As I’ve observed before, irony is always dangerous. In my recent post about good and bad news from Iraq, I referred to impossibly cute kitten stories. This is Belle Waring’s ironic description of the kind of good news story that relies on the fact that even in the midst of war, and even under oppressive dictatorships, life goes on. Farmers plant their crops, children (and kittens) are born and play, and so on. It’s worth remembering this when we get too gloomy about the bad things that are happening but, since it’s true always and everywhere, it isn’t news. So, anyone who makes a big play out of this kind of ‘good news’ is liable to appear dishonest, or at least misleading. A good example is the scene in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 with Iraqi children flying kites and having fun, just before the US invasion. Moore was severely crticised for this and rightly so – the fact that children played games like children everywhere did not tell us anything about Saddam’s regime. The good news stories listed by Arthur Chrenkoff provided another example, with a story which referred to “farmers tilling fields and women walking on roads. Freight trains and major highways.”
I thought that the analogy was obvious enough, and went on to the main point, which was that the election rules presented as good news by Chrenkoff seemed designed to put obstacles in the path of independents and non-government parties. But Tim Blair picked it up and solemnly advised his readers that having searched Chrenkoff’s site carefully, he’d found no mention of kittens at all – I’d made them up!. Even when I spelt out the point in detail in the comments thread, he persisted in observing that the Sweeney story was about farmers tilling fields, and had nothing to do with kittens.
But irony is a double-edged sword. Just as I wrote this the thought struck me that, rather than obtusely missing the point, Blair is ironically playing dumb to provoke controversy. If so, he has obviously managed to fool most of the residents of his comments thread, but that wouldn’t be hard.
fn1. The full story by Annie Sweeney cached here is less absurdly upbeat than Chrenkoff’s extract makes it sound.