Brit-Hating 101

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Gyro CEO/CD Steven Grasse has written his first book, but it's not about advertising—it's about his alleged problem with Great Britain. The Evil Empire: 101 Ways That England Ruined the World, a wee $15.95 hardcover, is distinctly silly, though Tony Blair probably wouldn't find it funny. The 101 ways include a load of historical faux pas like "They burned Joan of Arc at the stake" and "They hung out and had beers with their good pal Mussolini," as well as more general annoyances like "They take credit for everything" and "They make time for tea." As befits an adman, especially one with extensive entrepreneurial sidelines like the Sailor Jerry clothing/booze brand and the Bikini Bandits films, Grasse decided, "let's take a crack at writing a book," but dumping on England, even with tongue in cheek, is something he thinks is entirely justified.

A self-described libertarian with Republican tendencies, Grasse supports Tony Blair's hardline anti-terrorism stance and acknowledges the U.K. as a key U.S. ally; nevertheless, many of the world's ills can be chalked up to British imperialism in one way or another, and he isn't about to let colonialist bygones be bygones. "Have you been to England recently?" Grasse asks, getting his rhetorical dander up. "All you hear about is how evil America is and how everything is our fault. I'm always shocked that people don't stop to think about how the world that we know today got this way in the first place. I mean, the Brits created the state of Iraq. Actions in history are like rocks thrown in a pond—there's a ripple effect." At the same time, the book "is kind of like Borat, but more intellectual," he adds. "The other point is just to fuck with people. It's a commentary on the culture of blame. In the world today, rather than find real solutions to complex problems, we point the finger and say, 'It's all your fault.' Which solves nothing."

In pure marketing terms, "People don't really read anymore, so we concentrated not only on the writing but also on making it look pretty," he notes, hence bite-size chunks of text and a steady stream of simple Op-Ed-ish illustrations. "We think we've given it an edge that typical history books would never even think to include."

However, the idea was rejected by 64 publishers before it was accepted by the aptly named Quirk, a producer of what it likes to call "irreference" books, located, coincidentally, in Gyro's home city of Philadelphia. The Gyro marketing plan includes the creation of the International Coalition for British Reparations (ICBR), a "think tank on British foreign policy," which is demanding $58.4 trillion "in reparations to be paid to those oppressed by Mother England," and there's a webfilm and on online petition to that effect. There's also a MySpace page, an Evil Empire website (which, according to Grasse, was recently hacked to a standstill by irate Brits), the requisite YouTube video distribution, and plenty of merchandising plans of the T-shirt/screensaver variety. (TK)
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