle Class, if you want to get it exactly right.
upper? hardly. I thought he might be more the "why doesn't anyone recognize me for the genius I really am" type that wishes he belonged to the actual middle class, which he mistakes for something different than it is.
posted by krautland at 5:52 AM on February 22, 2009


markkraft, you're out of touch. You sound like Fox News.
posted by nola at 6:32 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seanyboy - you mean you weren't serious with the stereotypes of genteel scruffiness, hunting, unwitting appeal to women, easy charm and constant slight inebriation?

I'll go back to nursing my hangover, then, and give you an apology.

By the way, I think that we need to add a new rule to the internet discussion list: Just like anyone who mentions Hitler immediately loses an argument, the minute someone makes a joke about British dentistry or food, they lose. What say the rest of you?
posted by Grrlscout at 7:35 AM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Based on the links I read, Stephen didn't really want to be on the show in the first place. Instead, it was most likely his wife's idea, to promote her weight loss coaching business by being able to say she helped some fat family turn their lives around on national television.

I think the notion that all reality show participants are publicity whores or desperate for cash is too limiting. I think that strategists, roleplayers and advnturers do it for the mental stimulation.

I think the rising tide of anger toward this guy is a shame. His behavior was inexcusable, but wouldn't he benefit more from seeing how much grace and forgiveness the world can have?
posted by bugmuncher at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Poor white Americans are the last exceptable [sic] group you can dump on in this country.

Ask all those poor white Americans if they would trade places with a black person of similar economic status. Go on, now.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:10 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Go ask them yourself.
posted by nola at 12:23 PM on February 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: more than enough wannabe fancy lad, cultured up the frog pipe assholes!
posted by ericb at 3:51 PM on February 22, 2009


His hair was perfect.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:26 PM on February 22, 2009


"markkraft, you're out of touch. You sound like Fox News."

Fox News thinks Americans threatening vigilante justice against others is wrong, and that liberalism is something worth defending, because it's like, well... you know... the basis of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and, well... civilized society?!

Damn DTV... all those confusing new optional channels! Clearly I must be watching the racebaiting, anti-intellectual, conquer the world edition of Fox News instead!
posted by markkraft at 7:37 PM on February 22, 2009


I'm sorry I should have said Bizzaro Fox News. You're the mirror opposite, no worse but no better ether. You talk about people you don't know, and better yet you've managed to get inside what makes them tick, and what radio blowhards they listen to. You're a darkroom version of Glen Beck, an uncomprehending bigot (albeit a currently fashionable one) you'll never have to worry about offending the "right" kind of people, not impoverished minorities, I'm talking about the other fashionable white well educated, well off sort in love with themsevles.The people that really matter. And isn't that what it's all about at the end of the day?

I fight with family every fucking holiday over mostly harmless bigotry they exibit towards people different from them. Are they evil? Do they all want to kill limy nitwits who show their ass on TV? No. They're insulated, just like you are.

I've worked construction for 13 years, and I've heard people mention their political views maybe twice, both times to decry the wars we're fighting, the cost in lives and money. They are in every sense REDNECKS. You know how often I've heard them say anything about Rushlimbaugh? maybe half a dozen times, and never to agree with him. Frankly I don't think they really cared to mention him, except in passing. I doubt they read the paper, I've never heard them voice their opinion about abortion, gay rights, or really anything that didn't directly related to them. They know how much water their opinions carry, and act accordingly. No one cares what they have to say. Not you. They're just foder for you're own pent up hate. They don't want anything, but to live their lives in peace, to work hard and love their wives and kids. But you know them do you? Fuck off.
posted by nola at 8:29 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Go ask them yourself.
posted by nola at 12:23 PM on February 22


I have. Every time I hear a white person bitch about how the blacks get affirmative action and welfare and magical free money and oh it's so hard to be white now, I ask: would you willingly have your skin darkened in order to be perceived as black, thereby getting the benefits you claim that they have? So far, no takers. What about you? You really think it's easier to be black than white in this country? Would you trade?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:14 PM on February 22, 2009


Every time I hear a white person bitch about how the blacks get affirmative action and welfare and magical free money and oh it's so hard to be white now

Yes it does get old arguing with people who don't understand the world around them, at all.
Now, back to the question; are poor white people an exceptable group to stereotype, lambast, scapegoat and so on, for the sins of all the real people of power and substance in the world or not? If you lived with the poor of any sort you might understand how evil it is to degrade any of them for sport. That's what this is. It's no longer ok to call African Americans "niggers" not because you freed them from the word but because they took their rights for themselves. But you now know better, good for you. Understand, people of all races have a right to dignity, not just for themselves but for everyone that like them that has no voice, like them are told their worth. By their betters. They, we, black, white,hispanic,asian, workers, have dignity.

I don't care if you call yourself a Republican, and I don't care if you call yourself a Democrate. Your name doesn't matter, if you raise your hand to strike my brother, you are no brother of mine and I will call you out for it. If you want to go on playing the game of divide and conquer with the forces that run the world it's your choice.
posted by nola at 9:43 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


You really think it's easier to be black than white in this country?

It's not that easy being green.

Would you trade?

In a heartbeat.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:45 PM on February 22, 2009


"You talk about people you don't know, and better yet you've managed to get inside what makes them tick..."

I hardly tried to psychoanalyze them. I didn't need to. What I'm pointing to is the extreme violent urges that this guy clearly illicits in so many people.

You and I both know that most of that is just talk for the vast majority of the angry audience... they vent righteous indignation, and go back to their lives. Unfortunately, though, there are some people like Limbaugh and others that exploit and feed this kind of anger... and sometimes, real people end up getting hurt, because some people do fight the culture war with actual violence.

You don't need to psychoanalyze anyone to know that using violence -- or simply trying to destroy another person's life -- in such a manner is wrong. And you don't need to know that people who encourage their audience to vent their hate on others are mentally hijacking their own people, whether they're American or Arab.

I certainly have no animosities with poor white people, many of whom are hardly "angry Americans". I wish them well, and think that many don't fall for such mesages, and aren't going to allow themselves to be painted as victims. Many will seize the power and potential that they have, to make sure that their kids get the kind of advantages that they never had. That hardly means that I'm a "bigot", as you claim, for pointing out that many whites -- not just poor, but middle class as well -- are cruising on fumes, and just not prioritizing education in the same manner as Asian Americans, for example.

Is it being a bigot to suggest that those who do not give learning proper respect, and do not care to learn from others, will likely learn only through their repeated failures... if then?

"I fight with family every fucking holiday over mostly harmless bigotry they exibit towards people different from them. Are they evil? . . . They're insulated, just like you are."

How would you define insulated? Is that anything like "lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified"?

I hate to tell you this, but I hardly "lack knowledge of the thing specified". I grew up in a small, rather white town known for its agriculture... and nothing else. Pretty much the only minorities that people dealt with were the families of latino farm workers, who kept largely to themselves. Education varied wildly... very few wanted to learn about science, math, or technology, but there was always something going on with Future Farmers of America. The big activities were local football, the local crop festivals, and the rodeo.

My wife's parents are white, rural poor who lived in Louisiana. They used to live in a house without indoor plumbing. But what changed all that was that despite their poverty, he joined the military, got a degree in electrical engineering, and made something of himself. Withn her family, there are some, like my wife, who have also advanced themselves in life... and others, like her brother, who never made a serious effort to educate himself, who's very much a redneck, who drinks too much, and who has really failed his kids. He's a nice enough guy, but that doesn't mean I don't feel he's letting himself and his family down.

So, no, it's not bigotry... I don't treat poor whites with hatred or intolerance. I grew up amongst many who were poor, some of whom were -- and still are -- my friends. One of my oldest friends was raised by a family of poor farmworkers, and he's now a public defender. Rather, I do not care to be particularly close to people who won't help themselves, or who blame others for their problems. That's just a recipe for futility.
posted by markkraft at 10:11 PM on February 22, 2009


You don't need to psychoanalyze anyone to know that using violence -- or simply trying to destroy another person's life -- in such a manner is wrong.

That much you and I can agree on. Your other points are far, but toned down. All I can say is how tired I am of hearing the same rhetoric used on one side as the other. Thank you for your thoughts.
posted by nola at 10:21 PM on February 22, 2009


Now, back to the question; are poor white people an exceptable group to stereotype, lambast, scapegoat and so on, for the sins of all the real people of power and substance in the world or not?

If poor whites weren't endlessly racist fucks who blame minorities for their own failures and vote for rich and powerful whites who don't give a shit about them, you might have a point.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:47 AM on February 23, 2009


If poor whites weren't endlessly racist fucks...

Condescend much?

Well, anyway, I've met more than a few "poor whites" who weren't racist fucks, and more than a few middle class-to-rich that were. Don't be a classist, Optimus Chyme.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:41 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are there really colleges that offer paintball scholarships?

One of the comments on TWOP
about this show explains that is a paintball manufacturer who offers a $5,000 scholorship:
In addition to having strong academic, extra curricular, and community service achievements, applicants must complete an essay which describes how their activities have positively impacted paintball's reputation within their communities, and how they will continue to create community enthusiasm for the sport while completing their college education. Examples might include promoting charity paintball events, programs that encourage people to try paintball, paintball awareness and safety campaigns, or community service projects attributed to the paintball community.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:58 AM on February 23, 2009


"If poor whites weren't endlessly racist fucks who blame minorities for their own failures and vote for rich and powerful whites who don't give a shit about them"

Lots of them aren't, and I think it doesn't help to generalize too much. That said, it's pretty fair to say that a disproportionate number of poor whites do hold themselves back through racism and through not taking personal responsibility for their and their family's education and future.

I don't like rhetoric like "endlessly racist", because that implies that they're beyond hope. I have a real problem with writing off poor whites, just like I would have a real problem writing off poor blacks, poor hispanics, etc.

Ultimately, it's going to take constant involvement, effort, and connection. Part of the reason people like Limbaugh howl so much and so loudly is that they see their influence threatened... and they don't like that. Southern governors are digging in their heels, so that they don't have to provide their state's unemployed federally-funded extended unemployment benefits.

Hopefully, their own constituents will draw the right conclusions here, especially when it effects their pocketbook. But it's going to take time, connection, and involvement to ultimately make a difference.

I think it's been helpful though to have Barack Obama as president, if only because there are signs of changes in attitudes. In Alabama, for instance, John McCain got 88% of the white vote -- about 8% more than Bush did against Kerry. And yet, Alabama recently gave Obama a 60% approval rating with only a 24% disapproval rating.

Considering that Bush ended his term with a 40% approval rating in Alabama and a 56% disapproval rating, that's not too bad, considering.

Alabamans aren't necessarily hateful and racist. They're just very segregated, oftentimes in a way that's supported by both the white and black community, and fearful of change, which has often been at their expense in the past.

I think Obama needs to keep regularly reaching out, and doing townhalls in the Appalachia and in the South, changing minds and working towards situations that get the white and black communities working together for a change.
posted by markkraft at 7:22 AM on February 23, 2009


"That said, it's pretty fair to say that a disproportionate number of poor whites do hold themselves back through racism and through not taking personal responsibility for their and their family's education and future."

... and this isn't to discriminate, because it can just as easily be said that poor blacks and poor latinos do the same thing.
posted by markkraft at 7:23 AM on February 23, 2009


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