I think I know a few people who probably thought the ugly Wonkette’s Trigg Palin column was funny. In the mid-90s, when I was an undergrad at Berkeley, a disturbed old man would sing Sinatra songs near the campus. I’d hurry by past him, like I’d hurry by the rest of the Berkeley street contingent, but enough students found him hilarious. Once I wound up at a co-op party where that man was invited to perform. He thought he was going places. Students thought that was a funniest performance evah — on the co-op’s part. So smart, so sophisticated, so… ironic. A room full of privileged white kids roared with laughter. There was probably several hundred of them — a small percentage of students, but, on the other hand, as many as would normally come to a co-op party.
Co-ops fancy themselves offering some sort of a non-mainstream alternative to dorm life, which means that they are anarchist wanna-be uber-lefty playgrounds for upper middle class mostly white kids known for drug dealing. Similarly, Wonkette contributors fancy themselves fresh and provocative, but they are upper middle class mostly white middle age writers who formerly attended prestigious universities like Berkeley, and perhaps even lived in co-ops. This whole affair reminds me of the environmentalist No Pressure video release last Fall which offered an opportunity for celebrity filmmakers to assert their street cred.
Jack Stuef probably thought that his disgusting column was iconoclastic because he broke a taboo. Well, he did break a taboo. Thankfully our society still considers it beyond the pale to go after the weak and vulnerable. A disturbed street person, a Down Syndrome kids, unarmed people blown up to smithereens — those are all the vulnerable. It’s immoral to laugh at them, but people like Stuef are not so concerned about morality; what they worry about is style, and their style is punk. Which is to say they wallow in the ugly.
It might work for an underdog, but a major lefty website is no underdog. Stuef chose to attack a traditional lefty target, and because the Palin family is a traditional target, he had to try really hard to outdo his peers. So he went for the ugly. Stuef is a bully whose bullying backfired, as bullying often does.
P.S. DH reminds me about Wesley Willis, an obese paranoid schizophrenic, who delighted punk rock audiences across the country. Willis was signed to Alternative Tentacles, one of the choicest underground labels in the nation. In music terms there wasn’t much to Willis. It was all about Willis making a spectacle of himself.