For the last two days, I have been following a disturbing thread at Blog@Newsarama.  Blogger J. Caleb Mozzoco engaged in a little link-blogging posted an ill-conceived ‘joke’ concerning a children’s costume event.  The organizers of the event had put out a call for all “superheroes and fairies.” Mozzoco, playing on this wrote:  “Make your own superheroes are gay joke.”

As I write this, there are 15 responses to Mozzoco’s comment and the only ones defending it are Mozzoco himself and another Newsarama blogger.

After a few comments of concern about the header, Mozzoco posted:

I’m not terribly interested in explaining jokes to readers. If you find my saying that superheroes are gay-not “gay” as in “lame” but “gay” as in “are sexually attracted to people of the same gender”-as homophobic and insulting, I can’t help you. Other than to suggest that maybe you try another comics blog to spend your time reading and being offended by. There are plenty of ‘em out there…

I’m even less interested in teaching people to read than I am in explaining jokes Richard. I didn’t mean “gay” as in “lame” I meant “gay” as in “gay,” as I wrote. Am I supposed to rewrite the same thing again because you made a comment? Will repetition somehow make it clear?

Does being compared to a superhero personally offend you? Because it used to be the other way around, where superhero fans found people calling their superheroes gay which offended them. Progress!

Anyway, be offended or don’t be offended, comment or don’t comment, read or don’t read – it’s a big Internet. I’m sure you’ll find something else to your tastes if we’re not.

Wow.  Things have changed since I last wrote for Newsarama.  When I worked there, we were all about growing readership.

Richard Neal, owner/operator of Eisner Award winning comic store Zeus Comics in beautiful, scenic Dallas, Texas called Mozzoco out:

The header is in poor taste. I would imag(in)e that Newsarama being a very public site might err on the side of caution. Particularly when its own readers point out something they find offensive to themselves.

Bully (I love Bully) even got into it:

You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re making a “the word gay = the word lame” joke or “the word fairies = the word gay” joke, but you’re certainly making one of them.

Either one is not fodder for a joke on Newsarama.

There’s a rule in the customer service business that suggests that for every one person that complains, there are ten that were likewise dissatisfied but just didn’t say anything.  The problem with that is that you have the opportunity to make it right when someone voices concern.  But those ten others?  They just quietly go elsewhere.

At least three distinct voices raised concerns about a throw-a-way line that really and truly should have been retracted from the blog.  At the very least, the blogger could have acknowledged the insensitivity of it.  Instead, he hid behind what he characterized as “humor,” adopting arrogance as his defense.

In such circumstances, I believe it’s important to determine the intent of the user.  Why use the word?  Why defend the word?

The question, I think, is simple: Are Mozzoco and Newsarama intentionally insensitive – which says a lot about the organization – or just stupid?

You decide.