Dan Savage’s Curse on Rick Santorum: Funny! But Wrong.

Former Senator Rick "Frothy Mix"

Rick Santorum, the former GOP senator and stalwart of social conservatives, recently announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Santorum’s chances of becoming president are somewhere between Newt Gingrich’s White House prospects and an ice swan’s odds of being a centerpiece in Hell, but they aren’t helped any by the results of a devastating prank inflicted on his image by syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage.  When you Google “Santorum,” the first result listed is this:

Santorum 1. The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex. 2. Senator Rick Santorum.

Santorum’s name was linked to a loathsome fecal discharge as well as anal sex by writer Savage as creative vengeance for Santorum’s infamous 2003 pronouncements against gay marriage, which compared homosexuality to bestiality, polygamy and pedophilia.  Savage, who is gay, took understandable umbrage at the remarks, and challenged readers to come up with an original and useful definition of the word “santorum.”  that would but the Senator in his proper, uh, place. The winning entry was the “frothy mixture,’ and Savage, true to his word, created a website to launch the definition into the language while forever tying the Pennsylvania senator to the very conduct he deplores.

As bloggers posted Santorum-related news on the site and linked to it from their blogs, Savage’s gag site eventually surpassed Santorum’s  campaign site during his 2006 re-election campaign, when he lost his Senate seat to Democrat Bob Casey. Now the increasingly publicized dual meaning of “santorum” follows the pious politician around like a dark, foamy cloud, with most of his core supporters unlikely to encounter it, but creating an unpleasent association for any potential fans new to the Santorum name.

Savage’s stunt effectively smeared Santorum with metaphorical fecal discharge without breaking any laws, and it was more successful that he imagined it could be in his wildest Sanatorium revenge fantasies. Dan Savage’s conduct reminds me of the scene in the remake of “Cheaper By the Dozen,” when the kids in Steve Martin’s large family persecute the detested boyfriend (Ashton Kutcher) of their oldest sister by soaking his underwear in hamburger, resulting in his being chased by a pack of dogs, nipping at his crotch. Sternly lecturing his brood on the error of their ways, Martin says, “You soaked his underwear in meat. That is so wrong. Funny! But wrong.”

Same here. I don’t blame Savage for being offended at Santorum’s opinion, but his response is the equivalent of fastening a “Kick Me!” sign to a foe’s back. The tactic is not direct confrontation, and it doesn’t give its target a fair opportunity to offer a defense. Yes, in many ways it is the perfect attack, but using the internet to harm someone’s image and reputation by manufacturing a revolting definition of his name that is unrelated to his life or personal conduct is an unfair and unethical tactic, no matter how many points it earns for irony, cleverness, and humor.

Savage, it seems clear, is interested in ruining Rick Santorum, not fairness. “Rick would have prevented me and my partner from being able to adopt my son,” he told Mother Jones. “If Rick Santorum wants to make a $5 million donation to  Freedom to Marry, I will take [the website] down. Interest starts accruing now.” This is probably not quite extortion, but its ethics, or lack of them, are the same.

When powerful people use their power irresponsibly, as Santorum has done in his anti-gay efforts, those whom they offend and injure tend to care less about fairness than they do about getting even. That’s what Dan Savage’s website is all about, and it’s natural that we be sympathetic, admiring, and amused, because what he did was understandable, ingenious, and funny.

But wrong.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Websites

4 responses to “Dan Savage’s Curse on Rick Santorum: Funny! But Wrong.

  1. Jeff

    I think I brought this up when you came up with the Fick thing. At least HE did something wrong, and in Savage’s eyes, so did Santorum, but yeah… a guy with the last name Savage treating his opponents cruelly and without respect by making a mockery of his last name… he’s living in a something of a glass house.

  2. Chase Martinez

    I agree… there’s plenty of frothy ammo to be had from Santorum’s social-issues platform without juvenile name-calling. I am every bit as offended as Savage whenever I hear these remarks, but I refuse to stoop to Santorum’s level.

  3. Did anyone stop to consider what kind of mentality it takes to come up with a insult of that nature? For most people, that’s where the gag reflex comes in. As for the other ethical considerations, I became aware of Savage and his website while visiting a Christian parents’ website about two years ago. It wasn’t a matter of his being mentioned there! What he had done was to usurp a link that children might well have used into a direct line to his site… in all its perverse glory. After all, going after children is a centerpiece of the homosexual agenda. I immediately warned the webhosts of this, who thanked me and promptly corrected the situation. But this creature still roams the internet, in spite of laws that should have prosecuted him for peddling filth to children.

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