4/7/14, No. 92
News with Violent Crawley: ‘Jonathan Swift’s Ghost’ arrested. Police today arrested a local man operating under the pseudonym “Jonathan Swift’s Ghost.” Theodore “Ted” Danson was taken into custody peacefully on the front lawn of his home. Sheriff John Rutherford announced that the JSO restrained Danson while asleep and that he did not resist upon awakening.
Claiming to channel the spirit of Jonathan Swift, Danson is charged with penning libelous satires aimed at state and local officials and notables such as Rick Scott, Shahid Khan, Matt Shirk, Pam Stewart, Angela Corey, Alvin Brown, Tony Sleiman, Clay Yarborough, and Steve Wallace.
“The reign of satire is ended,” said visibly relieved prosecutor Angela Corey.
Danson’s modus operandi had been to fabricate letters to the editor of the Florida Times Union, the contents of which crossed the line into unsubstantiated, scurrilous, and clearly exaggerated claims. He then posted the fake letters to the “Break Room” forum of Metro Jacksonville. His purpose appears to have been to diminish or derogate his subjects by making them appear ridiculous and evoking toward them attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn, or indignation.
Local blogger Lemule Blogiver conjectured that Danson must have been inspired by Keith “Chip” Southworth, a.k.a. ‘Keith Haring’s Ghost.’ Apprehended several weeks ago, Southworth had been spray painting images à la Haring on traffic control boxes: Angela Corey to prosecute Keith Haring’s Ghost
The same criticism directed at Southworth’s images has come up regarding Jonathan Swift’s Ghost, that the work is derivative and not really art.
A British literature specialist at the University of North Florida classified the satires as Menippean and not formal, and as Juvenalian and not Horatian. Professor John Bender of Stanford University described them as “lampoons—caricatures in words.” Asked if they had any redeeming value, he laughed and said, “this is a presumptuous application of Swift’s work to his own.”
In a statement released to the press, Danson professed he was only trying to use Swift’s Modest Proposal as a template for addressing contemporary civic issues. “You must admit,” he said, “that Suck the barrel perfectly captures the Juvenalian spirit of Modest Proposal. I even plagiarized long passages from it. If it had been a college writing assignment, I would have received an unforgivable F.”
As has been the case for several centuries with Swift, Danson has been accused of misanthropy.
Reached for comment at his Occidental College office, Dr. Warren Montag, Swift scholar and author of The Unthinkable Swift, weighed in on the matter, asserting that Danson is “no Jonathan Swift.” Danson “must be delusional,” he speculated, adding that his imitative satires “are pathetic rubbish, something an illiterate fourteen-year-old boy might produce. Swift must be rolling over in his grave.”