Idiot Steve Martin misquoted by other idiots

Well, this is fun. We’ve been offline for a couple of days to enjoy the Mithras holidays, and we’ve come back to discover that an entire Twitter storm has grown, raged and collapsed while we were rewatching Kindergarten Cop and eating weird French bacon. If you’ve been keeping up with the news, feel free to skip this one; if not, however, brace yourself for a hot news injection!

As you may know, the chronically unfunny Steve Martin is one of a number of comedians who routinely churn out one-liners in response to suggestions from his Twitter followers. A few days ago, he was at it again, with the theme ‘grammar’. So far, so un-newsworthy. But then, THIS HAPPENED:

Now, you and I would have the sense to ignore a tweet like this because we know Twitter is full of utter morons desperate to take offence at something. But gentle, loving Steve, full of the clueless charm that made The Out-of-Towners unwatchable, ran with it. His tweet has long since been deleted, but it said this:

“It depends. Are you in an African-American neighborhood or at an Italian restaurant?”

Not especially funny; but then, he isn’t. Martin was obviously, OBVIOUSLY, riffing on the vaguely homophonic nature of ‘lasagne’, an Italian dish, and ‘Lasonia’, a (principally African-American) girl’s name (there are, incidentally, some really interesting articles kicking around online about the preponderance of La- and De- prefixes in African-American names), which is sort of vaguely observational humour and clearly not racist. People called him racist anyway, of course, so he deleted it and apologised. Then things got interesting.

Salon, and about a thousand other awful blogs, reported his tweet thus:

“It depends. Are you in an African-American restaurant or at an Italian restaurant?”

The difference here is subtle, but quite enough to turn Martin’s remark from arguably ill-judged into definitely racist. Lasonia is, indisputably, a name that exists in the world and is principally the preserve of black American women, explaining the “African-American neighborhood” line. But “African-American restaurant”? That just says “black people can’t spell”, which is very not cool. But, of course, it’s not what Steve Martin said.

Anyway, it’s gone on for about five days and he’s apologised over and over again (although never for Cheaper by the Dozen 2, we’ve noticed), and most of the sites that reported the fake tweet have now retracted their original, raging editorials. Big fuss over nothing, basically. We’d just like to think that the lesson people take away from this might be a little less “censor yourself at all costs” and a bit more “get over yourself, The Internet”.

We hope some proper news happens soon.

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