16 August 2012

'Yee-haw, Jester's NOT Dead!'

In an Aug. 14, 2012 Military Times article, reporter Gina Hawkins wrote that the military-humor website called The Duffel Blog "is doing such a good job of lampooning the service, it’s already duped some officials into thinking their breaking news is real."

Apparently, things are so slow in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the rest of the world that the media can spend time and newsprint on covering all the news that isn't.

Launched earlier this year, The Duffel Blog isn't everyone's bag of tea, including mine. Some of the fake news site gets a little rough, both in execution and allegedly humorous delivery. (Remember Sherpatude No. 26? "Humor is a combat multiplier. Except when it isn't.")

Sometimes, it seems as if the website's editors are more interested in being mistaken for delivering real news than recognized for delivering effective satire. (Imagine someone copying and reprinting spoofy headlines from The Onion or The Daily Show as truth? Oh, the hilarity!) But there is humor there, and there is always truth in humor. After all, you can't make omelettes without breaking a few hand grenades.

When The Duffel Bloggers are on target, however, it's either time to laugh, follow, or get out of the way. For example, the comments from irate mil-spouses regarding a modest proposal to issue them rank were often as as telling as the satire itself. (In a particularly nice touch, the website followed up with an infographic depicting what the spousal rank insignia would look like.)

There are no sacred cows, nor should there be. Once, The Duffel Blog even reported that the Minnesota National Guard's beloved 1st Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division had mistakenly re-invaded Iraq. (In our defense, the division motto is: "Attack! Attack! Attack!")

That just goes to show, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet.

Speaking of which, here are few random quotes in support of The Duffel Blog and its take-no-prisoners approach to provoking outrage, thought, and (hopefully) change:
  • Evelyn Beatrice Hall: "I may disapprove of your punchline, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
  • Former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz. once said: "I would remind you that extremism in the pursuit of humor is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of humor is no virtue!"
  • Also, Thomas Jefferson: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of tyrants. And maybe a little fake vomit. It is its natural manure."
Stick with me. I'm going somewhere will all this.

Alongside his reporting on July 2012's all-time monthly peak in U.S. military suicides, Time magazine defense reporter Mark Thompson posted a judgmental nugget titled "This Isn't Funny," in which he pointed to a scathing satire on Army suicides published by The Onion, titled "It Would Be An Honor To Serve My Country, Return With PTSD, Sit On A Mental Health Care Waitlist, Then Kill Myself".

In the two-paragraph post, he first clucks that "[t]he Army’s failure to cut down on its suicide rate makes it a target for people without taste." [Emphasis added.]

Then, he offers this bromide to anti-suicide campaigners:
As someone who has covered military suicides, and the folks waging the battle against it, for years, it hurts when your best efforts aren’t turning the tide. But they will, eventually. That should be enough to keep the Army’s suicide-fighters fighting the good fight. [Emphasis added.]
Either Thompson can't understand satire and gallows humor—hard to believe, given his familiarity with military culture—or sopping the feelings of the Army's anti-suicide squad was somehow more important than expressing a little righteous heat toward the suicide problem itself. Is The Onion's take on Army suicide funny? Not in a canned laugh-track or prime-time vanilla sort of way. But it is funny. Morbidly funny. And outrageous.

We could use a little more constructive outrage around here, rather than telling ourselves that our best efforts will eventually turn the tide. We should be doubling down on seeking solutions, rather than wringing our hands over hurt feelings of a few policy-wonks.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Whatever we're doing? It ain't working. The court jesters say we're not wearing clothes, regardless of the uniforms we wear.

How's that for a punchline?

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