Good Satire or Bad Taste?: The Morning News and a Pulitzer Winner Battle Over a JFK Joke

Categories: Media, Politics

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We were pretty sure that Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Ricks' recent suggestion in the Washington Post that America exile Texas in pursuit of a more perfect union was a joke. Blaming the state for the JFK assassination (without Texas, "John F. Kennedy might still be alive") and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan looked at first glance like a low blow, but otherwise the piece seemed to strive for satire.

Ricks' piece inspired some very serious tut-tutting from the Morning News' editorial board. First, it was Sharon Grigsby:

It's the JFK line I have struggled with since reading this piece Monday. I don't have super "Dallas sensitivities" about the assassination, but I know a lot of the city's residents did and do. Ditto for other places in the state. (I was a very young child in Waco in 1963 and thus missed a lot of the national scorn toward Dallas, "the city of hate," and Texas in general. I dug up this piece from former Dallas journalist Peter Applebome, written for The New York Times on the 25th anniversary of the assassination for those of you who need a reference point.)

So Ricks has a great time demeaning us -- and by virtue of this blog post, I suspect I'm falling into his trap of being typecast as overly sensitive or overly "Texan." But, wow, he really has a chip on his shoulder about this state -- and, among the wry humor and thoughtful perspectives of the other pieces in the "things to toss" package, his stood out as just plain mean-spirited. Sorry, but I think one-liners about a president's assassination are out of bounds, especially as we all commemorate the 50th anniversary of his passing.

Then it was Rodger Jones' turn:


Whatever Ricks is selling I'm not buying. I don't like it that he's tying his "brand" to adolescent knee-slappers that invoke someone else's loss. Not funny there, Thomas.

Make fun of Rick Perry, or Jerry Jones or some oilman somewhere. Lampoon one of the Bushes. They can take it. Or pretend everyone in Texas carries a six-shooter and laugh at that. Pretend every Texas woman has big hair and laugh at that.

Don't laugh where dead people are concerned.

In response, Ricks dashed off a three-sentence note in which Ricks nevertheless found room to compare himself to Jonathan Swift and gently suggest that Jones is an uptight moron.

Satire.

It's a false construct that satirical comment is just going for a laugh. Rather, I think it is about things that can be quite painful-for example, Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal."

Which is to say, I was pretty serious about what I wrote.

Best,
Tom Ricks

So the whole kick-out-Texas thing is satire. Got it. Now comes the harder question: Is it good satire?



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26 comments
Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Well, it is pretty lame satire compared to the DaMN editorial page.

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Some of you blogheads talk like people that weren't there at the time. Texas' popular and electoral vote went to Mr. Kennedy in the 1960 election. Most of us liked him back then. Dallas had some John Birchers and such that ran newspaper ads that we later found embarrassing. By the way, the other object of Mr. Oswald's assassination efforts was a notorious right-winger, Gen. Walker. So much for left/right revisionism. Leftists are pretty much just as chicken shit as rightists, I suppose.

DMZ3
DMZ3

It's horrible satire. I'm a pretty liberal person (not a conservative by any means) but I loathe the blue-state sneering of the red states. It's pretty much every reason why I'm not a conservative (nationalism, provincialism, tribalism, black-and-white thinking, us vs. them) but applied the other way around.

It's like being justifiably outraged by racism so you say white people have big, bulbous noses and smell like dogs when they get wet. It might have truth in it, but is it supposed to be funny? Because it isn't.

He should read more Molly Ivins. That was great satire.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

... man, you kill just one president ...

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Mr Jones, can we laugh at dead newspapers, well maybe its not dead, but its pretty shitty. hahahahahahahahahahahahaha 

Daniel
Daniel

Dear Rodger Jones, 


What about dead people with big hair? Can I laugh about them?


Eagerly awaiting your directive,


Daniel 



James080
James080

Perhaps we should also consider dissolving the People's Republic of Washington, D.C. and returning the entire area to British sovereignty.  After all, it was Washington D.C. that assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

It was just "okay" satire. I got his message but only because I'm a native and have lived in Yankee land and now live back here in Glennbeckanstain. The rightest righteous political temperature in Texas then is pretty much the same now except back then, it was simmering just below the surface. Now, it's out and proud with no holds barred. Overall, I give him a B+ for the piece only because he could have gone a lot further to the edge just like the right wing crazies he was skewering

casiepierce
casiepierce

@PerryMoore Oh my lord, how about a *real* history lesson? The ONLY reason that LBJ was picked as VP was to get the Texas vote. The two men practically hated each other. I wouldn't exactly say that "most Texans liked him back then", as they did LBJ. And that was the point.

James080
James080

@primi_timpano 

That's largely revisionist bullshit. The assassin was an avowed communist who had recently repatriated to the US after defected to the Soviet Union.

Hundreds of people welcomed the Kennedy's at Love Field, and crowds in the tens of thousands cheered the Kennedy motorcade through the streets of Dallas. Hundreds more were waiting to have lunch with the president when news of the assassination broke. Certainly JFK was unpopular with some of the business elite in Dallas, those who published negative ads in the DMN and printed trashy handbills. In fact, JFK was slandered in much the same way contemporary neo-cons slander president Obama today, and liberals slandered president Bush for the past 12 years.

The Umbrella Man brought his umbrella because.....rain was forecast for the day of the parade. You should stop reading this conspiracy fiction, like the garbage published by Jim Schutze's favorite Chia Pet, Robert Groden. I suggest you read "Case Closed" by  Gerald Posner or "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy" by Vincent Bugliosi. Both books analyze unsubstantiated claims by Groden and others of his ilk, and show them for what they really are. Both books also analyze the Warren Commission Report and the Report of the House Select Committee on the Assassination, and confirm or disprove portions of each. Each book convincingly debunks the conspiracy fiction so many people are consumed with.

The truth, that a deranged, disaffected loser killed JFK isn't as sexy as a juicy assassination conspiracy and a City of Hate by-line, but at least it's based on verifiable facts.

Daniel
Daniel

@MushMouth1

As long as I live, she'll never let me forget what happened! It was an accident, completely unintentional. Coulda happened to anybody. A momentary loss of muscular coordination. A few extra foot pounds of energy per second -- PER SECOND! 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@James080 Not to mentions James Garfield.  Don't forget to boot New York itself from the Union, Mr. Ricks, as it was in Buffalo that William McKinley was assassinated.  While we're at it we could throw Florida, California and Colorado out as well, as presidential assassination attempts were either made or thwarted in each of those states....

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@dallasdrilling.wordpress.com I think you miss the point of the outrage.  Liberals tend to lump everyone not of their particular political bent as being a 'right wing crazy' or nutjob, to include moderates, slightly right of center conservatives and even some slightly left of center liberals.  To compound their hypocrisy, the far left often turns a blind eye to their own miscreant behavior in their zeal to point out some 'redneck backwardness'  (as an illustration I can point to the liberals in the northeast lambasting the south for its troublesome integration of public schools and institutions, while ignoring the de facto segregation that existed then and still does exist in many NE public school systems, like Boston and New York).  Being a moderate, I don't defend the far right in its insipid ideals and behaviors; being fair minded, I don't let the far left get away with doing so.

Dallas didn't kill Kennedy.  Even the monied and powerful Dallas elite didn't kill Kennedy.  The best evidence we have says LHO killed Kennedy.  Someday, something credible and provable might come to light to change our perception of that event.  Even then, nothing will point to Dallas having killed President Kennedy.  Thomas Ricks needs to take that into consideration before he goes about advocating the dissolution of our Union.  We went to war with ourselves to, in part, preserve the Union.  Veterans, many from Texas, have died in service to the Union.  If Thomas Ricks doesn't like our Union the way it is, he is certainly free to find a nation more acceptable to his tastes and move there.

oldtomgin
oldtomgin

@James080 has all the facts then and is so kind to share. However DPD Chief Curry also said:

"We don`t have any proof that Oswald fired the rifle, and never did. Nobody`s yet been able to put him in that building with a gun in his hand." 

Have fun with that Jim...

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

I am no conspiracy theorist and presume Oswald acted alone. But the assassin's identity is not the issue, it was the right wing hatred in Dallas against Kennedy. We may all love him now that his death spot can be a tourism destination, but back then the Dallas right wing hated him, as the attached article documented.

Like I said, the truth hurts.

James080
James080

@RTGolden1 @James080  

And what about presumptive presidents? Everyone knows Los Angeles  killed Robert F. Kennedy...what with all the left coast hatred and all....

olivertoobin
olivertoobin

@oldtomgin What rifles in 1963 emitted smoke> And he probably couldn't have carted TWO guns to work that day without being noticed. And who says Wallace's prints were there?

James080
James080

@oldtomgin  

Every myth you raise is addressed and disproved in both books I cited. Oswald was not convicted because we tend not to prosecute dead people in this country.

oldtomgin
oldtomgin

@James080

There are plenty of 'eyewitnesses' who saw smoke and smelled powder on the knoll. How did Mac Wallace's fingerprint get on the boxes on the sixth floor? Why were there two autopsies? Why did Arlen Specter have to rewrite the laws of physics to come up with the single bullet theory? LHO was not convicted of anything period.

Why did he have to go home to get his pistol if he woke up to whack JFK earlier in the day?

James080
James080

@oldtomgin  

That is simply not a true statement. Several eye witnesses saw Oswald fire the rifle. Many more eye witnesses saw Oswald gun down Officer Tippett in Oak Cliff. Oswald's prints were found on the rifle and on the boxes in the sniper's nest.

James080
James080

@primi_timpano 

Thanks for the link.  My favorite letter follows:

Huntington Park, California: "Of the thousands of ridiculous actions riding the wave-crest of national hysteria, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the inclination to make the City of Dallas Texas a shameful scapegoat for this historical incident, certainly hits an all-time high in zany thinking, but perhaps a retelling of an ancient Islamic Fable may be the key to help us regain our senses.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

J080, I am not attributing anything to the entire population of Dallas in 1963. I am pointing out the well established fact that there were a lot of right wing fanatics; today they would be tea "party" supporters. Back then they were racists in general, Birchers, and lots of prominent right wing businessmen, who today would be the DCC, the Wyleys and the rest of the Swiftboat gang, etc.

These were not Country Club whispers, they were black bordered full page newspaper advertisements paid for by the right wing Kennedy haters and printed in the daily paper. These were ugly, intolerant racists, and the presence of decent human beings in Dallas does not change the magnitude or character of their ugliness.

James080
James080

@primi_timpano  

You continue to project the attitudes of a minority of Dallas' business elite in 1963 on the entire city. Dallas didn't hate JFK. Dallas didn't kill JFK. It's a convenient narrative, but not based on facts.

It's clear a small faction of SMU facility hate George W. Bush. Shall we begin describing SMU as the university that hates president Bush?

.357
.357

@primi_timpano   The Right might have disliked him, but it was the Left who killed him.

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