Masterfully Baited

Two Stories from Last Week brought complaints that True is politically partisan. The hilarious aspect to the two stories: neither had anything to do with politics, but the readers are so sensitive they thought they were political slams. There were a number of protest unsubscribes, including a Premium reader, which is very unusual.

Let’s start with the two stories, from True’s 5 May 2019 issue:

Vehicle of Destruction

Sheriff’s deputies responded to a residence in Bedford County, Va., on a report of gunshots. Mark Edwin Turner, 56, allegedly got into an argument with his girlfriend’s son, and Turner trumped the dispute by pulling a gun. The girlfriend shielded her son, so Turner shot her, deputies say. “During that time, she was shot a total of five times,” says Commonwealth Attorney Wes Nance. “All of those injuries occurring to her legs.” Turner was subdued with a shot from a beanbag round, and arrested. He is charged with felony malicious wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a felon. And what was the argument about? “What type of vehicle is best,” Nance said. “Chevy vs. Ford.” (RC/WSET Lynchburg) …Apparently, Teslas haven’t yet made it to Bedford County, Va.


The Democratic Ideal

After running the Tally Ho pub in Canterbury, Kent, England, for 20 years, owner Robert Easton-Park gave up on the venture due to rising costs. He converted the building to a residence for his family two years ago, but council planners have ordered him to convert his home back to a pub as it would otherwise be “a loss of a community facility.” Easton-Park is gobsmacked. “I’m not a developer selling it off to try to make money,” he said. (RC/Kent Messenger) …So whether he likes it or not, he has been ordered to be a Republican.

Reader Reaction

Does that first story seem political to you? (More on the second one in a moment). Well, reader reaction was swift, but there was only a smattering. I’m choosing not to identify the readers, even with a location; each bullet is a different reader’s comment.

The first came from a Premium (paid edition) subscriber:

  • “No more issues. Ever.”

I think that means “unsubscribe,” and the reader ignored my reply asking for details of the problem.

  • “‘Turner trumped the dispute by drawing a gun.’ Was that the way it was originally written or did someone on your staff try to imply something else? (BTW, I am not a Trumpster. I do take note of how you try to avoid making political and general references, except when there is an obliviot involved.)”

Each story is written by the contributor noted in the source area, in this case “RC” — me. While I do edit the stories by other contributors, I wouldn’t put words like that into their mouths.

The only thing we take verbatim from source stories is quotes — and that’s not a quote. I’m not sure what you mean by “imply something else.” I think it reads quite plainly; I was having fun by using alliterations (“Turner trumped” + “dispute drawing”).

Yes, there are more conventional ways to put it — and in 25 years I’ve used them all, so it’s more interesting to not be repetitive.

The Second Story

This is where it gets amusing.

  • “In comment to The Democratic Ideal: ‘So whether he likes it or not, he has been ordered to be a Republican.’ I found this very distasteful, especially considering the republican party is normally the ones that protect against these socialist type things. Unsubscribe.”

I found that reader’s decision to not capitalize “Republican” to be disrespectful of the party.

  • “Unsubscribe. The tired trope about Republicans being greedy needs to be retired as much as any other outdated racist or sexist concept. Republicans led the abolition of slavery (over Democrat objections), passed the Civil Rights Act (over Democrat objections), outgive to charity compared to Democrats, and the current Republican policies have led to the lowest unemployment for minorities ever seen in this country. Providing the dignity of work for millions is not greedy — and casual perpetuation of Republicans as ‘fat cats’ or robber barons is lazy and ultimately destructive to uninformed voters who continue to believe such tropes at their own expense. No hard feelings — many great stories and the Unsubscribes will be missed.”

Let me make this clear: the second story is also not political — at all. Not one bit of it. I figured most readers would really love the punny tagline in part because I was in the U.K. when I wrote it.

If you’re confused, this should help:

pub·li·can (pŭb lĭ-kən) noun
1. Chiefly British: The keeper of a public house or tavern.

(Definition from True’s Dictionary of Record: American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.)

The word literally defines what the story subject was — a tavern (or “pub”) keeper — and he has been ordered by the government to be one again: a “re-publican” demand if I’ve ever heard one. And with that in the tagline, I certainly had to provide “equal time” in the slug (“The Democratic Ideal”)!

It is, frankly, stupid to twist this amusing story into a partisan political slam, and those who did just that showed their own bias, not mine: they were indeed baited, and they fell hook, line, and sinker due to their own divisive partisanship. I didn’t make it political, they did.

Sure, I also got messages from readers who “got it” and enjoyed the language twist, and you’re welcome to comment below now that you know some readers didn’t get it — at all.

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53 Comments on “Masterfully Baited

  1. I actually missed the “re-publican” pun, probably because I live stateside and don’t think of a tavern owner as a publican. But it was masterful, thank you.

    My other thought, naturally, is how many people have forgotten that “trump” is a perfectly good verb and can be used non-politically. Thanks for bridging the gap between obliviots and the rest of us. (Pun intended.)

    Yep, trump is also a noun, meaning “A key resource to be used at an opportune moment” — such as a “trump card” that’s used to win a hand. Or a gun used to settle an argument, especially when someone is wrong…. -rc

  2. The second story immediately put me in mind of one of my favorite (and relatively new-found) types of jokes, the Tom Swifty.

    Well done on the wordplay!

    As for the first one, I found it completely depressing far more than I found it political. I will never understand the kind of rage over something so petty that would cause you to try to kill someone you purport to love. But then, if I WERE able to identify with it, I would probably be in jail. I’ve laughed that that kind of stuff in the past, but the world needs healing real bad, and I couldn’t muster a chuckle. Sometimes This Is True is more like Too Real!

    Well, indeed the stories are all real, and largely set examples of what not to do. -rc

  3. I had always suspected you were a master baiter. 😛

    I was wondering who it would be that would comment on that extra-credit pun! You? No surprise! 😀 -rc

  4. This is why I’ve always loved This is True. You make me think. You make me think beyond what I think I see to what more it could be. You expand my horizons. You add to my knowledge. You enrich my life. Thank you!

    The sad thing is, so many don’t want to think! -rc

  5. Political? No way. Both showed how stupid the obliviots can be. In the stories and by the ridiculous unsubscribes following the stories. I got a laugh out of both stories and more laughs from the unsubscribers. Keep it up, Randy! You are certainly weeding out the obliviots so the rest of us know whom to avoid.

  6. I wonder if the joke would have worked better had you not capitalized “republican”.

    Just a thought…

    It would have the opposite effect of working better. It’s part of the baiting. -rc

  7. I also missed the “Republican”/re-publican joke. Hyphen would have helped, but then that spoils the subtlety of the joke.

    Exactly. -rc

    • Well, at the next opportunity you have with a British story I hope you’ll find a use for the colloquial meaning of the verb “to trump” which over here means “to fart”, as in “Did you just trump?”

      Haven’t heard that. So now I want to know what spurred that particular idiom. -rc

      • I think the “trump” = “fart” idiom comes from the noise. So a particularly noisome emission might be described as “the trump of doom”.

      • RC – Trump originally meant “play a trumpet”, then “emit a trumpet-like sound”, and as early as 1552 was used figuratively to mean “fart”.

  8. I’ve heard it said that the Venn diagram of Snowflakes, and people who call other people Snowflakes, is a circle.

    • Shirley, this situation must have been the inspiration for your “Common Sense” meme of May 8?

      I am serious — and don’t call me Shirley. But no, that meme was set to publish some weeks ago. I’m generally 2-3 months ahead in queuing up posts on Randy’s Random; I’m currently working on mid-July. (When one is more timely, like Wednesday’s and Friday’s, I’ll move a previously queued post to the next open slot so I have earlier room for the more topical post. -rc

  9. Tesla fanboys are at least as rabid about their cars as Chevy and Ford guys — so I was enamored enough by the punch line that I missed the ‘trumped’ mention. (Also, as someone who plays a lot of cards, I’m sad that the verb ‘trump’ has been trumped by the proper name noun.)

    How anybody could think that a story about an English pub could be a comment on *US* politics is astounding to me. (And yes, I immediately got and appreciated the ‘publican’ pun.)

    • … and I, having the same first name as the current political head, am sad that my name is now trumped in the daily news cycle, and in the minds of many.

      (I’m not much of a card player, but I’ve always thought the reference to ‘trump’ in card play was obvious. It’s a common metaphor.)

  10. I didn’t notice the usage of “trump” but I really enjoyed the “Republican” reference. Of course, it helps that I lived in Ireland when I was in the USN (the oldest continuous US Navy base in the UK was in Londonderry/Derry until 1977). Naturally, I enjoyed the vacuous comments that took potshots at your “bias”. Some people never learn.

  11. Well, I read both stories and the reactions thereto; and while I understood the context in which the word “trumped” was used, and appreciated the “re-publican” reference — while mentally cataloguing several possible puns relating to “Masterfully Baited” — all I can think to comment is: Can we PLEASE stop looking for things to be offended about? There’s enough negativity in the world without taking issue with every single word or phrase. People are becoming afraid to speak or write freely. Society is being sterilized with so much political correctness that it’s rapidly becoming devoid of nuance.

    I know what you mean, but as you’ve noticed, I refuse to be so bowed. 🙂 -rc

  12. Read the blog headline and I was thinking you finally took up fishing and caught a big one. Well on second thought you DID! You landed a premium obliviot — a rare fish indeed.

  13. When I read the issue, the thing that stood out for me the most from the first story was this line: “Turner was subdued with a shot from a beanbag round”. Given the news we hear almost every day of someone being shot & killed by police, I thought that was a remarkable reflection on the courage & professionalism of the officers involved that they didn’t resort to lethal force before trying the non-lethal variety.

    I did like the tagline, though. 🙂

    Yeah, non-lethal weapons are used every day, and typically work well. Thus, such reports aren’t “news”…. -rc

  14. I used to live one jurisdiction over from Bedford County, Virginia. Even though that’s just “close” and it’s been a while, I read your closing comment as insulting me! But not to the point to actively comment.

    I’m thinking your unsubscribing Premium reader may live there now and took offense at your comment as slamming everyone in Bedford County. You could consider apologizing.

    When he doesn’t respond to my question asking what his issue is, I have no idea what he was offended about. And he lives nowhere near Virginia. All that said, I fail to see why anyone would choose to be offended by that tagline. -rc

  15. Your columns are “non-lethal weapons”. And I love it so much. You are brilliant. And I guess people who unsubscribe for these stupid reasons are not going to be missed.

    Well, except for such funny reading for the rest of us when you print them.

    Keep it up!

    I appreciate your kind words. -rc

  16. Got the pun on “Republican” right off the bat. Is it just me or are people getting more sensitive and less able to find humor in things?

    I don’t think it’s just you…. -rc

  17. As a Bridge player, and a follower of snooker, (Judd Trump has just won the World Snooker Championship), I din’t even blink over the use of the word ‘trump’, instead offering a silent ‘thank you’ that such a useful word is slowly being reclaimed.

    And as for Democratic and Re-Publican, very witty and a clever use of words. Keep up the good work, the world needs more humour!

  18. I’m so sorry. I caught the “republican” pun straight off, and thought it worthy of a chuckle, especially when paired with the “democratic” ideal in the slug. I read and went on, and never even considered that it could be taken politically, other than as a frame for the pun. You sly dog, you!

    You’re apologizing for being smart and thoughtful …why? -rc

  19. Some people are actively looking for political issues to complain about, but not paying attention to the details. The other day I saw an article on the Washington Post website that was critical of a particular Republican politician’s actions. Somebody posted a comment slamming the paper for a supposed right-wing bias against the Democrats. Huh? Even if the article was biased (which it wasn’t), how did the commenter get it completely backwards?

  20. I also missed the republican’s hyphen but certainly was nonetheless entertained. And has nobody heard of the card game Bridge? It’s one of the few where diamonds can be trumps and then trump those dumb hearts. (I was going to use one of the black suits in the previous but didn’t want to cause any more of an uproar.) Very common word; or at least it was a few decades ago.

  21. I LOVED your wordplay with publican, and it leads me to fabricate all sorts of lovely new verbs — such as reserve (to serve a food that is past due for the garbage pail), and repair (to match socks by rolling them together after taking them out of the dryer). Keep up the good work!

    Or repeat — to add more smokiness to whisk(e)y, to tie in with my recent travels! -rc

    • LOL, I will probably find myself doing this with other suffixes as well, –

      deserve – removing the food from the table before the guest can eat it
      intent – one that is constructed indoors for play, usually made of blankets draped over furniture.

      There’s got to be a name for that kind of wordplay. -rc

      • I came up with this “joke” when I was a kid, “Campers do it intense.” Sadly, I’ve never heard it repeated, er, said over again.

  22. Maybe your premium unsubscribe thought you were too “green” for your own good, and we all know that’s even worse than being a democrat. (I focused on the tesla reference.) I totally missed the republican wordplay. I doubt I would have “gotten” that one, but I’m not easily offended. (More often, just unobservant.)

  23. Anyone who has read This is True all the way through more than a couple of times knows that your humour is twisted, not political! And I missed the “publican” word play also!

    Sure — except when they’re looking for ways to be offended, which is a pretty pathetic way to live. -rc

  24. Trivia on an automotive theme on the first article — Bedford used to be the name used by GM’s British subsidiary for their commercial vehicles.

  25. Any description of Naziism illustrates how innocent people are persecuted, tortured and/or killed for the slights they willfully attribute to their enemies. You clearly have insulted the Fatherland but you’re lucky this time. By unsubscribing, the neoGestapo won’t catch you in your next master(ful) baiting. Live on my friend. I greatly fear the ignorant intolerance arising from extremists, be they Democrats or Republicans. They can’t be Publicans, of course, cause those behind the bar are probably the most tolerant of all. Cheers!

  26. I have never been able to resist a bad pun. That said, I cannot comprehend the “thinking” of people who take offence. Yes, that is a complete sentence. We all have the choice to be offended or not, regardless of the subject matter.

    Look at it this way: I am not trying to offend anyone with this comment; if someone takes offence, that is an active choice on the part of the “offended.” If I disagree with a viewpoint, I, at the very least, must allow that it is an OPINION. We ALL have opinions. If I like mine more than yours, does that make me right and you wrong? Pretty narrow thinking. I agree with Carol, Pa: Keep up the good work!

    The [C|K]arols in my readership seem to be pretty sharp. -rc

  27. The title made me think immediately of my cousins teacher in Yorkshire named Bates. They call their teachers Masters.

    This Is True = Weird stories of dam fools!

    You would think he would have chosen a different profession. Just shows he had cojones. -rc

  28. Just read the other day that a large poll was conducted and they found that people who watched the most news on TV were also more depressed. How did we go from a 1/2 hour newscast that followed not only national and world news but also the local news? I just hate having news 24/7. I don’t have a TV anymore and don’t miss it. I read some online papers but that is enough for me.

    The only time I watch news is when I want to see something specific. I don’t even know who the national anchors are anymore. I saw one headline recently that the guy (can’t remember his name) anchoring CBS is leaving …and I didn’t even recognize his name. I don’t think anyone could call me “uninformed” — and I’m anything but depressed! 😀 -rc

  29. I love playing with language. With just about every word in English having more than one meaning (including english) there is a lot to entertain me. A favorite headline that caught my attention was “Fairfax Forms Panel to
    Improve Child Abuse.” The fun increases exponentially when combining British and Irish English with American English.

    Maybe those with the knotted knickers could use more reading in their lives.

  30. The perpetually indignant seem to live a life of splendid self-righteousness, scowling at the constant barrage of insults presented by those who fail to appreciate the wisdom and security of ignorance.

  31. Well I missed the trump bait entirely. When I read the Republican comment, the funny thing is that I didn’t take it politically. I figured there was some meaning behind it or a pun that was over my head and never took the time to figure out what it was. Glad those obliviots complained so I could get some education. I *KNEW* it wasn’t partisan without even contemplating it because the words were literally “A Democratic Ideal is to be Republican” — I just wasn’t sure what I was missing but knew it was something. LOL.

    The “trump” phrasing wasn’t bait. The second story definitely was. Still, your response to not knowing demonstrates very good sense! -rc

  32. Loved the “republican” line on the 2nd story. I got it & I thought it was quite clever, but I knew (from reading comments on some past stories) that some would find it objectionable. That some of them would unsubscribe as a result is a shame, but if they’re THAT touchy then it was only a matter of time before they found something to object to & unsubscribed. (smh)

  33. Even though I had never heard the word publican I got the Republican pun straight off (as our friends across the pond would say). I agree that some individuals are just too easily offended. Lighten up.

  34. The listed unsubscribing obliviots, including the one who eloquently mentioned the conservative Democrats vs. liberal Republicans in the 1800s, appear to be Republicans. Were you able to infer political affiliation of the unmentioned protesters? How many of them were R vs. D?

    You’ve seen the same messages I have. I don’t have copies of any readers’ voting registrations to match up with their email addresses, so your suppositions are as good as mine. -rc

  35. The word ‘trump’ meaning to fart comes from the sound made by a large noisy fart, said to resemble the sound of a trumpet.

    A lot of deliberate farts is I suppose a ‘Trumpet Voluntary’.

  36. It will never cease to amaze me how so many people are so thin skinned these days that they’ll be OUTRAGED! enough to unsubscribe over wordplay that they think is political in nature. Well…that’s the problem: they’re not THINKING!

    I’ve been a subscriber to True almost from the time you started this newsletter (and been a Premium subscriber for many of those years), and not once have I even considered exiting in protest. Granted, I do get fired up about current events…but with True I can put that aside for a while, look at others’ idiocy, get a laugh or two and think (sometimes, at the same time!).

  37. Perhaps I should re-read this. However, was the first story bait or just alliteration. (I noticed the word “trump” a week ago but noticed nothing partisan then. I don’t get the complaints.)

    I’d say the 2nd story is definitely political, but not partisan. Incidentally you have a dreadful pun. I believe most government parties have times they should be accused of taking private property.

    The first story wasn’t baiting, just alliteration. The second story is baiting, but it is not political: the words are used literally, not politically. The U.K. has no “Democratic” nor “Republican” parties. -rc

  38. I also missed the joke. It would have been more obvious to me had you not capitalized Democratic and Republican, and still more obvious if you included the hyphen in re-publican, as you did in your explanation. Thanks for clearing that up.

    I can see now that you did not intend a political message, but when I first read it I thought you did. The MSM in general, and late night comics in particular, have taken a sharp left turn in the last two years. That has led to conservatives becoming more sensitive to perceived slights. Comedians can say almost anything about Trump, and almost nothing about Democrats. The double standard is galling, as are the daily distortions about the Republicans.

  39. Just to correct the record, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was first proposed by John F. Kennedy (a Democrat) and pushed through the legislature by Lyndon B. Johnson (also a Democrat) after Kennedy’s assassination. There were some Southern Democrats who opposed this specific bill, but not the party as a whole. The Democrats were the majority party in the House at the time.

    We don’t need the spreading of falsehoods about anyone or any group.

    Randy, all I can say about these sad unsub responses is, “they live among us,” even among your subscribers.

  40. I read some of the comments, and I realized something about a reaction to one of the stories. It’s a good thing I realized this newsletter is to get people to think.

    Some time ago, probably last year, I saw a story about a church making a name change. I’m not mentioning the name of the church, but some people may be able to guess which one I’m talking about. Anyway, I read the story and started to get offended at the end. Why? To be honest, I’m not sure. I think I thought there was something religious in the story that sounded negative. Either way, I stopped myself and started to think. I soon realized the story is about the church and their name, not religion itself. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone … until now.

    I think you mean you saw the story somewhere else. At least, the story doesn’t sound familiar. -rc

  41. You yourself invited the trouble by capitalizing ‘Democratic’ and ‘Republican’ — so don’t blame others.

    The title could just as easily have been “The Pro-Social Ideal” with the final line reading ‘re-publican.’

    You don’t seem to understand: there’s no “blame” here. Major words of story slugs are always capitalized, and the word in the tag is capitalized as bait …as this page makes extremely clear. TRUE is about thinking, and even when it was explained to you clearly, you still didn’t think about it. Last, if I had said “Pro-Social” I would have been accused by the touchy whiners as “a socialist” — almost guaranteed. -rc


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