Obnoxious comedian Gilbert Gottfried was fired as the spokesduck for Aflac after a series of cringe-worthy tweets he rapidly deleted from his feed. Most people agreed they were in bad taste, but then I wondered: isn’t making a butt load of money voicing the mascot of a for-profit insurance agency kind in bad taste as well?
Since these types of jokes are Gottfried’s bread and butter, the whole affair begs the question of who Aflac thought they were hiring in the first place. But those saying Gilbert should get his job back miss the point. Aflac doesn’t care about supporting comedians or free speech. They exist to make money for their shareholders by providing people supplemental insurance and doing everything that they are legally allowed to do to hold on to the money they are given. They employ complicated calculations to determine the risk and profitability of insuring potential clients, and they made a very simple calculation with Gottfried: firing their spokesman for offensive jokes ridiculing people in a country where they do a lot of business would end up being more profitable than not firing him.
There’s been a rash of media firings from ill-advised tweets in the last year. As a semi-public media figure myself, it kind of worries me. Internet campaigns over controversial cartoons have resulted in outlets dropping cartoonists (See: Ted Rall’s “Terror Widows”). Now we are adding impulsive tweets to the list of fireable offenses. I’ll have to stay away from it if I’m wasted and not work for any insurance agencies.
Time allowing, I’ll have a third cartoon this week touching on the energy issues the crises in Japan has brought up.
Wednesday: Bombs away!”