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Controversy at Chubby Chatterbox

March 20, 2017

The photo accompanying this post shows all my posts since starting Chubby Chatterbox seven years ago. I’m a terrible typist (actually I don’t type) so I peck these out the night before they’re posted. Mrs. Chatterbox, a former English major, checks them for inevitable typos and grammar issues—an answer for those of you who’ve asked if she reads my blog.

 

Believe it or not, I’ve tried to avoid controversy. My purpose in creating a blog was to entertain and share my love of art and travel. I try my best to steer clear of politics and religion, although I’ve dipped my toes into these waters on a few occasions. In spite of my efforts not to offend anyone, I’ve managed to do so on three occasions.

 

First, I received a nasty comment for my attempt to poke fun at math, a subject I sucked at in school. I attempted to make light of this fact by pointing out that just because we accept mathematics as a universal language, and the basis for the science that has delivered magnificent toys like trains, cars, planes, i-Phones and space travel, there’s no reason to believe math is true. I mean, was it true back before it even existed? When Sir Isaac Newton needed to prove his theories, he invented calculus to do so. I jokingly claimed this was cheating. One comment I received encouraged me to get off my fat butt and learn how to count instead of spouting off like a moron. I was attempting to tap into the type of satire made famous in 1729 by Jonathan Swift’s famous A Modest Proposal. When Parliament did nothing to provide aid for starving Irish families, Swift gave a speech lamenting the loss of a valuable meat supply. Swift’s speech included recipes for the best ways to cook Irish children. Parliament was so horrified it voted funds for Irish relief, which was Swift’s intention all along. My satire was much less successful.

 

 

 

The second time one of my posts landed me in hot water occurred when I poked fun at our Nation’s infatuation with panda bears. I jokingly called them freeloaders, Communists, Chinese spies working on American soil to capture our secrets. Of course I wasn’t serious, but I learned a valuable lesson about satire; it can be a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. So far, this post has prompted the most negative comments I’ve received. Confession: I was only kidding and don’t really have a grudge against pandas.

 

Which brings me to my last post, Fun with Flags—the paintings of Childe Hassam. If you missed it you can find it (here.) When I write about art, I endeavor to come up with an unexplored angle, in this case the revelation that one of this artist’s paintings currently hangs in the Oval Office and the artist was exceptionally fond of the Middle East. I realize that most people didn’t enjoy art history classes in school, so I’ve accepted the challenge of trying to make my lessons interesting to those not normally taken with the subject. This was my intention with the Impressionist paintings of Childe Hassam.

 

Imagine my surprise when I read the comments and saw an altercation taking place, remarks debating the followers of Islam. Like the previous two examples, I had no idea this post would spark such strong feelings. Although I’ve had nothing but positive experiences in Muslim countries I’ve visited, it was not my intention to ignite a discussion about the role of Islam in modern society. I considered deleting some of these comments but felt it dishonest.

 

I’m thinking of posting a story about a nearsighted elephant I read about that creates still-life paintings of cheeseburgers while listening to rap music. Do you think this will offend anyone?

 

 

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Comments

24 Comments
It probably will; some people are strange!!
By: fishducky on March 20, 2017
Proof people will be offended by anything. Nearsighted people who paint cheeseburgers will be offended you think they are rapping elephants.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 20, 2017
Wow - I missed the controversy. I read the post but didn't have time to comment right then and didn't get back until today. I always appreciate your writing about art subjects from different angles, whether or not I leave a comment. I know so little, and enjoy learning. Ya just never know what's going through peoples' heads, eh?
By: jenny_o on March 20, 2017
Sorry... for expressing my thoughts.
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 20, 2017
Daniel, I love that you expressed your thoughts. Please don't stop. I always value your opinions.
By: Chubby Chatterbox on March 20, 2017
Oh GROAN. I have never found anything you've written offensive. Your humor is tongue-in-cheek and very obviously satire and CLEARLY not intended to hurt anyone. Sometimes you slip in a bit of irony. Some people just don't have enough to keep them busy.
By: Mitchell is Moving on March 20, 2017
People are easy to offend. I've done it often enough to know.
By: PT Dilloway on March 20, 2017
I normally come back to read some of the comments, but must have stopped before the last one really got going! (I'll have to go back now). I've learned there are MANY people out there just looking for something to get offended by. Their problem, not yours. They don't have to read your blog if it bothers them. I have a feeling we're on opposite ends of the spectrum on many topics, but that doesn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying your humor.
By: Kelly on March 20, 2017
Your posts are about as benign as I can imagine. If someone took offense to those, they have super-frayed nerves and no life. Suggestion: Water....duck's back. Try it. :) Now, about your proposed slander of vision impaired pachyderms....GO FOR IT! LIVE WILD!
By: scott park on March 20, 2017
Merciful heavens. Now I will have to go back and read those comments--or maybe not. Not always good to see angry minds in action. Think I will pass. You have never offended me and I find your posts quite refreshing. Keep them coming.
By: Arkansas Patti on March 20, 2017
some people don't get satire. It's okay to catch crap on a blog. I caught it as a middle school teacher. some things I said that were meant to be humorous were not taken that way.
By: red Kline on March 20, 2017
Some people seem to make a living out of being professionally offended. I try to ignore them. As for mathematics, if you want to see a heated argument among mathematicians just ask is it an act of creation or of discovery?
By: Botanist on March 20, 2017
There will always be someone who takes offense. If you ever wrote something that upset or offended me, i would simply send you a gentle email inquiry to clarify, and try to see from your point of view, even if i did not agree with it. That's how civilized discussion takes place.
By: messymimi on March 20, 2017
You haven't offended me--yet. Some people are more easily offended than others. By the way, my daughter has a Ph.D. in math, and she loved the art history classes she took in college. On trips to Europe she's gone out of her way to see art she learned about in those classes. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 20, 2017
I've read your blog long enough that I feel as though I know you in real life. I believe I know when you write something with a twinkle in your eye and when your tongue is firmly planted in your cheek. Yours is one of the kindest blogs I know!
By: Pixel Peeper on March 20, 2017
I've received plenty of nasty comments, mostly on a post from several years ago about raising surly teenagers. And some jerk wrote on my "About" page that it was because of women like me that he refused to get married--he basically called me a wackadoodle. Ahhh, to each his own. Humor is selective. Write about the cheeseburger loving elephant ha-ha!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on March 20, 2017
Stephen- Over the years I have found your posts to rich, nuanced, informative, humorous, inspiring and educational. Never controversial. I fear we have entered an age when skins are thin, minds are made up and people would rather yell past each other than dialogue about their differences of opinion.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 20, 2017
I'm fortunate I have never received any nasty comments on my posts, (well one, but that was highly personal and I know the person. I deleted it straight away as it should have been sent as a personal email) and I've written about religion and politics quite a bit. some people have nothing to do in their lives except be offended.
By: Ellen Abbott on March 21, 2017
Satire is a hard subject to recognize. I think people who are not very smart or well read or into many subjects do not see the humor in satire. I do not worry about them and you should not as a writer. You cannot please all your readers and there are always those that have an agenda and will work it into anything they can. Keep writing about what moves you and remember that you cannot keep everyone happy unless you write boring pablum...and then I will not be happy.
By: Tabor on March 21, 2017
yep, I think it will. Simply because, as others have stated, satire is not been properly introduced to all. Some don't understand, some just don't "get it" and others just bumble their way through subjects reading, blah, blah, blah, Oh this is wrong (no matter what). You are a keen mind and a very talented writer. I love your statement,"My satire was much less successful." You had me laughing so hard. Keep doing what makes you happy and enriching readers, and happy hunting with the "making folks say, What???" tee hee
By: Oma Linda on March 21, 2017
Keep it up! You're funny and some people just don't have a sense of humor or they have entirely too much time on their hands.
By: Sage on March 21, 2017
I just caught up with the Hassam post. The artwork is beautiful, so I'm sorry I missed it. But yeah, any mention of the Middle East or the Central American sloth these days - sets us up for attack. Your post was informative, not inflammatory like mine. =) I've lost a few followers because of it, and it's for the best.
By: Robyn Engel on March 21, 2017
offend anyone...nah? But amuse everyone I bet! I have a book about how cats paint! Photos included. When I get back home I'll take some pics and email them to you! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on March 22, 2017
I have offended people on two occasions. Each time, in a seemingly innocent post. In one post, I suggested that too many people think that good intentions and believing in yourself is all that is needed for success and seem to forget about the hard work part. That one turned into a debate in the comments section about the proper way to raise children. A man I personally knew unfriended me on Facebook over it. the next time was in a post where I was flirting on my blog with the woman I am now married to. Since we had not met yet, I asked people who knew me personally to pop into the comments and leave a good word for me to ensure I was safe. I expected a few snarky remarks. It was intended more for entertainment than anything else. However, over 100 people stepped up and said some wonderful things about me. It was very touching, but one of my readers decided that I had staged the entire thing to fuel my massive ego and attacked me in the comments. I don't know what to do with people some days. Brett Minor Transformed NonConformist
By: Brett Minor (Transformed Nonconformist) on March 23, 2017

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