(Eric Shansby)

Like everyone, I have been avidly following the news about the National Security Agency’s scattershot, warrantless mining of data from the e-mails, phone calls, texts and social media posts of ordinary American citizens. Fortunately, as I was just telling my editor, Tom the Butcher, I’m not r eally personally threatened by all this, because the only people who will be targeted for additional scrutiny are those who might exhibit some subtly treasonous patterns of behavior.

T the B: Did you or did you not on more than one occasion write the following: “I am so liberal that I should be tried for treason and executed.”

Me: Well, yeah, but I was kidding.

T the B: Right, and the data spelunkers at the NSA are probably experts in the nuances of satire. Nothing to be worried about, I am sure.

Me: One statement isn’t going to ...

T the B: Have you researched your footprint on the Web? I have. So I guess you think the NSA won’t alert on your advocating terrorism through exposure of law enforcement personnel to biohazards?

Me: What?

T the B: You suggested that a good way to protest the Supreme Court’s relaxed strip-search guidelines for police would be to comply with all commands (“drop trou, squat and cough”) and then poop. On the floor.

Me: That was ...

T the B: Sure. Satire! Just like when you urged that Wayne LaPierre, the NRA guy, be castrated by gunfire.

Me: I never said that! A fair reader of my online poem about Wayne would conclude I was merely noting the likelihood that, prior to dispatching him to a well-deserved eternity in Hell, the Celestial Authorities will mess with his head little: “A toast then, to our friend Wayne LaPierre / For whom gun deaths have been a lucky totem / Methinks St. Peter will espy him, standing there / And smile, and aim a 30-30 at his scrotum.” In short, I never said Ol’ Pete would pull the trigger, and any suggestion that I did is calumny.

T the B: Want to talk about inciting religious intolerance?

Me: I never did any such thing.

T the B: Quoting you on Twitter: “Let’s face it, Jesus was just a little messianic, don’t you think?”

Me: That was a joke! Many of my Christian friends thought it was funny! Or I’m sure they would have, if I had any.

T the B: Another time you linked to a photo of a dog’s butt that looks like Jesus in robes.

Me: Well, it does!

T the B: Tell that to the inquisitors. The NSA no doubt knows you want to kill Arlo Guthrie with a hammer.

Me: Nonsense. While it is true that I was peeved at the folk singer for becoming a Republican, my musing about what I would do “if I had a hammer” was a literary music-genre reference and not a step in the furtherance of a conspiracy. (I did not, in fact, at any time afterward, procure a hammer.)

T the B: I’m sure they understand, because they are sophisticated people, that it is possible to still be a loyal American even if you trash the Pledge of Allegiance.

Me: I didn’t exactly “trash” it.

T the B: You called it a loyalty oath extracted from innocent youths “who are required to parrot incomprehensible ideological declarations in disgraceful, authoritarian public displays of thought control” customarily recited en masse “in a rolling grumble indistinguishable from intestinal gas,” an oath that is “as legally moot and unenforceable as the mooing of a cow.”

Me: It is a well-established rule of satire that no comparison involving “mooing” can be taken seriously.

T the B: You wrote that in journalism school you took a mandatory class in “how to give aid and comfort to America’s enemies at home and abroad,” and “a seminar in how to disrespect the memories of our fallen heroes.”

Me: I didn’t even GO to journalism school.

T the B:

Me: I was actually attending a madrassa in Peshawar at the time. HA-HA-HA! THAT IS A JOKE AND VERY NOT TRUE.

T the B: I am sure the NSA will take note of that.

Me: I am toast.

Tom: Burnt toast.

E-mail Gene at weingarten@washpost.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.

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