THE BLOG
05/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Isn't It Ironic, Don't You Think?

When I read that the White House is protesting NBC's edits of an interview with President Bush, I unconsciously started to hum Alanis Morisette's iconic hit, "Ironic." The White House is accusing NBC of editing footage to give the impression that President Bush agreed to the supposition that his remarks in Israel last week were a veiled criticism of Barack Obama. The fact that the White House, the very epitome of editorial oversight these past 8 years, would say that NBC's standard editorial procedure was "deceitful" made me think of poor "Mr. Play it Safe, he was afraid to fly" whose plane crashes on his very first flight.

However, given my reaction, I immediately grew concerned that I was not applying the correct literary device to the situation. Many people -- Alanis herself included -- contend quite forcefully that her song contains descriptions of situations that are just crummy lots in life, rather than ironic. For example, "rain on your wedding day", while a plight many brides can relate to, is only ironic if you picked the driest place on earth to get married for that exact reason. Similarly, "a free ride when you've already paid" is something us MTA riders can grumble about, but only ironic if we then complain about the free ride with sarcasm. "A black fly in your chardonnay" is just poor ventilation in your kitchen.

So in an effort to be grammatically and politically correct, I decided to examine the situation closely, using these definitions of irony.

Was it dramatic irony, or "information about a character's situation of which the character is not aware" when the White House "engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming" by eliminating terms and phrases they did not care for, then turned around and complained that NBC was engaging in a similarly systematic effort to manipulate President Bush's words on appeasement? No, I must say, the problem here was the information that was hidden, not revealed, and therefore it was not dramatic irony.

Then was it situational irony, or "well-founded expectations ... [that] appear to be secure but fail to manifest" when the White House demanded editorial oversight on the 9/11 commission, something to which they had absolutely no right, and then asked that the editors at NBC who were merely doing their job, be taken to task? Only if you believe that well-founded expectations would be that the White House would try to do the right and just thing. Since I harbor no such belief, there is no situational irony present.

So was it then verbal irony, "in which what is said is not what is meant" when the White House, who "selectively edited a report on Iraq [by] taking out negative information and distorting [its] meaning" then turned around and accused NBC of "selective editing" itself? I do not think Ed Gillespie, that paramount of subtlety, was being sarcastic or equivocating when he lambasted NBC, which eliminates the verbal irony option.

Damn you, Alanis.

In the end I am forced to concede that the White House's complaints that there was "deceitful editing" afoot in the NBC interview with President Bush were not ironic. I apologize most sincerely to my high school English teachers, to you, dear readers, and to Alanis fans everywhere for bringing up old arguments against their cherished artist.

Anyone know the definition of "incredible-to-the-point-of-offensive hypocrisy"? Who would have thought, it figures.