The Maggie McNeill Incident

When I write at Fault Lines I usually do so from a very serious perspective. This is because keeping the cracks in our criminal justice system visible and educating the public about the law is serious. When the weekend comes, we usually loosen our belts, let our hair down, and have fun. My mischief caught the attention of Maggie McNeill this week, and the whole story is a great lesson in communication.

Every Friday afternoon at Fault Lines I usually post something I find funny or interesting.  This week’s post was a “suggestion” we make it a felony should a car seat manufacturer create a child safety seat that’s so complex it requires a special certification or rocket science degree to install.  This happened because of an incident I experienced this week installing my son’s new ReCaro car seat and nearly devolved into a murderous rage over it.  Fault Lines gives me a national soapbox and a chance to tell some really bad jokes, so I made it a point to find a story about car seats being a “public health crisis” and suggest criminalizing every car seat manufacturer that produced a seat responsible for a death.

One of the nicer perks of being a Fault Lines contributor is that when someone links to my posts, I get an email notification.  This time it was from the Honest Courtesan blog, and the link stunned me a little bit.

“Solution to “public health crises” used to be vaccination; now it’s prison.”

This was not good.  I had to do something to instill a little clarity here.  Maggie McNeill is one of the most interesting people on the web, if you don’t read her work regularly.  She’s a writer, an academic, and a sex worker.  This is not someone you want to get into a fight with when it comes to criminalization of conduct in any way, shape, or form.  It’s not that I’m afraid of a good verbal spar with Maggie, I just know my limits and I know if I stray into certain areas (like sex work) with her, I’m probably going to be in for a twelve round, judges’ decision level fight.  I had to at least clue her in on the gig, so I tweeted Maggie and told her it was a joke.

About three PM Eastern she replies with an apology and says she had no idea Fault Lines posted anything but 100% dead serious content.  I respond by linking her my “Modest St. Paddy’s Day” proposal and showing her some of the reactions from last week’s skewering of Nick Fuhst’s conduct at a local Hooters.  My boss doesn’t exactly like it when I throw out puns, so I’d made it a point to write for my audience with those bits of business.

My editor did jump to my defense, and I appreciate his support sincerely.  Maggie’s blog is one of the cooler places on the web to go, and she’s quite accessible on social media.  I just had no desire to piss her off, so when I saw the link hit from the beginning I knew I’d have to take some action.

I also appreciate Maggie letting her readership know I’m not on the side of over-criminalization.  The fact this escaped her here, when she’s linked to my work in the past concerning kids and the way the system treats children, makes me wonder just what communication error was in play here.  She had the guts to tell me the joke bombed, which I respect, but did I really come across as someone who found such a drastic action worthy of legislative consideration?  Regardless, it’s definitely something I’m going to have to consider going forward as I write what we affectionately term our “Friday Funnies.”  It’s my one outlet for stand-up comedy since I don’t really do open mics consistently anymore, and I want to see Fault Lines’ readers end their weeks with a laugh and not wondering whether I support some creep’s behavior.

There’s good to come from all of this, though.   If you’re not following Maggie McNeill on Twitter, do so.  And read her blog, “The Honest Courtesan.”  If you’re coming here from Maggie’s socials and blog, do me a solid, follow me @clsesq on Twitter, @cls.esq on Instagram, and clsesq on Snapchat.  And sign up for Fault Lines’ newsletter, so you can see all my bad jokes at the end of the week in your email inbox.