A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Category: Giving the Finger Page 1 of 2

M.I.A. Doesn’t Give a Shit, Flips the Bird

Another nice gesture story in the news, although, sadly, it is once again about a performer giving the finger. This time it is the artist M.I.A..

M.I.A. giving the finger during Superbowl 46
M.I.A. giving everyone the finger during Superbowl 46 (Source BBC news – Getty Images)

Wikipedia (always good with the bare facts):
While performing with Madonna at the Super Bowl 46, M.I.A. gave the middle finger to a camera just before a cutaway during the halftime show. The gesture came during a performance of Madonna’s new single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” At the end of her lines, M.I.A. sang, “I don’t give a ***t.” The incident prompted apologies to be issued by NBC and the NFL.


A video of the incident (source Business Insider, hope they keep the video up)

One somewhat interesting element of the story is that apparently the gesture wasn’t picked up by the people responsible for detecting inappropriate stuff in the ‘delay system’. Well, it is fairly quick, but still easy to see. But then again, there is so much to see on the stage that perhaps they missed because they were looking at other things.

Nonviolent Gestures

Thanks to JL for these nice links to four strange gesture videos:


‘Nonviolent Gestures’ (comments are in Dutch)

As you can see in the fifth and last video these ‘gestures’ are part of a kind of hippie cult around the concept of nonviolent communication. Some people even created a Hyve for it (which is a Dutch version of Facebook).

Almost needless to say, I believe that our perceptual sensitivity to insults prevents this initiative to avoid ‘violent communication’ from succeeding. An insult is in the eye of the beholder and not in the message as such. If a non-violent communicator speaks hippie-talk to me, I will still be on the look-out for any disrespectful or derogatory undertones, and possibly end up feeling insulted anyway. Vice versa, I would much rather get a cheery finger from a card buddy if I just beat him in a game, then a solemn statement about his feelings. For all its good intentions, this nonviolent communication seems born out of frustration with humanity and a certain arrogance in thinking human nature could be improved with a few easy guidelines.

So, mister Rosenberg, please take your touchy-feely, softspoken message, stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine, and go **** yourself. Or should I say, I understand you have problems with fairly normal human communication, I see that you think you have found a better way for us, but I do not share your problem nor do I believe in your solution.

Ah well, perhaps I shouldn’t have written anything about it. If he reads my opinion he will probably be insulted anyway, no matter how I phrase it. Or he just thinks I am too dense to understand him. Or worse still, I am ‘part of the problem, not of the solution’.

Lehmann’s Perfect Finger Camouflage

Here is one of the nicest ‘Fingers in camouflage’ I have ever seen on video.

Offside Bundesliga: When confronted Lehmann said: “It’s nonsense. I’ve never done anything like that”. It supposedly happened after one of Lehmann’s risky trademark excursions outside of the box, during the Germany – Cyprus match on Saturday (4-0). The crowd in Hannover started Robert Enke chants. Enke happens to be Hannover’s goalkeeper and Jogi Löw’s current third choice behind Lehmann and Hildebrand.

Lehmann, whose workout was also a bit ambiguous for some, has shown himself a true master of the camouflaged gesture. Playing into people’s increased sensitivity he manages to insult those he wants to insult, while he can claim innocence in public. Bravo, a perfect grasp of the perception of insults.

Much better than Joe Nedney, who got a $7.500 fine (which is average, see these other fines for similar offences) for his lousy camouflage attempt:

Nedney ginving the finger
Clearly the man is scratching his head (source)

The only examples I have of an even more subtle camouflage is when a man painted an abstract work of art, a huge cactus, on the side of his house facing his (complaining) neighbors. They were highly offended, but he got away with it (and eventually removed it).

US Police vs. The Finger

Giving the finger to the police, it remains an interesting case. Earlier I wrote that the Dutch police had booked and fined a man for it, which was overturned in court by a judge.

Now, a similar thing has happened in Mobile, Alabama (USA). Philly.com brought the news: Mobile Appeals $3K Payment Over Gesture.

MOBILE, Ala. – The city of Mobile is appealing a judge’s decision to award $3,000 to a motorist who was arrested for making an obscene hand gesture to a police officer. City attorney Ashton Hill said Wednesday the city is seeking to have Addison DeBoi’s civil suit heard in circuit court.
On July 31, District Court Judge Michael McMaken ruled in favor of DeBoi in his wrongful arrest suit and ordered the police department to pay $3,000.
DeBoi, 56, was arrested by Officer Bristol Hines on Sept. 2, 2005, on a charge of disorderly conduct after he made a hand gesture while the two men were in their vehicles. He was acquitted last year and sued the city for $10,000 in damages, citing time lost from work, the threat of losing his engineering job , which requires a government security clearance , and the embarrassment of being put in jail.
In awarding him $3,000, the judge said police officers must have “thicker skin” than the general public.

The rulings by the judges in the Netherlands and Alabama are along the same lines: the police should be less sensitive about being insulted. Unfortunately, being sensitive to insults is probably required if you do not want your authority challenged. Sensitivity lies at the heart of the perception of insults, which is a very subtle process. If the police are instructed to ‘not be too sensitive’ it probably greatly hinders their functioning. After all, we all rely on their judgment in all sorts of situations regarding aggression, violence, or misconduct, which all require a policeman to rely on his personal perception of other people’s behavior. Why can’t we rely on them to judge whether someone was ‘insulting’?

On the other hand, I was once taught how to referee a football game by none other than Mario van der Ende (a well known referee in Holland). He said that verbal abuse was always flying around on the pitch, most of it directed at him. He recommended to pretend not to hear it the first time (tempers can fly). A second time he would rebuff the perpetrator with a sneer or mocking insult of his own. Only if that wouldn’t take care of it, a booking (yellow card) would be given. I think it made him one of the most respected referees in the competition.

Maybe respect is gained as much from restraint in handing out punishment as it is from punishment itself.

ps. I just finished this post when I saw that the UK police gave a man a 80 pound fine for giving the finger to a speed camera (and/or the cops operating it). I hope Simon Thompson (a respected citizen and school headmaster) will fight the decision, and let it go to court. I wonder whether the UK judge will follow the above examples from Alabama and the Netherlands.

Elsewhere: The legal history of the finger (also showing many examples of verdicts and appeals where fines for fingers are overturned and arrests judged to be wrongful) – Jalopnik

A Band called Obscene Gesture

I just found out that there is a trashcore (?) band called Obscene Gesture.

band
Don’t they look all tough and mean? (source)

And then that menacing gesture that is just ‘disgusting to the senses’, and/or ‘repulsive by reason of crass disregard of moral or ethical principles’.

These men-boys will have to watch out for the US laws on obscenity.

A final note: should their music be considered one giant musical gesture?

Context Changes Gesture Perception

Here is a movie of one very powerful bionic finger:

The question I want to put forward is: How much of the time is this guy actually gesturing? My guess would be that he does not really give anyone or anything the finger anywhere. He holds up his bionic finger for inspection, he talks to it as he watches it, he is using it as a scanner, fighting with in different ways, but he never actually flips the bird. He doesn’t really make the gesture. Therefore, besides being funny, this video neatly demonstrates how context changes the perception of (insulting) gestures.

Morrison fined $25,000 for giving the finger

Adam Morrison, a Canadian basketball player, was fined $25.000 for giving the finger to a nagging fan.

Finger in happier times
Well, it was probably another finger but nobody is hosting an image of the incident anywhere… (source)

Is this fine fair? Here are some exactly similar cases to help you decide a fair punishment:
* Zach Randolph (basketball, USA) was fined $133.333
* Mark van Bommel (football, Germany) was fined EUR6,200
* Michael Vick (American football, USA) was fined $10.000
* Ron Artest (basketball, USA) was fined $10,000
* Natasha Zvereva (tennis, Wimbledon) was fined $1,000
* Juan Pablo Montoya (NASCAR, USA) was fined $10,000

More on fines and jailtime for gestures

Czech PM Topolanek Denies Finger

The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek possibly faces a fine for giving the finger to another Czech politician KSÄŒM Deputy Vladimír KoníÄ?ek, who was offended by the gesture and filed a complaint.

Topolanek
Politicians, always trying to express their opinions carefully? (source)

(Prague Monitor) Topolánek unfurled an erect middle finger 2 February when opposition deputies complained about cabinet members’ absence from the parliamentary session. He later maintained that the gesture was directed at Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (KDU-ÄŒSL) and was intended to communicate, “You’re number one.” KoníÄ?ek rejected the PM’s explanation. “Deputy Topolánek performed the gesture behind my back in my direction. I have been offended and I want to instigate a disciplinary procedure,” KoníÄ?ek wrote in his complaint to the committee.

It’s not often you hear such a blatant denial of the insult intended, though it reminds me of Mick Bates. Usually people try to pass it off as innocent jest. But Topolánek’s explanation that he meant to say “you’re number one” is outright hilarious. I can think of a hundred ways of gesturing that someone is number one, OK, a Top Gun, an Ace, or my best buddy, but the digitus impudicus (known throughout the galaxy) is not one of them, I am afraid. I wonder what the sanction will be this time?

Update 22 feb: Czech PM Topolánek not fined, but reprimanded for obscene gesture

Ricky Martin Gives Finger to War Promulgation

It is thoroughly depressing that the man who is himself the most notorious finger giver on Earth is also a high profile receiver of the same insult. Yet another first place for the planet’s most hated, powerful, unbelievable executive manager; self-styled commander in chief of the armies of the West; the captain that laughs in the face of the dark hordes from the East: President George W. Bush.

Ricky Martin is now making headlines (VivirLatino, BBC, ABC, and countless copies) defending his action of giving the finger as he sang about Bush in a song in front of a big audience. Careful, Ricky, I can recall a bus driver getting fired over insulting the B that would be Big.


Latin Lover or Hero of Peace? (source)

Mr. Martin explains that he is against war, that Bush is making (or actually promulgating) war, and should therefore be condemned.

Well I guess that’s another way to interpret the gesture: Instead of saying “fuck off” or “go fuck yourself” Ricky Martin uses it to say “I condemn your behavior”. But I guess anyone who feels wordy enough to say ‘promulgate’ to the US masses, can get away with stretching the meaning of a gesture a bit. Funny, nobody seems to be hosting a picture or a video of the event. Anyone?

Zach Randolph fined $133.333 for finger to fans

Yep, it’s another basketballer giving the finger to the crowd. One more for the collection of insulting gestures caught on camera. This one is recent though (news of December 10). Trail Blazers’ Zach Randolph fouled out and as he walked off the court, he made an “obscene gesture” toward fans behind the scorer’s table.

Is that enough for a $133,333 fine?

His club suspended him for one game-day without pay (equalling a fine of $133,333, or 1/90th of his annual salary of $12 million). Have you ever heard of a higher fine for the finger?

I do not have one in my collection of fines, but there have been jail sentences for gestures, but those are mostly for threatening gestures.

ps. Funny how American news sites never say he gave the finger, or flipped the bird. It is always a vague “obscene gesture”. As though writing it down amount to saying “Fuck You!” out loud.

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