Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten

Jul 14, 2020

RESCHEDULED for Wednesday, July 15 at noon.

You asked for it and you got it. Gene holds weekly mini-chats every Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country — and anything else you want to discuss.

Here is this week's poll.

Here is Gene's latest column.

Good afternoon. 

I think you all know that I sometimes pull some literary judo, starting a column in a seemingly anodyne way, and winding up with a gut punch, particularly when writing about pets. 

I am writing today about Murphy, my dog. 

You first met Murphy here, in a column from 2006.   I have talked to you about her many times.  My favorite is when I outed her as a Republican.   Anyway, I am not going to drag this out.  It would not be fair. 

Here goes. 

Murphy is fine!  Today is her fourteenth birthday.  She is a big dog -- 75 pounds -- and that's a pretty advanced birthday.  She still relishes food, and treats, and walks, and loves and is loved, though in all honesty, she looks like a raccoon.  Anyway, that's it and I am sorry for the judo. 

Here is Murphy 12 years ago, and here she is today on her birthday.   The old photo is by my friend Michael Williamson, one of the greatest photographers alive.   The new one is by Rachel Manteuffel, who loves Murphy.  


What do you know about this NY Time writer who just quit after being "bullied" by other Times writers? The Post's article makes it seem that she was all for freedom of speech as long as it was her speech and you agreed with her (like Trump and George Will who condemns college students for protesting speakers on campus). Do you know anything about it?

Not enough to comment, yet.  I'm sorry about that, especially in light of today's poll, dealing with cancel culture. 

For what is is worth -- and this is not specifically about Bari Weiss -- I dislike the gang-up social media phenomenon in which someone does something objectionable and is instantly beset by a posse of shame.  Sometimes, it is justified, I am sure, and sometimes it is vast overreaction, and often -- I suspect -- it is destroying someone who maybe had a bad moment.  An unwise tweet, a stupid incident captured on video. 

I think I am in a minority here, and I understand that.  I think a case can be made that this is an equalizer, that suddenly people who do not have public "clout" (say, having a column in the Washington Post). suddenly can be heard.  

I just think so much of it is knee-jerk anger, and mob mentality.  Woman acts like a schmuck in public, gets videoed, and suddenly 10 million people call her a monster, because it's as easy as a click.  I don't think this is good, particularly when the clickeee is just a person without a public forum, or recourse. 

I have recourse.  A few years ago, I wrote about a stupid thing I wrote online.   I fire off a thousand things a month, and I'm supposed to be provocative, and the chances I will sometimes screw up are huge.  So, that happened. 

I got hammered, justifiably, BUT I HAD A VOICE TO RESPOND. Some responsive power, which most people don't have.  I had the luxury of taking time, and writing a a pretty f--ing long explanation, apologia, analysis, etc.   

You can think whatever you wish about my explanation, but the point is, I had the forum.  A lot of people don't.  

Regarding Ms. Weiss -- I dislike her politics and I think much of the criticism of her is on point.  Of course, she DID have a forum to respond, so she was not an injured innocent.  I also admire her resignation letter, though I cannot responsibly speak to its accuracy.  It was very well crafted, and any writer or editor who claims it was not, and is a writer or an editor, is lying. 

Still, I have to go out on this.  Michelle Wolf's magnificent takedown of Weiss.  


I'm the one who said I couldn't answer that as shaming and criticizing are two different things. For example, this "question" is a criticism of you/your poll. Shaming would be posting something like, how did you get to be a paid writer when you don't know the difference between shaming and criticizing? You must be really stupid or ignorant. Another example: your friend is trying on dresses. She says, isn't this one beautiful? You say, that color really isn't your best color, try another. That's criticism. Shaming is saying, are you crazy? That dress makes you look like a fat cow.

You are a shocking idiot.  Is that shaming or criticizing?

I am one of the people who said I "mostly approve"of the use of social media to call out people who have said repugnant statements. I don't really think "cancel culture" is a real problem. I would rather see marginalized voices finally be heard about statements and actions that offend and hurt *them.*

That being said, I do have some concerns. I still want there to be room in our society for well thought out apologies that show genuine remorse and contrition. It is possible a comedian tweeted racist/sexist jokes 14 years ago, when Twitter started.

But maybe in those 14 years, that comedian has changed? They have to show they have changed through sincere contrition and acknowledgment of the hurt the words caused (not any of this "I am sorry if you were offended..." crap). But if so, can we not make space in our society for sincere apologies? Of course if the offending actor doubles down on their statements or is petulant about finally being confronted, I think people should be free to "cancel" such persons.

Yeah this is sorta exactly my point.  There is something cruelly unforgiving about the Internet. 

Not to get too self-involved here, but I am absolutely certain there are things I said, or wrote, 30 years ago that would look HORRIBLE now.  I don't know what they are, but let's just stipulate.  Times change and people change.  

So now that Trump has cut the CDC out of the COVID-19 data business, how much longer before he fires Dr. Fauci? Or, alternatively, how much longer before Dr. Fauci has had enough and resigns?

It's a good question.   I think that a certain phenomenon that is generally illiberally debated and too loosely used re  the Trump administration but might be very specifically applicable to Fauci. 

Put him under sodium pentothal, and I am guessing he'd say that he can't resign, for reasons of patriotism. 

I just purchased access to the Washington Post solely because of you. I'm so happy. Will you, too, be happy for me, enough so that you'll finally sign my Weingarten book? In the meantime, DK Cartwright

No.  You need to send me a great deal of money -- untraceable low-denomination currency -- in a valise. 

Hey, I meant to tell you alls.  Gonna be leaving early today, but in return I plan to hide dirty words, in code, in my responses. 

I took the poll while sitting at my desk, and for Q3, I answered "a little". As I left work, I climbed the steps outside on the way to my car, counting them. At Step 15, I paused to check my breathing, and I was fine! It was only after I climbed the next 15 that my breathing changed. So, I'm a bit more fit than I thought. Hope this means I'll have a better chance with COVID should I catch it.

Just FYI, my house has two 15-step staircases.   I am always slightly winded.  Not enough to worry, which is sort of awful.  If they were 20-steps, I'd probably see a cardiologist.   And live longer.  

Christian Cooper has an essay in today's Post explaining why he doesn't want to testify against Amy Cooper in the false report incident in Central Park. He wrote that he will testify only if subpoenaed. Some commenters claim it is his duty to testify. I have mixed feelings about his decision; I think it might be a good thing if Amy is sentenced to do x hours of community service, but also think Christian C. has a right to refuse to testify unless subpoenaed. After reading the essay I thought of today's poll. How much punishment is too much? I also remembered Amy saying that she is not racist; is it possible that she believes that?

I have a simple answer.    It will infuriate people. 

I think she has suffered enough.    

You know, it reminds me of how someone is convicted of, say, armed robbery.   A bad crime,  Scared people,  And then gets 30 years.  And people will rail on about how that's not enough. 

The woman is a jerk.  The world knows it.   You wanna put her in jail for 18 months?

The vile abuse that women in the media have to endure in order to be active on social media makes me ashamed as a human being and frightened for the women, specifically, and our culture in general.

I hadn't actually thought about that,  but sure, it's a corollary.  The s--t women deal with, largely b/c of the cowardly anonymity of the Web, is horrifying.  

I know, I am old. 

According to Joseph Allen's column in the Post yesterday, it looks some people may have a bit of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 due to exposure to other common cold coronaviruses. Yay for them, but not so much for those of us who don't get colds very often, something I've long attributed in part to frequent hand washing after making frequent trips to the bathroom (guy in his mid-50's with a mid-50's guy's prostate). My much younger employees are typically out sick a lot more than I am, which I've always been a bit proud of, but now I feel like they may get the last laugh (possibly literally in my case, given my history of heart disease as well).

I have a theory.   I not only cannot prove it, but it is probably REALLY irresponsible to share and I will be fired. 

About a month before the plague hit, I got a flu shot.  It was a super strong old-man flu shot.   It caused a major fever spike for two days.  Sort of scary.  

Might this have worked against Covid?

Do you think the Covid-19 death meter is a bit too much? As a scientist of matter rather than living things, I can imagine that the science is telling us that, absent a protective vaccine, all 350 million people in the US will eventually become infected, 10% will have clinical symptoms, and 1% of those with symptoms will die (~350,00). We are already almost halfway there. Why count in real time? Why not focus on progress in delaying exposure, so that those that become ill will benefit from increasd knowledge and better treatments?

I like your question and agree with it. 

If you could rewrite the US Constitution, how would you resolve a tie in the Electoral College vote for President?

Isn't the answer obvious?  Popular vote. 

The problem is, that alone could cause hell. Months of hell.   If the popular vote is close. 

I hate when the chat is cancelled because it always makes me worry about you. I’ve been reading the chat since you started and you are a special person in my life. I hope everything is ok and I’m sending love and good thoughts your way.


And thank you.   You probably won't believe me, but there were several reasons the chat was postponed, but the big one is that today is Murphy's birthday. 

Gene, I’m curious to know why your column was a letter instead of a customer service call Was that the plan all along or did you call and it wasn’t funny enough, or was there some other reason. Loved the column regardless!

Good question.  

Simple answer: They wouldn't talk to me.  Stonewall.   So, in classic journalistic logic, I said, well, f--- them. 

Jail would be an injustice. But a conviction with some community service would establish for her and all others that you can't try to use the cops as an instrument of personal revenge. Under other circumstances she could literally have gotten him killed. This isn't much different from "swatting," which HAS gotten people killed.

Understood.  But is this the best use of our criminal justice system?  Think about this.  It would basically cost $100,00 in court time, and she would pay $100,000 to a criminal lawyer, to make a statement?  She is humiliated.   Rightfully.  That should be it. 

I think he’s a mensch


...have you ever, or do you have plans in the future to tell her the secret that you have never told anyone else in your life?

She knows it.   

No genius here, but I think I cracked your dirty word code where you wrote s--t


I've never had a dog, and I've never thought about this before. Do they start to turn gray with age? Unless it's the lighting, it looks like Murphy is going through some changes.

It's not lighting!  Dogs get white from the head down.  It's inexorable.  Murphy is like 1000 years old in dog years.   

I've been trying to think about when exactly the country went off the rails and why. Like, in 2012, Barack Obama won a solid majority, Democrats picked up Senate seats in North Dakota and Indiana, while holding seats in Missouri, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Florida. But for GOP control of redistricting, they may have also won back the House. Yet, by 2014, Democrats were being routed, losing 9 Senate seats. Every Republican decided to run for president and then Donnie Boy comes down the escalator. What happened that turned the world upside down?

There's an easy answer, though I hate to say it.  We are a nation of bigots and morons.   We have one shot to correct this, in November. 

Why is the president's son self-publishing a book? Can't he find a publishing house to print his garbage?

He is the genius of the Trump clan.  

This is so great.  The man is a moron.  

From the Post Sports section in this article: When talking about the University of Michigan football stadium "The feeling of enormity hits you when you walk through an entry tunnel..." Or is it really a very bad place for opposing teams to play? Maybe like a Christian entering the Colosseum and seeing it filled with lions. But since the writer is a graduate of U of M I don't think he meant it that way.

I have attended a game there.  It was 40 years ago.   It is indeed enormous AND an enormity.    I have probably said this before, but the game I attended, in 1978 or 79, between Michigan and Michigan State, had a future pro star playing.   I went with my girlfriend.  We got drunk on two thermoses of Irish coffee. It was roughly four degrees below zero.  Anyway, he was a wide receiver.   Do you know who he was?  Can you guess?  You cannot.  

Why are people so nasty in the comments section? Of anything, really.

Screw you.  

Screw you.   

Do you even look like that picture anymore?

Sort of, though I admit that is a very old picture.  I am not quite a bit more disreputable-old-man looking. 

I am not kidding, my aunt at age 90 took the test. I was wondering why Trump was bragging about it. She took it because she showed some diminished facilities. Uh, docs don't recommend it unless ..... Just saying. Yea, she could draw the clock and identified zoo animals.

Ooh, this is a good idea.  I should take the test for a column.  

Black American here. Well, half Black and half White but, you know, the ol' "one drop rule". Master bedroom doesn't bother me since I sleep in my MBR and therefore, am the master. However, my wife would think it should be called the Mistress BR. I think she needs to rethink that one.

I think it should be the Dominatrix bedroom. 

Was it Kirk Gibson that you saw playing for Michigan State?

It was!!!! 

WR then, famous baseball star later.

Yeah, it's a really great trivia question.     

IMO, this is a result of the democratizing effect of Social Media. In the past, anyone could do something stupid, and the whole country could read about it and say, "This moron should be fired immediately". The difference now is that they can say it online to the person's "face" (as it were). That person's employer can also be petitioned directly and put on the spot, which is probably not fair. All in all, I think everyone having an online voice is a good thing. But I wish people wouldn't use it to spew hate and abuse.

Is there a solution?  I think there isn't.  It's interesting.   I don't even think it's self policing.  I don't think there's legal recourse. 

Isn't that one of the stupid questions Trump made during a press conference to Dr. Fauci and/or Birx?

Did he?  I refuse to take a back seat to Trump in stupidity. 

How'd you do?

Column coming out in two weeks. 

First get loaded. Then take the test. Then partake of some edibles. Then take the test.

This is a great idea.  My computer is being bad, sorry for delays. 

Yes. It is. How much of our criminal justice system is full of prosecution of minorities for minor infractions? How many of those prosecutions have stemmed from Karens using the cops as their personal bodyguards? How many of those "suspects" are then pressured to plead because they lack the resources to adequately defend themselves? You mention the $100,000 that the state would spend to prosecute. The vast majority of defendants lack even 1% of those resources to defend themselves and end up felons. Its about sending a message that the days of using the justice system to enforce your comfort are over. In the long run, with a few high profile prosecutions, we'd probably end up spending less. Signed, one of the few Republican chatters (no, really).

You are not welcome in this chat, Republican.  Okay, you are, but we are watching you. 

Okay!  Well, I'm closing this down now, but I wanted to share this link.   The Washington Post once paid to send me to a house of prostitution, but this is sort of better.  They paid me to get stinking drunk. 

Next week's chat

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000. He was awarded the 2008 and 2010 Pulitzer Prizes for Feature Writing.

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