Bicycle = Pogo Stick ∴ P.J. O'Rourke = Carrot Top

Mr. O’Rourke, can I call you P.J.? Thanks.

P.J., I read your piece in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, “Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic.” You complained about bikes, and cyclists, with the same whiny grievances and arguments we cyclists have heard before–only funnier.

Soon we’ll be making room on our city streets for scooter and skateboard lanes, Soapbox Derby lanes, pogo-stick lanes, lanes for Radio Flyer wagons (actually more practical than bicycles since you can carry a case of beer—if we’re still allowed to drink beer), stilt lanes, three-legged-race lanes, lanes for skipping while playing the comb and wax paper, hopscotch lanes and Mother-May-I lanes with Mayor Bloomberg at the top of Lenox Hill shouting to the people on Park Avenue, “Take three baby steps!”

Bicycle = Pogo Stick

Now, I’m not a major-league smart ass like you, P.J. I’ve never made it out of the minors. Look at me. I’m a bike blogger. But I still think I have some idea of what motivates you.

You’re at a party with your fancy Cato Institute friends. You overhear a conversation about, I don’t know, let’s say breastfeeding. You’ve got few zingers about breastfeeding in your pocket, so you let ’em rip. Cha-ching. Feel the love.

You really don’t know squat about breastfeeding, but that nagging thought is drowned out by the Cato chuckles you’ve scored. You can almost feel Adam Smith’s invisible hand slapping your back.

I’ve been there. Well, not at the Cato Institute, but at those parties where I’ve felt the pressure to be on.

The truth is, you don’t know squat about cycling, or cycling infrastructure either, do you, P.J.?

And those zingers? They’ve been in your pocket since, what, 1987?

You totally phoned this one in, P.J., without so much as a Google search to see if any of it were true. Does the Wall Street Journal care that you plagiarized yourself? (Oh. Probably not.)

Yes, P.J., you’ve pissed me off. You’re my favorite on Wait Wait.. Don’t Tell Me! (Well, second favorite, after Roy Blount Jr.. I’ve actually read one of his books. He researches what he writes about. After Paula Poundstone too. She doesn’t pretend to be smarter than she is. Okay, you’re my third favorite.)

P. J. O'Rourke Wikipedia Article
Kids, vandalizing Wikipedia articles is wrong.

I did 100 percent more research than you did for your editorial. I looked at your Wikipedia article. It says you’re “a political observer and humorist with libertarian viewpoints.”

It also says you “hold fantastically wrongheaded opinions about bicycles, cyclists, and cycling infrastructure.” (Alright, I wrote that.)

Back to libertarian thing. You pull out the old canard about bicycle riders not paying their way. It just isn’t true.

If you take into account subsidies for car makers, tax breaks for oil companies, the military budget that secures the flow of oil, and all that socialized asphalt, the automobile–the kind powered by fossil fuels–is the most heavily subsidized form of transportation. (For today, I’ll even leave out the environmental costs not paid by motorists.)

When you aim your IBM Selectric at that boondoggle, maybe I’ll take you seriously as a libertarian.

Do your Cato friends take you seriously? Are they laughing with you, or at you, P.J.?

I use a bike for transportation almost every day. But bicycles and pogo sticks can be used for recreation, therefore you lump them into the “toy” category.

You get chummy with conservative intellectuals. But you are also known as a satirist and humorist. Therefore I’ll lump you into the “entertainer” category.

P. J. O'Rourke = Carrot Top

When I think about it that way, I’m not so mad at you anymore.

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22 thoughts on “Bicycle = Pogo Stick ∴ P.J. O'Rourke = Carrot Top”

  1. Brian says:

    I believe PJ was really just making a modest proposal.

  2. After Adam Felber, too.

    Great stuff, Ted. I think you diagnosed the problem: utter laziness.

  3. Johnny K says:

    I would not have lumped him in with CarrotTop because Carrot Top is much smarter he just acts dumb to make money. This clown P.J. is about as sharp as a sack of wet mice. BTW Mr. O’Rourke SUV’s and Trucks are still classified as wagons and off road vehicles so by your wrongheaded reasoning these vehicles should not be on our public paved roads anymore than say 4wheelers.

  4. I believe Brian’s comment is exactly right: O’Rourke is a satirist and the article is satire.

    Just like Swift didn’t really mean people should eat babies, O’Rourke didn’t really mean what he said. The extreme statements are meant to highlight the absurdity.


    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Satire of what? As a confessed smart ass, I hate to be the guy who doesn’t get the humor. If he’s mocking anti-cycling hyperbole, he’s not doing it well.

      I also read through some of the comments on the WSJ article. Sheesh. Some people really can’t take a joke. But many of the anti-O’Rourke commenters are saying that he’s just lost his edge. I haven’t been enough of a regular reader of his to comment longitudinally on the quality of his edge.

  5. BluesCat says:

    Brian and Beginner Cycling, I might go along with your contention that P.J. is being satirical, except for the fact that if you had a Republican up on Capitol Hill read A Modest Proposal, he or she would immediately G00g13 “recipe.”

    Get my point? THEY wouldn’t. With the remarkable exception of our own Tom Bowden, the vast majority of conservatives simply don’t get bicycling.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      …our own Tom Bowden…

      Aw… That’s so nice, you big, blue pinko.

      Group hug!

  6. Phoning it in – precisely! I would have enjoyed some pointed observations from PJ, such as:

    “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”


    “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

    I truly admire his wit (and dare I say wisdom) when he is “on” but the WSJ article was clearly not his best work. Maybe he tripped over his kid’s bike as he stumbled through the garage to get to his SUV, and landed with a pogo stick planted in a position it was never designed for.

    Read more:

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Bike Snob also weighed in on O’Rourke’s phoning it in, except he used a different metaphor. Not a phone. But something else you can hold in your hand.

  7. E says:

    Citation needed! 🙂 You should cite his WSJ article after your Wikipedia entry.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I also should have used proper grammar–“holds” instead of “hold.”

      For the record, I did not really vandalize his Wikipedia page. Used a geek tool called Firebug to edit the page, but my edits were only visible to me.

  8. Dan says:

    Great post – made me laugh a lot more than the article by the professional satirist.

  9. Will says:

    “And those zingers? They’ve been in your pocket since, what, 1987?”

    Coincidentally, 1987 was about the year P.J. O’Rourke last wrote something genuinely funny. It’s sad to see the way he’s turned into a bitter partisan hack in an ill-fitting humorist costume…

  10. gwadzilla says:

    well said…

    the other day I was watch Real Time with Bill Maher
    and there was this Kennedy guy on… maybe Tim Shriver
    he was very smart, composed, clever, likable…
    all of these things in spite of my not wanting to like him

    he was on the show as a spokesperson for his soap box, the Special Olympics

    he got on this diatribe about the term “retarded”
    and the use of the portrayal of retardation in comedy and in entertainment
    he seemed to go over board

    just as an artist gets artistic license
    so does a comedian get some sort of comedic license

    sorry… distracted… lost my rhythm

    I agree with you
    your points are well taken

  11. Seamus says:

    Yer Carrot Top pic
    is sadly antiquated
    He’s WAY scarier lookin’ now

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I see what you mean, Dude. But I’d prefer to call it charitably antiquated. What’s sad is the more updated, self-mutilated image of the man.

      But I wasn’t being charitable, I was being lazy. I chose a picture that was (a) on page one of the Google image results, and (b) proportional to the O’Rourke picture I’d chosen first.

  12. BluesCat says:

    “… big, blue pinko …”

    BWAHAHA! I love it!

    It’s about time all you tree-huggin’ Pedalist Pushers started recognizing all the Commies in our midst!

    (Psst. Ted, that was just for old P.J. himself, ’cause you gotta know he’s got his eye on you and Commute by Bike.)

  13. Max Power says:

    I’m with the commenters that think this was supposed to be satire, but a failure. Just a melange of trite one-liners.

    BTW, most real libertarians I know object to the massive subsidy to auto and petroleum companies that governements provide.
    Some even propose privatizing the roads so the costs are borne by the users:

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I’m not sure what to make of the people who are excusing his column as satire.

      So? Satire doesn’t mean, Pay no attention. Just kidding.

      This definition of satire is: “the use of humor to criticize someone or something and make them seem silly”

      If O’Rourke isn’t criticizing bikes, cyclists, and bike lanes, then what the heck is his point?

  14. Tyler says:

    Seconded — even his performances on Wait Wait are becoming barely concealed partisan screes, rather than actual wit.

  15. Max Power says:

    My thinking is that he’s calling attention to the fact that bike infrastructure is derided as elitist and anti-democratic, when cars are owned by only the wealthiest minority of NYC residents.
    Again, it’s terribly done, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

  16. xiousgeonz says:

    My thoughts at the article *exactly.* Who is he making fun of? It was painfully lame, dated and fundamentally ignorant. This post, on the other hand, was pointed and funny.

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