The difference between satire and offensiveness

Let’s get a few things straight, right at the top of this blog post.  When I saw Brianna Snyder’s On The Edge blog post yesterday about the mug shot of the person who robbed a store in Clifton Park and whose accomplice held the cashier up at gunpoint – and how Brianna joked about how good-looking the robber was – I was revolted at her post and its subject matter.

At the time, I didn’t really know how to react.  I understand that blog posts are not considered “news articles” per se, but the whole idea of writing a post about how a perceptively attractive criminal might have his mug shot go viral just made no sense.  Neither did statements like the following:

“… so what if he “threatened an employee with a loaded shotgun.” What do all those words even mean when you’re faced with brows as sculpted as “Damien Sierra-Rodriquez”‘s. So what if Sierra-Rodriguez and his less-hot accomplice knocked over a few shelves. Someone’ll pick it up! He hardly did anything wrong here at all … accidentally held a loaded shotgun to an innocent person. But look how handsome he is! They should probably let him go.”

Later on, the blog post was modified with an addendum to alert people that the post was a work of satire.  No.  This isn’t some ersatz Stephen Colbert Republican “Sam the Eagle” put-on that people automatically undertstand is just a character portrayal.

This was offensive.  Pure and simple.  And I have no idea if anybody knew it was going to be published.  I messaged Mike Huber at the TU, he had no idea the post had even been written or published until it hit the fan.  So don’t hold him to blame for this.

And realistically, if this had been a story along the lines of “He killed his father with an axe and gravely injured his mother with the same weapon, but look at that mugshot he’s so hot…” or “She smothered that five-year-old boy, but damn that mugshot makes her look smokin’ hot…”  That’s offensive, too.

If the goal was to try to generate clickthroughs and pageviews, I’m certain that was successful.  Because the Times Union’s Facebook page just blew up with responses and vitriol and #UNFOLLOWTU and #firebrianna hashtags.  And here’s that old adage, “if you’re clicking, you’re reading, and if you’re reading, we’re making money.”

But in the end, the blogpost was offensive.

We live in a world where the most unexpected things will go “viral.”  Whether it’s a person who figures out that Diet Coke + Mentos = fountain o’ fun, or some person crying under a blanket to tell everyone to “Leave Britney Spears Alone,” things can spread throughout the internet.  And if it does, then so be it.

But other things can spread over the Internet.  Bad things.  Bad decisions.  Bad choices.  Bad people.  And lost in the image of a perpetrator’s Shemar Moore-like mugshot is the fact that he and his buddy robbed a convenience store and held the clerk up at gunpoint.

Read that again.  They held the clerk up at gunpoint.

And for anybody to trivialize what that poor, scared cashier went through just completely blows my mind.

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44 thoughts on “The difference between satire and offensiveness”

  1. “On the Edge” is consistent in its shameless celebration of, and devotion to, all things shallow and materialistic. When friends overseas ask me, “What is WRONG with Americans?”, one of the things I point them to is On the Edge, and I say, “It’s because they take the time to write and read the most trivial tripe imaginable…like this.”

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  2. I understand her tying the newest mugshot in with the ridiculous way the previous “hot mugshot” guy was celebrated in the press. I think she was trying to point out the ridiculousness of a society where we do treat news as entertainment items. The first “hot mugshot” situation was ridiculous, Brianna went with that. Unfortunately, she is not a very good writer & the intent was not blatantly obvious with a clear purpose of reminding us of how sick we are as a society to treat our news as shock entertainment. But, really, some of the vitriol being spewed in the comment section of her blog is unnecessary. She tried her hand at satire & failed.

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  3. Excellent post – spot on. I hope this is a moment where Brianna allows herself to mature a bit – both as a person and as a journalist.

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  4. You are typing my thoughts exactly!!! I was sickened, disgusted and angry when I saw the blog post on FB. I stopped reading OTE a few years ago because of it’s shallow content. It appears it’s gone from bad to worse.

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  5. Well said, Chuck, and very brave of you to take on that once award-winning blog that is now an Overflowing Toilet of Excrement. One can tell by Brianna Snyder’s “clarification” and by Tena Tyler’s Facebook statements that there is no remorse for trivializing what happened to the victim, nor an ounce of guilt for upsetting her and her family. They still think it’s funny.

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  6. yes, yes, yes. 1000x yes.
    I don’t believe she was trying to offend people, but now that she has, an apology and mea culpa is overdue. after this blew up on social media, the response from the TU was disturbing. basically, you don’t have a choice in the content we promote or publish so if you don’t like it, unfollow us. not “sorry this was offensive, we will be looking into if it needs to be removed.” this is not a victimless crime, and it is so sad to see the family of the girl held a gunpoint responding to this insensitive post. I hope the TU fixes this.

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    1. So you’re saying you really don’t give an F about the victims. You just want the world to know you’re turned on by thugs? How does your husband feel about this?

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    2. “It’s a joke. It’s ironic.” -Brianna Snyder

      Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. -Dictionary definition. Note the use of the word “irony.”

      Still no concern for the victim or her family, as you can see.

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    3. Holy Heck!! Brianna — you just don’t get it girl, do you? I don’t know anything about you, but I do know that you are showing your immaturity in SPADES! I sent an email to editor Rex Smith about the “Hot Mugshot Guy” blog entry and Facebook post and I specifically said that I wasn’t writing to have anyone’s head on a platter because people make bad choices, but this post just caused me to rethink that! I don’t think you have the emotional intelligence to write a blog that represents the Times Union. If I were your boss this public response to Chuck Miller would have gotten you fired. By the way, I am a former newspaper editor.

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    4. Okay, Brianna, so if it’s not satire – then what do you call it? A joke? Trolling for clickbait? Or are you dead serious about what you wrote? If it were just “satire,” then it was poorly written satire. If it was a joke or sarcasm, then it was offensive. It’s like saying something truly vulgar and then responding, “Just joking!” as if you could un-break a china plate. Trolling for clickbait, then that’s just third-grade Buzzfeed garbage like “Ten things you didn’t know about cuticles.” And if, even in the slightest, you were serious about this post – which I certainly hope you weren’t – then you owe a lot of people, from the family of the terrorized cashier to the top of the Hearst Corporation – lots of apologies. So which is it, Brianna?

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  7. Sadly, the TU overlords obviously love clickbait like this and continue to push more and more of it onto the home page. It has now become difficult to find any real local news between the Buzzfeed-like content: NCAA cheerleaders! Mad Men Seeks Help. Seen: Fire and Ice Gala. Dog gets paw stuck in treadmill in New Jersey. Really important breaking news stuff going on there.

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  8. I think it’s pretty clear by now that Brianna is a troll. That wouldn’t be so bad if she was actually good it at (i.e. funny). She obviously doesn’t understand how satire works.

    She’s just an untalented hack who somehow got lucky enough to land the OTE gig. I feel bad for her co-contributors who have to share the by-line with her. They can actually write.

    To paraphrase Jack Black in “High Fidelity” – she offends me with her horrible taste.

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  9. Congratulations on joining the “I’m so offended, I demand an apology!” crowd, Chuck. I’m offended by your Catworld stories…not because of the theology, just the writing…but you don’t have to apologize.

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    1. Yeah, but if I know you, D357, if you were behind the counter at the store and someone tried to rob you at gunpoint, you’d show them what the “357” in your screenname really means, right? 😉

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  10. The Times-Union puts Jango Davis blog comments at the top of the page in it’s print edition so I don’t know how you’re judging what makes sense at the TU.

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    1. D357, the Jango Davis comment needs to be seen in context. We post a comment excerpt and a blog post excerpt M-F in the paper’s op/ed section. The comment in the paper was related to the issue of Mixed Martial Arts legalization and the debate at the state Capitol, and it read: “This so-called sport is nothing but a vulgar and obscene display of violence.”

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      1. I understood the context. I also understood the context of the OTE blogpost.

        In other news, it’s been said that you can confirm the existence of the mysterious Jango blog. So let me ask you…how bad is it? Will you be giving readers (and probably a lot of your bloggers) what they want and posting the URL?

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        1. Mike – I sent you the link on 1/30/14 in response to a request. Check your e-mail. It is not under a pseudonym, which is why I only shared it with you as long as you don’t share it with anyone.

          However, I’m pleased you kept it so secret you forgot about it!

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    1. And here’s a tip, Miss Erin: way back in 2012, I accurately defended the right to type with two spaces after a period in this blog post. But I understand that you might not have seen this post. That’s okay. You’re new to my blog. Welcome. Have a seat. Here’s some beverages. 🙂

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    2. Miss Erin, is that the best that you could do? A Willie Pitt-style response better suited to Table Hopping?

      Here’s a tip for you: the majority of people care more about crime victims than they do about armed robbers, sarcastic, nasty bloggers and their whining supporters.

      I notice that on OTE, you’ve been spending all day criticizing people who spend all day criticizing your beloved pal Brianna. Another commenter said that you are a freelancer for the TU. Is that true? You did not confirm or deny this. What’s the real story?

      Have you given one, single, even fleeting thought to what that poor woman went through when that lunatic “allegedly” pointed a loaded shotgun at her? Ever given a thought about what a shotgun does to the human body, especially at close range? I triple dog-dare you to google a picture of that, Miss Erin, and then think about what that woman was “allegedly” facing because those two handsome fellas needed cash.

      Ahh… never mind. You don’t give a damn–you’re too worried about poor little Brianna’s feelings to care about how upset the family is and what this victim went through. Tell me, are you and Brianna so heartless about this because the victim might be from Clifton Park?

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      1. Hi Roz. I did spend a lot of time defending someone who is being bullied, is how I saw that.

        The real story is, I have done three freelance articles for the TU within the past couple of months. I am not employed by them, have no contract with them, etc.

        I was a reader of On the Edge for years, and a fan of Kristi’s in-print articles before that. Before this morning, I had never spoken to or had any contact with Brianna.

        As for the rest of your comment, with all due respect, I think we just disagree so much on this issue it isn’t worth addressing. We won’t see eye to eye – especially your last sentence confuses they heck out of me. I have no idea what Clifton Park has to do with this. No one should be held a gun point, regardless of what town they’re from. I mean, do I really have to say that?

        Again, I just don’t think we’ll see eye to eye and should probably let this topic go at this point before you and I spew another flood of hateful comments.

        As for the victim, fortunately the guy is in prison now, so hopefully she’ll be able to get back to a semblance of normal life. If she’s reading this, and I offended her, I do apologize. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but it happens, as this whole situation makes painfully clear.

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        1. As I have been watching the events surrounding mugshot-gate unfold of the last couple days, I was reminded of this very relevant story I read recently:

          Brianna made a mistake, for sure. An apology to those whose lives were threatened by this guy and their families would be more than appropriate. Maybe she didn’t consider that only a few days after the crime occurred the victims (can’t think of a better word for them right now) probably weren’t in a frame of mind for a sarcastic social commentary from the main local news outlet with their trauma at the center of it. Beyond that though I don’t think she owes anyone anything.
          I’m usually one to defend people’s right to be offended, but there is a point where it ceases to serve a purpose. I hope it’s truly dying out now, and that the backlash for Brianna won’t get to the same degree as that which Justine Sacco faced. Whether or not she keeps her job at the TU is up to her boss, and that decision truly won’t affect anyone but Brianna. Even though her writing may rub some people the wrong way, I think she probably isn’t a horrible person – she probably is a really really nice and funny and cool person – and she was trying to make a good point. I love sarcastic humor and see now where she was trying to go with this – it’s just a difficult form of humor to execute in writing, and her timing and tone and consideration of the audience was off that day.
          But let’s maybe stop with the witch hunt and chalk it up to a dumb, public mistake that she will hopefully learn from and alllllllll move on with our lives.
          Again, an apology to the victims and their families is due. But everyone who is fervently wishing for her to lose her job, lose her lungs, or that she was KGB the Great instead will just have to get over it. 🙂

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        2. VR I don’t agree with everything you said, but appreciate how you said it. Your last sentence made me laugh. And thanks for sharing that article – very interesting.

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        3. Miss Erin,
          I think I’m pretty much in the same camp as you on this. I have to admit, I totally missed the sarcastic tone of that blog post (and even back when she wrote about Jeremy Meeks I didn’t get it) until she posted that clarification – duh moment for me! But I do enjoy Brianna’s contributions as a whole on OTE-blog, and I appreciate that you were sticking up for her from the beginning. She probably does too. 🙂

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    3. Hi, Erin,

      I appreciate your response, and I’m genuinely sorry that I came down on you so hard. I really apologize for that, and I hope you’ll accept it. Your response tells me that you are a compassionate lady and have empathy, a quality lacking in so many people now. I give you a mountain of credit for apologizing to the victim. Instead of freelancing, you should be working for the TU.

      Also, I really like your blog. 🙂

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        1. Now why would you be afraid to check back on the comments here? This is a very civilized blog. All are welcome to visit. And all are welcome to stay as long as they like. 🙂

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        2. Chuck, it’s civilized most of the time… unless you guys get arguing about trivia championships. Hahahahahaha!!! 😀

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  11. Someone sent me the link to this post – I suppose to make me feel better about this entire dust up. For what it’s worth, it did put me over my limit and I did cancel my print subscription and remove my shortcut to the TU web page. I found it very interesting that the customer support line now actually goes to a live person (English speaking to boot!) who takes notes on why you’re un-subscribing.

    No surprise regarding Tena’s FB statements. A while back I was having delivery issues for weeks on end. I wasn’t getting a paper, but I was being charged for the paper. At that time customer service was a joke. I tried to speak to Tena about my problem and she was no help whatsoever and said she didn’t care about my problems and neither did Hearst Corp. I mentioned that to the customer service folks as well. All we can do when we feel we’re being trod upon as customers is take our dollars and our time elsewhere.

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