Yesterday I noted the kerfuffle over Scott Adams (the "Dilbert" creator) and his July 24 blog post about Mexicans. While declining to join the Dilbert boycott on the grounds that I don't much care what cartoonists think about politics, I added, in reference to Scott's post: "Still, as a specimen of upper-middle-class white liberal self-loathing, I'll agree it's a doozy."
Several readers emailed in to chide me for not having spotted that Scott was writing satirically. I read Scott's post again, and it didn't LOOK satirical. I got into exchanges with some of these readers. Scott himself posted a note to the effect that, yes, he was going for satire:
"Unlike many of the readers directed to this blog from racist web sites, Mexicans understand satire. If you do not understand satire, I recommend less challenging forms of entertainment."
Now, as readers reminded me, satire is a tricky thing to get right.
More than any other kind of writing, it depends on some acquaintance between writer and reader—you need to be familiar, to some degree, with the guy whose prose you are evaluating. If I were a regular reader of Scott's blog, his fans tell me, I would have known he was just kidding around.
Well: (A) The only way for me to decide the matter one way or the other would be to acquaint myself with Scott's style by reading through a few dozen of his past blog posts. Alas, I don't have time to do that. (B) I should be more sensitive to this than most, having, in my early blogging days, put up satirical posts that were taken as serious by the nation's huge cohort of humorless dorks—in one memorable case, attaining brief fame as the guy who had called for the massacre of the entire Clinton clan.
So I think that I should give Scott the benefit of the doubt, offer him an apology, and promise that, if he is ever in the vicinity of Huntington, Long Island, I'll stand him a meal at Tutto Pazzo's, the best Italian food on the North Shore.