A Wonkette Think Piece: Is The Guy Who Did That Fake John Waters Obituary A Screaming Racist? Or Is He Mocking Racism? We Don't Knoooow!!
Hey, you know that totally edgy fake-news site that first said filmmakerJohn Waters was dead, and then "retracted" the story, saying, "Oh, our fact-checker was out that day, haha"?* As we noted in our original story about this fuck-tussle, the biggest problem with the attempted satire at the catchily named "National Report" isn't merely that it's offensive. Offensive can be funny! But this stuff is just incredibly lazy and amateurishly written. Some perfunctory googling on pseudonymous author "Nigel J. Covington, III” turned up other examples of his sophistimacated satire at another dollar-store version of The Onion called The Daily Bleach. Let us consider one such "Covington" piece with the brash title "The Covington Report: Wetback Nation – Student Offers Solution to Border Crisis." Now, the casual reader might think that this article is full of racist stereotypes, but the Deeper Truth is that it is full of racist stereotypes. Oh, and a little tiny wink to let you know that no Mexicans were harmed in the making of the article. Happily, Jezebel's Lindy West already named this sort of thing Hipster Racism, so we do not have to think up a term for it.
As members of the semi-pro satire tour, we have a professional interest in how this satire stuff works, so let's see whether "Covington's" piece can satirize racism while soaking in it. It's framed as a report on Able Kenner, a 9th grade student with a creative proposal for a "cost effective, non-violent method to stop dangerous Mexicans, illicit narcotics and human trafficking at the US / Mexican border." He's Jonathan Swift, here -- he doesn't really think Mexicans are dangerous! He probably even knows some Mexicans! The kid's plan would use "ancient primitive superstitions that common Mexican peasants still believe in" to scare them away from the border. The POV then shifts to "Covington" assuring us that the kid is addressing a really serious problem:
Uneducated, primitive, diseased, drunken and violent are common traits found in the average Mexican. Today over 23 million dangerous Mexican fugitives live in the U.S. on welfare. They are directly responsible for the collapse of many taxpayer supported American social service programs and sadly the wetback population in the U.S. brings down the Mexican-American community and makes all Mexicans look bad.
The article goes on for another six paragraphs in this vein, and appears to be cribbed directly from comments on Yahoo News articles, before getting to the real "modest proposal," which would involve having the Border Patrol
“strategically place occult symbols, death omens and portents of doom that always foretell death” along the border at night. Kenner believes by playing on the irrational fears and superstitions of the Mexican people within 6 months many established cartel routes into the U.S. will simply be abandoned.
And as an example of the sort of imagery that might scare the superstitious Mexicans away, "Covington" includes a deliberately(?) inept MS-Paint collage of a scarecrow wearing a Klan hood (Pedobear's in there, so you know he's ONLY JOKING, MAN), followed by more "text" from the award-winning teen's proposal:
Kenner said, “This stuff will terrorize the average Mexican into fleeing back to whatever stinking, filthy, disease ridden Godless cartel owned Mexican shithole they came from and without dedicating more resources and committing billions of taxpayers dollars to stop the Mexican problem.”
...“These are a simple people, a very spiritual and religious people who can be easily duped into abandoning all efforts to cross our border because they are stupid. All my plan requires is for us to use Mexican ignorance and their own superstitions against them in order that we get what we want.”
Now, while this sounds like something straight from Stormfront, it is actually very deep satire, because it is so "over the top" and presented without any hint of irony to give away the "real" intent, which may be to satirize the ineffectiveness of simplistic proposals to tighten the border, or maybe to to point out, as if anyone hadn't noticed, that there is a lot of racism involved in discussions of immigration. It is also devoid of any laughs, which would cheapen the effect. (We doubt that "Covington" had this in mind, but it's also reminiscent of an actual U.S psy-ops effort in Vietnam, "Wandering Soul," which attempted to use recorded "voices of ghosts" to urge Vietnamese fighters to give up, with predictably nonexistent results.)
Now, "Nigel J. Covington III" has actually done us the courtesy of offering his own defense, in response to a comment Your Doktor Zoom left on his website. We'd said "The real problem with your John Waters story, as 'satire,' is that satire should be funny. Actually, that’s the problem with your entire sad website." "Covington" replies:
DoktorZoom – Allow me to shut you down now before you get in too deep. Satire can be funny but not always. Satire may by definition include, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule.
Yes a satirical headline such as… John Waters Killed in Drag Queen Stampede might make you laugh and met your narrow definition of “Satire.” But that was never my objective.
We here at The National Report allow the reader to discover satire (if it exists) in the text. Giving that away in the headline is no different then using a “satire symbol” to let the reader know in advance that they are reading satire. We object to using any satire symbol, or giving up the “goods” in the headline.
If that makes us different, so be it.
Many, many people did find the story funny, I got plenty of replies from those who “got it.”
Finally, Wonkette has been around for 10 years. The NR has been online for two weeks. So don’t be angry with me when I say I’ll take those numbers (hits) and walk away satisfied that I accomplished my goal. Thankfully beauty is not defined by some hot model, it is defined by the eye of the viewer. If we do not met your standard of “satire” allow me to recommend you not come back. We do this for our fans and the people who follow our very straight-edge work & look.
Fair enough -- a 21 year old guy once informed Your Editrix that Orwell showed us that satire does not have to be funny. "Like 1982," he explained, before grabbing her left boob.
And the Andy Kaufman Defense, accusing your critics of being too conventional to understand your edgy subversion of norms, is, we suppose, a legitimate strategy. Of course, for it to really be anything more than a dick move, it helps if you actually are an Andy Kaufman, and not, say, a Gallagher.
* They also ran a third piece saying they had no idea they'd run the original fake obituary on the 25th anniversary of the death of Divine, the transvestite star of Waters' Pink Flamingos. That's the only one we think is pretty much factual, but who knows?
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.