Then there is that fifth category: Your readers are idiots.
Dennis Prager is patting himself on the back for a column he wrote last week that was apparently so wickedly clever that it fooled those wise souls who hang onto his deathless prose each week. Or something like that:
But to my great surprise, my last column, a parody of President Jimmy Carter’s views, elicited so much response, so much of which was confused about what I had written, that I feel I owe it to my readers to analyze what happened.
I made up an interview with former President Jimmy Carter in which he sharply criticized the “Lord of the Rings” films for celebrating the military, war and violence.
As I began the piece with the byline “Prager News Service,” I was quite certain that affixing my own name to a news service made it clear at the outset that what was to follow was a spoof. I was also confident that the statements attributed to President Carter seemed sufficiently absurd (such as his attack on “Lord of the Rings” for depicting trees going to war) to further reinforce the satirical nature of the column. And for those who missed those two clues, I wrote at the end: “This story is fictional, but not false.”
I was deluged with mail that fell into four categories.
First were those who told me they laughed themselves silly.
Second were admirers of President Carter who were furious with me for attributing to him statements that he never made.
Third were those who took the column literally and thanked me for bringing to light President Carter’s attack on “Lord of the Rings.”
Fourth were those who didn’t understand my last line. “What do you mean it is fiction but not false?” was a typical question. As was “What part of your column was fiction?”
Then Prager launches into a long description of his admiration of William Safire who has been known to make up other people’s thoughts in order to confirm his own prejudices and points (although I think Peggy Noonan should have received some credit on this point) and so, you see, he was just fooling around, pretending, much like Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia (in keeping with the whole wizard theme) and now there’s water everywhere and it’s just a big mess and don’t you hate it when that happens?
But you have to ask yourself, what kind of person did Dennis fool with this “fiction” that is not “false”? Not surprisingly:
But what is most interesting here is how many people thought the statements I made up really were said by President Carter. Jonah Goldberg, an astute observer of contemporary life, actually excerpted my column, “Jimmy Carter: ‘Compassion for Mordor,'” on his National Review Web site. When he later realized it was a spoof, he immediately posted: “UPDATE! I’m an idjit! (sic) Like five e-mailers sent me this with excerpts. I read a ways into and then posted. I didn’t read the last line. It is a parody! D’oh! My bad, my apologies.”
Yes, Jonah Goldberg who is an “astute observer of contemporary life” (and we know this because Jonah constantly mentions The Simpsons and Star Trek and that Very Special Episode of Blossom). This would also be the same Jonah who still falls for it when Rich Lowry plays “Got’cher Nose!” with him, eliciting all manner of giggles and snorts and burbling.