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March 7, 2003

A day without satire

I know I promised all of you, my gentle readers, live streaming coverage of the United Nations today. But after last night's Presidential press conference in which George Bush said, seemingly on Quaaludes, that he didn't give a hoot about the the United Nations, I've decided to abandon that plan. I feel terrible saying this, but Hans Blix is boring, and I don't want to watch him talk all day. If our government's not going to listen, why should I? They're just going to do whatever the hell they want anyway.

Instead, I'd like to call your attention to an important issue that affects us all: The Bush Administration's attempts to repress satire. John Wooden, the extremely funny editor of the parody website Whitehouse.org, recently received a letter on official White House stationery. The letter requested that he remove a satirical biography of Lynne Cheney from his site. He responded by posting a picture of Ms. Cheney with a clown nose and blacked-out teeth. I quote from yesterday's New York Times story about the letter:

"This is to request adjustments in the content of your Web site," the letter begins. It cites court cases, and says it is important to avoid using Mrs. Cheney's "name and picture for purposes of trade" without her permission, and important "to avoid portraying her in a false light."

Bullshit. Lynne Cheney is a public figure, and an obnoxiously outspoken one at that. Her husband is, arguably, the most powerful man in the world. They are fair game under the First Amendment and any subsequent Supreme Court interpretation thereof. How dare the Cheneys attempt to use their power to intimidate a cabal of genius humorists operating out of Brooklyn?

Of course, our hero isn't defenseless. Wooten has responded to the letter hilariously, and it looks like the New York Civil Liberties Union is going to defend him in court if the evil duo doesn't back down. But I still think we should let John Wooden know that he's not alone.

That's why I call on the world's parodists and satirists to join me in a protest. I call it A Day Without Satire.

In solidarity with our oppressed brothers and sisters at Whitehouse.org, I urge writers of Internet satire to let their screens go black on April 1, April Fool's Day, the holiest day of humor. If all goes according to my plan, not one satirical word, not one parodic image, will appear on the web that day.

For sleazy porn peddlers, for the geniuses at The Onion, and even, reluctantly, for Michael Moore, producing satire is a sacred right of citizenship in a democracy, one that has a long tradition going back at least 30 years, maybe longer. The preservation of our satirical heritage is vital, especially now. We live in times that seem to combine elements of the Great Depression, Vietnam, Prohibition and McCarthyism, not to mention the worst elements of the Reagan years, times ten. The language of government finally sounds like, and I mean exactly, not vaguely, the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove and the final chapters of 1984. During the last two years, satire is the only thing that's kept me sane, besides sex, but like I'm getting any of that. I know that many of you feel the same way.

Our role is important, fellow satirists. Our place in the world is important. And John Wooden is one of the best we've got. We can't let the White House drum him out of existence, or even try to, because we could be next. Why not? Nothing is out of bounds these days.

Let's stop this idiocy before it escalates. Band together, men and women who try to be funny. Let your screens go black on April 1, A Day Without Satire. All day. And if anyone who's not directly satirical wants to join us, then they're welcome. Let the whole damn Internet go dark for 24 hours. We'll see who truly believes in the power of satire.

This isn't a joke. We can beat back these jerks. Write to me and let me know you're in. I'll publish a complete list of participants when I come back from my hiatus on March 18, and even after that, the list will grow and grow.

Fuck you, Dick Cheney.

Fuck you, Lynne Cheney.

We'll beat you, because we're funny, and you're not.

See you all in about 10 days. Until then, enjoy my replacement, the intermittently funny Rob Diener. Remember, people: A world without satire is a world without satire. How true that is.

NP

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