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Why it’s never smart for a politician to whine about how badly he’s treated

Timothy Kincaid

July 27th, 2011

If you don’t want people to say mean things about you, don’t go into politics (or blogging). And when they do (and they will) it is never smart to whine about the mean mean meanies who are so mean to you. Not only will you gain no sympathy or new support, but then everyone will be repeating all those mean things and chuckling.

But former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. And he had been the subject of a cruel (but well deserved) prank for a very long time.

After Santorum’s vile statement in 2003 in which he discussed his support for anti-gay sodomy laws in terms of bestiality and incest, Dan Savage decided to have a little fun. He held a contest for a new definition for “santorum” and the winner was:

    The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.

A Spreading Santorum webpage was set up for tracking the extent to which the new definition could be detected in culture and it was clever enough that it drew web traffic placing it as the first listing when “santorum” was googled. And so there it sat as the first result through the rest of Rick Santorum’s term as Senator and his failed reelection bid.

But with his presidential campaign, there was a pretty good chance that eventually “Rick Santorum for President” along with news articles about the campaign would have gotten the traffic necessary to push the aging joke off of the front page. And it likely would have, were it not for the actions of two people.

First, Savage encouraged his readers to go back and select the link to keep it active in the Google search matrices. Enough responded to keep Savage’s santorum link in place ahead of the candidate’s page. In fact, the campaign site was fourth, after a Wikipedia article and another site’s reference to Savage’s definition.

But the real boost to Spreading Santorum came from none other than Rick Santorum himself. On July 18 he went on a radio show to complain about the way he was being mistreated by Savage and in addition to some recent comments also noted the website. And then someone with a whole lot of hero worship and no political sense must have advised the next move: Santorum sent out a fund raising letter with the following sentence:

Remember this is not the first time Savage has attacked us on our stance of supporting American values. Savage and his perverted sense of humor is the reason why my children cannot Google their father’s name.

And when this letter was published on Politico on July 20, which turned into articles in the media, just what do you suppose that people did? Obviously they set out to find out why you couldn’t google “Santorum”.

But July 22, the presidential campaign link had dropped to eighth place behind:

The campaign site has now moved back up into sixth place. But Savage is goading Rick Santorum, threatening to make his first name into a vulgar word as well. I guess now we’ll have to wait and see if Sen. Santorum is so very incredibly stupid that he bites at the bait.



July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Honestly stated, I wondered where the phrase “Frothy Mix” came from, and now I know. OMG! Way to go Savage!!!

As I don’t believe Santorum can avoid putting his foot in his mouth – after all he IS a politician – it may be sooner than we think when he messes up worse than he already has.

Now, where IS that clown car?

July 27th, 2011 | LINK

I love karma.

July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Santorum is definitely not presidential material, by either definition.

July 27th, 2011 | LINK

With that kind of fund-raising prowress, it is so surprising that he couldn’t clear $600K last quarter – not!.

Timothy Kincaid
July 27th, 2011 | LINK


You might say that Santorum’s karma ran over his dogma

Richard Rush
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

I’m apparently the only one who feels this way:

I like Dan Savage, but I loath his definition of Santorum, and the website devoted to it. I think it actually aids our opponent’s efforts to keep people focused exclusively on sexual mechanics, and not on the human affection and love. I had wished it would stop long ago, and that the website would be removed – but now it can’t be removed because it would look like caving in to pressure.

I think Dan Savage has a good mind, and usually has helpful insightful things to say. But “Santorum” was not one of them, in my opinion.

Edgar Manhattan
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Santorum’s description is slipping a little on Google Search – the politician must be paying people to change it’s ranking, or organizing religious bigots to change it’s ranking.

Some of us think it’s a brilliant way to keep Mr. Santorum’s bigotry out where the general public can’t miss it. It’s not the definition, but the discussion about the definition, that’s important.

If you agree – Click here to help restore it to it’s rightful place!

July 28th, 2011 | LINK

This was Rick’s Hail Mary pass basically, to keep his name in the papers and exploit the victim card that conservatives love so much. Unfortunately for Rick, conservatives don’t much like him either, so it’s not really working. But I don’t really think his idea was “dumb”, per se, just unsuccessful.

Timothy (TRiG)
July 28th, 2011 | LINK


Clicking on links doesn’t really help. How does Google know how often I visit that site? What helps is making the links. (And making the from legitimate, high-value websites, which have plenty of links to them themselves.)


July 28th, 2011 | LINK

I agree with Richard Rush. Santorum is vile and deserved it, but Dan Savage did a disservice to the gay community by not taking the high road.

Priya Lynn
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Richard said “I’m apparently the only one who feels this way:”.

Well, you gave me something to think about. I originally thought the definition of Santorum was a great joke, now I’m not so sure.

July 28th, 2011 | LINK

@Richard Rush, Erin and Priya Lynn:

Straight people have anal sex, too.

Priya Lynn
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Yes, I know Rodolfo, I’m just not sure reminding people of the messy details of any kind of sex between any two people is going to get a postive response.

Stan Wright
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Rick Santorum doesn’t have the wit to prevail in a google showdown against Dan Savage.

July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Dan Savage has managed to keep alive and well the “ick” factor that so many people default to when thinking about the mechanics of anal intercourse. I do not have such issues but many people still do and this wasn’t really all that helpful in the long run, funny as the whole thing has been.

In the film version of Celluloid Closet Quentin Crisp gives the best explanation I think: “And when you contemplate what people do, you think of yourself doing it. And they don’t like that. That’s the famous joke: I don’t like peas, and I’m glad I don’t like them, because if I liked them I would eat them and I hate them.”

Well said Mr. Crisp.

July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Here in the UK we have a word for people like Santorum. It’s “pillock”.

(Interestingly, I just checked the etymology and apparently pillock comes from the Norwegian word pillicock, meaning “penis”. This is, rather obviously, the meaning of the other short-form of Richard Santorum’s first name. Rick by name, dick by nature!)

Richard Rush
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

In the same way that Donald Trump is known as “The Donald,”
couldn’t Rick the Dick Santorum just be known as The Dick?

July 28th, 2011 | LINK

@Richard Rush:

You’re not the only one. I’ve thought it unfunny and unhelpful since it began. I couldn’t believe the giggling immaturity of it.

A definite lapse of judgment on the part of Savage.

Mark F.
July 29th, 2011 | LINK

Yes, Dan Savage didn’t help things with this stupid “joke.”

July 29th, 2011 | LINK

“@Richard Rush, Erin and Priya Lynn:

Straight people have anal sex, too.” …And that makes it ok to use childish personal attacks because…? Again, Santorum is vile and deserved what Dan Savage has done to his name, but every time Dan Savage goes on tv or makes an internet video or writes a blog about why it’s wrong to denigrate gay people, the far right has what he did to Santorum to show the people on the fence about the issue. It’s those people we should all care about, and we should be trying to win them over with civil discourse. No, we do not have to be silent and pretend Mr. Santorum does not engage in hate speech when it comes to us, but we don’t have to sink to his level either.

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