high desert sketches
Why does everybody crowd my corner?
By GEORGE A. COVINGTON
I do not often criticize fellow writers, particularly those from whom I regularly steal ideas or quotes. However, I must relay my outrage at the joint attack on me by Donald Trump and Lonn Taylor.
Recently, President Trump’s White House flacks were asked about many of his comments that were either inaccurate or downright incorrect. In their usual condescending manner, the flacks defended the President’s statements by declaring that the information complained about by the Press Corp. was based on “alternative facts”.
I really don’t mind that the White House flacks used their patronizing and condescending tone of mockery at the mainstream media, what bothers me is that they are stealing my idea of “alternative facts”. As I pointed out on numerous occasions, my column is satirical in nature, and satire involves making fun of the world around us using alternative facts. Satire is a way of poking fun at society’s fallacies and foibles. My comments and observations have always relied on my ability to take “real facts” and twist them into alternative facts. Why does the President feel the necessity of horning in on my street corner? Every American who owns a radio, television, or computer knows that the President is funny enough without trespassing into my territory. The problem with his transgression is that he does not have the proper intent. His satire is blunted by the fact that he has no intention of making his statements satirical. My satirical writings are intended to cause many of my readers to think, snicker, or head for a dictionary. Trump’s utterings are intended to make people believe what he is saying. My intention is to produce sage-like musings that encourage laughter or total disbelief.
If I state the fact that the produce manager at my local grocery store told me that if Trump put a 20% tax on everything that crosses the border, I would have to pay 20% more on my vegetables because they all came across. The previous statement is a fact. It would be an “alternative fact” if I told you that several of the Mexican drug cartels were going to switch from marijuana to brussels sprouts and broccoli. It is a fact that Trump criticized Wall Street, and particularly Goldman Sachs in his campaign. It is a fact that he put two people from Goldman Sachs on his cabinet. It would be an “alternative fact” if I said Trump had handed the chicken to the foxes. It would also be more “alternative facts” (but more honest) to say that Trump has never seen a live chicken and if he did he would probably accuse it of being an underachieving peacock. Scientists recently announced that they had grown human stem cells in a pig fetus. This statement is a fact but I would subtlety alter the facts to make the “alternative facts” that this new discovery why Trump has opposable thumbs.
I was shocked, absolutely shocked! To discover in his column of February 2 (Big Bend Sentinel, pg 5), that Lonn Taylor had crossed the line and joined the Prez in working my side of the literary street. Lonn, as everyone knows, is a respected and beloved historian who usually restricts himself to writing brilliant short essays on some colorful aspect of West Texas history. Suddenly, however, in his February 2nd column entitled, “The Far West Texas Way to Make American Great Again”, he jumped from whimsical reminiscences of the past into political satire. Digressing for a moment, I would like to point out that the headline should read, “The Far West Texas way to make America (the n is not necessary) Great Again”. This type of faux pas often occurs when writers genre hop. This callous disregard for artistic and literary boundaries is inexcusable. Perhaps he has never forgiven me for a previous column in which I stated that he was the model for a 1898 London poster of Can-can girls. I’ve known Lonn for more than 45 years and I never knew he held a grudge.
In a heated telephone confrontation with Lonn, I explained my dismay. He attempted to explain that he was not writing satire but simply stating his views. I explained that this was his mistake and often commonplace with genre hoppers. Satirists should never state their obvious opinions but must always mask them with “alternative facts”.
George A. Covington has worked in the fields of law, education, journalism and disability rights. He considers himself retired from every one of them with the possible exception of journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Texas schools of journalism and law. He moved to West Texas – Alpine – in 1997 after a 20-year career in Washington, D.C. where he once served on the staff of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Democrat) and shortly thereafter served as Special Assistant to the Vice President of the United States (Republican) 1989-93.