Friday, November 03, 2006

The last word?

I got the Haverford College Alumni Magazine in the mail about a week ago. After about three to four average length bowel movements I had leafed through it and tossed it aside. In the back there was an article by former Bi-Co News humor columnist, the world's most hilarious shut-in, David Langlieb. The article was a satire of gentrifiers set in the neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn with a less than tongue-in-cheeck forwardness and a whole bunch of nasty Polack jokes. Now the shit has completely hit the fan as the article has moved such institutions as the NY Sun, the Polish Consul General, Haverford President Tommy Tritton (who was the cover boy for the magazine), the New York Daily News and Gawker to wig the fuck out.

In this day and age, a clear caveat is necessary to alert a reader as to your satirical purposes. As you'll recall, satire is defined (by the American Heritage Dictionary) as "a literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit." Langlieb does not throw up the requisite red flag to say "I'm only kidding." Furthermore, he takes the liberty of making as many nasty jokes as possible, many of them peripheral to his point. As Tommy T was quoted by the Sun as saying, the article "the writing was insufficiently clever and the language so ineptly employed that, rather than a work of satire with an arguable point, the end result came through as mean spirited and close minded." Tritton is right, and it's unfortunate that there are such holes in what is the biggest moment of Langlieb's young career.

In his attempt at Jonathan Swift-eque shock value, Langlieb must be prepared to accept the consequences, namely fame. However, fame is not the object when you write for the Haverford College Alumni Magazine. In all likelihood, Langlieb slammed this article out in a day expecting the Magazine's readers to be too busy with the marriage announcements that preceed it to even notice his piece. Frankly, I find the sudden importance of this article to be almost as ironic as the article itself.

Maybe today's nationwide release of the Borat movie will put this whole incident in appropriate perspective. What is it about Jews with their satirical racism, Christian baby South Beach diet and world media conspiricy?
As an aside, I know the author of the New York Sun's piece on the issue, Annie Karni. She is a Haverford Alum. I don't know if her assignment to this story is journalistically ethical or journalistically shrewd. As a result, I heard about this brou-ha-ha yesterday, but didn't honestly expect it to get as blown-up as it did. All publicity for Haverford seems to be bad these days.

(Full disclosure: Langlieb lives with my old roommate, who is about ten times as Polish as they come and has a giant Polish eagle tatoo on his shoulder)

[HC Alum Mag: Langlieb: I am moved to put foot in mouth]
[NY Sun: Polish community unprepared for non-lightbulb related jokes]
[NY Daily News: Are Polish joke headlines off-limits now?]
[Gawker: Pile-on!, we're Gawker]

Edit: As if to prove my point, I have stumbled across somebody who read Langlieb's article and, with absolutely no mental penetration into the article, blogged about it:

Second, he wants to raise his children "amidst lawyers and investment bankers." Well, Langlieb obviously cares nothing about giving his kids any moral values. Of course, these kids would learn their sense of commitment to social improvement (read: eugenics) from their dear old gentrifying dad."

[Transparentique: My critical thinking apparatus is transparentique]