Well, if you read Jeff Vandermeer's site, you know that this week it's being guest-blogged by Iain Rowan, a person I don't know, but who wrote an excellent and infuriating article this week about Joe Gordon, a man who was fired from his job at Waterstones (a bookseller that has used Freedom of Speech principles to sell books in the past) over some intensely tepid statements in his weblog. Joe's version of the story is available here and here. But this particular anger I'm feeling isn't over that, as annoying as it is.
Instead, I'm pissed at The Times Online, and specifically at Kieron Quirke for their stunning display of how satire can be used not to tweak the noses of the mighty, but instead, for a huge newspaper to go after an unemployed bookseller. I originally saw this article linked to over at Book World and I clicked over, thinking it would be nothing very special. And I was right: it is nothing very special at all, but the imperious snobbery of it overruled the very slight humor, and so I had to respond. I emailed it, but I've decided to post that email here as well.
Hello, my name is Matthew Rossi, and I'm writing in regards to the mildly amusing article by Kieron Quirke available on the web at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7-1438592_1,00.html and which, near as I can tell is intended to be comedy in some fashion. Granted, I'm certainly not in any position, with my silly little weblog, to criticize the humorous stylings of your newspaper, which goes for the important targets in satire, people who have been recently fired... thank God you are standing between our society and the hubris of the powerful the way satire has often been said to. I can only thank you for defending us all from the scourge of people actually saying that they dislike their jobs on websites with a total readership of twenty people. Imagine the chaos, the social anarchy, the unraveling of the fabric of our whole society if after eleven years of work someone felt the occassional need to complain about an aspect of his or her employment and was allowed to.
Indeed, with this work of tepid comedic insight, you've proved once again why the barrier of corporate blessing should, nay, must be used to differentiate between publication of merit and self-indulgence. I myself had never realized that weblogs might not live up to some vanishing standard of literary value until it was so forcefully, and may I add manfully, demonstrated to me here by you. I can only wonder at the notion that I had never considered that my own writing would be better served by finding such a master as yourselves to mold and shepherd me. Then I, too, could be as Kieron Quirke, seeking out the recently unemployed and dealing them the savage blows of my greater wit. Oh, I was foolish enough to have read the writings of author Charles Stross on this matter (you could find them at http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blosxom.cgi/2005/Jan/10#scandal-1 if you chose, but really, why should you waste your time on yet another unsponsored, independent weblog, which as you and Quirke have already pointed out can be of no interest to anyone) but now, you have convinced me that there's no merit to any writing that doesn't bear a seal of approval from some greater entity... indeed, there could never be.
In short, I applaud your bravery and wisdom in deciding that the real menace to our society, the powerful entity who must bear the stripes of your sarcastic wit rather than allow it to grow unchecked, is the weblog of a man who worked for eleven years helping to create business for a bookseller before it forced him onto the dole for the expression of mild upset at his place of employment, the kind of statement that around a pub would be viewed with at best amusement. Thankfully, both the Times and Mister Quirke are here to protect us from any dreadful future where we may be able to actually say how we feel about a subject without fear of immediate termination as well as defending us from the scourge of freely expressed opinions without the sponsorship of some corporate behemoth or another.
Bravo, sirs. Bravo. If only I'd known this before my weblog earned me the first of my two book publication deals.
Sincerely meant in the spirit of Mister Quirke,