A few more words from David Kalish, a writer of short stories, plays, and the new novel, The Opposite of Everything.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Earth Under Attack By Weed Spoof!
As you may be aware if you follow group psychology, two oddly convincing hoaxes were perpetuated on the American people in the last three-quarters of a century.
The first occurred in 1938, when Orson Welles broadcastWar of the Worlds, a simulated newscast of a Martian attack on our planet. Mass hysteria seized thousands of radio listeners. Residents fled homes to escape what they thought was a gas raid by aliens. Calls swamped police. People kissed loved ones goodbye, as if for the last time.
The second oddly convincing hoax happened in my blog post last week when I pretended to be freaking out over the wave of marijuana legalization sweeping the nation — and proposed the use of time management techniques, group therapy, and sweat-lodge retreats to keep stoners from wreaking havoc on society.
“Shouldn’t we nip the problem in the marijuana bud,” I wrote, “before stoned bureaucrats at the Social Security Administration mail out disability checks to several million deceased Americans? Before NASA sends the next multi-billion dollar Mars Rover to Venus by accident, where it abruptly disintegrates upon entering the boiling hot atmosphere? Before a wasted president of the United States, God forbid, mistakenly presses the button instead of the letter ‘T’ on his keyboard?”
While my readers didn’t flee into the streets screaming, some took my spoof of pot reform seriously. They suspected I was a right-wing nut job, or at least an old fuddy-duddy — someone who feared that the addition of tens of millions inexperienced or more frequent users threatened the very fabric of American society.
The reaction by some of my public surprised me much as I imagine it must have surprised Orson Welles, who meant his broadcast in fun.
“Allow me to summarize David’s post in four words,” one reader commented: “I’m an OLLLLLLLDDDDDD MAAANNNNN.”
“Maybe the opposite of your worries would come true,” another commented. “Maybe all those people who pop pain pills illegally or drown their sorrows would turn to marijuana and be safer.”
One reader thoughtfully pointed out flaws in my proposal. “Trying to put pot smokers on a schedule would be a huge failure, as most of us lose track of time quite frequently.”
“I think you need to lay off the crack,” another succinctly wrote.
My first reaction to this sort of reaction was, OMG! Where did I steer people wrong? Because I’m frankly a pretty liberal guy. Confusing me with a member of the Tea Party is like saying Al Gore drives aHummer. (On the positive side, my post drew more than 700 readers over two days — among my highest two-day totals since I started blogging in September).
Surely, I’d dropped enough clues that my piece was spoof. The image I chose was a satirical poster on the dangers of marijuana, a “weed with roots in hell”: “Weird orgies.” “Wild parties.” “Unleashed passion.”
“Let’s apply time-management techniques and team-building to control a potentially chaotic situation,” I wrote as a caption.
Then again, Orson Welles also left clues that his fictional presentation wasn’t serious — evidently not enough, like mine. His War of the Worlds aired a disclaimer at the beginning, but many people tuned in too late to hear it. Compounding the realism, the episode was presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, and the show had no commercials. During the course of the show regular programming “breaks down” as the studio seems to struggle with casualty updates, firefighting, and the declaration of martial law by New Jersey state militia.
My own mistake, a writer-friend of mine pointed out, was that the first few paragraphs of my satire sounded too serious in tone. So some readers who made it that far figured, maybe, just maybe, this guyis a conservative nut-job.
“You’re kidding right?” one reader commented. “I mean, is this satire? Because nowadays, you never know. Some of the ideas people come up with these days are crazier than the satire of a few decades ago.”