The Washington Post

Gene Weingarten: Give me a good treason

(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.”

Gene Weingarten is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writes "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. View Archive

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 Find chats and updates at

For stories, features such as Date Lab, @Work Advice and more, visit WP Magazine.

Follow the Magazine on Twitter.

Like us on Facebook.

E-mail us at



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.