Frivolous Complaint of the Month: Ronald Barbour

I considered several possible titles for this: Unethical Abuse of a Government Employee’s Time of the Month, False Accusation of the Month, and the like. I considered calling it Most Unfair Attack on the Missoula Community Theater of the Week, but I’m not even sure that is true. I even considered, Document That Almost Makes Me Regret That I Ever Opposed Unfair Attacks on the Tea Party, but that is a bit off topic.

This published letter by “Ronbo” Barbour completely fooled me; I really thought it was satire,  which reveals a truth: the less one understands satire, the more likely one is to unwittingly emulate it without ever getting the joke.

I will say this: W.S. Gilbert would love this.

And now I present the actual letter sent to the Secret Service by Mr. Barbour, a Montana Tea Party official, relating to Sarah Palin’s inclusion in the classic comic song, “I’ve Got A Little List” [ Scroll to the end of the post for two versions of the song, the original and a Monty Python adaptation ] in the Missoula Community Theatre’s production of the 125 year-old operetta, “The Mikado.” I wouldn’t make this up; this is an ethics blog…





Dear Sir:

1. I demand the immediate arrest of CURT OLDS – THE GUEST DIRECTOR of the Missoula, Montana production of THE MIKADO under the provisions of U.S.C. 871 for repeated DEATH THREATS and solicitation of assassination of PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE Sarah Palin under the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 871 – This is a serious felony that carries a penalty of five years in prison, $250, 000 fine and three years probation.

2. Please be advised that I personally, along with countless members of this Montana community, witnessed this sickening act of hate, solicitation for murder and treason. After the play was finished I heard countless cries for law enforcement to step forward and arrest the CURT OLDS, the author of the death threats against Sarah Palin.

3. Please be advised if the U.S. Secret Service does not take IMMEDIATE action to arrest CURT OLDS, I will personally file felon charges against you at the nearest U.S. Attorney for failure to stop a clear and present threat against the life of a Presidential Nominee.

Sincerely, Ronald (Ronbo) Barbour


Addendum: “I’ve Got A Little List”; Gilbert and Eric Idle

I suppose I should have done this earlier, but for the unenlightened like Ronbo (well, not like him, I suppose), here are three versions of Ko-Ko’s song: the original, and a typical parody, if you can call anything by Monty Python “typical”:

  • First, Gilbert’s version as it was usually peformed by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company:


As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
There’s the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs —
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs —
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with ’em flat —
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that —
And all third persons who on spoiling tête-á-têtes insist —
They’d none of ’em be missed — they’d none of ’em be missed!


He’s got ’em on the list — he’s got ’em on the list;
And they’ll none of ’em be missed — they’ll none of ’em be missed.


There’s the banjo serenader, and the others of his race,
And the piano-organist — I’ve got him on the list!
And the people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,
They never would be missed — they never would be missed!
Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
And the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,
And who “doesn’t think she dances, but would rather like to try”;
And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist —
I don’t think she’d be missed — I’m sure she’d not he missed!


He’s got her on the list — he’s got her on the list;
And I don’t think she’ll be missed — I’m sure she’ll not be missed!


And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
The Judicial humorist — I’ve got him on the list!
All funny fellows, comic men, and clowns of private life —
They’d none of ’em be missed — they’d none of ’em be missed.
And apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,
Such as — What d’ye call him — Thing’em-bob, and likewise — Never-mind,
And ‘St— ‘st— ‘st— and What’s-his-name, and also You-know-who —
The task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to you.
But it really doesn’t matter whom you put upon the list,
For they’d none of ’em be missed — they’d none of ’em be missed!


You may put ’em on the list — you may put ’em on the list;
And they’ll none of ’em be missed — they’ll none of ’em be missed!

  • Next, the Monty Python version...

If someday it may happen that a victim must be found
I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list;
Of society’s offenders who may well be underground
And who never would be missed, they never would be missed.

There’s interior designers, window dressers and that sort
And grubbers who retire in strings the minute they get caught,
Or those who have their noses pierced, or men who die their hair
Or idiots who host chat shows and disc jockeys everywhere,
And customs men who fumbling through your underwear insist!
They’d none of them be missed, they’ll none of them be missed.

He’s got them on a list, he’s got them on a list
And they’d none of them be missed, they’ll none of them be missed.

There’s people with pretentious names like Justin, Trish and Rolf
And the gynecologist, I’ve got him on the list!
Or muggers, joggers, buggers, floggers, people who play golf;
They never would be missed. They never would be missed.

Or waitresses who make you wait, accountants of all kinds
And actresses who kiss and tell and wiggle their behinds,
And poncy little singers who to entertain us try
By dressing up as women and by singing far to high,
And who on close observance must be either stoned or pissed…
I don’t think they’d be missed, I’m sure they’d not be missed.

He’s got them on a list, he’s got them on a list
And they’d none of them be missed, they’ll none of them be missed.

There’s the beggars who write letters from the Inland Revenue
And the gossip columnist, I’ve got him on the list!
Comedians and weightlifters and opera singers too…
They’d none of them be missed, they’d none of them be missed.

Or traffic wardens, bankers, men who sell Venetian blinds
Or people who wear silly ties, Australians of all kinds
And nasty little editors whose papers are the pits
Who fill their rags with gossip and with huge and floppy.. er.. wrists
But anyway I think by now you must have got the gist
They’d none of them be missed. They’ll none of them be missed!

He’s got them on a list, he’s got them on a list
And they’d none of them be missed, they’ll none of them be missed.

29 thoughts on “Frivolous Complaint of the Month: Ronald Barbour

  1. This Mikado debacle illustrates why Gilbert left “the task of filling up the blanks” to the audience. That way, everyone could imagine their least favourite politician, the actor playing Ko-Ko could imply a specific individual and no-one would leave angry (or at least they couldn’t blame the director or provide actual lyrics to the papers). Gilbert had had enough trouble with humourless politicians after “The Happy Land”.

    Of course, that doesn’t make those complaining about the Missoula Miakdo ethical, it just means Gilbert was smart.

  2. Huh? This isn’t real . . . is it? I read the letter several times. My first inclination was to laugh. Then, I thought, is he serious? Noooo, he can’t be serious.

  3. Mr. B. sent a letter to the Secret Service, right? Why? Palin is an ordinary citizen isn’t she? She is not guarded or protected by the Secret Service anymore. I read by law the Secret Service is authorized to protect Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees within 120 days of the general election.

    I just thought it odd he sent the letter to the Secret Service.

    • Exactly. She’s not even nominated for 2012, nor has she even ventured to throw her hat in the ring for any elected office. Additionally, she’s resigned the public office that she did hold and become a TV personality. The Secret Service has as much interest in protecting her as they do Keith Olbermann.

    • Gosh, no. The whole deal stinks. I’m just trying to make some sense out of it all. Guess I could stop here and now, because there is no sense to it.

  4. At the center of the controversy was a single couplet, inserted by director Curt Olds into a song sung by the character Ko-Ko, a pacifist executioner. Listing off those people whom he intends to behead, the singer in the Missoula production noted, “That crazy Sarah Palin needs a psychoanalyst / She never would be missed, no she never would be missed.”

    “It’s very common practice to amend those lyrics,” said McGill. “It’s how they were amended in this case that’s an issue. There’s a lot of misinformation about what happened, but I don’t want to shirk our responsibility for what did happen.

    Theater apologizes for its lyric about beheading Palin

    • McGill’s statement is awful; I know he’s in a bind, but this is nonsense. What misinformation? The line either calls for Sarah Palin’s beheading or it doesn’t…and it doesn’t. Thos who saw the show and said otherwise were either lying or made a foolish mistake. Those who ran with the misrepresentation were irresponsible and ignorant. The victim, WCY apologized because it couldn’t risk the potential harm if it defended itself properly. What does he mean “It’s how they were amended that’s an issue”? They were amended to mention Sarah Palin, just as past productions have amended the same lyrics to tweak every past political figure imaginable. The more this guy talks, the worse he makes it for his company, Olds, and those of us who are trying to beat back the yokels, bullies and fools.

      • Speaking of yokels, bullies and fools, sounds like the TV character, Archie Bunker. I wonder how many are aware that the actor who played Archie, the late Carroll O’Connor, got his master’s degree in theatre at Univ. of MT in Missoula.

        In their archives (I’ve seen it) is a photo of O’Connor playing the title character in Shakespeare’s “Othello”. Those blue eyes and that Irish mug in Moorish make-up can be startling.

  5. The last point of all to make of any of this Mikado business (and I’m surprised I haven’t seen this anywhere) is that the Actor, the Director, the Producer aren’t Ko-Ko.

    Mark Twain (S.C.) isn’t a racist because of the content in his book of fictional characters. Heck, his characters might not even be racist because they exist in a different time-period.

    If these people truly believe that a call for the beheading of Sarah Palin was issued, then they can only call for the arrest of Ko-Ko. Good luck finding him. Here’s a clue: He’s in an 18th century Japanese village in an alternate dimension. Also, don’t be confused by the actors that play him.

    • I buy that up to a point, though it quickly becomes similar to the ventriloquist who keeps having his dummy call his wife fat and when she protests, says, “Hey, don’t blame me! It was the dummy!” After all, when some lines from “The Mikado” are in books of quotes, yje quote is attributed to the author, not that character.

    • And good luck getting someone to punish Ko-Ko. Threatening Sarah Palin is probably capital in Titipu and the law must be obeyed (though I’ll have to check with my solicitor Pooh-Bah). Unfortunately, Ko-Ko has made it quite clear that he’s not going to cut off his own head and he’s the only executioner in town.

      On the upside, though, if threatening Sarah Palin is capital, then the Mikado wants Ko-Ko dead. If the Mikado wants Ko-Ko dead, the Ko-Ko is, for all intents and purposes, dead. He has therefore been properly punished.

  6. Far too many electrons have been squandered on this issue already, but I thought I’d remark on a happenstance of timing that made me smile. You’ve spent several pieces rightly condemning everyone who contributed to the MIKADO fiasco, going so far as to print Gilbert’s original lyrics to illustrate your argument.

    Except you didn’t. Gilbert’s original lyrics, as you well know, contain the line “And that nigger serenader, and the others of his race.” Gilbert was referring to the white minstrels who performed in blackface and were commonly referred to in England as “niggers”. But the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, the inheritor of the G&S ouevre, “officially” changed the line long after Gilbert was dead, in deference to American sensibilities.

    Now, it is nearly unarguable that:

    1. The line change has no effect whatever on the point under discussion.

    2. Including it, and explaining it, and trying to keep people on topic, would have been difficult and distracting.

    3. The opera company, which has no particular axe to grind, were the ones who changed it, after consulting their vast resources of Gilbertiana (including, at the time, some people who’d actually known Gilbert).

    So I am completely in sympathy with what you did. But I don’t think “When you edit an original to make one point more clear, present that original so that the reader can decide whether you were right about the effect of the amendment” is a logical Number 4 to the list above.

    • If anyone know hows to spell that noise one makes when one puts his or her tongue between his or her lips and blows, thus producing what is commonly called a “raspberry” or “Bronx cheer,” please relay that information to me at I will be most grateful, and I will also be able to post an appropriate response to my friend Tom.

  7. JM, I’ve heard the Bronx cheer or raspberry referred to as a “lip fart”. That’s as opposed to a “brain fart” which was what was had by the fellow who wrote the original letter-to-the-editor of the Missoulian, and kicked up this whole sorry business.

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