OK, first of all, before anyone asks me what I'm talking about, here's a link to Neil Gaiman's blog post relating the entire situation in gory detail. Read up and come on back.
Ready? Great. So Matt Dean, the Republican Majority Leader for the Minnesota House of Representatives, decided that it would be a good idea to call Neil Gaiman a "pencil-necked weasel-thief." For those unfamiliar with Gaiman, he's an internationally-bestselling science-fiction and fantasy author who lives in the Upper Midwest. He writes such delicious fiction as American Gods and Coraline, but is probably most famous for his work on the comic book series The Sandman, which dealt with the engimatic anti-hero Dream of the Endless.
Why did Dean call an author of Mr. Gaiman's caliber such a completely untoward name? Because Mr. Gaiman was asked to speak at the Stillwater Public Library for about $45,000 and was paid from funds collected as a result of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which, despite its strong support and passage in 2008, is currently a whipping boy of the "deficit-hawk" Republicans in Minnesota. Of course, they're no different from the "deficit-hawk" Republicans in Washington - they only care about the deficit when money is being spent on things they hate, like clean water, state parks, and the arts and humanities. So since Mr. Gaiman accepted this speaking offer and got paid for it, he is now apparently a "weasel-thief." I'm sure the fact that he gave the money to charity didn't help Matt Dean's opinion of him in the slightest.
Anyway, the crux of the diary is that I wrote a letter to Mr. Dean as a "concerned citizen." I'm not a Minnesota resident now, having expatriated to Wisconsin in order to get a job as a Children's Librarian. However, I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's work, both creatively and in his advocacy for free speech and libraries. So I told Mr. Dean off. And I think you'll enjoy reading it. I was, um, a little harsh? So be gentle in your comments.
I'm not one of your constituents, nor am I a Minnesota resident, so you may be wondering why I would write to you today. I write as a concerned citizen, and an admitted fan of Neil Gaiman, a fantasy and science-fiction author of whom I believe you've heard. I was reading Mr. Gaiman's blog today and discovered that, in a recent article in the Star Tribune, you were quoted as saying that you "hate" Mr. Gaiman, and that he is a "pencil-necked weasel-thief." You can imagine my disgust.
First of all, this is incredibly indecorous language for you to use as an elected representative. I didn't realize that middle-school taunts were appropriate rhetoric for someone in your position, and I certainly didn't think that politicians of any party were in the habit of randomly insulting people who they've obviously never met. I guess in the era of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck I can't be terribly surprised at your complete lack of conscience or tact. However, I would have hoped that you had the intellectual capacity to realize that you were insulting an internationally-bestselling author who also happens to be a local celebrity in your area. You seem incredibly eager to torpedo your political career.
Secondly, it has clearly escaped you that Mr. Gaiman did not, in fact, "steal" money from the state of Minnesota. That money was offered to him by the library to pay for a speaking engagement which he then performed, and, as if that shouldn't have been satisfactory enough, Mr. Gaiman gave the money he received to charitable causes. Being paid for services rendered, in accordance with your stated fees for a speaking engagement, is not theft. It's actually good business practice. I'm sure you don't consider your paycheck as a representative to be theft from the State of Minnesota. If you do, may I suggest you seek other employment immediately.
But I'm being hyperbolic. I understand the real reason you are so angry with Mr. Gaiman. It's because the Stillwater Public Library paid Mr. Gaiman out of the Legacy Fund, a sales tax allocation designed to fund programs just like this one for libraries, museums, parks, and public broadcasting. It was, as I recall, a referendum in Minnesota a few years ago, one which passed with more than simple majority support from the voters. I will make no secret of the fact that I support the Legacy Fund and other initiatives of its kind because I believe that supporting public institutions like our libraries and state parks is of the utmost importance, not only to our generation, but to our children and grandchildren.
However, I understand that your Republican Party absolutely cannot stand public monies being used to fund public institutions - you're much more interested in seeing public monies used to fund private corporations, raise your own salaries, and line the pockets of your anonymous corporate sponsors. That is a position I personally find morally and ethically reprehensible when placed alongside ensuring that our children can still go to the Science Museum of Minnesota and listen to Garrison Keillor on Minnesota Public Radio. However, I understand that the entire mantra of the modern Republican Party is based on the writings of Ayn Rand, whose objectivist philosophies state that selfishness is the highest goal, future generations be damned. I know that I'm not going to be able to talk you out of your political philosophy of greed and self-interest anymore than you'll be able to talk me out of my socialist political philosophy, so I won't bother.
Instead, allow me to offer you a piece of political advice. If you think that slandering and libeling internationally renowned authors is good political theater, or that it will win you elections, get out of office now. Just resign and do yourself a favor. It's not going to impress anyone but your staunchest supporters, and it's going to turn off a whole lot of other people, whether they were originally inclined to vote for you or not. I certainly would vote against you every time in light of your apparent bad manners and horrifying ego. Thankfully for you, I don't have that opportunity.
Matthew J. White
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you shoot a skunk.
UPDATE: Because it is too rich to resist. Thanks to elektra for pointing this out. Apparently Matt Dean's mother made him apologize to Neil Gaiman today. When I was child, I never put much stock in the sincerity of apologies which were obviously forced by a parent. I hope that Neil doesn't either. Please, PLEASE do me a favor and flood Mr. Dean's e-mail inbox with letters that explain his immaturity to him in very simple English. You might have to write in crayon.
UPDATE THE SECOND: Neil has a new blog post detailing his response to Matt Dean's "apology." Fine form. He mentions that Matt Dean told a CityPages reporter that he's "now lost the votes of all the Star Trek fans," which proves further that he is a complete and utter horse's ass. My apologies to horse's asses everywhere.