I said I was done, and I am, except for one thing–this, from politico.com, in its coverage of DAvid Brooks and Marijuana:

But the real coup was a response from one Gary Greenberg, who claimed to have been a member of Brooks’s high school stoner crew. His piece was full of all sorts of unsavory details about Brooks, including the allegation that Brooks’s practical pot joke once got an African-American student kicked out of school and sent to juvy.

However, Brooks had never heard of Greenberg. The essay was intended as satire, and hours after its publication Greenberg was forced to publish a note at the top which began, “What follows here is satire of the Juvenalian variety.” Penguin, Greenberg’s publisher, sent his piece to journalists (including yours truly) and, when asked if it was real, replied: “Indeed it’s satire – but still a hilarious piece.” Less so as satire.

OK, I’ll say up front that I have no idea what Penguin did or why, and I will overlook the question of whether the fact that something is satire makes it more or less funny (although I will point out that what varies with the genre is the target of the humor). But, and this is important, I was not “forced to publish a note” explaining that this was satire. I did it because I wanted to, out of courtesy to a reading public whose sensibilities I had obviously misjudged (although not entirely–plenty of people got the joke, and I think the people most likely to take me seriously were those who a) wanted to believe this was true and b) who had a deadline).

And I’ll point out, for the thousandth time, that while I am sure it is true that “Brooks had never heard of Greenberg” (actually, I’m not so sure; I’m guessing he read my Nation review of the Social Animal and wished he’d never heard of me), his statement is not what “debunked” (as so many other outlets put it) my story. I debunked my story. I debunked it by making it, as Zach Beauchamp, one of the very few reporters to bother asking,  says, “epically preposterous.” I debunked it by telling everyone who asked that it was a satire. I debunked it by volunteering that information to the people who didn’t ask, which included many of the top news websites in the country, who were apparently in too much of a hurry to read the article carefully, let alone to ask me if it was true. And then I debunked it by putting that stupid, and widely ignored, to judge from my inbox and comments, disclaimer on the blog.

So don’t make it out like you guys tracked me down and forced me to confess like you were some kind of Eliot Ness to my Al Capone.  I added that note of my own volition and even though it goes against my own instincts and principles, because it was really inconvenient to keep answering the question. Plus, people seemed upset, and I have come to see that the Internet has outdated my principles and instincts, and despite my best efforts, I am a responsible citizen and a decent person.

3 Responses to “P.S.”

  1. Lawrence says:

    Of all the writers who’ve recently been accused of perpetrating hoaxes, you’ve done the most splendid job of turning your experience into grist for entertaining writing. Keep up the good work.

  2. Nick says:

    What a disgrace. Rock on Greenberg

  3. Lyle James says:

    Well, Gary, I’ve commented here before to say I think your David Brooks “pot” piece was an astute takedown of a really smug columnist. Let me just add that I believe the major reason so many smart people mistook it for fact is that it imagined an adolescent Brooks that was so utterly plausible based on what we know about the real-life adult. The smarmy sniveling, self-satisfied behavior of your fictional adolescent simply squares so convincingly with the smarmy, self-satisfied adult on display every week in Brooks’ columns and TV appearances. Isn’t that the hallmark of great fiction — that despite (or because of) all our knowledge of the real world, it has the ring of truth?

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