Satire doesn’t belong in a newspaper. And by “satire” I mean stating what is not true for humorous or rhetorical effect.
Why? Because people believe what they read in a newspaper. I learned that 20 years ago when, attempting a bit of Christmastime levity, I wrote a parody column thanking all the imaginary people who make my life a bed of ease: our gardener, chef, nannies, plus various assistants and a non-existent secretary:
If you’ve ever phoned my office, you’ve heard the lovely Georgia drawl of Miss Annie Sherman, and it’s a pleasure to start every morning with her always cheery Hiya, chief! and one of her homemade pralines.
All good fun. Until my mother phoned and said, “I didn’t know you had a secretary ... ” Ah, yes. No. Satire. Ever.
That is a long way of explaining why today’s column originally began:
Is Oberweis milk merely watered-down white paint? Do Chicagoans need to be concerned that their Oberweis cottage cheese is actually made from the clotted secretions of alligators? They will be relieved to discover the answer is an emphatic ‘no.’
Actually, that wasn’t the first version. The first version involved poison. But as much as I wanted to start this column with a series of outrageous lies, I didn’t, even jokingly. Because people glance at stories. They misunderstand. And they believe what they read in the newspaper. It’s a weighty responsibility that journalists take very seriously.
Though to me, Oberweis milk might as well be paint. I wouldn’t pay money for any Oberweis product because the company is owned by Jim Oberweis, the serial Republican candidate and fawning Trump toady. My money might end up in his pocket, encouraging him to run for office yet again. Trump can inflict the damage he does because guys like Oberweis cheer him on.
And who is Jim Oberweis? A typical Kane County Republican whose self-regard obviously is not satisfied running his grandfather’s dairy. So in 2002, he began an epic streak of electoral failure, first by running for U.S. Senate. He lost. Then again in 2004, he lost again, the GOP banner snatched away by carpetbagger/goofball Alan Keyes.
In 2006, Oberweis ran for governor, promising to change the Illinois Constitution to enshrine his hatred of gay people. Spoiler alert: he lost. In 2008, Oberweis shifted his attention to the U.S. Congress, and . . . wait for it . . . lost.
In 2012, Oberweis decided to lower the bar so even he could stumble over it. He ran for the Illinois Senate. This time, mirabile dictu, he won. This unaccustomed victory must have rattled Oberweis, who immediately entered the 2014 U.S. Senate race, opposing Dick Durbin. He . . . all together now . . . LOST!
Five defeats might sober a reasonable man. Not Oberweis. In this past election, he ran for Congress against Rep. Lauren Underwood. Just before the election, Oberweis made a pilgrimage to Kenosha to be patted on the head by Donald Trump, and, like Trump, prematurely declared victory when the vote count swung in his direction. But once all the ballots were actually counted, Oberweis lost again. Loss No. 6, for those keeping score. Though like Trump, of course Oberweis refuses to concede.
Lying and hypocrisy go hand in hand. Oberweis can eagerly support a man like Trump, who falsely claims to have been cheated of an electoral victory, when what happened was he was soundly defeated by Americans outraged at his immorality and incompetence. Trump’s lies are A-OK to Oberweis. Yet were I to lie about his milk company, even in jest and immediately corrected, Oberweis would complain, frothy with indignation. Then lies would suddenly be bad.
My only prayer is, after Trump is muscled out of the Oval Office, that someday people like him or Oberweis will look at themselves and finally feel the shame they have earned.
Until then, one way to oppose this Trump nightmare is to push against those who encourage him. Our country is in danger. The danger is that Trump’s lies will become the nation’s reality. There is also the danger that, to defeat them, Democrats will adopt GOP tactics. That we must not do. We must not ape their lies but beat them on our terms, with truth. The truth is, Oberweis milk is quite good, especially the chocolate. It’s the owner who is poison.