At this point, to feign much (or any) shock when the Post does something wildly offensive or even just in poor taste would be pearl-clutching at best, disingenuous at worst. Aside from some genuinely useful local beat reporting, they’ve made it clear that their main purpose on this earth is make us laugh (see: “Fat-Wah”) or blind us with rage by spouting outrageous, pun-laden hyperbole, generally under the dubious guise that it’s what everybody’s thinking and no one but the Post has the balls to come out and say. Whether it’s that garbage-y “300 Sandwiches” story, assorted racist nonsense, or saying a little too bluntly that a murder victim had a lot of people out there who would’ve wanted to murder him, this is the entire schtick: shoot first, ask questions never, sell a bunch of papers (or generate a bunch of pageviews). Meaning, then, that terrible as it is, it’s almost inevitable that one of their columnists had some horrible, grossly insensitive stuff to say about the Sandy Hook shooting.
On his his WGDJ radio show, Post columnist Fred Dicker said of Governor Cuomo’s SAFE Act gun-control legislation, “That was his anti-gun legislation, which he had promised not to do, but then he had a little convenient massacre that went on in Newtown, Conn., and all of a sudden there was an opportunity for him.” Families of the victims have since expressed (justified) outrage at the flip characterization of the massacre as “convenient,” demanding an apology that Dicker hasn’t exactly given them.
In response to the controversy, he said, “This group clearly doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, my point, which is a sarcastic reference to the governor latching on to an horrendous out-of-state mass killing to advance a political agenda that had nothing to do with the problem of gun-related crime in New York. I wasn’t minimizing the horror at all, just the opposite. I used the word ‘massacre’ intentionally because it refers, by definition, to a horrendous large-scale killing, which of course the Newtown horror was.”
Other than the colossally insensitive choice of words here, at least part of the controversy comes down to a fundamental difference of opinion—whether or not the gunning down of small children makes you question Americans’ easy access to deadly weapons—and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence has led the charge against Dicker, calling for a boycott of both WGDJ and the Post until Dicker issues a real apology.
It’s a strategy that makes sense, and at a time when many of us are carefully debating the ethics of engaging in art made by bad people—say, R. Kelly or Terry Richardson or Woody Allen—a comparatively open-and-shut choice to make. The Post has a right to keep doing what they’re doing, of course, but in a city with more news outlets than any other, we don’t really need them to. As the mother of one of Adam Lanza’s young victims told the Daily News, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.