Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Cannot Make This Stuff Up


Arizona Teahadists show up at a John McCain town party rally to demand he apologize for calling them "hobbits."

I give up. Satire is dead. There's no way I could write anything more insane than that.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Twitrage Times Two

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A couple of weeks ago, I used the term "Twitrage" to characterize the sort of ill-informed online indignation that's spread by sites like Twitter and Facebook and has become part of the common currency of our national discourse. A couple of recent events demonstrate Twitrage at its finest.

First there was the kerfluffle over "Black Latino Gay Spiderman." I know the very idea of such a thing both boggles the mind and raises the hackles of comic geeks and wingnuts alike, which is probably what the right-wing website The Drudge Report had in mind when it blared "MARVEL Kills Off SPIDER-MAN, Replaces with Half-Black, Half-Hispanic Reincarnation. ... 'Miles Morales' ... could be gay."
A news item in England's newspaper The Daily Mail was similarly lurid. "Marvel Comics Reveals the New Spider Man Is Black - and He Could Be Gay in the Future," the headline said, and went on: "Spider-Man has been given a makeover - as a half-black, half-Latino teen. Miles Morales has replaced Peter Parker as the face behind the famous webbed mask."

The results were predictable. Shock! Horror! Outrage! "When will this PC crap stop?" moaned one typical Twitrager who goes by the online handle of "NoMoreObama2012." "We will never accept the new spidey-gay boy!!!" one Facebooker fumed.

Even Glenn Beck got into the act, blaming, of course, Michelle Obama. (What, you expect sense from Glenn Beck?)

So, was it true? Well, yes. But also no. The reason lies in one of the weirder things about the world of comic books, so please forgive me a moment of nerdiness.

See, Marvel Comics (which publishes Spider-Man, X-Men, etc) also publishes series called "Ultimate Spider-Man," "Ultimate X-Men," etc. The "Ultimate" series portray alternate versions and storylines - another fictional universe entirely, really. The writers seem to delight in "what would happen if" speculation.

Oh, as it turns out, the "Miles Morales" character isn't actually gay either. That came from an offhand comment by one of the book's artists: "Maybe sooner or later a black or gay - or both - hero will be considered something absolutely normal."

So fear not. In the "main" Marvel Universe, Peter Parker is still Spider-Man, and vice versa. Still alive, still white, and as far as anyone knows, still straight. And if that explanation has caused you to have an irresistible desire to consume family-size bags of Cheetos in one sitting and live in your parents' basement while engaging in endless online debates about pop-culture trivia like whether the Starship Enterprise could beat the Death Star, I'm sorry.

Our next example of misplaced Twitrage comes from The Huffington Post, which reported the tale of Alison Capo of Virginia and her 11-year-old daughter Skylar. Young Skylar found a wounded baby woodpecker being stalked by a cat. Being a tenderhearted youth, Skylar rescued the woodpecker from the voracious feline and, when she was unable to locate the bird's mother, took it home.

Then Skylar and her mom carried the bird with them, for some unexplained reason, on an errand to a "local home improvement store." An alert fellow shopper, who happened to be an officer of the Fish and Wildlife Service, informed them that little Woody was a member of an endangered species and "transporting" him was illegal.

The officious officer later showed up at Casa Capo with a citation announcing a $535 fine and, HuffPo reported breathlessly, "possible jail time."

Shock! Horror! Outrage! The story of the little girl whose merciful act was deemed criminal by the big bad unfeeling bureaucracy made the online rounds, with the usual results. The big bad government made the little girl cry! Her mom might go to jail for saving a baby bird!

Except for the fact that the Fish and Wildlife Service immediately dropped the citation, stated that the local office had tried to cancel it before it was served, and apologized to Ms. Capo before the story even hit the Internet.This part, of course, was buried three-quarters of the way through the HuffPo story and isn't mentioned anywhere in the outraged tweets and online postings on the subject. Because "government bureau immediately catching its mistake, fixing it, and apologizing" just doesn't fit the narrative. Where's the outrage potential in that?

It used to be said that "a lie can travel a thousand miles before the truth gets its boots on." In the era of Facebook and Twitter, misplaced outrage moves at the speed of light. My advice: Take a deep breath, look up the facts, read the whole story - and think before you tweet.