So, We're Getting Meaner! What's It To Ya? : The Two-Way From snarky remarks about Bristol Palin's dancing to blaming the people of Haiti for their earthquake, the meanness meter went pretty high in 2010.
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So, We're Getting Meaner! What's It To Ya?

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So, We're Getting Meaner! What's It To Ya?

So, We're Getting Meaner! What's It To Ya?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

What kind of a year was 2010? What characterized American behavior in the year that's coming to an end? Well, whenever I have a big question like that, I tend to hear an opinion from my colleague, whom you don't get to hear, Melissa Gray. She's one of our producers.

In fact, I often hear an opinion from Melissa even when I don't have a big question like that. So we asked her, what kind of a year was this? What was it about?

MELISSA GRAY: You know, Robert, it's been a mean year. It seems like every time we turned around, there was video or audio of somebody being really ugly to somebody else.

SIEGEL: That is such a sweeping judgment from Melissa Gray that we should probably put it to some learned commentator or social critic for evaluation.

Instead, we've - no, actually, we are turning now to satirist Andy Borowitz, who is the author of the website The Borowitz Report. Welcome to the program.

Mr. ANDY BOROWITZ: Well, it's great to be here, Robert.

SIEGEL: Think it was a mean year?

Mr. BOROWITZ: Boy, Melissa's a downer, I've got to say.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOROWITZ: That was such a negative co-worker you have there.

SIEGEL: She's eight months pregnant, I should mention.

Mr. BOROWITZ: Oh, that explains everything. You know, it was a mean year, but just to put it in some historical perspective, I don't think it was as mean as some other years.

For example, 1651 was an incredibly mean year. That was the year that, for those who didn't immediately pick up on it, is Thomas Hobbes wrote "Leviathan." And Thomas Hobbes was talking all about how man is in a state of nature, and we are at war with each other all the time, 24/7.

And that is kind of like what this year was like. We were seeing a lot of beastly behavior, and the distribution system for our beastliness has gotten so much better because we have the Internet now.

SIEGEL: Yeah, Hobbes gave being nasty, brutish and short a bad name.

Mr. BOROWITZ: Exactly.

SIEGEL: Back in those days. Now you, I gather, considered the seismological analysis of Pat Robertson of the Haitian earthquake to be an example of mean.

Mr. PAT ROBERTSON: They got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if we will get us free from the French, true story.

Mr. BOROWITZ: Yeah, now this is, again, just a case of good manners. We're taught not to kick somebody when they're down. And Pat Robertson, in January, it's now been almost a year, right after the earthquake hit Haiti, said that it kind of served them right because they had this long history of devil worship.

And again, you know, it seemed kind of mean at the time.

SIEGEL: Youve followed up on that with a recent piece on The Borowitz Report, "Pat Robertson, Snow is God's Way of Punishing Americans Who Are Planning to Drive to Do Something Gay." That was your interpretation about the Northeastern snowstorm.

Mr. BOROWITZ: That's right. I think the most shocking thing about that fake news story is how many people thought it was real.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOROWITZ: So that's always kind of an interesting barometer.

SIEGEL: Now, there was a moment that is cited by lots of people as one of the -certainly one of the most eventful moments in sports of the year. But this was the famous broadcast on ESPN, LeBron James announcing the decision.

Mr. LeBRON JAMES (Basketball Player): Very tough. And this fall, I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.


Mr. BOROWITZ: Well, that still hurts because, Robert, I'm from Cleveland. So I've got to say, that was the meanest thing that anyone has ever done to anyone in history as far as I can tell.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOROWITZ: That's - you were changing your Facebook status, your relationship status, with an entire city. Youre basically saying, were no longer in a relationship. You've skipped right past it's complicated to in a relationship with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

So I thought that was - Cleveland had, and I don't think any Clevelanders would disagree with me, we had very little going for us at that point other than LeBron, and he dissed us. We're still hurting.

And then we were mean to him when he came to play in Cleveland. So that's - in the theme of meanness in 2010, we booed and we wore a lot of sarcastic T-shirts when he came to town.

SIEGEL: Yes, Cleveland's response was wit.

Mr. BOROWITZ: Exactly, because his big thing, his big motto when he was in Cleveland was witness. So we wore shirts that said quitness. It was really clever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOROWITZ: It sort of brought out the Jonathan Swift in us all.

SIEGEL: Another example of meanness from 2010?

Mr. BOROWITZ: Another example of meanness? Well, I think that just to be fair, I think that the behavior of a lot of snarky people on the Internet towards Bristol Palin was mean this year.

(Soundbite of television program, "Dancing With the Stars")

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Announcer: Dancing the tango, Bristol Palin and her partner Mark Ballas.

Mr. BOROWITZ: She was on "Dancing with the Stars," dancing her heart out. And, you know, there was a lot of debate about her performance and about how she looked and everything.

And it's one thing to be mean towards her mom, who can sometimes be the queen of mean, as far as I'm concerned. But that's fair. She's an adult. She's a public figure. She can take it. But people were really mean to Bristol. But then in kind of a neat twist, Bristol's little sister, Willow, sort of stood up for her sister on Facebook and said incredibly mean things about all the haters.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: That's right.

Mr. BOROWITZ: And I think, you know, I think Willow is, if I'm not mistaken, around 16 years old. So she's like in the wheelhouse of meanness. She is in that mean girls phase. So in a way, we have to give her a pass, but she said some really horrendous things, and I really hope that Willow will be nicer next year.

SIEGEL: Now, there were also some mean moments in the campaign year of 2010. One of them that you selected, this is at your suggestion, occurred on this program. This was on the day when the Republican candidate for governor of New York, Carl Paladino, I believe was launching the - this was the kindness offensive that day.

Mr. BOROWITZ: This is his charm offensive.

SIEGEL: Right.

I'll take you out, he said. You'll...

Mr. CARL PALADINO: Absolutely. I said - and I've said it time and again, I will take out that bad government, I will take out the bad guys. I will take out Sheldon Silver, and yes, I will take out the trash. And do you know who's included in the trash? Fred Dicker...

SIEGEL: The New York Post reporter, who...

Mr. PALADINO: He's part of - he's part of everything that is wrong in our government today.

SIEGEL: But on a broader level, on a broader level, you know, distributing email, by email, images of Photoshopped...

Mr. PALADINO: Thats a broader level? How many times do you want me to answer that question?

SIEGEL: Well, I haven't heard you answer the question about Photoshopped images of the Obamas dressed up as a pimp and a streetwalker.

Mr. PALADINO: I apologize to anybody, okay, who may have been offended by my resending of emails. I didn't create them, I resent them.

Mr. BOROWITZ: Now, Robert, I have to tell you, I was driving in my car and heard that moment live. And I thought that some new barrier had been breached because I have never heard anyone be that rude on NPR. I just have - did you feel something new was happening there or was this just par for the course?

SIEGEL: No, I'd say that was a pretty unusual interview with a candidate for pretty serious office.

Mr. BOROWITZ: I dont think he was being all that metaphorical when he was saying he would take people out like he would take out the trash and take out the bad things about government. He was using it in the sort of Tony Soprano terminology.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOROWITZ: I don't think there's any confusion about that if you watch that clip.

SIEGEL: CNN fires afternoon host Rick Sanchez, following his comments in a radio interview in which he referred to Jon Stewart as a bigot and said that CNN and all media outlets are run by Jews. He later apologized.

Mr. BOROWITZ: He did apologize, although, I reported on this, you know, when he left CNN, he said he was leaving to spend more time with Mel Gibson.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOROWITZ: And I thought, I thought that really that sent the wrong message.

SIEGEL: Looking ahead, do you think it's possible that 2011 could be the year of kumbaya?

Mr. BOROWITZ: I think you really ought to ask somebody who knows what's going to happen in the future, and that would be Julian Assange.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Since he's holding all the cards, eh?

Mr. BOROWITZ: He already knows.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOROWITZ: Okay. Andy Borowitz, thank you very much for joining us from New York.

Mr. BOROWITZ: Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: Satirist Andy Borowitz, who is the author of The Borowitz Report at

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