Martin Shkreli Is Back: The Triumphant Return of An American Asshole

Martin Shkreli played us. Like a fiddle. And he's going to get away with it.
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Martin Shkreli played us. Like a fiddle. And he's going to get away with it.
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Martin Shkreli may be a lot of things but he's definitely not stupid. He knows how ephemeral fascinations and even obsessions are are in the age of social media and he's certainly used that to his advantage over the past few weeks. He understands that these days nobody remains the internet's public enemy #1 for more than a week at best because there are always new incidents to decry and new people to despise coming down the pike at light speed. Hell, right now a story is hitting its viral stride about an Upper East Side woman who sued her 12-year-old nephew for six figures for accidentally breaking her wrist when he jumped into her arms to hug her. She said the boy, whose mother died last year by the way, was "careless" and has left her in a position where she was at a party recently and couldn't hold her "hors d’oeuvre plate." 54-year-old Jennifer Connell just lost her case, but she's still well on her way to becoming the most hated woman in America -- for the next couple of days anyway -- further making our old pal Martin Shkreli yesterday's news. Again, Shkreli not only knows this, he counted on it.

In case you do happen to need a refresher on who Martin Shkreli is and why he first came to the nation's attention late last month, let me run it down for you: Back in August, Shkreli's drug company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired the rights to Daraprim, a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, which is a disease that can be deadly to people with weakened immune systems. Daraprim has been around for more than 60 years and it’s an invaluable tool in treating patients with HIV and cancer, but unfortunately — at least as Shkreli sees it — it’s just too cheap. So last month Turing Pharmaceuticals hiked the price of Daraprim by 5500%, sending the drug skyrocketing from $13.50 a tablet to $750. He then took to Bloomberg News where he came off like a smirking "greed villain," as Gawker labeled him, telling his interviewer and the audience that his company deserved to make a profit off of Daraprim and that everyone needed to calm down because those exorbitant aforementioned profits would be put back into R&D. Unfortunately, the internet quickly dug into Shkreli's past and learned that he'd made that kind of claim before without actually following through on it.

Speaking of which, that's what brings us to today -- and the return of Shkreli to the public eye. For a while Shkreli vanished, following standard protocol by shutting down most of his social media accounts and apparently holing up in his Manhattan apartment. But you can't keep a shameless douche of his caliber down and so Shkreli has now reappeared on Twitter and you'll be thrilled to learn that the backlash against him taught him nothing and he's still every bit the megalomaniacal prick he was before he became a household name. In addition to Tweeting at his critics, telling them they "smell liberal" and that they can "fuck (their) stupid cartoon," he's also excitedly firing off missives to Taylor Swift, delighting in the fact that she's apparently single. "Now's my chance!!!!" he writes, displaying a heretofore unknown depletion of self-awareness. The thing that's most interesting about Shkreli's reemergence, though, is what else hasn't changed over the past three weeks -- namely, the price of Daraprim. Originally, when it looked like Shkreli was in legitimate danger of being tarred and feathered by the public, he promised to back down and drop the cost of the drug, but so far he's done nothing of the sort. Daraprim remains the same price it's been since he jacked it up.

Why didn't he follow through after his supposed change of heart? Well, first of all because he's an unapologetic asshole, but maybe more importantly because he knew he didn't have to. Shkreli has supposedly created a “very expensive, well articulated” plan to re-craft his image, which involves hiring a shit-ton of PR people, but the truth is that it may not even be necessary for the simple reason that people have moved on from him. The easiest way to survive a scandal that makes you an internet pariah these days is to do nothing -- just hang in there. Eventually people will forget and will find something else to occupy the outrage centers of their brains. Even if we're still writing about Martin Shkreli and bemoaning what a bastard he is, it's difficult to maintain white-hot anger against somebody and Shkreli's time in the spotlight is largely over -- because that's now fast the news cycle moves now. Shkreli's a terrible person, but the world is full of terrible people. The very latest objects of our fury have already supplanted Shkreli and there will be more tomorrow morning. This is a guy who deserves a relentless, sustained campaign against him and yet mention his name now and he already feels like old news -- and that's a shame.

Martin Shkreli played us. Like a fiddle. And he's going to get away with it.