The media fails to get it, once again
When you have even a modicum of fame, it's important to realize that not everyone has a well-developed sense of humor or irony. Case in point: former Jeopardy UberMensch Ken Jennings has a web site and blog
. On July 19 he posted an entry supposedly taking Jeopardy to task for being stuffy and boring. Anyone with two neurons to rub together saw it as a friendly joke. The New York Post was either a neuron short and mistook it or they are deliberately trying to stir up trouble, reporting it as real
. And then Fox got into the act, reporting on the Post story. Now Ken's getting posts on his message board about how "ungreatful" [sic, I think it's like "double plus ungood" in newspeak] he is. Mr. Jennings seems perplexed by this:"I wonder at what level the sarcasm-meters broke. Like, did Michael Starr know it was a humor piece, but his piece fooled Fox News into thinking it wasn't? Or did Fox News know but fool the drive-time deejays? Or did the deejays know as well, but fool their dumber listeners?"
The cynically minded might suspect that it's all a publicity stunt for his upcoming book. But I think it more likely that Jennings, for all his knowledge, has simply fallen afoul of the irony-impaired.
(A tip of the hat to Muskrat for the scoop.)
[Edit] This is unbelievable: CNN
has jumped on the bandwagon. While CNN at least acknowledges that Jennings has said this is a "humor piece", they still tried to get a comment from the folks at Jeopardy. CNN may not be as irony-impaired as the Post, but they appear to have no compunctions about running the story. If it's tongue in cheek, it really doesn't deserve reporting on CNN; if it's serious, it's just fanning the flames of a manufactured controversy. The tone of the CNN article is so deliberately balanced that clearly they're trying to have it both ways - benefiting from the rumor of controversy while maintaining a veneer of plausible deniability - "we knew it was a joke, see?" I know a few good humor pieces, just as well written as Mr. Jennings' entry - care to share the national exposure?
Onion Going Corporate?!
Don't know how I missed this
last week...oh yeah, I was gone camping, and going through the equivalent of delirium tremens
due to being away from the computer for four days.
But I digress. Rachel Sklar, former blogger for FishbowlNY
who now calls the Huffington Post
home, posted a little rumor about that venerable satire brand The Onion
. If it's true, it would make a certain giant media company the undisputed king of satirical content. Which one, you ask? Sorry, you'll have to click for the answer.
And as for Rachel herself, she shows a nifty penchant for spoofery with this clip
making fun of the George Bush/Andrea Merkel massage
moment. Rachel, where do I send my resume?
Sarcasm vs. satire - what's the difference?
I got to thinking about this while I was reading Arianna Huffington's recent blog post about Donald Rumsfeld
Sarcasm's chief weapon is irony - as is satire's. Sarcasm isn't always witty - and neither is satire. However, sarcasm's intent is to ridicule - whereas satire isn't always intended to be mean-spirited. A-ha! Now we're beginning to see a difference!The REAL deal that separates the simply sarcastic person from the satirist is motivation.
Satire stakes a claim in that most fabled patch of land, the moral high ground. Sarcasm, on the other hand, makes no such pretension - it's totally amoral.
Aaaaaaand...you can say that sarcasm is a tool of the satirist, but not vice versa. Which brings me back to Ms. Huffington, who doesn't appear to be a self-defined satirist like her compatriot in arms, Bill Maher.
But if what she wrote about Rummy isn't straight-up, gimlet-eyed satire, I don't know what is. Why is it satire, you ask? She uses his own words against him in ironic context, as in:
When asked when he thought the Iraqis would be ready to meet the security needs that would allow for the reduction of U.S. forces, Rumsfeld said, "I don't talk deadlines" -- a snappy rejoinder we can add to the list of other Rummy don'ts: "I don't do numbers." "I don't do predictions." "I don't do diplomacy." "I don't do foreign policy." "I don't do quagmires."
And she's made her opinion of Rumsfeld highly clear - not only that she thinks he's doing a bad job, but also from a moral base of operations:
There was a time when Rummy's surrealistic take on things was quaint and quirky, chewy nuggets that could be appreciated, if not enjoyed, as the mental musings of a sui generis mind...But those days are long gone, buried beneath a cascade of body bags and on-going horrors. Quaint and quirky have given way to delusional, as Rumsfeld has crossed the line into a place with little connection to reality. Call it Rummy's Disease, an affliction that is apparently highly contagious.
Some may call her a mere political commentator, but that's selling her short. She's much more, and her subversive use of satire is a considerable part of her charm.* Full disclosure - I've got my own beefs with Rummy, and in fact I'm releasing a full-scale assault on him next month in the form of a "Creative Investigative Report" called The Rumsfeld Diaries. If you want to find out more about it, or get on the notification list once it's available, just email me.