Rightwing Film Geek

If Armond White weren’t enough reason to hate NY Press …


I think I have a publication crossed off my “to read” list for the foreseeable future. The New York Press’s cover article this week is titled “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope.” Amy Welborn has the complete list of the 52 rib-tickling, knee-slapping reasons here and a picture of the weekly tabloid’s hi-larious cover. Now if the “writer” Matt Taibbi had just said “I don’t like Catholicism and here’s why … blah, blah, blah,” nobody would bat an eye even if he cracked a joke of dubious taste while doing it. But that’s not what he did (though it is the substance of most of the “humor”) … instead, he publicly gloats over the imminent death of a sick, old man. Father Sibley suggested one of the funny things Taibbi forgot. And some of the commenters at Amy’s site have made the obvious points about blaspheming liberal icons or Muslim religious leaders.

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 9.08.47 PMBut there’s two things that separate this article out. The first is that, like early-90s Andrew Dice Clay, it just isn’t funny, and for much of the same reason. Like one of the commenters on Amy’s site said about himself, my sense of humor is sufficiently sick that I could imagine myself, in principle, laughing at an article titled “52 Reasons Person X’s Death is Funny.” And I’ll excuse a LOT if I think it funny. But both Taibbi and Clay have an ugly tone that is magnified by stridency and repetitiveness, particularly out of the gate (I’ll never forget the first lines in the Clay routine I saw, where he mentions as offhandedly as if giving a stage direction: “the other day I was having oral sex with a woman” — that’s the PG version). And the sheer length of Taibbi’s article and Clay’s routine and the incessant quality of the style just makes them — I choose my words carefully — evil. We’re not talking about a wisecracking aside about that old fart in Rome or how hot some chick’s ass is — that’d just be a lapse in judgment, requiring only a quarter-second’s thought (or lack of thought). Taibbi’s article reflects a fundamental corruption of judgment, because it required a long time to write and takes time to read that, as I said, turns the piece into an evil screed because keeping up that attitude for that length requires simple, pure, unvarnished, unredeemed hate.

Second, and Your Humble Blogger knows this because he sometimes does it himself, there is a place for locker-room humor, for sick jokes, even for hate-filled rants. The locker room. The bar. Conversation. An obscure personal blog that four people read. And in a professional publication, perhaps, the humor or advice columns. But putting something on a professionally-produced publication’s cover says something about the kind of publication it is. Placement and packaging provide cues to the reader about the importance he should place on an item. If this had just been a Dan Savage column or Letters to Penthouse or something else to put next to the NY Press’s ads for escort services. But no — the NY Press chose this for the cover. The most important spot in the paper. They were saying the best, most important article they had that week was a list of 52 sophomoric wisecracks (of which even my lowbrow sense of humor found three or four funny). I now know all I need to know about their editorial standards.


UPDATE: As Vadim pointed out in the comment field, but as I knew yesterday afternoon, NY Press editor Jeff Koyen resigned, although according to this account in Editor and Publisher, publisher Chris Rohland said it had nothing to do with the Pope cover. Instead, the suspension and subsequent resignation was over “insubordination” on an inside-page parody of the New York Post that Rohland refused to approve, but Koyen went ahead and ran. Rohland told E&P; that he “knew about and green-lighted” the Taibbi article.

I don’t know whether to have more contempt for Rohland if he’s lying or telling the truth. Obviously, insubordination is insubordination. But the question of what will draw the publisher’s veto (which the editor then CAN ignore and CAN commit insubordination) is still a reflection of the NY Press’s values, and the inversion here is … interesting: 52 sophomoric wisecracks gloating over the imminent death of a sick old man DOES meet the publisher’s standards for the cover; acknowledging another publication on an inside page does NOT meet said standards.

Still Rohland gets off the best line of the whole affair — funnier than anything Taibbi wrote. You can see what kind of personality the publisher is referring to when you read Koyen’s public “exit interview.” “I wish Jeff luck,” he told E&P.; “And I wish the person who hires him even more luck.”

March 4, 2005 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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