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Posted at 4:49 PM ET, 11/29/2010

Wikileaks Cablegate is the accidental reply-all of international diplomacy

By Alexandra Petri

Don't worry, Hillary Clinton! Sure, people are calling it Cablegate, but I think there's a better way of spinning all these wikileaks.

Something very similar happened to me earlier this week, when I accidentally hit "Reply-All" instead of "Reply" on a bunch of e-mails. "I can't believe Derek, whom we all refer to as 'Libya Leader Moammar Qaddafi' because of this thing that happened in high school, doesn't like to stay above the first floor of hotels and is unable to climb more than 35 steps!" I wrote, "Also, his fear of flying is a logistical nightmare!"

I also accidentally sent an e-mail to someone describing a mutual friend as "an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him," and it found his way to him, and now he won't give me the material support I was hoping for in the war on terror. Or let me borrow his Lost DVDs.

Talk about embarrassing! Now my relations with all the other parties are strained. People have stopped inviting me to do the things we used to do together -- have coffee, disarm, go to movies, enter pacts to reduce climate change. "I heard what you were doing to our uranium," they hiss when I approach. Silvio, who used to throw wild and crazy parties, to such an extent that I was almost concerned for his well-being, won't put me on the guest list anymore!

"I'm sure you said similar things about me!" I respond, sheepishly. "In fact, that was in the e-mail chain that everyone saw!"

But it's like the old saying -- you can't unsend an e-mail, unless you have enabled the Undo Send feature in your Gmail.

Hitting "reply-all" instead of "reply" is the ultimate faux pas in e-mail communication. (I could probably have conjectured this from my own experience, but the real way you can tell that something is a faux pas is if Zack Galifianakis is slated to star in a movie about it. Apparently, losing the groom at your bachelor party is a faux pas. So is growing a beard in your thirties and suddenly jumpstarting your comedy career.)

Reply-all, and suddenly your remark that your grandfather "would have the table manners of a raccoon, except that raccoons wash their hands before eating" goes straight to that grandfather, and subsequent family reunions become wildly awkward. "Like a raccoon, eh?" Gramps says. "Well, you can forget about my taking any Guantanamo detainees." Or Karen winds up seeing your joke about how "I see you invited Karen. Nobody likes Karen!" which is embarrassing on two levels -- it is not really a joke, and it is mean to Karen. Or Bob notices your remark: "Wow, can't believe Bob hasn't come out of the closet yet. Iraq was unnecessary. This is necessary!"

Every friend group has that one friend that you invite to everything only because you worry that if you didn't, he might find out and come damage your home. You have no idea what is going on with him, so everyone stalks him on Facebook, and every so often you forward pictures around of him dressed up in a funny monochromatic outfit. You never know what he is thinking. All you can say for certain is that he really likes parades. "Maybe he will stop soon," you say. "Or maybe not! I honestly have no idea." "What if we never had to invite Kevin to anything again?" you fantasize. Now Kevin knows that you refer to him as a "flabby old chap," and since he is currently having a tense situation with his neighbor, this is poorly timed.

Now, the international flare-up oddly parallels what would happen if you discovered your mother rifling through your Hotmail, but instead of "your mother," it was The New York Times, Der Spiegel, and Le Monde, and instead of being about your secret boyfriend, all your e-mails were about the gyroscopes you were buying to enrich uranium. "I kept asking if you had something to tell me," she would say. "Now we aren't speaking." And Hillary Clinton's response is exactly the response you would expect in this situation "This is a violation of privacy! This is damaging my relationships with everyone!"

Yup.

Diplomacy has been defined as the art of knowing exactly how much oil to mix with your vinegar. I don't know much about diplomacy, but I would venture that this is more vinegar than anyone was hoping to have to account for.

And now Sarah Palin's yelling at you. "Why didn't you fix this fiasco and stop it and treat everyone involved like the terrorists they are by for instance freezing their funds?" she is asking. "What?" you say. "Look, there are Israelis yelling at me right now, can we not do this?"

Now you have to run everywhere knocking on doors and offering everyone flowers. "What did you do?" they ask, as they open the door and see you with several armored trucks full of expensive orchids. "How about not reading your email for the next few weeks," you suggest hopefully, handing them several pieces of gold bullion and one domesticated tiger. "Hang on," they say, disappearing back indoors.

"Who are you going to believe," you shout, "my classified communications, or this giant bust made of solid gold and also fruit that I have just made lovingly, with my own hands, to show how much you mean to me? Hey, why don't we reconnect over golf or something?"

By Alexandra Petri  | November 29, 2010; 4:49 PM ET
Categories:  Epic Failures, Only on the Internet, Petri  | Tags:  oops, wikileaks  
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Next: Mulligans: Sarah Palin and the WikilLeaks terrorists

Comments

The “Reply All” button isn’t always a villain. After failing to sign me up for Amway, a woman who had worked for Bill Clinton put me on her unfunny joke list. After getting 3 or 4 long, non-jokes a day for a week, I was able to get myself off her list by sending this picture and hitting “Reply All”:
http://0.tqn.com/d/politicalhumor/1/0/x/B/clinton_memorial.jpg

Of course, Sarah Palin never misses an opportunity to blame Obama. She calls Ainge an “anti-American operative”, and scolds Obama: “Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”

If Sarah Palin thinks telling the truth is an act of terrorism, that certainly explains a lot! I look forward to the day when President Palin’s “death panels” send the Predator drones over Sweden in 2013.

Somehow you missed the revelation that Moammar Qaddafi' (who spells his name differently each month) always travels with a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse who “knows his routine.” I can’t wait to find out more about “his routine” in the next Wikileak. Hopefully it will be a video.

Posted by: divtune | November 29, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

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