How to smile at bile

Or, Kate Baer flips the script

Kate Baer is a woman on the internet. She is also an accomplished poet, a mother of four, a Pennsylvanian, and the author of the just-out collection What Kind of Woman. But it’s the woman-on-the-internet part that explains the criticism flung her way.

Her work is described by her agent as “Rupi Kaur meets Mary Oliver,” a coded way of saying that although she has a big Instagram following, she’s also got literary chops. It’s how she defends that work from trolls that best captures her wit. 

Here is an example of the “feedback” she gets: 

You would sell so many more books if you didn’t spend so much time posting your leftist agenda. The funny part is black people don’t care about you. Gay people don’t care about you. ‘Transgender’ people don’t care about you. You are just a fat, dumb girl from Pennsylvania to them. When will you realize they don’t owe you a thing? You’ve abandoned half your reach for nothing other than scoring some brownie points with socialist web losers. Your greatest and most powerful resource here is literally just butting the hell out. People want stability right now. Think of readers as your customers. Sincerely, a lover of common sense.

And here is the limoncello she distills from those hurled lemons:

𝚈̶𝚘̶𝚞̶ ̶𝚠̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚕̶𝚍̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚎̶𝚕̶𝚕̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚘̶ ̶𝚖̶𝚊̶𝚗̶𝚢̶ ̶𝚖̶𝚘̶𝚛̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚋̶𝚘̶𝚘̶𝚔̶𝚜̶ ̶𝚒̶𝚏̶ ̶𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶ ̶𝚍̶𝚒̶𝚍̶𝚗̶’̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚙̶𝚎̶𝚗̶𝚍̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚘̶ ̶𝚖̶𝚞̶𝚌̶𝚑̶ ̶𝚝̶𝚒̶𝚖̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚙̶𝚘̶𝚜̶𝚝̶𝚒̶𝚗̶𝚐̶ ̶𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚛̶ ̶𝚕̶𝚎̶𝚏̶𝚝̶𝚒̶𝚜̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚊̶𝚐̶𝚎̶𝚗̶𝚍̶𝚊̶.̶ ̶𝚃̶𝚑̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚏̶𝚞̶𝚗̶𝚗̶𝚢̶ ̶𝚙̶𝚊̶𝚛̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚒̶𝚜̶ ̶𝚋̶𝚕̶𝚊̶𝚌̶𝚔̶ ̶𝚙̶𝚎̶𝚘̶𝚙̶𝚕̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚍̶𝚘̶𝚗̶’̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚌̶𝚊̶𝚛̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚊̶𝚋̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶.̶ ̶𝙶̶𝚊̶𝚢̶ ̶𝚙̶𝚎̶𝚘̶𝚙̶𝚕̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚍̶𝚘̶𝚗̶’̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚌̶𝚊̶𝚛̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚊̶𝚋̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶.̶ ̶‘̶𝚃̶𝚛̶𝚊̶𝚗̶𝚜̶𝚐̶𝚎̶𝚗̶𝚍̶𝚎̶𝚛̶’̶ ̶𝚙̶𝚎̶𝚘̶𝚙̶𝚕̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚍̶𝚘̶𝚗̶’̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚌̶𝚊̶𝚛̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚊̶𝚋̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶.̶ ̶𝚈̶𝚘̶𝚞̶ ̶𝚊̶𝚛̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚓̶𝚞̶𝚜̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚊̶ ̶𝚏̶𝚊̶𝚝̶,̶ ̶𝚍̶𝚞̶𝚖̶𝚋̶ ̶𝚐̶𝚒̶𝚛̶𝚕̶ ̶𝚏̶𝚛̶𝚘̶𝚖̶ ̶𝙿̶𝚎̶𝚗̶𝚗̶𝚜̶𝚢̶𝚕̶𝚟̶𝚊̶𝚗̶𝚒̶𝚊̶ ̶𝚝̶𝚘̶ ̶𝚝̶𝚑̶𝚎̶𝚖̶.̶ ̶ WHEN 𝚠̶𝚒̶𝚕̶𝚕̶ ̶𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶ ̶𝚛̶𝚎̶𝚊̶𝚕̶𝚒̶𝚣̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚝̶𝚑̶𝚎̶𝚢̶ ̶𝚍̶𝚘̶𝚗̶’̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚘̶WE 𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶ ̶𝚊̶ ̶𝚝̶𝚑̶𝚒̶𝚗̶𝚐̶?̶ ̶𝚈̶𝚘̶𝚞̶’̶𝚟̶𝚎̶ ABANDON𝚎̶𝚍̶ ̶𝚑̶𝚊̶𝚕̶𝚏̶ ̶𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚛̶ ̶𝚛̶ EACH 𝚏̶𝚘̶𝚛̶ ̶𝚗̶𝚘̶𝚝̶𝚑̶𝚒̶𝚗̶𝚐̶ ̶ OTHER 𝚝̶𝚑̶𝚊̶𝚗̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚌̶𝚘̶𝚛̶𝚒̶𝚗̶𝚐̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚘̶𝚖̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚋̶𝚛̶𝚘̶𝚠̶𝚗̶𝚒̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚙̶𝚘̶𝚒̶𝚗̶𝚝̶𝚜̶ ̶𝚠̶𝚒̶𝚝̶𝚑̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚘̶𝚌̶𝚒̶𝚊̶𝚕̶𝚒̶𝚜̶𝚝̶ ̶WE𝚋̶ LOSE𝚛̶𝚜̶.̶ ̶𝚈̶OUR GREATEST 𝚊̶𝚗̶𝚍̶ ̶𝚖̶𝚘̶𝚜̶𝚝̶ POWER𝚏̶𝚞̶𝚕̶ ̶𝚛̶𝚎̶𝚜̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚛̶𝚌̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚑̶𝚎̶𝚛̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚒̶𝚜̶ ̶𝚕̶𝚒̶𝚝̶𝚎̶𝚛̶𝚊̶𝚕̶𝚕̶𝚢̶ ̶𝚓̶𝚞̶𝚜̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚋̶𝚞̶𝚝̶𝚝̶𝚒̶𝚗̶𝚐̶ THE 𝚑̶𝚎̶𝚕̶𝚕̶ ̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚝̶.̶ ̶𝙿̶𝚎̶𝚘̶𝚙̶𝚕̶𝚎̶ ̶𝚠̶𝚊̶𝚗̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚝̶ABILITY 𝚛̶𝚒̶𝚐̶𝚑̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚗̶𝚘̶𝚠̶.̶ ̶𝚃̶𝚑̶𝚒̶𝚗̶𝚔̶ ̶𝚘̶𝚏̶ ̶𝚛̶𝚎̶𝚊̶𝚍̶𝚎̶𝚛̶𝚜̶ ̶𝚊̶𝚜̶ ̶𝚢̶𝚘̶𝚞̶𝚛̶ ̶𝚌̶𝚞̶𝚜̶TO𝚖̶𝚎̶𝚛̶𝚜̶.̶ ̶𝚂̶𝚒̶𝚗̶𝚌̶𝚎̶𝚛̶𝚎̶𝚕̶𝚢̶,̶ ̶𝚊̶ LOVE𝚛̶ ̶𝚘̶𝚏̶ ̶𝚌̶𝚘̶𝚖̶𝚖̶𝚘̶𝚗̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚎̶𝚗̶𝚜̶𝚎̶.̶

Or

When we abandon each other we lose our greatest power the ability to love.

Her process here is a bit like the blackout poems that are one of the few remaining singular uses for newspapers, though I prefer to think of them as descendants of Al Jaffee’s Fold-Ins. And though the product is admirable, it’s the wit of the process that captivates. As she says in the Instagram caption to the above creation, “Chad rhymes with sad.”

In a recent Vogue piece about her work, Baer explains that she needs to keep the trolls trolling to get enough raw material. Which is ideal, because it’s not likely to stop.

I was deleting them for a while, and then I just started taking screenshots of them, trying to see if I could flip the narrative. Now when people send me nasty comments, I’m like: Keep talking.”

The lesson is that the wit of the comeback can be entirely based in the style of the retort, not the substance. Baer doesn’t write Churchillian putdowns, nor should she. She writes heartfelt poetry about the everyday, and if the everyday contains aggressive insults, that’s just more raw material. Their vitriol powers her art; it’s hard to imagine a better response.

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Link link, nudge nudge 

“it’s always ‘when is the McRib coming back’ and never ‘how are you doing person who runs the McDonald’s account’”
— Person who runs the McDonald’s account, in a tweet from Oct. 23.

The wit of fast-food brand Twitter was the subject of GWQ No. 63,  specifically the wit of Amy Brown, the woman who helped establish the format at Wendy’s in 2015. In a deep-fried nutshell, Brown sassed back at the burger chain’s followers. Those followers were, as they say, so here for it.

This 2020 spin on that is a reminder that there are still (for now) humans behind the screens. It also got more attention than the average tweet, thus reminding us all that a “restructured patty pressed into the rough shape of a slab of ribs” that was once composed of “otherwise unmarketable pig parts like tripe, heart, and stomach” is now available. Fill your boots. 

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That was Issue No. 71 of Get Wit Quick,  a weekly review of seasonal quick-service putdowns. My book Elements of Wit: Mastering The Art of Being Interesting is suffused with the stability people crave right now. The ❤️ below will never end up in a McRib, I promise.