We haven’t spent much time discussing the controversy over Daniel Tosh’s rape joke here because literally everyone else on the Internet seems to have that pretty much covered (“It’s stupid!” “It’s serious!” “It was just a joke!” “It was more than just a joke!” “How does this relate to the state of comedy in America? Here are 5,000 words about it!”). Which, you know, fine. The whole point of Freedom of Speech is that somebody gets to say something, then other people get to respond, then other people get to respond to the people who responded, and eventually all that dialogue and sharing of ideas will end up making our society more informed and therefore stronger. I am 100% on board with all of that. But one particular part of this controversy has been driving me straight up a damn tree, and it needs to be addressed: Stop calling it “Tosh-Gate.” In fact, stop adding “-gate” to the end of words altogether.
A brief refresher: The Watergate scandal took place in the 1970s. It involved political operatives breaking into the Waterate complex in Washington D.C. to place wiretaps in the Democratic National Committee headquarters, and the subsequent attempts by the administration of President Nixon to cover it all up. It was one of the biggest scandals in the history of our country, resulting in a massive government sh-tstorm that ended with Nixon’s resignation. Since then, for whatever the hell dumb reason, it has become popular shorthand to tack “-gate” onto the end of a word to indicate some sort of scandal. This is stupid for a number of reasons:
- Watergate was not a scandal about water. It was the name of the place where the scandal originated. The events that have taken place since then imply that we would now call it “Watergate-gate.” That is incredibly stupid.
- The Watergate scandal was a BIG HONKING DEAL. I mean, the president had to quit because of it. That just doesn’t happen. Think of all the other scandals presidents have been involved in before or since: JFK may have stolen the election, Reagan’s administration was involved in shady arms deals, Clinton got a blowjob in the Oval Office and lied about it, etc. None of them had to resign. Comparing it to a comedian saying something mean to a woman in the audience — however you feel about it — is just silly. Unless of course the comedian in question was also the sitting president, and he was forced to step down because of it. Then, by all means, fire away.
- It happened 40 years ago. Forty. And yet we’re still trotting out this lazy “So-and-so was caught with a prostitute. What is your take on Hooker-gate?” garbage. Be original! Be creative! Or at least take the 20 seconds to write out “the controversy involving hookers.” You have the time. I swear to God, you do.
Thank you for your time.