Simcha Fisher has been let go from NCR. I am stunned. Indeed, I need to sit down.
Oh dear. I am sorry. I'm not a regular reader, but Simcha is funny and full of faith. She has a houseful of children, and she isn't too proud to write about the poverty this can plunge you into; she wrote about it on Facebook, too. I read B.A. her remarks about losing-her-mind-bought-steak-on-green-stamps, and he laughed out loud at her "gravy from the blood of the American worker" quip. I can't decide which is more humiliating, green stamps or the food bank. (We don't have green stamps in Canada or the UK. Update: Actually, I don't know what they are. What do Americans mean when they talk about "green stamps"? Are they literally coupons?) Good for Simcha for laughing through her tears.
In the wake of the Mark Shea firing, I read about Simcha's use of naughty words on Facebook. This is the second time the Catholic blogosphere has been sent to Simcha's Facebook page. I remember some scandal involving her husband chiming in with the naughty words. Neither of them is a patch on my online pal Artur Rosman, who was fired from Patheos. I don't think that was for naughty words, though, but for fighting on social media and in comboxes.
Artur has an earthy sense of humour, which is putting it mildly. He thinks that there was a funny side to the Incarnation and that our Lord sees it too and agrees with Artur that it is hilarious. The fact that God the Son willingly took on our bodily functions... I'll just stop there.
Somebody disturbed by Artur's take on the Incarnation started to follow him on social media and to collect a dossier of outrageous comments he and his friends made to each other. (One pal delighted in leaving stuff when he knew Artur wasn't around to immediately erase it.) The stalker then sent the collection to the editor of OnePeterFive, who began a social media brawl, which spilled out onto the pavement of his blog, and it was really terrible. Artur said something fatally dumb, of which Steve made the worst possible (if not surprising) interpretation, and it went nuclear. Patheos stood by Artur (as did I, weakly wailing in the OnePeterFive combox), but at the next difficulty...
Anyway, here is a tip I learned from my dealings with American Catholic Media: conservative American Catholics hate other Catholics to use dirty words. This is true even of reported speech. I have written dialogue in which characters use the kind of words those kind of characters would use, and they have been struck out by uncomfortable American editors. We aren't talking just about the F-word which, incidentally, I don't use in public. We are talking about the S-word (which I also don't use in public).* The S-word cannot appear in American Catholic media without American Catholics going bananas, and I have come to respect that. It's part of the culture. It's not MY culture, but it's the culture of my biggest audience.
Rule Number One for Writers: Respect your audience.
Meanwhile, my Facebook page isn't public, and here is where I explain to all readers that, with very few exceptions, I don't become Facebook friends with someone I haven't met in person. I think it is mad to assume that, having given the world access to your family-and-friends bulletin board, the world won't look and your self-appointed enemies won't take screen shots to shame you.
Rule Number Two for Writers: Know your audience.
I think we have come to a particularly acrimonious time in both the Church and in American politics--and I have a pretty good memory. When I was a child, a media take on Ronald Reagan was that he was an irresponsible, warmongering cowboy-idiot who might very well lead us all to nuclear armageddon. People groaned in holy horror that an actor had been elected president. And, of course, someone tried to assassinate him. However, the Clinton-Trump stuff is beyond the scale of nastiness and worry, and I feel terrible for my American readers who think they have to choose between them.
Some years ago, a friend was dithering between the Republicans and the Junior Senator from Illinois. She really didn't like the Republicans, but the Junior Senator's voting record on life issues was abysmal. Speaking as a Canadian, I am fascinated by the Americans' "write-in candidate" option, so I asked her who she honestly thought would make a good president.
"My dad," she replied.
"Besides your dad," I said.
"Oprah," she admitted.
Okay, Oprah struck me as a viable candidate. I imagined that any number of people were probably already writing in Oprah's name. If enough people refused to do as they were told and just voted like FREE AMERICANS for Oprah, then....how beautiful it would be. The people would really have told the political class where they get off.
But I digress.
Rule Number Three for Writers: Write from the heart, but keep a cool head.
I honestly don't know how much NCReg pays its columnists. I don't imagine that it's much, but whatever it is, it must be better than zero. This strikes me primarily as a financial blow for the Fisher family, and for that I am truly sorry. Of course Simcha's fans will still be able to read her writing online, but how one earth to make online writing pay without begging is a conundrum I, for one, have not been able to solve.
Update: American traditionalists may wonder why I didn't mention NCRegister's firing of Pat Archibald. It is because Archibald had a column at The Remnant (and therefore a new paycheque) before I registered that NCR had let him go. To be frank, I take a writer's point of view on all this. We write because we love to write--often to the point of being unable to do much else--but we also need to eat. Of course we can't fake what we believe to sucker editors and readers into giving us money--an unforgivable sin in a columnist. However, it is sad (if inevitable) when your point of view and the owners' points of view diverge so much that you are let go. It's sad for your fans, but it's even sadder for you because, hello, food, shelter, clothing, student loan payments, hardworking spouse who can't bear the financial burden alone.
*Since I'm on the subject, there are all kinds of words I don't think ladies and gentlemen should use in public--at least, not in mixed company. Naturally, what words these are is determined by culture. The Polish word for "whore" is so bad (yet nowadays so used) that a friend once bragged that his father had never said it in his life. In French Canada, two of the worst swears are the French for "chalice" and "tabernacle". "Whore sitting on a tabernacle" is so bad, I am imagining my Quebecker brother dissolving into giggles as he reads. However, in both Poland and Germany it is perfectly acceptable to exclaim the Holy Name as an expression of surprise.
What swearing is (and often what blasphemy is) is culturally determined. I am uneasy about writing down anything any English-speaking Catholic would construe as a blasphemy--even when spoken by a blasphemer (say a character in a book)--but I have no problem at all quoting a naughty word--when necessary for a piece of art. Context. Intent.