January 8, 2013

Des Moines Register Editor Backs Columnist’s Absurd Claim That His Wishes for Deaths of GOP Leaders, Gun Owners Was ‘Satire’

The first rule for those who have dug themselves into rhetorical holes is: Stop digging. As noted yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul ignored that rule on January 5 by claiming that his December 30 column — which, among other things, advocated “(tying) Mitch McConnell and John Boehner … to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag(ging) them around a parking lot until they … (see) the light on gun control” and having those who resist the efforts of those trying to pry their “guns from their cold, dead hands” should get their wish — was “satire” comparable to the work Jonathan Swift.

The first rule for bystanders watching others digging themselves into such dangerous holes is: Take away their shovel. Instead, Register editor Rick Green joined in the digging in a Saturday column, even backing Kaul’s ridiculous “satire” claim (bolds are mine):

Vigorous debate is Register tradition; Kaul’s satire missed mark

For decades, The Des Moines Register has showcased the observations and opinions from a broad spectrum of writers that allow our readers to deliberate on the day’s most important issues.

Few topics have garnered more attention than the tragic Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

… One unique perspective was shared last Sunday in this space. In a column headlined “Nation Needs a New Agenda on Guns,” Donald Kaul tackled the subject in a strident manner familiar to many readers who recall his long tenure as a Register columnist. He is now a freelance writer who neither works for us nor takes direction from Register editors.

“The thing missing from the debate so far,” he said, “is anger.”

… Kaul offered a few steps that could end gun violence — from repealing a section of the Second Amendment and declaring the NRA a terrorist organization to making ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony.

He also suggested tying Republicans Mitch McConnell and John Boehner to the back of a pickup truck “until they see the light” for the need to address gun control.

In his last paragraph, Kaul acknowledges his views are preposterous. “None of that is going to happen, of course,” he wrote.

But many readers either didn’t make it that far in his column or were too angry to see his less-than-artful attempt at satire.

And for that, we take blame.

Oh please.

A columnist tells us that the missing ingredient in the gun-control debate is “anger,” and we’re supposed to believe that what follows is “satire.” And, in case we missed it, we’re supposed to understand that Kaul’s bitter concluding statement about how “none of that is going to happen” means the same thing as “just kidding.” Give me a break.

We’re not that naive, Rick. Nor are we so stupid as to believe that Kaul doesn’t “work” for the Register any more just because he’s not officially on the payroll. When he writes his columns, he submits his “work” to the paper. The fact that the Register is limited as to how much direction it can give him or how often he can submit his columns without running afoul of IRS rules doesn’t change that.

As noted yesterday, Kaul, in his attempt to claim “satire” on January 5, both explicitly and tacitly acknowledged that he meant some of what he said.

He was explicitly serious in claiming that the Second Amendment “is being misinterpreted and misused” (meaning that he wants judges to perpetrate a de facto repeal of what the amendment clearly says) and in writing that “I may now be closer to believing the NRA is an organization of terrorists.” He demonstrated tacit seriousness about his original proposal to “Make ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony” by not addressing it in his follow-up column.

There was obviously no way for a reader of Donald Kaul’s original column to know what he did and didn’t mean, and no reason for anyone to believe that Kaul wasn’t being serious about every word of what he wrote.

There is simply no excusing Rick Green’s wave-off of Kaul’s clearly expressed murderous hatred of those with whom he disagrees. How can we believe that Green is really serious about taking blame when he backs Kaul’s absurd claim of “satire”?

Why anyone would choose to subscribe to the Register after this revealing and sickening saga is a mystery to me.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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