Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: The Magic of Defamation

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
November 4, 2010

So who had the most fun in the 2010 campaign in New Mexico? The answer is obvious: It had to be the anonymous person or persons behind a crazy little blog called NM Defamation Suit.

"This site makes humorous statements about public figures," a modest disclaimer reads on the top of the page. "Please keep your cease-and-desist e-mails to yourself."

Defamation Suit lives up to that promise of satirizing politicos. There's no apparent partisan agenda, as all are fair game. With a good working knowledge of New Mexico politics, and a little skill at Photoshop, the site indulges in wild ridicule at those who run — or would like to run — this state.

Warning: The humor often is scatological, frequently vicious, sometimes juvenile. There have been a few times when they've written unflattering things about some of my fellow journalist cronies, such as blogger/reporter Heath Haussamen, who made the mistake of billing the blog for using one of his photographs.

Someone should stop them before they pervert the children. (I check it nearly every day.)

Defamation Suit describes candidates in ways that their opponents only fantasize about.

Diane Denish: "... a painfully boring invalid with no discernible insight into anything." Jon Barela: "He looks like the Slush Puppy on downers."

"Fun with Photoshop" is a constant Defamation theme. Early posts included the face of now-Gov.-elect Susana Martinez on the obese body of some extreme-eating contestant — claiming Martinez had skipped a debate to compete in a chimichanga-eating contest.

Another showed the face of GOP gubernatorial also-ran Pete Domenici Jr. — who at the time had just admitted to using drugs as a young man — on the body of Al Pacino in Scarface, sitting at a desk covered with cocaine.

Some of the funniest material on Defamation Suit could be described as "found-object" satire.

After Tuesday's election, Defamation published a selection of actual tweets and Facebook posts expressing "elation/suicidal thoughts" about the results. Held up to ridicule are doom, gloom and bile from disappointed Democrats and overly giddy Republicans.

The blog has gotten some mileage by lifting (real) photos from Secretary of State Mary Herrera's Facebook page — including a picture of Herrera with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall. I don't know the real circumstances of the photo, but it looks as if Udall was trying to avoid Herrera by talking on his cell phone.

And though the blog is Defamation's main medium, it recently ventured into video production. With a techno-music audio backdrop, they had some hilarious fun with an example of Denish's recent verbal stumbling at a debate. (Denish was trying to say that Martinez gave some staff members "big fat bonuses," but it didn't come out that way.)

Some politicians seem amused at the blog. Its Facebook pages list several among its "friends" and "fans." And a couple months ago, after it made fun of what former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White must have been like as a child, White, good sport that he is, e-mailed them an actual photo of himself at age 8.

The only actual complaint from a politician I've seen was early this year when Santa Fe Sheriff Greg Solano posted on his blog, "The writer fancies his or herself a comedian, but not a Sinbad type comedian known for his lack of profanity but much more like Richard Pryor known for his harsh profanity laden humor."

On its Twitter feed, Defamation thanked Solano for the plug and assured him "we try to emulate Sinbad in every way we can."