The Spectacle Blog

Revisionist History?

By on 2.6.07 | 4:21PM

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, noticed this remembrance of Molly Ivins in Slate:

But above all, Ivins was funny. Stuff-out-your-nose, choke-on-your-muffin funny. And that fact alone should warrant a parade.

My friend has an all together different memory of Ivins:

I met Ivins once at a Politics n' Prose book signing event in about 2003. The bookstore faced an overflow turnout and so a local Lutheran Church was used. Ivins, I kid you not, gave her talk from the pulpit. She literally preached to the converted.

You'd have expected such an overflow crowd to put her in a good mood. (Hey! I have a lot friends and I'm gonna make some money selling my latest book!) Not really. She was not happy, though she was more morose than angry. She was upset that Bush had won. She was upset that DeLay was in charge in the House. She was upset that after all these years of writing about what bad people those two were most voters weren't listening. And finally she was especially upset that Texas was getting more and more conservative and that she had to come to D.C. to find fans. It just wasn't fair. Why weren't the right people listening to her? Why weren't her columns having an effect?

Man, that is one unhappy woman I thought as I drove home.

I actually liked Ivins as a commentator. She did what a good columnist should do: present an argument, make the best case for it and leave the reader with something to think about after they've finished the column.

What she wasn't, though, was funny. She was simply mean. She didn't just dislike people who disagreed with her, she held them in utter contempt and (unlike some prominent columnists) had no problem with saying so. There's nothing necessarily wrong with being mean. Sometimes it is called for. But what was so often called her "humor" was little more than ad hominem attacks. It was amusing only if you shared her viewpoint. Playing to a partisan crowd is not humor and not wit. True wits do not have a socialist "humor code" that only aims to help the proletariat …

One other thing that annoyed me about her: her faux Texas-isms. My father worked in the oil industry. Through his job and our hunting trips I met enough Texans to last me a lifetime. Not one - not one - talked the way Ivins wrote. Yeah, there are all sorts of Texas accents but Ivin's "Ah'm jus' part of dah commun kinfolk" routine was a clear example of overcompensation. To make up for her lefty ways, she must have felt she needed to play up the beer n' boots n' square-dance schtick.

I'm sorry the woman died of cancer. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. But death doesn't mean we should rewrite the past or the truth. And the truth is that Ivins was an extremely bitter, angry woman who couldn't handle the fact that people disagreed with her.

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