DM – A column about sitting next to an overweight person on an airplane has cost a longtime Minnesota newspaper columnist his job.
For 30 years, Alan Linda has written the Fergus Falls Daily Journal’s Prairie Spy column about his experiences in New York Mills, Minnesota.
But last week the newspaper’s editorial board fired Linda for ridiculing a person he called ‘fat’ in his column.
‘Hard to sell popcorn dripping with butter to people who already can’t squeeze their big, fat – ummmmm – self into the seat’ wrote Linda. …
The controversial piece, titled ‘Taking notice of the size of people in today’s world’, was removed from the Fergus Falls Daily Journal’s website.
Tim Engstrom, the Daily Journal’s editor and publisher, said … “Personally, I think it’s a generational thing. I think at one point you could talk about someone wearing glasses as a “four-eye”, or make fun of a person’s weight or the color of their hair.
‘Now people are, “No bullying, no body-shaming”.
Alright, I’m calling it. Time of death: February, 2017. Common sense was already on life support but had a DNR in place, so we can’t take heroic measures. Rest in peace, rationality. Farewell, sanity. We hardly knew ye.
Obviously I don’t know this Alan Linda from Linda Cardellini. Maybe he’s a hack. Writing humor columns for the Fergus Falls Daily Journal for 30 years would sort of suggest he’s not exactly PJ O’Rourke. And airplane gripes is hardly the most original idea for a column. But ranting about getting stuck next to a fat guy isn’t a hate crime. It’s a universal truth. There’s not a man, woman or child among us who hasn’t at one time lost the fight for arm rest space with someone’s Bingo flaps or had to brush up against some guy’s sweaty back fat on a hot night at a ballgame. It’s part of the human condition in 2017. And making fun of it isn’t a “generational thing,” it’s facing reality. Which is what comedy is supposed to be. In fact, it’s the only thing comedy is.
I’ve been wearing glasses all my life. And I got called “four-eyes.” I’m also – and this might shock you so feel free to get back to me and tell me how wrong I am about this – not the most attractive man on the planet. Plus I went through a fat phase, from grades 3 through 8. So I took fair share of abuse. Most of it from the kids who grew up to be my best friends. If anything, they were doing me a favor. I took the abuse, gave it back better than I got it and lived to tell the tale. I came out the other side better for it. It’s probably part of what got me into the comedy world in my 20s.
And that’s when I was taking other people’s crap to my face. I hardly doubt I’d be scarred for life if I got anonymously referred to by the author of Prairie Spy. But this is what we’ve come to. No one can laugh at themselves. No one can take a joke. A few people who still read local papers get offended by a stupid humor column, someone loses their job of 30 years. No one tells them “Lighten up, Francis.” No one pulls the writer aside and says “We got some complaints about your last article. You might want to ease up on the fatties, they’re a sensitive bunch.” Heads just automatically roll. And humor writing dies a horrible death before our eyes. Just another reason why I thank God every day that Barstool exists.