by Christian Duque
First of all, I would like to emphasize one blatant point, Arnold Schwarzenegger is no stranger to the handling of feathers. He’s been in front of the cameras for more than half a century, be it for bodybuilding, film, politics and / or philanthropy. Not only does he understand how mainstream media works, but some might say he used many of the tactics they adopted before they even existed.
For example, prior to the 1990s, news anchors did not take news into account, they only reported on it. Often times one could not read a reporter’s personal prejudice; they spoke in monotonous voices and even their facial expressions were free from anger, sadness or indifference.
When you think of the movie Pumping Iron that put Arnold on the map, you’ll find that the picture wasn’t about bodybuilding, pre-contest, or posing. It wasn’t a documentary, it was a docu-drama. Many of the feuds between the leading stars were largely fabricated. It happened because a movie about brains battling for control of a sport no one had heard of wasn’t exactly sold out in theaters, but brains fighting like school kids was a whole different story.
Schwarznegger is keen on the power he wields and he knows exactly how to push people’s buttons when he wants. The fact is, Arnold is known for his openness and willful disregard for the rules. Like other politically active celebrities (e.g. Jesse Ventura), Arnold does not hold back and is keen on the power of soundbites. So I strongly believe that The Oak was exactly what The Oak wanted to say about the event or draw their support from it. Could this be the mistake of his career? Let’s discuss.
In many cases, when people jump in the hot water with the press, they say things like read the full article or watch the full video. This is a way of distracting from what is ascribed to them and putting the burden on the viewer. If the person has actually been taken out of context, looking at the bigger picture should minimize the resulting disdain; however, it is an equally useful bluff card. What I mean?
Let’s say someone actually said something terrible, they obliged the viewer to watch the full video, but they are counting on they won’t. To be honest, we live in a Soundbite age. People love to jump guns, make judgment and ask questions later. Challenging critics to dig deeper can usually disarm them because they won’t read anything that stings their face.
Also, it is seldom the case that the person making the insensitive remark basks in the backlash. That’s what I think is happening here. Arnold isn’t upset that we’re upset, he enjoys it. If he wanted to make a polite comment, he knew exactly how to do it. Remember, in addition to being the governor and movie star, he was married to a Kennedy. The Kennedys in America are closest to royalty. The Oak knows all too well how to be diplomatic and learned, but he wanted to fight. He wasn’t looking for politeness, he was looking for a fight. Screw Your Freedom is synonymous with giving the middle finger to all of its critics. He couldn’t have chosen a worse timing either. On the other hand, one person’s rubbish is the other’s treasure.
When the Taliban overran the Afghan capital, Kabul, and its president sprinted out of the country faster than Michael Johnson, the international press spread stories of true gloom and despair. The last haven in the whole country, the airport, has seen men and women go to rather extreme efforts to find freedom.
While thousands of Afghan citizens are ready to lose life and limb just to have a chance at freedom, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t give a shit on television. That’s enough to boil people’s blood even more. And when I say everyone, I mean exactly that. You have fans, business owners, media and officials who all view the world’s most popular bodybuilder with great disdain. That being said, he wanted your (our) attention and he got it. In his opinion, the only way to really grab someone’s attention in this day and age is to thoroughly insult them. Who knows, maybe he’s on to something, because everyone seems to have something to say – a typical example. Here I am writing an article that thousands of loyal Iron Magazine readers will read. Maybe that works, but Arnold could certainly find more productive means.
Besides, for all the people who talk about boycotting Arnold, never doing business with him again and turning their backs on him today, how many will actually support that in the future? It’s one thing to be upset at first, but is the bodybuilding world really going to turn up The Austrian Oak?
It’s really a tough decision in my opinion. I mean, while “The Arnold Classic” is apparently Arnold’s show, its involvement is minimal. In America, The Lorimer’s and The Lorz do it all. Other great people like Mike Davies do a lot of work for the event, which takes place every year in Columbus, OH. Arnold’s commitment is to walk around the expo, wave his hand, snap some photos, and visit the shrinking club of Golden Era bodybuilders who are still attending the event. It may be its namesake, but that’s all. From this perspective, boycotting the event doesn’t really have the same symbolic effect. He would lose money, but does anyone think Arnold depends on the money his competition brings in? After all, he was the star of Terminator. The money he makes from his events isn’t to be sneezed at, but I doubt if he loses any of that revenue, he’ll be eating cat food under Santa Monica Pier any time soon.
The fact is that the Arnold Classic this year (won’t have a fair), so maybe some companies won’t advertise, but from 2022 and the future we are talking about the largest fitness fair in the world. Does it make sense for supplement companies to skip this? For the participants, the Arnold’s wallet is only in second place after the Olympics. Does it make sense for competitors to refuse such a payday? For the fans … how many would actually pass up the chance to see the best physically sculpted athletes in the world show themselves at their best and fight on stage?
In the end, when you are principled, money and notoriety take a back seat. On the other hand, if Arnold had only played against all of us, you might reconsider. The fact is, Arnold loves America (otherwise he wouldn’t be here), he loves freedom, and respects the foundations on which our country is built. That is, he has no filter, he is insensitive and he has offended a lot of people. At the end of the day, we don’t all have to agree, but the goal is to be respectful. His rebuttal could be simple, fuck it – I’ll say what I want, when I want. And that’s fine too.
What do you think of Arnold’s screw your freedom comment? I look forward to reading your feedback.