Last week was a busy week for Internet Writers, between MLK Day, Trump’s inauguration, and, of course, the U.S. premiere of the first episode of The Young Pope. Today, I’d like to spend a little time going through some harmlessly Silly Takes, perform a quick detour through a truly Rage Inducing Take that is not so much Silly as it is Patently Offensive, and finally, end with a succinct yet wonderful tweet. More of the Silly Takes this week were from conservative sources, but please don’t take that to mean that this project only mocks conservative Takes: everybody is capable of writing Silly Takes.
Don’t forget to submit your favorite silly pieces of Internet writing to firstname.lastname@example.org! I didn’t get very many submissions this week, so the pool of potential Silly Takes was mostly limited to stuff I found in my Internet travels. Thanks to Erin for submitting a Take!
Most Self-Loathing In An Obligatory Take For A Culture Site
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Internet writers gotta write about The Young Pope and Donald Trump as often as possible. A lot of people did this, and I’m sure many of the resulting Takes were Silly, but this one takes (hah) the cake for me because it spends most of its wordcount apologizing for writing a Take on The Young Pope and Donald Trump. See, for instance:
“I know what you’re thinking: ‘Is every TV show analysis from now until 2020 going to invoke Donald J. Trump? I mean, sometimes a show about a pope with a kangaroo in his garden is just a show about a pope with a kangaroo in his garden.’”
Anyway, this Take is harmless, but I include it because it’s always nice when a Take is self-aware of its own silliness. You just know that this writer pitched this with a heavy heart and a sudden deep awareness of the many sad duties required of her as an Internet Opinion-Haver.
White People Saying Stupid Things About Race: MLK Day Edition
Roger Clegg, “Dr. King, Race Relations, and Obama’s Farewell Address,” National Review, 1/16/2017
Here’s a couple of sentences for you, from Roger Clegg’s piece about Obama’s farewell speech:
“In a word: Nothing can purport to be a serious discussion of race relations in this country unless it discusses out-of-wedlock birthrates, because it is the disparity in out-of-wedlock birthrates that now most drives other racial disparities.”
After a paragraph citing various statistics on birth rates among various demographic populations, Clegg adds that:
“Racism is a bad thing, and it still exists. But the president is right that only the delusional think it is anything like the problem it was 50 years ago. The principal impediment for those who would like to narrow our ongoing racial disparities is not racism; it’s the “70.4 percent” figure above. Obama had a duty to talk about that again, too, and he failed to do so.”
Is there any better way to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day than for a white dude to condescendingly tell off a black dude for not focusing on the important parts of racial inequality? At least, in a victory for equality and legitimate children everywhere, Clegg generously admitted that racism is “a bad thing.”
Most Incoherent Paean to Fascism
Karl Spence, “How Donald Trump and Friends Can Crush the Great Crime Wave,”National Review, 1/16/2017
T. Greg Doucette wrote about this piece over at Mimesis Law, and you should probably just read what he has to say about this fatuous, incoherent, and offensive mess of an article.
However, if you want to read my opinion (which, presumably, you do, given that you’re reading my blog) it’s here. In short: Karl Spence, who near as I can tell is just Some Jackass, has spent the last thirty years of his life advocating that the only way to stop the massive crime wave in America (that doesn’t exist, at least certainly not the way he describes it) is to bring back swift hangings. In so doing, he ignores the current state of criminal law, statistics, context, and common concepts of decency and due process.
He complains about Miranda rights, dismissively describing that case as granting “a right to receive helpful legal advice from detectives whose true job is to solve crimes,” joining the ranks of the many who think that the problem with our criminal justice system is just too much due process. He spends paragraph after paragraph talking about how great vigilantism used to be. He advocates for a constitutional amendment to restore swift executions.
But the piece de resistance of this mess is this paragraph:
“What of the fact that most criminals stop short of murder? After all, the thugs who victimized Hans and Emma Kabel didn’t kill them, though they might as well have done. How do you reach those people? With a rope. That’s because most robbers depend on the threat of murder to secure their victims’ compliance, as do many rapists. And aggravated assault is, in many if not most cases, simply unsuccessful murder. Hang murderers, and every hoodlum in the land will notice. And, like the outlaws who fled the vigilantes, they will change their behavior.”
“Hang murderers, and every hoodlum in the land will notice” is the sort of thing I’d expect the Sherriff of Nottingham to say, and “[h]ow do you reach those people? With a rope,” is pure masturbatory posturing. As other people have pointed out, this op-ed reads like it was written by Frank Castle.
This Take is Silly in the sense that its legal and empirical analyses (as discussed in detail by Doucette, above) are completely divorced from reality, but it’s not Silly in the sense that some otherwise serious people apparently just paid a man to espouse harmful, hateful, inaccurate nonsense about the criminal justice system in a major publication. This is a bad take, and Spence should be ashamed of himself, but the real villain here is the cowardly jackanape at National Review Online who agreed to run this piece. There are always going to be jackboot-fantasists who long for the days when the local constabulary would chop hands off for petty theft, but we don’t have to give them a platform.
The Silliest Take of the Week, 1/22/2017
Ross Douthat, A Tweet, Twitter, 1/17/2017
Ross Douthat writes for the New York Times as their Designated Conservative, which means that a lot of people hate him: liberals hate him for being conservative, and conservatives hate him for writing for the New York Times. I would feel more sorry for him if he didn’t say immensely silly things all the time.
Earlier this week, then-President Obama announced that he was commuting the majority of the rest of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. People had Thoughts about this, as you might expect, but Ross Douthat managed to squeeze the Silliest Take of the Week into less than 140 characters when he tweeted this:
I have stared at this tweet for a non-trivial number of hours over the last few days, trying to decipher its many mysteries, and I still have no idea what this means. What is the “coincidence?” Who is scripting history? Is he suggesting that Chelsea Manning is a member of the Illuminati?
Many people expressed confusion, but Douthat refused to clarify what this means in any follow up tweet or, to my knowledge, any writing since. Douthat, like any good performance artist, knows that the work needs to speaks for itself.
This, friends, is everything I want in a Silly Take. It’s an off-the-cuff response to a current event that is intended to really make you think, man, about the way the world works. It even uses scare quotes. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s equal parts confusing and offensive.
This is perfection in Take Silliness, ladies and gentlemen. We may never see such a perfect specimen again. Congratulations to Ross Douthat for writing the Silliest Take of the Week, and winning a special place in my heart.