Over at Slog, ECB sticks it to Knute Berger for his latest column on Crosscut (you know, that online “newspaper” that has no news and no paper), and while I genuinely like Skip personally… Erica’s kinda got a point. There’s a “Blast From the Past” like quality to the Brewster/Berger/Van Dyk crowd that fails to connect with mere 16-year transplants like myself. Their’s is a Seattle more commonly found in history books than in, um… Seattle.
But I was particularly struck by Erica’s snide comment on Skip’s snide comment about Mayor Greg Nickels’ supposed call for secession:
Nickels’s “call for secession,” as Berger surely realizes, was a joke.
Or does he? This is the second column in a row in which Skip has raised this canard, to which I previously (and sarcastically) responded:
Berger dismisses Nickels’ assertion that his call for secession was “tongue-in-cheek” because apparently, journalists are much more capable of climbing inside the heads of their subjects than their subjects themselves, and no politician could ever be subtle enough to deliberately suggest an absurdity purely for dramatic effect.
In writing that sentence I was very conscious of my own recent run-in with the joke police, when the Times’ David Postman rejected my explanation that my intent was satirical when I responded in kind to BIAW charges of eco-Nazism. In his headline, Postman put the word “satire” in quotes, clearly refusing to accept my explanation as anything but an ex post facto excuse.
So I feel Nickels’ pain. Nickels denies that he really supports secession, in the same way that I denied that I really think the BIAW are Nazis. (Compare that to the BIAW, who passionately defend their assertion that our state’s stormwater regulations are the environmental equivalent of the Nuremberg Laws.) In both cases, journalists have concretely taken our original comments at face value, while stubbornly refusing to do the same when we explain that we were speaking tongue-in-cheek. Apparently, they did not find it funny, so it couldn’t possibly have been joke… a standard by which the bulk of sitcoms would be properly classified as reality television.
Years back, before I started blogging, I responded to yet another Eyman tax-cutting initiative by writing an update to Jonathan Swift’s classic satire “A Modest Proposal,” in which I proposed slaughtering students who failed the WASL, and using their flesh to supplement our school lunch programs. My column was instantly rejected by the Times and P-I, but the editors of the TNT mulled it over for weeks, eventually declining due to the consensus opinion that their readers “lacked the satire gene.”
I’m beginning to wonder if our journalists suffer from the same genetic defect?