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"I Was Only Kidding!"

I like to think that I have a pretty good sense of humor. (Then again, so does most everyone -- it seems that the louder one proclaims one's sense of humor, the less likely others are to agree.) But lately it seems that the "humor defense" is starting to get a little tiresome -- especially when the politics of the "jokester" are taken into account.

Let's take a look at some people who've tried to play the "joke defense," and see how well it worked.

First up, Don Imus. The man built his career on being a crass buffoon, and parlayed that persona into millions. Then he's a bit too crass to the wrong target, and he's history. He instantly becomes toxic, and nobody will have anything to do with him.

Then there's John Kerry. He attempted to make a crack at President Bush, but flubbed the punchline and ended up insulting the troops. He spent a few days arguing that he hadn't made the mistake, the listeners did -- but insulting your audience's intelligence is never a good move. It made him nearly as toxic as Imus, but it passed quickly.

Let us not forget Ann Coulter. She's probably the most limber bomb-thrower on the right, wresting the crown from Pat Buchanan (whom I personally loathe). She's decided to make a regular target out of John Edwards (who's welcomed it as a huge boon to his name recognition and fundraising to the point where he really ought to list her among his campaign assets), and every single damned time she does it, as a "joke," her critics erupt in a lather about her "hateful, vile" rhetoric.

(The fact that they usually couch their condemnation alongside terms related to bulimia and transgenderism is an irony that they are blind to -- but amusing nonetheless.)

Now we have Martin Lewis. This Huffington Post essayist committed an open and flagrant act of sedition, inciting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff to violate his oath, the law, and the United States Constitution -- and during a time of war. Then, after his remarks provoked a firestorm of criticism, he tried to laugh it off by calling it a "satire" -- even comparing himself to Jonathan Swift and mocking his detractors as ignorant buffoons.

If his piece was a satire, it was a case of "friendly fire" -- the mentality he was allegedly satirizing is the side that thinks President Bush ought to be impeached, arrested, shot, or in some way driven out of office before January 20, 2009. But those are his "homeys."

No, what I suspect what he was thinking when he was writing that piece was "OK, this oughta really get my readers all worked up. This will establish my credentials with them that I'm not only one of them, I'm one of the best. And if the crap from the wingnuts gets too intense, I'll just say the whole thing was a joke and they're morons for not seeing it."

Sorry, Mr. Lewis, that ain't working. If Swift was your model, then he would have to have had a long history of anti-Irish sentiments and expressions before his "Modest Proposal" was published.

No, Mr. Lewis, your piece was not satire, it was red meat. It was intended to cheer your supporters and infuriate your detractors. It was an extension of your own opinions, carried to the illogical extreme.

Your essay isn't the joke here, Mr. Lewis. The joke here is you.


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Comments (34)

Actually kind of amusing. ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Actually kind of amusing. It is soaking in to the nutroots that there won't be any impeachment. That was always just sort of a mean joke on them.

But this dude is a fraud.
=====================

Totally predictable and exp... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Totally predictable and expected from the BDS left. ww

Sadly, this does not even s... (Below threshold)
nikkolai:

Sadly, this does not even seem out of the ordinary for the Kos/DU crowd. What miserable, evil people.

I really don't think he tho... (Below threshold)
kim:

I really don't think he thought through his excuse. If he was parodying, then his victims are the Anti-Bushites.

Cognitive dissonance is a bitch.
==========================

Does your sense of humor ex... (Below threshold)
groucho:

Does your sense of humor extend to Ted Nugent calling Obama a "piece of shit" and Hillary "a worthless bitch" before he suggests she ride his assault rifle into the sunset? The modern day neanderthal Nuge thought he was being hilarious, even comparing himself to Lenny Bruce and Sam Kinison. Pretty funny stuff, eh? A little selective ourage perhaps? He should have Coulter open his shows. It would be huge; a night of mass foaming at the mouth. Bring your own torches and pitchforks. Hoods are optional.

Lewis' piece pales in comparison with this dumbed-down, bathroom infantilism. I guess that's the only thing left when one's version of reality is no longer supportable through reasonable means. I honestly don't think there are too many people who actually think Bush should be shot, but the reality is that impeachment or otherwise leaving office would have massive public support. I live in a rural area that's mostly Republican and cannot help but notice the crop of anti-Bush, anti-war signs sprouting out of front yards. The mentality or "homeys" you suggest Lewis is satirizing for are the majority now. Get over it.

groucho looks out his windo... (Below threshold)
kim:

groucho looks out his window, and weighs in on the mood of the nation re impeachment. If wishes were horses, the Democrats would ride Bush out of town. What price Congressional ratings half that of Bush?
===========================================

You nailed it, Groucho.... (Below threshold)
FreedomFries:

You nailed it, Groucho.

As for the twit above, just more methane from the Fartune Kookie Quenn of Kwips.

Is that green on you envy o... (Below threshold)
kim:

Is that green on you envy or mould?
==================================

"This Huffington Post essay... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

"This Huffington Post essayist committed an open and flagrant act of sedition,.." by jay

Lifted from the essay:

"To be crystal clear - I am NOT advocating or inciting you to undertake any illegal act, insurrection, mutiny, putsch or military coup. You are an honorable patriotic man."

Jay, what fucking* understanding of "crystal clear" do you have?

*In the past I have refrained from using profanities in my posts, but since that description was leveled at me multiple times in multiple posts yesterday without a single word of warning from the editor or author I assume it is an approved tactic now.

Ted who? Is that that gay t... (Below threshold)

Ted who? Is that that gay televangelist who got outed about a year ago?

J.

BG2000:If someone sp... (Below threshold)
cirby:

BG2000:
If someone spends several paragraphs talking about a blatant plan to murder someone he doesn't like, and then adds one sentence claiming that he wasn't talking about killing that person, that doesn't get him off the hook.

The only real defense Lewis has is that he's an idiot, and doesn't have the brainpower to realize that what he was calling for was a criminal act.

No, it wasn't humor. After the first day or flatly defending his column, he realized that (or someone managed to tell him how badly he screwed up), and began the backpedaling. Since one of the Great Myths of the American Left is that they're smarter and funnier, he used the "it was just a joke, you morons" defense, because he knew the regular leftist morons would go fo it, hook, line, and sinker.

Barney, lemme paraphrase th... (Below threshold)

Barney, lemme paraphrase that so you can grasp it:

"Now, I'm not advocating violence or murder or something like that, but I think it would be downright spiffy if someone -- say, you over there with the rifle -- were to walk up to BarneyG2000 and blow his head off."

Lewis put up a big disclaimer, then wrote precisely what he was disclaiming. That nullified his little attempt at CYA -- just like my disclaimer above is rendered meaningless by what I wrote after it.

(Note: that was purely for example. I sincerely hope no one would ever take a rifle to Barney's head to blow his brains out. For one, it would be overkill -- his brains are such a small target, a needle would work just as well.)

J.

cirby, STOP PLAGIARIZING ME... (Below threshold)

cirby, STOP PLAGIARIZING ME!!!

Or, at least, make it tougher for me to plagiarize you.

J.

Barney, what you quote abov... (Below threshold)
FreedomFries:

Barney, what you quote above means nothing in the rightie kook world.

The ability to read and comprhend is on the is not on their shortlist of skills. Which is why they dwell in the world of the delusional.

But Fried, Lewis said it wa... (Below threshold)

But Fried, Lewis said it was SATIRE. Wouldn't that include the disclaimer you are so enamored of?

But then please, enlighten us poor benighted fools. Just what was being satirized in the original piece? Whose opinions were being exaggerated and lampooned?

Because the only way I can read it as satire is if he agrees with me -- and that this is the logical extension of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and in accordance with the fantasies of the average Huffpo readership.

You know, Fried -- people like you and Barney and groucho.

J.

FF is trying to delude us t... (Below threshold)
kim:

FF is trying to delude us that the joke isn't on the lefties.

Keep spinning. I'm dizzy with hilarity.
============================

And speaking of reading com... (Below threshold)
kim:

And speaking of reading comprehension, FF, please reread Cirby's #11, until you understand it. It just gets funnier when the butt of a joke doesn't get it, and you lefties are overflowing my laugh quotient for the day. You are humourless and stupid, and got that way once Soros started paying you or yours.

You used to be persuasive. What happened? One too many Mr. Catsoups?
=============================

jay and cirby, were in the ... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

jay and cirby, were in the "open letter" does the author call for the killing of the President? You guys are delusional.

Martin Lewis was right, but... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Martin Lewis was right, but he was also wrong. He's right, in that this country's civilian leadership has totally lost credibility. With the executive department in near shambles, this nation seek leadership from the last institution it can trust: the US military.

Unfortunately, Lewis's missive was misdirected. While Gen. Pace has had a laudable military career, he was nevertheless President Bush's hand-picked choice for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This makes him far less trustworthy than even former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Truly, the United States must seek leadership from the one general who has seen success in the war on terror and in Iraq and understands how to fight America's enemies both at home and abroad.

This nation does need President Bush to be relieved of his duties as commander-in-chief, but Gen. Pace is not the man to do it.

=============================================

I initially ignored Martin Lewis's piece because it seemed 1) idiotic, 2) moronic, and 3) imbecilic. It also betrayed a shocking misunderstanding of America's constitutional system.

Other people were on it and criticizing the thing, so I shook my head, paged through Volokh, and went back to installing The Sims 2 on my computer. But with Lewis's claim today that his piece was satire and his invocation of Jonathan Swift, I couldn't resist putting it side-by-side with A Modest Proposal. Lewis certainly suffers in comparison. If Lewis intended a satire, it certainly wasn't a very good one.

When you look at Modest Proposal, the first thing to notice is Swift opens entirely believably with objections to the overpopulation of the poor folk of Ireland. Swift continues to build a reasonable case, then wham! with the cannibalism, then wham! with the highly intellectual, totally logical, eerily calm discussion of killing, eating, and seasoning small children.

If Modest Proposal is the model, then Lewis utterly failed in his attempt at humor chiefly because it lacks the right level of realism and (paradoxically) absurdity.

Realism. Lewis's first mistake was choosing Gen. Pace as the recipient of his "open letter." If you look at the journalism from the past several years, you will see that Pace has developed neither a reputation as an outspoken commander or as a successful battlefield leader. Without those in Pace's public reputation, the letter loses the believability that a good satire must have.

Better potential recipients for the "letter" include Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, who heavily criticized the general staff in an Armed Forces Journal essay, or Petraeus himself, whose battlefield successes lend him an aura of credibility as a "White Knight" that a Washington-based general lacks.

Lewis's second mistake is to open the letter with an appeal to Pace's ego -- Bush not listening to advice, etc., etc. If this were truly a letter to a general, I would expect it to open instead with an appeal to the general's patriotism, his love for the soldiers he commands, or similar.

Lewis's third mistake in this vein was to quote the Uniform Code of Military Justice. By quoting such a specific source, Lewis tethered himself too tightly to an easily refuted argument. In this vein, it's notable that Swift, though he cited one specific authority for his cannibalism proposal, did so in a most abstruse way, such that individuals who wanted to fight his "thesis" could not effectively attack his supports. Imagine if, instead of the UCMJ, Lewis simply cited "a distinguished lawyer friend of mine ... " The beauty of this would have been twofold: 1) It would have have been an homage to Swift's "American friend" and 2) Readers could have spent two days trying to dig up Lewis's "distinguished lawyer friend ... "

OK, there's more in this vein, but, rather than bore you, let's move on to :

Absurdity. A good satire combines absurdity with realism, creating just enough believability that you wonder if the author's serious or just fucking nuts. In this respect, Lewis succeeded ... somewhat. He certianly got the right-o-sphere in a serious tizzy, and even Eugene Volokh treated it seriously. But ... where was that extra oomph? That extra thing that makes you think the author is brilliant or nuts?

Lewis lacked it because he failed to faithfully inhabit his part. Let's assume for a moment that he was truly a left-leaning liberal who believed extreme measures were called for. What would he do? He would advocate a coup. Well, not in so many words. But he would take the time not just to incite the general, but also to provide a full-on argument for a coup. Pace could correct everything wrong in this country. End the silly pro-life/pro-choice debates! Make sure money is spent properly! Or end the war. Or even fight it.

The problem of inhabiting a character properly is not unique. Michelle Malkin ran into a similar problem when she did her "Democratic cheerleader" video a few months ago and didn't bring sufficient fake enthusiasm to the role. More successful examples of this can be found at News Groper, where the writers thoroughly inhabit their celebrity characters ... and, as Joe Gandelman notes, fooled MSNBC. (Insert MSNBC joke here)

In sum, assuming that Lewis really did intend a bit of satire, the real problem is that he didn't work well enough at it. It comes across as a rather slapdash work, nowhere near on par with Swift's ur-satire. It lacked character.

Speaking of which ...

==============================================

President Bush's offenses against the United States are legion. And by refusing to impeach and remove him from office, the Democratic Congress has made itself complicit in his crimes against the Republic, and indeed against humanity.

Such concepts as "constitutionality" and "rule of law" must, at times be set aside by men and women who are willing to do what must be done, who are willing to carry the fight to our nation's enemies.

President Bush has proved himself such an enemy. Will somebody from our military, one of our brave men and women in uniform, step forward, and bring this to an end? Their country has never needed them more.

=============================================

See? You have to inhabit the character!!!

--|PW|--

Satire involving removing t... (Below threshold)

Satire involving removing the President through illegal means is not ever helpful. The people who understand the point you are trying to make will understand it without having to resort to such hyperbole, and the people who claim not to understand it will "confuse" such satire with a serious proposal. In the end, no one's mind is ever changed through such tactics.

BarneyFife2000,<bloc... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

BarneyFife2000,

"To be crystal clear - I am NOT advocating or inciting you to undertake any illegal act, insurrection, mutiny, putsch or military coup. You are an honorable patriotic man."

Jay, what fucking* understanding of "crystal clear" do you have?

Barney, Groucho and FreedomFlies are pansies. Everything they write is insipid pablum for the BDS affected crowd that they so NEED to belong to. Honestly, I think they are mentally ill, and should be detained and kept away from the general public until such a time when a cure may be found.

Jay, you should ban these idiots as they serve no useful purpose except to ceaselessly whine about every single thing. These clowns have nothing better to do but wait to pounce on any article which may show their morally bankrupt perspective is detrimental to our country. I wish they were all arrested and spent their remaining sad years in solitary confinement.

...Oh yeah... To be crystal clear - I am NOT advocating or inciting you to undertake any illegal act, insurrection, mutiny, putsch or military coup against Barney, groucho, or FreedomFlies. They are an honorable patriotic women.

"Jay, what fucking* underst... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

"Jay, what fucking* understanding of "crystal clear" do you have?"

In my comment, that was supposed to be included in the blockquote, of course. I can't get my mouth to foam the same way as Barney when I say it. Much less dramatic. :)

Barney, please!The... (Below threshold)

Barney, please!

The man is clearly asking the General to do something he cannot do legally, but then that he claims he is not asking the General to do something he cannot do legally is good enough for you? He's asking the General to relieve Bush of his command, his primary role as President; Commander in Chief.

Sedition:
1. incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.
2. any action, esp. in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.
3. Archaic. rebellious disorder.

Sounds about right to me. But you guys call that patriotism.

"jay and cirby, were in the "open letter" does the author call for the killing of the President? You guys are delusional." Don't be so obtuse that you pretend you don't understand the concept of an "example".

Also, to Groucho:
Selective outrage? Selective outrage would imply that Ted Nugent's performance was deliberately ignored by someone here. You have no proof of that. Either way has anyone here asked anyone else, until now, what their feelings were about Ted Nugents outburst? Since you would rather use a counter-charge to address the original charge in the post, I'll take your bait. Ted Nugent's performance was over-the-top. It was stupid and I saw no "humor" in it. Anger? Yes. But no humor.

Ted Nugent, is, well...... (Below threshold)
cirby:

Ted Nugent, is, well...

Dude, he's Ted Nugent.

Crazy rock and roll guy?

Hello?

Even at that, he says stuff while trying to be outrageous that's less bizarre than much of the stuff the Left says as a matter of course.

Hey, Son; it is tough to in... (Below threshold)
kim:

Hey, Son; it is tough to inhabit Barney's part. PW, one for the ages.
=================

For the flip side of the "i... (Below threshold)
cirby:

For the flip side of the "it's a joke" strategy, compare to the MSNBC use of a parody column from "Al Sharpton" on the Michael Vicks issue.

They take a blatant parody from a site that puts "News Groper - News Analysis by Newsmakers - Fake Parody Blogs, Political Humor, Celebrity Satire, Funny Commentary" on the top of each and every page of their site and use it as a real quote...

And when they get called on it, they describe it as a "hoax." No, not humor, not parody, not a mistake on their part. A hoax. Like the NewsGroper folks lied to them by putting "parody" at the top of the page.

On the other hand, when someone writes a column that's clearly NOT a parody, but which turns out to be a real embarrassment for the Left, it gets labeled as a "parody" even though there's nothing parodic in it.

Oyster, thank you proving t... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

Oyster, thank you proving that I was correct and jay and cirby were wrong. Too bad they don't have the balls to admit it.

One other point, the open letter request for a court marshal proceeding and not for the forceable removal of the President. If the President, in his role of C&C, is not covered under army Regs. and is immune to court marshall proceedings then the whole argument is mute.

Either way it is not sedition.

jay and cirby, wer... (Below threshold)
jay and cirby, were in the "open letter" does the author call for the killing of the President? You guys are delusional.

Barney, it was a GORRAMED EXAMPLE, you intentionally-ignorant backbirth!

*cough*

Sorry. Stupidity does not really bother me so much these days, but willful ignorance is just atrocious. In other, and slightly more civilized, terms, the situations that both Jay Tea and Cirby outlined are logically equivalent to the situation Lewis proposed - providing a disclaimer, and then doing everything possible to violate that disclaimer himself. They were just providing a simpler, more personal, hopefully easier to understand example of that concept.

Unfortunately, it was not nearly dumbed-down enough for you.

Barney, you remain clueless... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

Barney, you remain clueless. The article did not call for a court-martial - it called for military overthrowing civilian control of the military. One wonders just at what point it becomes clear that your lack of comprehension is an act.

As for Ann Coulter, I give ... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

As for Ann Coulter, I give her a pass just for the look on Alan "eyebrow" Combs face when she put the shive to him. Priceless!

Only in Barney's world coul... (Below threshold)

Only in Barney's world could proof of his ignorance be twisted into proof that he's right. I'm going to stoop to a basal level I reserve for only the worst of idiots:

Barney, you fucking moron.

I have officially given up ... (Below threshold)

I have officially given up on Barney. He HAS to be feigning idiocy because anyone that stupid would have forgotten to breathe and died years ago.

That, or elected to the US Senate from Massachusetts.

J.

Good point, cirby, at 11:29... (Below threshold)
kim:

Good point, cirby, at 11:29. And there is no bias.
=============================

If it was satire, why did h... (Below threshold)
rrita m:

If it was satire, why did he give this response to a commenter on his post?:

"As my post says - I am absolutely not advocating a de facto military coup. I am simply advising General Pace that he should relieve President Bush of his command of the military - pending a court martial."




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