Aftermath of the massacre at the First Baptist Church, in Sutherland Springs, Tex., in 2017.
Hello. Welcome to the Weekend Gene Pool. I do need to begin by pointing out, exclusively, the aptonymic fact that the CEO of X, formerly known as Twitter, the chief yakker of the United States, is named “Linda Yaccarino.”
I also want to say that even though I am now, and forever, technically disconnected from X, I still have a nominal presence there. That means I don’t get tweets from people I follow, I only get what X’s algorithms choose to send me, and it is largely white supremacist MAGA detritus. At the moment that I am writing this, “Ashli Babbitt” is trending. In case you do not know it, the idiot insurrectionist is now a martyr on the right-wing Web. There’s also a lot of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s unintelligent musings. In short, it is Twitter, stripped bare and exposing itself for what it now is. I do not miss it.
Now, to the serious. This week, The Washington Post — which most recently published an embarrassing, cringing apology for a cartoon it did not have to apologize for — published a devastating article, an important piece of journalism for which it will deservedly win a Pulitzer. It is not easy to look at. So be forewarned before you click. The headline is “Terror on Repeat.” It is mostly images of blood-spatter scenes from massacres created by brutal maniacs with AR-15 assault weapons, guns that should never be manufactured or sold to anyone, let alone absolutely anyone who has the money to buy one.
The banality of each scene is the point. It could happen anywhere, to anyone and turn an ordinary, familiar situation into carnage.
I no longer have anything to do with decision-making at The Post, obviously, but I can imagine the agony that editors went through trying to decide whether this was, in fact, print-worthy.
It was …. and precisely because we are debating it. We should be grateful to The Post’s executive editor Sally Buzbee, who had to make the call, and did. It cannot have been easy. But it is not the job of journalists to protect people from facing unpleasant truths.
There is a long history of newspapers making controversial decisions that break rules, at the cost of enraging readers. Many involve imagery. For 100 years newspapers, by some unspoken rule, did not publish photos of dead American soldiers except very rarely, and under constraint — Mathew Brady’s Civil War photos were a notable exception, except they were almost always of Confederate soldiers, from Antietam and elsewhere. The enemy. This involved a different calculus.
It was not until 1943 that dead American World War II soldiers were published, by George Strock, and it took a special appeal to the White House to get permission. The famous 1936 Spanish Civil War photo of a Loyalist solider at the moment of his death, was probably staged. And of course, he was not American.
The thing is, these images have extraordinary power to move emotions, but at a calculated cost to the reputation of the publisher. People don’t like to be disturbed, but sometimes they must be.
The other thing is that we are at war. It is a war with the soulless purveyors of guns, the advocates of guns, the witless, deeply compromised, conscienceless defenders of the Second Amendment.
Anyway, this leads to today’s Gene Pool Gene Poll question, which I present for your answers. And I realize I have stacked the deck here, but I do not think you guys have ever been bashful about disagreeing with me. I think you kinda like doing it. So:
In addition to taking this poll, please send in your observations to the Observation Place, which I link to here, in a handsome orange button. I will respond to them on Tuesday.
Also, because I do not expect a huge response to this disturbing question, I will also ask this: Tell us a joke most of us have never heard before. Also send it to:
Also, you may comment.
Also, you may subscribe. It’s $4.15 a month.