Sometimes I mistake myself for a humorist. A good humorist can be acerbic without being small-minded. (Don’t forget that before “mean” meant “hurtful” or “offensive,” it meant “small-minded.”) My humor too often is small-minded and thus unintentionally veers off in the direction of mean-spiritedness.
Here’s my own means-spiritedness measuring stick: Would I be embarrassed to meet a person face to face of whom I wrote about on the internet? On a handful of occasions the answer is yes. Two come to mind. The first is this little attempt at humor I wrote back in April. I would like to think that anyone reading that piece, where I skewer academics getting government grants, is tongue-in-cheek, and not designed to be informative, only humorous. Now that I’ve reread it I suspect that Mark Dixon, Carter Johnson, Mike Scott, Daniel Bowen, and Lisa Rabe (author’s of said study) probably wouldn’t think it so humorous. I know I’d be a bit embarrassed to meet any of them face to face if I knew they had read that piece.
The same can be said for the newscaster I skewered a couple of days ago. I suspect it’s shamefully embarrassing to be caught not knowing the facts about something you should understand, and the health care story had only broken an hour or so prior to the interview, so she undoubtedly got sent to the street by her boss without getting the proper background. Rather than hanging her out to dry, I should have kept my mouth shut.