Trig Palin 'Retarded' Post Removed From Wonkette; Outrage Chases Away Advertisers
Trig's Crew is really freaking pissed. Yesterday, we noted the growing outrage directed at the very often hilarious politics blog Wonkette and writer Jack Stuef, who perhaps took it too far when he wrote a relentlessly mean, but still satirical post about Sarah Palin's son Trig, born with Down Syndrome, on his birthday, calling him "the greatest prop in world political history." Stuef didn't stop there, though, riffing endlessly on Trig's disability. A poem by a Palin supporter to Trig ended, "Dream on little boy as the Angels stand guard," and Stuef responded, "What's he dreaming about? Nothing. He's retarded." The whole thing was pretty dark. Now it's been disappeared from Wonkette, an apology in his place, but the angry mob is only growing, calling for all advertisers to abandon the site. Let's talk more about it in Press Clips, our daily media column.
Outrage Waves: One of the worst things about the Wonkette post is that it brings together psycho Sarah Palin supporters and rational defenders of children with disabilities, a sympathetic cause if there ever was one. As if a bunch of fanatical fans with Internet pitchforks and a thirst for blood weren't unwieldy enough on their own, they had to be joined by a group of people who actually have a point.
Wonkette's editor, Ken Layne, attempted to explain the nuance behind the post, admitting that it went too far, but clarifying that Sarah Palin was the target, not Trig, in an email to Adweek that reads, in part:
...we should always make it clear that it's *Sarah Palin* who is the target of our disgust, because of what she does to that child. Jack should not refer to the child as "retarded," even in a clearly over-the-top piece of political satire, because obviously the people who are going to act outraged about this are not going to be following the nuances of a notorious meta-humor website like Wonkette. Remember, these are the same people who were somehow *personally offended* by Tina Fey's comedy routines using Sarah Palin as a character. I cannot count the number of emails -- because I deleted them -- that I received informing me that Palin didn't really say she could see Russia from her house. Well really, you don't say.
"But seriously, I have four kids myself and I wouldn't want them mocked on the Internet by a bunch of cretins on the Internet. And that's just one reason why I wouldn't parade my children around in the media. What kind of mother does that?
There's much more of Layne's explaining in a back and forth with Slate blogger Dave Weigel, but like Layne said, "obviously the people who are going to act outraged about this are not going to be following the nuances of a notorious meta-humor website like Wonkette." That's exactly what we said yesterday: "When it comes to children, and especially death and disability, the line is so faint between jokes that get to a political point and jokes that only serve to undermined larger issues, that it might just be safer to ignore it altogether. Because we all know who generally wins these culture wars. (Hint: it's not the blogs.)"
That's become even clearer today as the outraged have adopted a hashtag on Twitter, #TrigsCrew, which is basically going bonkers, with every conservative political publication from Big Journalism to Fox News piggybacking, not to mention the aforementioned advocates for disabled children.
Though Wonkette originally amended the post with an apology at the top -- one of the "I'm sorry if you were offended..." sorts -- they've since removed the offending post altogether and replaced it with this:
A post on this page satirizing Sarah Palin using her baby as a political prop was very badly done and sounded like the author was mocking the child and not just Sarah Palin/Sarah Palin's followers.
The writer, Jack Stuef, has apologized for it. And we have decided to remove the post as requested by some people who have nothing to do with Sarah Palin, but who do have an interest in the cause of special needs children. We apologize for the poor comedic judgment.
Ken Layne is right. He's correct and he's hilarious, as is Stuef, mostly, especially when it comes to apologizing, not to Sarah Palin obsessives, but to those unrelated people with "an interest in the cause of special needs children."
But that's not the point. The takeaway is that the right -- the same people who scream about liberal political correctness whenever they can -- are just so much better at outrage, not to mention mobilizing online, than anyone intelligent in the way that irreverent liberal blogs are intelligent. It's fun to get the other side riled up, and that means always pushing boundaries. When it's finally pushed too far, there are consequences because, again, the enemy is better than us at this particular game.
The solution isn't immediately clear and all Wonkette can do is wait until it all blows over. And maybe stay away from children from now on. But it especially hurts in dollar and cents, because companies like Huggies, Papa John's and at least seven others have pulled their advertising from the site. On the plus side, Sarah Palin noticed them.
Paywall Payoff: The New York Times paywall has resulted in more than 100,000 new digital subscribers in only three weeks. That's a huge number! People who care about that sort of thing are generally impressed. But it's not a victory yet because, as Nieman Lab astutely points out, back when the Times tried something similar with TimesSelect back in 2007, they snagged 135,000 paying customers in the first two months, but less than 100,000 in the 22 months following. That experiment ultimately failed. And still, the Times company's profits are also down over 50% year-over-year.
Nieman explains the importance of a "growth curve" and crunches more numbers here.
Scocca School: At Slate, Tom Scocca has launched two particularly precise salvos today, which serve both as lessons in writing profiles, particularly of celebs, but also get at a more modern skill writers should learn: how to win an internet fight.
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