Air Idiotica —
There’s a lot of bullshit out there. People do incredibly stupid things to get noticed, like making up stories of obnoxious airline passengers named Diane who throw a fit over a Thanksgiving Day flight home. Reality show producer Elan Gale did just that, including fabricated notes to and from “Diane.” It was a bizarre spectacle as Gale eventually admitted that he made the whole thing up.
Who knows what actually inspired Gale to weave such a fantasy fight on Twitter. Maybe there was an obnoxious person who Gale wanted to confront, but didn’t have the courage to actually do it. Maybe he’s a pathological liar. Whatever the case, it’s puzzling.
I find it equally puzzling that there are people who write these elaborate, insult-laden first-hand accounts of having survived a flight seated next to a fat person, what with the spilling and the squashing and the horrible, horrible smells. It’s a favorite genre of fat haters who want fat people to know that they are loathed beyond all rationality both on the ground and in the air.
I’ve written previously about the thriving community of fat hate on reddit, where people post their encounters with real, live fat people. They refer to these fatties as “hambeasts” or “hamplanets” or “hamwhatever” because their little cluster of brain cells get so tired just trying to come up with new compound hamwords (seriously, 50,000 members and they’ve got, like, six insults for fat people).
So I’ve read enough of these scathing reports to recognize the embellishments of fatty lore. They typically include a fat person who is either stuffing their face, dripping with sweat, rude as fuck, hating thin people, declaring themselves perfect specimens of health or all of the above. Are they made up? Not all of them, but there’s no way to be sure which are fictional accounts. But even assuming all the encounters actually happened, there’s the reward on reddit of upvotes for embellishing an innocuous interaction for humorous effect. And no complaint is more popular or more likely to evoke public rage than fatty airplane stories.
But what if the reward were greater than just upvotes? What if you’re a blogger who got a taste of viral success and want to recreate that magic? Then sitting next to a fat person on your flight might be a great inspiration to stir up the hornets nest of Fat Acceptance people and get some viral attention. That’s the distinct impression I got from Dick Wisken’s account of his experience on the Australian airline JetStar, to which Dick penned his open letter. It starts like this:
Do you like riddles? I do, that’s why I’m starting this letter with one. What weighs more than a Suzuki Swift, less than a Hummer and smells like the decaying anus of a deceased homeless man? No idea? How about, what measures food portions in kilograms and has the personal hygiene of a French prostitute? Still nothing? Right, one more try. What’s fat as f***, stinks like shit and should be forced to purchase two seats on a Jetstar flight? That’s right, it’s the man I sat next to under on my flight from Perth to Sydney yesterday.
And you can only imagine where it goes from there.
I first stumbled across this story on Facebook with a tip from Lauri Owen to this link.
There’s a few interesting things about this particular link. First, is the use of a photo that dates back to 2009 of a very large man partially blocking an aisle on a plane. It was taken during boarding, so we don’t know how this situation was resolved, but we know it’s against FAA rules to take off like this.
All we know about Dick Wisken’s experience is his side of the story, complete with his description of the other passenger as infant hippopotamus, fleshy boulder, the beast, Jabba the Hutt, fat mess, and human blubber. You would think from his vocabulary that Dick Wisken is a 12-year-old mean girl, but no.
In reality, he’s, like a 16-year-old dog-fucker. A 16-year-old dog fucker who shops in the Pee-wee Herman section of Myer Department Store.
But yeah, let’s take this textbook dudebro’s word for it and use this image…
… so readers immediately associate Dick’s story with a guy this size.
The other thing about this article that’s weird is that the author simultaneously attempts to shame Dick Wisken for his letter and lend him credibility. Here’s the shame for Dick:
Wisken, who thinks he is funny, posted a letter describing his horrific journey and the missive went viral.
Did the plane crash or was it forced from the sky?
No, Mr. Wisken says he was cramped in his seat.
Oh dear, what a tragedy.
What society needs more of is compassion, kindness and understanding.
Wisken is not shy about letting his cruel flag fly.
Then they attach the letter below, telling readers to “Read it and then want to shower.” So, they seem to think Wisken’s an asshole, and yet just before this, the author says that Wisken was “crushed almost to death by his airline neighbor.” To death? Really? Why is Progressive Populaist really trying to help Wisken sensationalize his already unbelievable story?
What’s unbelievable about it? Well, let’s start with the fact that in his account, the airline stewardesses are clichéd ditzy morons (one of whom he describes as having “some form of mental impairment”) who refuse to help poor, oppressed Dick Wisken. Specifically, Dick asked to use “one of the six vacant seats at the back of the aircraft,” but was told it was for crew only. Then, on his way back to his seat, he considers trying to find another seat on his own, but “unfortunately everyone with a row to themselves was now lying down.”
Okay, so we’ve got a budget airline that is not packed to capacity and yet the airline, which has no doubt had to accommodate fat passengers in the past, wouldn’t move Dick or the man beside him? Dick later notes that when he went to the bathroom, the six “crew only” seats were occupied by non-crew members. But here’s the thing: Dick describes it as “both ‘crew-only’ rows.”
So Dick Wisken’s flight was on a plane that had three seats per row, with the six “crew only” seats comprising two rows in the back of the plane. And based on his own description, there is more than one row further up the plane that is occupied by a single passenger, meaning there are at least four additional free seats. Does anyone else find it odd that in an era when airlines are notorious for packing as many people in as possible, Dick Wisken had trouble switching seats on a plane with at least ten open seats?
Nah, let’s just run this hilarious news story about an asshole complaining about fat people on airplanes.
But when the media reports it, they can’t just say “Hey everybody, check out this hilariously cruel, one-sided account by some anonymous doucheblogger because fat people flying, amirite?” No. In order to make this a “news” story without coming off as aiding and abetting said douchebag, the media frames it as an “hilariously cruel, one-sided account by some anonymous doucheblogger goes viral.”
It’s an easy way to stoke the flames of contempt for fat people (which is no doubt great clickbait) while appearing to be objective and “newsy.” I can hear the editor’s defense now, “What? We’re just reporting the controversy and republishing the letter for our readers. It’s not like WE made it go viral.”
I only wish the editors of these publications had taken a hint from this World News subreddit, where an anonymous redditor (whose profile has been deleted) namechecks Dick Wisken in his submission (as though the mere mention of Dick Wisken adds value to this story) and gets some hilarious blowback.
It’s not just that Dick Wisken’s letter isn’t world news; it’s not news at all. The fact that there are terrible people who write juvenile tirades about their shitty experiences on an airplane isn’t news. The fact that there are lots and lots of other terrible people who enjoy reading juvenile tirades like this isn’t news. What makes this news is the fact that news organizations can’t pass up a “fat people are terrible” story if they can give it the thinnest veneer of newsworthiness.
If these news sources actually want to report news, perhaps they should try and track down Dick’s evil fat man and get his side of the story. I mean, if this story is so important, then why not take the time to track down the stewardesses who can confirm or deny Dick’s claims? Oh, that’s right, it’s enough to let the Elan Gales of the world generate a huge buzz, only to out themselves as charlatans later.
Dick Wisken likes going viral. He’s only accomplished it one other time when he wrote a mildly amusing advertisement for his shitty car. He’s so proud of that moment, that he’s still pointing folks back to it on Twitter and he even recently wrote a one-year anniversary post on his Facebook page to commemorate it.
The funniest thing about this Facebook post is that a site called Hollywood Gossip says, “Rich Wisken makes his living as a comedian.” Ah, yes, the age old story: millions of adoring fans are clamoring to get tickets to the sold out Dick Wisken show, but good ol’ Dick just wants a job in advertising.
Since his car advert fame, Dick has been desperately trying to recreate that old viral magic, creating another mock advertisement for the Sydney Writers’ Festival or writing a disgusted review of KFC’s Zinger Pie (Google it, as I’m not giving this dipshit free clicks). This latter attempt was his closest viral success to date, as it’s been shared on Google Plus over three times!
Sadly, Dick hasn’t been able to recreate the success of his original viral sensation. Until now.
Now, by writing an unverifiable and factually dubious account with the tone and tenor of a troglodyte on his fifth pass through eighth grade, Dick Wisken has captured the imagination of douchebags everywhere and become the hero reddit has been waiting for.
But here’s the best part of this whole situation. In his letter, Dick Wisken demands that JetBlue compensate him for his experience:
[T]hat’s why I’m demanding a full refund of my ticket, including the $25 for an emergency row seat. I’m also looking to be compensated for the physical pain and mental suffering caused by being enveloped in human blubber for four hours. My lower back is in agony and I had to type this letter one-handed as I’m yet to regain full use of my left side. If I don’t recover completely, I’ll have to say goodbye to my lifelong dream of becoming Air Guitar World Champion. If that occurs, you will pay.
Okay, got that? To make up for his horrific, painful, disgusting experience, Dick DEMANDS a full refund of his ticket (which is typically a few hundred bucks), the extra $25 he paid for an emergency seat, AND additional compensation for pain and suffering.
Two days after writing this letter, Dick updated his site to say that his JetStar flight from Sydney to Melbourne was canceled twice and delayed a third time. Of course, Dick complained to JetStar about this as well, and he got the following response from the company:
Could it be because JetStar knows Dick is full of shit? Could it be that they’ve interviewed the stewardesses Dick debased and found that his claim of ten open seats on a budget airline was bullshit? Could it be that, like Elan Gale, Dick Wisken knows that he can just make shit up and there will be gullible jackasses lining up to believe him? That’s up to you to decide.
Flying while fat is a problem when passengers don’t fit into those incredibly shrinking seats, but there are viable solutions, like converting a row of three seats into two seats and selling tickets at 1.5x the cost of a regular ticket. These seats could be prioritized for fat people, but also be available for travelers with physical disabilities or children.
Air travel comfort is an issue for people of all sizes. The times I’ve flown, I’ve had to sit next to thin people who also smelled terrible or who talk to me the whole time while I’m trying to read or who monopolize the armrest or who are just inconsiderate jackasses. But you know what I don’t do? Run home and write a blog post about how horrible those people are and send it to as many people as possible and celebrate my epic doucheness. And this world would be a far better place if we didn’t reward those who actually do.