It's been a while since we've heard anything from Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition (ANSWER), but the group's long battle over the right to hang posters in the District of Columbia has led to both greater freedom of speech and linguistic clarity.
On the first point, ANSWER and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation (MASF) have been fighting the District over D.C.'s excessive demands for discovery in their case involving the right to hang posters on lampposts. ANSWER was dismissed earlier in the process, but yesterday MASF got a favorable ruling [pdf] from D.C.'s U.S. District Court. Much more importantly, a footnote in Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth's scathing opinion revisits one of the hot topics of the pre-9/11 era:
Highlighting its own hypocrisy, in a section entitled "Argument," the District asserts—without any real "argument," just a conclusory sentence—that plaintiff failed to meet its burden for a protective order because plaintiff "relie[d] entirely on conclusory statements, with no specific facts or admissible evidence." Id. 3. This, in fact, is the definition of irony.4…
4 Contra ALANIS MORISSETTE, Ironic, on JAGGED LITTLE PILL (Maverick Records 1995) (inexplicably defining irony as "rain on your wedding day").
Following the iron law of usage nitpkicking, Lamberth makes a who/whom SNAFU elsewhere in the piece, but readers of a certain age will recognize his correction here as a new wrinkle in an old controversy: that Morissette's song "Ironic" contains a compendious list of items and events, none of which can be defined as "ironic" in the Aristotelian sense.
I've always been inclined to cut the feisty songstress from the Great White North some generational slack on this point. The nineties were days of adventure and experimentation, when the term "irony" was used to embrace "sarcasm," "unexpectedness," "unintended outcomes" and many other concepts.
Morissette, a known Canadian, may or may not have standing to sue in an American court, and the Supreme Court has declined to decide the question of whether Dave "Cut-it-out" Coulier is the subject of "You oughta know."