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Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Note About “Hell Houses”

posted by on November 1 at 19:44 PM

Last Thursday we published a story called “Hell Houses” about houses on the Eastside displaying McCain and Palin yard signs. We were parodying a certain kind of daily newspaper feature—the “houses with the best Halloween/Christmas decorations” article, which typically includes addresses—and so we included addresses. There was no incitement to violence or incitement to anything else, and the piece was very clearly parody. (The introduction: “Cobwebs and witches are for children and morons. If you’re looking for the most hair-raising Halloween horrors, try scouring the streets of the Eastside. That’s where we found the most pants-wettingly scary houses…. Because in an election year, nothing’s more terrifying than the future.” From later in the piece: “Without a doubt, this is no home to man, but a monolithic holding cell packed floor-to-ceiling with bubbling black goo.”) The point was that our readers, typically liberal, would be chilled by these “Halloween” displays.

After the piece came out on Wednesday morning, there was no violence, no vandalism. There was some debate on The Stranger’s website on Thursday and Friday about the piece’s inclusion of addresses—about the homeowners’ and The Stranger’s right to free speech, and about yards signs as public discourse—and some readers posted addresses of Stranger staffers in comments, because turnabout is fair play. We did not remove those comments and left our own addresses up on our website.

On Saturday morning the piece exploded on right-wing blogs, and death threats were made on our staff. What began as political satire changed from reasonably intelligent, irreverent discourse to something ugly. We do not want harm to come to anyone—to those who live in the houses (from wannabe Ashley Todds) or to our staff (from right-wing nuts)—so we’ve taken the piece down.

We regret that people are crazy.

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