The Editorial Voice at a Traveling Lizard Show
I had a very disappointing trip to the Wisconsin State Fair this weekend — through bad luck (and a lack of posted information) I came on the day when they were “changing over” the livestock barns. No wandering through the aisles of cows and horses for me.
Since that’s my favorite part of the State Fair it was a bit of a blow, but I rallied gamely and shelled out the two bucks for one of those traveling reptile exhibits, on the theory that it was better to see some animals, even if they weren’t locals.
(That’s not me in the photo, if there was any confusion. That’s the ticket taker.)
They didn’t want you taking pictures inside, so I unfortunately can’t share the enormously fat and very personable alligator Albert with you (never seen double chins on a lizard before), but they were nice enough to let me photograph the informational placards above the exhibits.
Most were what you would expect: a few sentences about diet, region, the various unusual characteristics like albinism, and so on. I didn’t think you all would be interested in those, and if you are there’s Wikipedia. But I did like this one, tucked innocently in among all the other informational signs:
For those that can’t enlarge to a readable size (you just click on the image, FYI), the text reads
There was a time when the only good snake was a dead snake. This unfortunate attitude is now almost extinct except among the ignorant, intolerant and the pitiful, sadistic vandals who kill everything that moves. If you are observing this exhibit and have ill feelings about the subject matter, remember this is a “learned” behavior and maybe [sic] corrected by objective attitudes about the world around us.
For the record I’m largely in agreement with the sentiment. But I loved its appearance alongside the dietary needs of pythons, and the use of the phrase “objective attitudes” in a searingly editorial paragraph.
If we want to extrapolate, this is the same general problem that plagues most news sources these days: phrases like “pitiful, sadistic vandals” littering ostensibly-factual pieces.
The editorial page (and its clear division from the actual news) was a great invention of the newspaper industry. Unfortunately, there’s no clear equivalent in blogs and televised news — or in traveling reptile shows.
Albert sure was cute, though.