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June 24, 2009

Publisher approves Fake Issue

When I sat down to write this column, having spent the last two weeks writing and reading the wholly fabricated news, reviews and opinion pieces that follow, I wondered whether to be sincere.

I thought about how readers would respond to an attempt at sincerity as the portal to an issue filled with utter — and sometimes unfathomable — lies. I also considered what kind of joke a Fake Issue really is, and whether the butt of that joke is us, you or those unfortunate enough to have walked past our scopes.

I’ve decided to angle toward the earnest, perhaps because all this fakeness is making me cynical — even if it was more fun than I’ve had in weeks.

We all know that humor is often the best way to get at important truths, things that are difficult to cope with when taken seriously. It helps bring a greater understanding of everything around us. This is also, of course, a parallel task of journalism: to make sense of that which we observe every day, whether in government, the arts, music, or the social movements of our time.

The place where the two converge has become infinitely more intriguing over the last decade. There is The Onion, the totally fake “news” outlet that has grown from a small weekly into a world-dominating website, TV show, movie, and general menace to the veracity of the Facebook generation. There’s also “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central’s sister pseudo-news/commentary/comedy shows. Both have tried to teach the mainstream media to take itself a little less seriously while evolving into essential journalistic outlets for young people (as well as some older folks, the ones who don’t take themselves too seriously).

What is the lesson of these successes? Perhaps that, with unprecedented access to information the world-over, we are so overwhelmed by the dourness and predictability of virtually everything that is marketed to us, sold to us, packaged for us, explained to us, or barked in our general direction that we just have to laugh. The world is an absurd place, and the people we’ve left in charge are just as ridiculous as the guy who asked you for a dollar on your way to the office this morning — but at least we know where that guy’s coming from.

We try not to get too bogged down here at LEO, even though every week there’s another story in this rag about something somebody’s doing wrong. We celebrate the city’s substantial arts, dining and music cultures, even when doing so means calling somebody out for not doing good enough. And we try to make light of that which is naturally heavy, even though it’s probably going to get us in trouble somewhere, with someone, this week.

Frankly, I can’t believe the powers-that-be (don’t kid yourself that it’s me) are letting us do this. I can tell you, as I write this hours before we go to press, that they are nervous. But I am enthusiastic, because sometimes you’ve got to stuff the bad pills in some ice cream to get them down.

The people who work for LEO are an elite team of thinkers and doers who process what happens in and to our city in gloriously unusual ways. Our photographers and production team have done an unbelievable job giving you something to look at while you’re not reading. We asked a lot of our writers in this issue, and they fulfilled every expectation: The stories are hilarious, deeply informed, savvy, smart and witty. Some are coarse and others fluffy. But all of them contribute directly to what LEO aspires to be: a source that is straight with you every time.

Maybe that’s ultimately why I wanted to be sincere with this column, when so often I burn up this space writing around that impulse. What follows (and Inbox, too) is a joke for us all, and on us all, because we really do take ourselves way too seriously sometimes.

When you find yourself in a huff over some minor controversy, consider the possibility that you are simply reacting to the controversy and not what is real about it. The real risk of judging something based on emotion or simple reaction is that we lose our bead on the truth. There is truth in all these stories and jokes, and if you read LEO with any regularity you will get that.

Really, though, I just hope you laugh.

*This story is part of LEO's Fake Issue.  

Tagged: Editor’s Note |