Sometimes I type things that make people laugh. Even more rarely, it’s actually intentional! And for the past decade or so, I’ve been able to type enough things that make people laugh to earn a modest living from it.* So I try to give a lot of leeway to public statements that are obviously intended as jokes.
For example, take a look at the following joke from the venerable American institution The Onion:
When you go to the link, it’s just that headline and that picture again. No additional material. That’s the entire joke.
Let’s take a closer look at this joke: “Meghan McCain Forced To Live Out Socialist Nightmare Of Empathy For Sick Person.” Let’s break this down. Okay, so Meghan McCain doesn’t like socialism, we know that. And she just announced that her father is dying, mere hours before The Onion posted this. These two indisputable facts are the building blocks of this joke.
So, looking at it from a joke-writing perspective, I guess the premise here is that… socialism is empathetic? I think that’s it? In order for the joke to work, you have to believe that socialists are more empathetic than anti-socialists like Meghan McCain. And now that her father is dying of brain cancer, she’ll be forced to feel empathy for him, in the same way that socialists feel empathy for sick people. To her, this will be a nightmare. The nightmare isn’t watching her father die, but having to feel bad about it like some sort of lousy socialist.
And you can tell that socialists feel empathy for sick people because they make jokes about the anguish of a terminally ill veteran and his grieving family.
Okay, so that’s what the joke is about. I think it needs work, maybe a little polishing up and then a quick deletion, but whatever. It’s a joke. The McCains are public figures, and this sort of thing comes with the territory.
But it reminds me of another joke:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2017
Remember that? Trump tweeted a goofy video of one of his old WWE appearances when he pretended to beat up Vince McMahon, except somebody superimposed the CNN logo over McMahon’s head. It’s a joke. How you feel about the joke depends on how you feel about the subjects of the joke, but it’s a joke. It’s a fake act of violence to begin with, and it’s rendered even more ridiculous by turning the victim into the corporate logo of one of Trump’s sworn enemies.
It’s not a warning. It’s not a threat. It’s a joke. Even if you don’t like that the president of the United States was the one who showed it to you — and I don’t like Trump’s tweeting at all — it’s still just a joke.
CNN didn’t take it that way, of course. They assigned “journalist” Andrew Kaczynski** to track down the creator of the video, who turned out to be a Reddit user with the delightful pseudonym HanAssholeSolo. And then Kaczynski essentially blackmailed the guy by threatening to reveal his identity:
CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.
In other words: “This guy displeased us, but his groveling is sufficient… for now. He’d better watch his step, though, or we’ll ruin his life.”
Over his “ugly behavior.” Over a joke.
Should CNN or any other media outlet do the same thing to the anonymous writers and editors at The Onion because of this latest ugly behavior toward the McCain family? No. Would CNN or any other media outlet leap into action if this had been the daughter of a terminally ill senator who happened to be a Democrat? I suppose there’s an alternate reality somewhere in the multiverse where they wouldn’t. But in this reality, you bet your ass they would.
No such preferential treatment for John McCain, though. This is what he gets for trying to reach across the aisle for all these years. He tried to befriend their tribe, but he never defected to them, so they still see him as their enemy. Now he gets no mercy, no matter what.
There might be a lesson in there somewhere, but being a Democrat means never having to learn anything.
*If that doesn’t seem plausible to you, I can understand your confusion, but here you are nonetheless.
**DISCLAIMER: Kaczynski once lied about me in print and has never corrected it. Unlike him, I don’t pretend to be a journalist, so I freely admit that my opinion has been swayed by his dishonesty and lack of professionalism.