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Although we rely on a different calendar than was in use in the 17th century (so it's not exact), on this date 419 years ago Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno was patrolling the waters off the coast of present-day Southern California when he espied three islands.

It was the eve of Saint Catherine's Day, so Vizcaíno did what Spaniards often did back then: He named the largest of the three after the proximate saint. This was at least the third name given the island in 60 years. The indigenous people who lived there called it Pimu. Unbeknownst to Capt. Vizcaíno, a previous Spanish explorer, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, had named it San Salvador in honor of his own ship.

But it was the name Saint Catherine's Island -- rendered, naturally, in Spanish -- that stuck. In a catchy late-1950s ditty, a group called the Four Preps sang about the place:

Twenty-six miles across the sea,Santa Catalina is a-waitin' for me…

Seafaring explorers of the previous millennium are on my mind this morning, thanks to a curious tweet sent yesterday by an organization formed in 2017 called Women's March. 

Perhaps you remember the Women's March. It began as a rival shindig on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2017, and drew more participants to the National Mall than had been present the previous day for Donald Trump's inauguration. Marches were held in other cities around the country, too. Depending on your politics, it was an impressive display of righteous indignation or an early sign that America's civic life was coming apart.

But these days no one ever says they made their point and moves on to other matters. Why let a huge mailing list go to waste? So the Women's March is still with us and this week the group apparently sent out a fundraising appeal with "1492" in the subject line and asking for donations of $14.92.

It wasn't clever so much as it was a stretch: Yes, it's true that "in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue," in the words of the old poem once taught to American schoolchildren. But it is not a date particularly associated with Thanksgiving. Oh, well -- no one is perfect. But the Land of Twitter is not a forgiving kingdom, so pushback came immediately. Not for the tortured historical connection between Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims. No, if you think that was the sin, you haven't been paying attention. What happened is that a handful of progressive intersectionalists dressed down the Women's March for being insufficiently woke. Inevitably, the group issued the ritual mea culpa. Here it is, in its entirety:

"We apologize deeply for the email that was sent today. $14.92 was our average donation amount this week. It was an oversight on our part to not make the connection to a year of colonization, conquest, and genocide for Indigenous people, especially before Thanksgiving."

You can imagine the fun Twitter conservatives had with this genuflection (and the head-slapping among mainstream Democrats still smarting over this month's election returns in Virginia and elsewhere). But this kind of thing presents a nonpartisan problem. When a seemingly serious communication from a political group is indistinguishable from a parody that might appear in The Onion or the Babylon Bee, how can the rest of us to know when we are supposed to laugh? 

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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