Self-editing is overrated. Or is it?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The final apocalypse of irony is upon us.

Well, this is it, ladies and gentlemen. I knew that this day would eventually get here and I have to say that I’m a little surprised that it’s getting so little attention in the mainstream press, but this is definitely the moment that I saw coming.

Over the last few years, there have been quite a few times where we have thought “Ah yes, this is a defining moment in our society.”, but none, NONE, have had such an impact on me as what I am about to report to you today.

Are you ready? Are you sitting down? Because what I am about to tell you is nothing less than the final apocalypse of irony. This is the moment that we’ve all been waiting for.

George Bush has officially outlawed the right to annoy people.

This is not a joke. Well, ok, it’s a joke in the sense that it’s ridiculous and funny, but this did actually happen yesterday.

In a story reported by UPI, George Bush yesterday signed into law the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, which is mostly a bill designed to strengthen laws about violence against women, as well as a bunch of money and improvements to the Justice Department.

Now, who could vote against that, right? Nobody is willing to stand up and say “Hey, I’m for violence against women, and also, let’s let the Justice Department go out of business.” It’s what they call a must-pass bill, and so, as a result, when people see something that’s going to actually get through Congress, they all wanna tack their particular preoccupation onto it, so that they can claim credit for it later.

SO! In this case, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), trying to be a bad-ass, slipped in this clause at the last minute into the very back of the bill that apparently few in Congress noticed as they approved it and sent it to the president to sign.

The clause outlaws using the Internet "with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass." There are many legal definitions of abuse, threaten, and harass, but this is the first federal law ever that actually has the word annoy in it.

“Wait a minute!” I hear you say. “There’s no one who annoys me more than George W. Bush, and his administration uses the internet all the time to advance his annoying policies and his annoying personality! My god, can this be true? Has George finally out-stupided himself and accidentally made himself illegal?”

Ah, if only it were that easy, my friend.

Turns out that there literally is no legal definition of the word annoy, and, as anyone who’s ever had to buy a Kenny G album as a Christmas present knows, there are many different interpretations of what exactly is annoying.

"A clearer definition of the technology it applies to, as well as the definition of 'annoy,' is vital to the true heart of the law," said Matt Cerrone, of "As it is, without these clarifications, it comes extremely close to violating First Amendment rights."

“This is an example of the usual reactions that happen when politicians get involved in technology that they don't understand," said Drew Curtis of "The first time it gets taken out for a spin, it will get shut down legally." He points out that there are numerous laws already in place for abusive and threatening speech, and that this law will not do anything to change those laws already out there.

But because annoy has been added to this law, it now brings a whole host of questions of what (and, all right, who) exactly is Constitutionally annoying.

I really just want this law to go to court so we can finally have that national debate on what actually is annoying. I have such a long list that I’m gonna need my own team of lawyers when I testify. And then I’ll call my lawyers annoying too!

But maybe I’m looking at this in the wrong way. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe we can all come to some sort of understanding as we slowly air all our grievances, and find that common ground of “Hey, that annoys me too!”

Although I can already see how this all may degenerate into the argument we all had in second grade – i.e. “You’re annoying!” “No, you’re annoying!” “You are!” “No, you are!” “Shut up, the both of you, your arguing is really annoying me!” “Stop yelling! It’s so annoying!” "Oh my god, you people are all so annoying, you're all under arrest!" "No, you're under arrest!" "You're out of order!" "No, you're out of order! This whole courtroom is out of order! This entire joke is completely out of order, as it's gone on far too long and is now just really annoying!" "No, your joke is annoying!", etc, etc etc.

Interestingly enough, people are already trying to undo the law at the grass-roots level through email, but, here again, irony has the last laugh.

The email that’s going around states:

"There is a new law against annoying someone on the Internet, but it can be repealed if you forward this to 25 people."

Welcome to the dawn of a new era.


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