Opinion: Columnists

Gregory Kane: Rotten Onion a crying shame

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Opinion,Gregory Kane,Columnists

Are we to believe that the American moral compass is now so out of whack that it's considered OK to call a 9-year-old girl the dreaded C-word?

I thought the word was universally verboten, perhaps because it should be. But it's been around a while, the despicable, disgusting, revolting slur used against some women.

Now, apparently women aren't the only targets. Little girls are on the list of those that can be called the C-word.

One week and one day ago, Oscars were handed out at the Academy Awards ceremony. Little Quvenzhane Wallis, only 9 years old, was a nominee in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category for her performance in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." About 15 minutes before midnight, as the Oscar ceremonies were wrapping up, someone sent the following tweet on the Twitter account used by the Onion, an online newspaper supposedly devoted to "satirical" content.

Here's what that genius who works for the Onion considered satire: "Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a c--t, right?"

Wisecracks like that one are what leave many of us pining away for the days when satire really was satire. Those outraged by the tweet -- which didn't stay up online for long -- made their feelings known. Steve Hannah, CEO of the Onion, was forced to issue a weak-kneed apology, in which he acknowledged that the tweet was "crude and offensive -- not to mention inconsistent with The Onion's commitment to parody and satire, however biting. No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire."

Hannah felt obligated to add some pap about how folks at the Onion will now "institute new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again."

Notice that Hannah said nothing about firing the twit on The Onion staff who had tweeted it. That would be one way of ensuring that "this kind of mistake does not occur again."

Hannah's apology leaves much to be desired, but there are those who swear he should have defended the tweet as the satirical comment they thought it was. One such person is Scott Mendelson, who wrote a piece about the controversy for the Huffington Post entitled "Funny or Not, The Onion's Quvenzhane Wallis Tweet Was Effective Satire That Reflected Back At Us."

There are so many places Mendelson is wrong in his column that it's difficult to know where to begin, but we can start with that headline, which he may or may not have written. If the tweet wasn't funny, it sure as heck wasn't satire. And if it wasn't satire, it sure as heck wasn't effective.

Mendelson wasted no time going straight into didactic mode, presuming to lecture the rest of us about what satire is and is not.

"Satire at its best highlights the lesser parts of society, using amplification to reflect it back at us and make us take notice of our own behavior. Those decrying The Onion, a satirical newspaper, for running an offensive tweet about Quvenzhane Wallis are possibly missing the point. Obviously this wasn't someone online expressing an honest opinion about how they felt about a 9-year-old actress celebrating her first Oscar nomination. ... This was an intentionally offensive, knowingly disruptive statement intended to provoke outrage and offense sent out by a technically 'fictional' writing avatar. Sadly, it wouldn't have been as shocking if an even slightly older woman had been called a 'c--t.' Because we do that all the time."

No, we don't, and this is where Mendelson revealed his moral equivalence dilemma -- typical among some liberals. The problem with Mendelson is that he's ratcheted his moral equivalence dilemma down to disturbingly weird levels.

Anyone not toeing the hard-core, radical feminist line that Mendelson toes has, in his view, called a woman or women the C-word.

He should try selling that nonsense to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whom Bill Maher called precisely that word. To no objections from Mendelson, we can safely assume.

Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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