The cliché: Each year as we revisit 9/11, commentators and critics recall the "death of irony" that was widely trumpeted in the days after the attack. This year, the mentions, as with the 9/11 coverage itself, grow plentiful. As New York Magazine reminds us, for instance: "On September 18, 2001, Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, declared, 'I think it’s the end of the age of irony.'" Meanwhile, AJ Aronstein at splitsider.com called it "Roger Rosenblatt's famous pronouncement of irony's death in Time Magazine." The contrasting attributions raise an interesting question. While everyone likes to remind us that irony is indeed alive and well, there are conflicting reports about just who made the false death declaration in the first place.
So where's it from? Indeed, in an essay dated Sept. 24, 2001, Roger Rosenblatt wrote, "One good thing could come from this horror: it could spell the end of the age of irony." Still more people point to Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair. He gave a quote to the now-defunct site Inside.com early in the week following the attacks (so on or about Sept. 17, 2001) in which he declared "There's going to be a seismic change. I think it's the end of the age of irony." But news reports from the days after the attack show that others beat Carter out as well. See The Baltimore Sun on Sept. 14, 2001: "'None of us are feeling funny,' said an Onion editor, Stephen Thompson. 'I heard a staff member say something chilling, 'The age of irony is dead.'" Interestingly enough, a spokesperson for The Daily Show, also struggling with its place in the world after the tragedy, also used the phrase in the days after the attack, and also put it in someone else's mouth. "When you're talking about a show that is a news parody and the news is so consumed about this tragedy, what's funny about what's unfolding here? Nothing," Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox told the Associated Press on Sept. 17. "As someone at the show said succinctly, irony is dead for the moment."