I appreciate and accept the gestures, however wan, but for me they weren't necessary. The joke about Hillary Clinton liking Mad Bitch beer was "inconsistent ... with the Post brand," as you wrote, Mr. Cillizza, and was certainly something to regret, as you said you do, Mr. Milbank. It was a sexist insult. But you know, as the kids say, whatever.
You boys seem to think that your offenses at "Mouthpiece Theater" had to do with you stepping over some line of decorum or risking the reputation of the paper or of yourselves as Beltway commentators. You may have done all those things, but really, nobody cares about them. Or at least, nobody would have cared about them if you'd been funny. That was your crime, gentlemen. You were just flat not funny.
You know what would have been funny?
No. You don't. Clearly. That, boys, was the issue with "Mouthpiece Theater."
"I'm sorry about the reaction it's caused but I think it's important to experiment," you said to your Post colleague Howard Kurtz, Mr. Milbank. "The real risk to newspapers is not that they take too many risks, but that they don't take enough risks."
Mr. Cillizza, you wrote, "For those who have counseled me to 'stick to your day job,' I say this: my day job, like every reporter in the Post newsroom or in the journalism business more broadly, is changing rapidly, and I am committed to trying to change with it."
Good for you, fellas. We can all do without the "pearls before swine, the world just wasn't ready for us yet" tone, but you're right, it's important to experiment. And let's be clear: It's no crime to try something and fail!
Except when you try to be funny and fail as badly as you did. That really is a crime. No, really, it is. I don't mean that in some figurative way. I mean, if I were in charge of things, you'd be in jail right now. That's how not funny you were. You wouldn't have to do serious hard time or anything. But you'd do a little.
What was not funny is how you thought you could turn on a video camera and do some weak jokes and that would be good enough. Here's a mistake people make all the time, especially people like you, by which I mean newspaper people: They think the Internet is easy. They think that because something's online, somehow the standards are lower. They think they can get away with crap because, hey, it's not the big room. It's just the Web.
This is of course exactly backwards. Shovel some crap into the newspaper and you might get a few letters, a guy might turn to his pal on the bus and mention that lousy piece he read in the paper, and in a day or so your story's looking up at the business end of a parakeet somewhere.
You put some crap online, you run the risk of becoming the target of the whole Web's ridicule -- I don't have to tell you this, anymore, right boys? -- and it can go on for days, even weeks or months.
Another mistake people make is to think that being funny is easy. This is why comedies rarely win the screenwriting Oscars even though they're often better written than the heavy dramas that do win. It's because people think comedy's easy."Dying is easy," the British actor Donald Wolfit said. "Comedy is hard." And then he died, which is funny, a little.
What's not funny is you two. Because you made both of those mistakes. And mistakes like that don't add, they square. The Web is hard and funny is hard. If you want to be funny on the Web, you need to really bring it. You, gentlemen, did not bring it. You, I suspect, would not know it if it threw a pie in your face.
I really do accept your apologies and I encourage you to keep experimenting. But it doesn't sound like you've really learned your lesson, which wasn't anything like "Don't call the secretary of state a 'mad bitch.'"
It was: Respect this world. Respect the medium. Respect the audience. I'm sorry if it sounds brutal but this is the way it is: This is the Internet. The days of mailing it in are over.