What Would Royko Do?

By Peter V. Bella

May 6, 2022 

Columnist Mike Royko died 25 years last month. He was a chronicler of Chicago; its people, especially the proverbial little guy/gal/it/them/whoever- we must be inclusive today. With all the problems in Chicago and the total silliness in Washington, one could wonder:

What Would Royko Do?

Royko would turn his satirical poison pen, dripping with sarcasm, on them all. Unfortunately, Mike Royko would not last in today’s environment. There would be calls for his firing or resignation. Advertisers would be threatened by boycotts, accusations of racism, hate speech, antisemitism, and whatever ism or phobia people could make up out of thin air. Most of the allegations would come from his colleagues and peers in the news media. They love to be the story and get their names out front.

Humor and satire are dying in America. Everyone is offended, and all demand action. The offense police are a lynch mob. Mike Royko would not survive in this toxic environment. No humorist or satirist would.

In the Chicago news media, humor, satire, and pointed criticism are dead. Editorials are oh so very polite, nice, and sanitary. Poison pens have been swapped with delicate bone china teacups, with pinky fingers properly extended.

Since Royko met the Great Comedian, news entities and the public searched for a successor, the new Royko.

Ring Lardner, (Ringgold Wilmer Lardner) at age 28, ca. 1913.

There will never be a new Royko. There will never be another Art Buchwald, William Safire, Pete Hamill, Studs Terkel, Ring Lardner, Finley Peter Dunne or any other notable columnist or author.

They are one-offs. They made their mark on the world, left a treasure trove of material, then passed on. They could not pass a torch because their individuality made them unique.

Royko was a son of Chicago. Many thought he was a son-of-a-something-else. He was a neighborhood guy, a street guy, and, as we say, an “etnic” guy. Mike Royko was an astute observer of Chicago, from the ethnic and other neighborhoods to the shenanigans in City Hall and the County Building.

If Royko came back today, he would be appalled at what Chicago’s news media has turned into. Chicago used to have courageous and fearless reporters and columnists. Now, the snowflakes, cowards, weenies, and wussies “report,” write columns, and run the newsrooms. They spy on each other like Soviet children used to spy on their families. If they even perceive a whiff of “offense,” off to the gulag you go.

Reporters are no longer objective, courageous, and fearless. There is no objectivity. They are social justice warriors. The reportage is slanted. They would turn on their own if they detected perceived offense- whatever offense means these days.

Too often, the news media are the spokes weasels for City Hall, the County Building, and Springfield. In essence, they are part and parcel of the corrupt Chicago Way. They sold their souls in exchange for access.

Reporters used to be trusted by the public. No longer. The news media do not care about the people. They are no longer guardians or watchdogs. They are cute, panting, pink-tongued lap dogs waiting for a treat from their masters.

Humor and satire are now considered offensive and risky by corporate media. The executives fear any backlash, especially from their own newsrooms. It is easier to silence voices than ignore the lynch mob.

The grievance industry and their fellow travelers are demanding. They must be heard and satisfied. That is why there will never be another Royko in Chicago. The weasels, cowards, activists, and the powers that be would never allow it. There will never be another Pete Hamill, Art Buchwald, Jimmy Breslin, Charles Krauthammer, or others. They would be publicly tarred, feathered, and fired.

Humor, satire, and poking the powers that be are dead in Chicago. John Stewart recently demanded to make humor funny again. That will be a near impossibility in this fragile, humorless society. People break, shatter, and fall to pieces if you use the “wrong” pronoun, let alone criticize some cherished person.

No one is safe from the language lynch mobs and their fairy tale offenses, no matter their political persuasion. We are turning into a society of brittle souls looking for anything to be offended by. There is a need to destroy people.

No one speaks for the neighborhoods, the little guy/gal/them, or points out the follies in local government. No one pokes fun at the inanity and absurdities in this city. Soon, even laughter will be verboten. Joy and laughter have quickly been sucked out of the news media and public discourse. Even the comics are no longer comical.

Hell, newspaper columns will soon resemble Valentine’s Day cards with XXXs and OOOs, SWAK.

Or, if you prefer, Sealed with a Kiss.

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Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer.  He writes at petervbella.com. He spent almost thirty years driving in square circles, serving, and protecting. He is a photographer, writer, serious cook, and eater. His astrological sign is Skull and Crossbones. In his spare time, Mr. Bella watches flies die.