Thursday, April 22, 2010

Snips and snails and gecko tales.

About that gecko...

I read today that GEICO has fired voice talent Lance Baxter AKA "D.C. Douglas", heard in several GEICO commercials, over some voice messages he left at FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks is a limited government advocacy group linked to the Tea Party. According to this article, Mr. Douglas left some nasty messages where he called Tea Party protesters "mentally retarded" and speculated whether protests would lead to someone getting killed. The article goes on to say that FreedomWorks then put Mr. Douglas's voice mail messages online and asked their supporters to call GEICO to complain resulting in the firing of Mr. Douglas.

This story has troubled me since I read it on Twitter via @teh_Dede. I don't like what Mr. Douglas did and what he had to say. He was wrong to do what he did, even though he says he was motivated by the belief that there were racial and homophobic slurs hurled during the Tea Party protest right before the health care bill vote. But did he deserve to have his messages publicized, his employer contacted (through a campaign) and then fired? I struggle with that answer, I really do. This reeks of scorched earth and tit for tat, and in my gut I feel it's wrong.

I don't have to like what Mr. Douglas has to say or what he believes. I don't want to defend it, and won't. But I do have to live in this country with people who will disagree with me AFTER I hope we see a big correction in our government leadership come November. I'd like to change hearts and minds, not bash over the head.

I've never been to a Tea Party protest, but I've always been proud of my fellow Americans, whom I've felt were representing me. They're great patriots to me and their interests are largely mine. They're out there showing the country that change can be brought through peaceful, thoughtful protest. This is what I want to continue to support and to associate with the Tea Party, or conservatism, for that matter. Getting people fired for relatively mild political statements doesn't fit those ideals for me, personally.

Now I know the Tea Party didn't do this. FreedomWorks and their supporters did. But they're going to be linked to the Tea Party as if the whole movement is behind it. That's the way the media works. Whether we, as supporters of this movement or conservatives in general, nod our heads in approval matters.

I am a proud Tea Party supporter and a political conservative.  I am not nodding my head.

ADDED: I tweaked the wording a little. I'm not trying to say this one thing will ruin the Tea Party movement or the conservative message. That would be silly of me. I'm saying that I feel a responsibility to say that I don't agree with this. On either side. And I hope it's a one-off thing and that conservatives and Tea Party advocates with a fair amount of power like FreedomWorks continue to focus on thoughtful protest and dialogue in hopes of persuading on the issues.

43 comments:

blake said...

Well, I reluctantly agree. Heh.

I think a lot of people have felt (and still feel) powerless, so they're going to lash out when they get a little?

But that's scorched earth which won't help us in the long haul.

Also, it's a bad target. It's not like the VO guy was some kind of high profile staist apparatchik; he's just a useful idiot who believes whatever bad things people say about those who are interested in reining in government power.

Now he's got a spotlight and possibly a career boost as a martyr.

So it's unkind, unwise and counter-productive.

(You changed my mind, can you tell?)

Jason (the commenter) said...

But did he deserve to have his messages publicized, his employer contacted (through a campaign) and then fired? I struggle with that answer, I really do.

I would say no. The Geico gecko voice actor is not a public figure and this happened on voice-mail. The proper thing to do, would have been to ignore it.

El Pollo Real said...

I would say no. The Geico gecko voice actor is not a public figure and this happened on voice-mail.

The fact that somebody like me can recognize something like "a Geico gecko voice actor" and distinguish that entity from random noise means that that person is rising to the level of a public figure.
Are celebrities (no matter how minor) public figures? Some certainly try to be.

The fuzzy questions for me are first, the legality of distributing voice-mail records and second, the firing itself.

As for tarnishing the TP movement? Nope.

Darcy said...

Thanks for the comments.

How do you know this doesn't tarnish people's opinions, El Pollo? I think what I call "the persuadables" get turned off by this.

Again, it's just my gut feeling. The guy didn't threaten anyone. He left an obnoxious but fairly mild political statement on the voice mail of a political org.

I don't want to see people losing their jobs over things like that. Conservatives, either.

Darcy said...

And if you have to amend your original thoughts, you failed in your message.

I'll try better next time.

Thanks for the thoughts, guys.

El Pollo Real said...

And if you have to amend your original thoughts, you failed in your message.

I'm not sure what you mean by that Darcy. Are you referring to your blogpost?

Darcy said...

El Pollo: Yeah.

I knew I should have stayed out of politics! :)

El Pollo Real said...

I knew I should have stayed out of politics! :)

No way Darcy. As for amending blogposts, I go back and fix honest grammatical mistakes on mine all the time. If I add anything substantial, I always just put a little "added" thingy. If you change your mind about an opinion on something for any reason, why can't your blog reflect that? Didn't this sort of thing used to happen in the editing stage? I guess Amba would know that.

Darcy said...

No, I just meant that my thoughts on this were a little complicated, El Pollo. And it seems to me that I may not have stated them as well as I could have.

DC Douglas said...

An excellent post. If you give me permission, I would like to refer to it in some interviews I have coming up.

Again, thanks.

Darcy said...

Hi, Mr. Douglas!

Thank you very much, and of course you can refer to my blog post.

Windbag said...

I've gone back and forth on this one.

Is he a public figure, warranting his activities fair game for full disclosure? Hmmmm, questionable.

He left a voicemail rather than talking to an individual. I think you can make a case for broadcasting it, since he willfully left a recording of his sentiments on a device that he has no way of knowing who has access to it.

Contacting GEICO doesn't seem fair, since he didn't appear to be representing them, but GEICO is certainly smart to release someone who potentially has alienated roughly half of their customer base.

I guess I lean toward the sentiment that people are responsible for their actions, and he acted foolishly, so he has no one to blame but himself. Probably the deciding factor is his choice to leave a message on voicemail. If he had spoken to an individual, I think common courtesy would demand silence.

Darcy said...

Interesting, Windbag.

I think if you add to your reasoning the fact that what he did was essentially rant a bit and did not threaten or say anything particularly shocking, you can see why I'm troubled.

El Pollo Real said...

Well I just went over to D.C. Douglass's website and he has a pretty lengthy discussion of his motivations.

(1) He clearly states and insinuates that the Tea Party movement is something nefarious having been started by people in his view who do not share his outlook on politics.

(2) He loves calling the Tea Party "Tea Baggers" which I thought we were over but which clearly places him in a certain camp with a certain mindset in my view.

(3) He claims he's motivated by his revulsion for what he perceives as racism and homophobia in the Tea Party movement. He tries to make a case that that's what motivates the Tea Party people. I don't believe that he even recognizes or takes seriously any other possible motivations?

(4) He does make a compelling case that his recorded calls should not have been made public. I agree that they should have done that. I have changed my mind about whether he should have been fired. In my opinion, guys like Warren Buffet have no business wanting their companies associated with guys like this. But again, it's just my opinion.

Darcy said...

I read a bit as well over there. Not too much - it's disheartening for me to read? But it didn't change my mind about whether his messages should have prompted the actions and consequences that they did.

Thanks for looking into it and your thoughts, El Pollo. And for the tweet!

El Pollo Real said...

I agree that they should have done that.

Whoops! I meant to say that they shouldn't have released his voice messages. But I still changed my mind about them letting him go.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I heard about this on the Jerry Doyle talk show I listen to when I get home from work and they played the voice mail of this guy.

Personally I have no problem with what Freedom Works did. Freedom of speech means Congress can't prohibit you from speaking your peace, it doesn't mean you are immune from consequences from private parties. In other word, your right to free speech ends at my doorstep and for Mr. Baxter, his evidently was at the doorstep of Freedom House's message machine.

The thing with Baxter and many like him, they have this belief that you can just say the most henious crap about someone and walk away feeling all righteous about yourself and that you scored some kind of point.

As for Baxter's belief his voice mail should not have been made public my reaction is 'is he serious?' He voluntarily left a provacative message on their voicemail (if you heard it you'll know he was just making a statement and not asking for information) and then thinks that it should be private??

Anyway, his view of the Tea Party is biased to the point that nothing would change his opinion and that's fine. I'm just not going to shed tears that he set himself up to be the poster boy for what is wrong with liberal thinking today.

Oh and hi Darcy! :-)

Windbag said...

Darcy,

I totally agree that it's troubling. In our hyper-sensitive culture, any perceived breach of etiquette is potential fodder for the grievance squad. With YouTube, cell phones, and this wonderful Internet, the most mundane elements of our lives may be broadcast to the world for our vilification and the world's delight.

You're spot on pointing out that he didn't threaten, just ranted. In a perfect (or at least saner) world, it would be shrugged off. In our polarized society, everything seems to have become fair game.

Troubling, indeed.

Darcy said...

Hi, Hoosier Daddy!

You know, I understand where you're coming from, but I think Windbag gets more of my point. It's not exactly about feeling sorry for the guy...

(*Well, let me say with an asterisk here, that I do, and get back to that)

it is about, for me, whether this is what we really want? In this case, it is not what I want to see, for the reasons I tried to articulate.

*Getting back to my asterisk, I should say here that I do feel bad for Mr. Douglas. (That is him in the comments.) He lost work over this, and I'm sure he felt that. Also, I wrote an email to him before I wrote this blog post, and I got a very nice reply back. I don't want to reveal private commuications, but it probably contributed to my sorrow for him over the loss of work.

blake said...

Hooser,

I think we can agree that Mr. Baxter is a douchenozzle, and also an idiot for having left a recorded message where it could be used against him.

(Heh, I wonder if he's reading the comments. *waves* Not gonna apologize to someone who feels comfortable smearing as racists people whose main concern is freedom.)

At the same time, I think Darcy is right: It was, minimally, a classless move done out of spite or vengeance. Maximally, it was making it personal unnecessarily.

This is a bad idea, even if it's part of the statists' playbook (which it is). Baxter is a good voice over guy, and probably a real pro at his work (most VO guys are). His political views aren't relevant most of the time, and taking it to him that way is part of the culture we should want to fight. This, too, is part of freedom—and before people start talking about how the government wasn't involved, anyone who has ever been in a public dispute with a statist should get that that's not the point.

Baxter's own tactic: Personally impugning political enemies as racist would be murderers/terrorists is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be dialed back. We have to insist on our POV, calmly, without wavering, and without the idea that political disagreements should be resolved by destroying our opponents' lives.

That's their strategy, and the solution is to have courage, not to mimic it.

Falahime said...

I can't even decide where I stand on this...just some thoughts:

1) (I think) Geico customers have the right to know if their money is paying a kook's wages;

2) I don't think they should have encouraged people to demand he be fired. Let people cancel their insurance and express their feelings that way;

3) It's my understanding this wasn't a "personal" voicemail. If you leave an antagonistic/inflammatory voicemail to an agency/group, expect it to be open to anyone;

4) I believe in the freedom of speech but be prepared to back it up. If he really believes these things, shouldn't he WANT everyone to know?

5) Which brings me to...maybe pulled a Kanye and did it for the publicity; he's getting a lot of talk and blog hits from this, so maybe the group should have just filed the recording away and written him off as a loser who feels the need to attack people via voicemail.

Jimmie said...

I disagree in two areas.

First, at some point decent folks have to stand up against the bullies who believe they have the unfettered right to smear anyone they want without consequence.

FreedomWorks did contact Baxter and give him a chance to iron things out. He decided to play the smart-aleck and blow them off. If he was truly remorseful for his actions, that would have been the time to show some. He didn't. Heck, he still doesn't.

I also get that Baxter thinks the Tea party movement is chock-full of racists and homophobes, but that doesn't excuse his behavior. Not only was he acting out of meanness, he was also acting ignorantly. Even a small amount of research somewhere that wasn't the Huffington Post would have shown him that there was far more to the matter than he knew. Perhaps applying some of the intelligence he seems to have would have tempered his behavior.

Regardless, I don't have a single problem with what FreedomWorks did. He was rude, unapologetic, and operating under the misapprehension that he could act without consequence. None of that should merit our mercy.

Darcy said...

Hi Jimmie!

Could you point me to where you read that FreedomWorks contacted him and how it refers to them giving him a chance to iron this out? I missed that, and would like to read it.

Darcy said...

Hi, Falahime!

Regarding your first thought: I'm just leery to go there, in this case. In other words, the criteria for determining whether a company employs a "kook" - I can see that being abused on both sides.

For instance, I have a very liberal brother, whom I love very much, who probably thinks along the same lines as Mr. Douglas. (Except about his sister, who he thinks is just gullible. lol)

Should my brother's employer be told what a "kook" he is? I realize I'm personalizing this, but I think we all have a friend or a family member along these lines. And they would just flip this statement, by the way, if they were inclined to be charitable to us.

Darcy said...

I want to expand further and say that I still don't think (without more information) that this rose to the level that required the action that FreedomWorks took.

Now, I do understand Jimmie's argument, but I think Blake and Windbag offer the opposing view of that very well.

Yes. We probably need to be a little more willing to fight harder than we have been in the past, for the stakes couldn't be higher at this point.

But where we choose to fight harder is the question here. I don't think this is it.

blake said...

First of all, Falahime, as a kook, I'd prefer people not decide whether to cut off my livelihood based on my kookiness, political or otherwise.

KOOKS UNITE!

*kaff*

Second, Jimmie, why does he have to be remorseful? Why does he have to apologize? What's it to Freedom Works if there's (yet another) guy out there who swallows whatever the PR is?

I mean, really? "Apologize or we'll make life hard for you and your employer."

This movement—and one reason I don't think this tiny instance is a big deal, except symbolically—is based on people—lots and lots of people—waking up to the peril of Big Government, as many of us (former kooks, now trendsetters) have been arguing for years.

What does this get us? Who gets convinced of the peril of Big Government by Freedom Works getting some guy fired? You don't have to feel sorry for the guy; just ask if an action like this opens minds or closes them.

bill said...

I agree with blake's last comment and would add...

regarding the comment of Hoosier Daddy @ April 22, 2010 10:30 PM; this is the attitude I have the most problem with. It's too much like the cases of people being targeted and their businesses boycotted because their name was on a petition. Or disagreeing with someone's blog, so you decide to uncover their identity and then complain to their company and try to get them fired.

People should be allowed to air their views, no matter how poorly, without the fear of a gang trying to destroy them. Disagree with them, call them names, if that makes you feel better. But don't adopt the politics of witch hunts.

Michael Hasenstab said...

Mr. Baxter is conflating the non-commercial use of his GEICO character voice with his hatred of Tea Party politics and the beliefs of Tea Party members. Shame on him for trying to paint himself as a victim.

His current circumstances are entirely a result of his own bad judgment, nothing more.

Lance Baxter has the right to say any damn thing he wants to say, but in his own voice.

What he says in the voice of the GEICO character he is paid to play is limited to what GEICO wants that character to say, whether in commercials or voice messages.

Voice actors sign agreements that limit how their character's voice will be used, and the contracts prohibit the character's voice being used except in the context of it's intended use.

For example, have you ever heard a voice from The Simpsons being used in any context other than a Simpsons TV show or the Simpsons movie? Nope.

The same is true with the voice characters used in movies. Ever hear Shrek's voice used in any context other than a Disney movie or commercial? Again, nope.

Mr. Baxter needs to take responsibility for his actions rather than blaming Freedom Works.

Darcy said...

Hi Michael!

His voice in the GEICO commercials is just a regular voice, I believe. Not the gecko. Though I may have confused people by my titling of this post.

I'm interested in anything you read, though. I've only read DC's blog and a couple of articles.

Michael Hasenstab said...

Perhaps Mr. Baxter would be more happy if he worked for Progressive Insurance.

Progressive's chairman, Peter Lewis, has made donations to America Coming Together, MoveOn.org, The ACLU and the Democrat Party.

Mr. Lewis is an advocate of taxing and regulating the use and sale of marijuana and is one of the main financial backers of the campaigns to legalize the use of marijuana for medical use in the U.S.

Progressive Insurance sounds like a place where a progressive guy like Mr. Baxter would feel wanted and needed.

And about Flo.....well, I'm just shocked! I thought she was a Tea Party member.

Darcy said...

Aww...I love Flo! Don't tell me she's a commie! I don't wanna know. LOL

Darcy said...

And Bill! Thanks for adding your 2 cents, and nice to see you here.

Beth said...

I guess I should get busy working on getting that Adam Baldwin guy fired from Chuck for his right-leaning tweeting.

Or not.

I'm with you, Darcy; it was a crappy move, and it would be crappy if the political affiliations were reversed.

I don't want any role in political discourse that has weenies running around getting people fired for saying mean things to them.

Peter V. Bella said...

Freedom Works only did what the so called Progressives have been doing for years- contacting companies over slights and getting people fired or advertising yanked.

They are using the opposition tactics against them because they work and the get publicity.

When progressives do it there is no condemnation or questioning of motives. Let some Conservative do it and there is angst and hand wringing.

Darcy said...

Beth! Peter!

Thanks for the comments. :)

bill said...

When progressives do it there is no condemnation or questioning of motives. Let some Conservative do it and there is angst and hand wringing.

You've never been around anyone complaining about progressives?

Trooper York said...

Whenever we visit our daughter in Florida these nasty little lizards are over the place. Since I am the only one who grills, when I fire it up they come running out like cockroachs on Jeremy's kitchen floor when he turns on the light.

I say fire them all! No rights for lizards! BBQ their gizzards!

So there!

Trooper York said...

Nice to see you blogging again.

Hoosier Daddy said...

regarding the comment of Hoosier Daddy @ April 22, 2010 10:30 PM; this is the attitude I have the most problem with. It's too much like the cases of people being targeted and their businesses boycotted because their name was on a petition.

Wait what? Did you listen to the voice mail? It wasn't a matter of merely signing a petition, he deliberately left a provacative voice mail insulting (essentially calling the Tea Party people retards) and that's the equivalent of signing a petition?

See this the problem I have with debating politics anymore because it seems like you can say 'look the sky is blue' and someone will interpet that to mean "Frankenstein isn't scary." I mean if you think what he did is the equivalent of signing a petition then I'm not sure I have enough stamina to run to the point where we'd have middle ground to have a logical discussion.

El Pollo Real said...

Nice to see you blogging again.

Echo that!

Darcy said...

Trooper! Aww, you guys are sweet.

So I watch Mr. Baxter on Geraldo shortly after I posted this. Let's just say what he said was pretty mindless bashing. I know he feels a victim here, but paying attention a little bit outside of MSNBC and Huffington Post for your news would shed a little more light into his ideas of the Tea Party movement.

Anyway, I was annoyed and maybe embarrassed for a moment that I'd gone to bat for him. But you know what? It really doesn't matter. Emotions aside, it didn't alter the facts as I saw them one bit.

Maybe I'm just stubborn that way. :)

Trooper York said...

Hey not to interupt the Chinese guys but I am sorry your boy lost his perfect game. I am gonna keep my eye on him. Maybe in three or four years he might be right for a bullpen spot on the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

This says it all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMUVFctJ2Xw