The story thus far: On Tuesday, the Manhattan-based alt-weekly New York Press ran as a cover story an article by Matt Taibbi. The title? "The 52 Funniest Things About The Upcoming Death of The Pope." The first entry read:
"Pope pisses himself just before the end; gets all over nurse."
The final entry:
"Throw a marble at the dead Pope's head. Bonk!"
In between were such gems as:
"After beating for the last time, Pope's heart sits there like a piece of hamburger."
"Dead Pope, still with baboon face, wheeled through corridors of Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome, learns answer to Great Mystery."
Taibbi has the haunted corpse of the pope complaining he can't reach his penis and worrying that someone else is taking his job. He has the College of Cardinals burning "5000 back issues of Manscape and Hung Inches that had accumulated in the Vatican lobby" in the chimney to announce the election of the new pope. Taibbi included a lot of riffs that might appeal to a bunch of frat boys late Friday night/Saturday morning, after a kegger.
In the New York Daily News, Lloyd Grove called the Press "a handout that is best used to line birdcages." He wrote that the story was "shockingly offensive," and solicited comments from fellow New Yorkers. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, Mayor Bloomberg, and even Abraham Foxman lined up to denounce the alt-weekly. And Press editor Jeff Koyen, who is not normally in the business of backing down from a fight, refused to call Grove back.
The Catholic League got into the act, using the cover story as an opportunity to take a shot at what it believes is the reigning ethos of the Press. The press release "quoted" President William Donohue as saying that the alt-weekly's "celebration of libertinism leaves it squarely at odds with the sexual reticence favored by Catholicism." He continued:
It also leaves it squarely at odds with nature, which explains why attending funerals is not an uncommon experience for those who work there. But like a dopey dog who doesnÂ’t recognize his master, they plod along never learning from the wisdom the Catholic Church has to offer. And, of course, they hate the pope. Which makes sense: he is the one man whose commitment to the truth has literally driven them over the edge.
(I should break from narrator mode here to say that I don't think I've ever seen Donohue land a more effective -- or personal -- shot.)
Drudge linked to the cover story, which briefly shut down the New York Press website. The blogs are still all over this. On her site Open Book, Amy Welborn called the story "pathological" and "insane" and wondered why Taibbi wasn't locked up in a mental ward somewhere. Because of the difficulty that people were having getting through to the story, she reposted it in its entirety. She taunted, "Sue me NYPress, I really don't care."
At his Rightwing Film Geek blog, Victor Morton explained why he wouldn't be reading the alt-weekly anymore. Morton wrote that his own "sense of humor is sufficiently sick that I could imagine myself, in principle, laughing at an article titled '52 Reasons Person X's Death is Funny.'"
Indeed, Morton would be willing to "excuse a LOT if I think it funny." But he didn't think this article was in any wise funny, and, given the length and stridency of the thing, he argued that it gave readers a window into a very black heart, "because keeping up that attitude for that length requires simple, pure, unvarnished, unredeemed hate."
Morton further argued that there was good reason to stop reading the Press over this story. He explained, "[P]utting something on a professionally-produced publication's cover says something about the kind of publication it is." In this case, the Press chose to say something about itself that many readers should find distasteful and disqualifying.
Over at Demure Thoughts, Jennifer Somebody decided to mock the Press' slogan: "'New York Press, New York's [Premier] Alternative Newspaper.' Alternative to what? This is just the shit the Times wishes it could print."