Why Satire Still Matters: A Case Study

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Parody, Political Pranks, Satire

As the Overton Window of American politics has shifted rightward, taking the “serious” media with it, satirists such as Jon Stewart, John Oliver, and The Onion have picked up the slack on the left, becoming some of its most influential and effective voices.

Here’s a look at how The Onion, in particular, has taken up the seemingly endless and hopeless fight over gun control.


How ‘The Onion’ Became One of the Strongest Voices for Gun Control
by Asawin Suebsaeng
The Daily Beast
June 19, 2016

The sorry state of mass shootings and regulating the use of firearms are perhaps best epitomized by the fact that a satirical website is getting the most attention for its coverage.

48880009.cachedFor years, the editorial page that has most fervently favored stricter gun control in America hasn’t been found in The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Boston Globe. It’s been on the pages of The Onion, America’s leading news-satire organization.

Two days after the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub, which was carried out with an AR-15-style weapon, The Onion (which smirkingly bills itself as “America’s finest news source”) published an op-ed titled, “It’s An Honor To Continue Being Valued Over Countless Human Lives.”

It was posted under the byline of “an AR-15.”

“I can’t imagine it was always easy to hold an 8-pound aluminum-and-synthetic firearm in higher regard than the lives of your fellow citizens—after all, these are good people with rich experiences and families and dreams—but this country has always managed to find a way to put me first,” the darkly comic piece reads.

In the wake of the Pulse mass shooting, The Onion also published articles with headlines such as:

“Exhausted Nation Unsure It Has Stamina To Continue Gun Control Dialogue For Fifth Consecutive Day”

“Frustrated Obama Writes Letter To His Congressman About Need For Gun Control”

“At Times Like This, We Need To Pull Ourselves Up, Hold Our Loved Ones Close, Block Any Legislation That Would Prevent Suspected Terrorists From Buying Guns, And Say A Prayer For The Victims” (“written” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell)

“Concerned NRA Official Rushes Out To Purchase Congressman Following Mass Shooting” and “Nation Wishes It Could Just Once Be Reminded Of Preciousness Of Life Without Mass Shooting.”

It was a rapid-fire indictment of American fetishization of firearms and the legislative inaction on gun control and banning assault weapons. And it’s a topic that The Onion has become all too familiar with covering over the past few years.

Following the 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista, California that killed 7 people and left 13 wounded, the satirical newspaper published a report titled, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” Since then, whenever news of a mass shooting breaks, that piece is reliably given another boost on social media.

In August 2012, The Onion published a story on how America was celebrating a “full week without [a] deadly mass shooting”—only to update the story one day later with the dek “Never Mind” following news of a shooting in front of the Empire State Building.

Search the website’s “Guns” database and you will find a near-bottomless well of anti-gun-violence satire including, “The Pros And Cons Of Gun Control,” “Government To Confiscate One Person’s Guns Just To Make Rest Of Them Squirm,” or “NRA Visits Colorado Police Evidence Room To Check Up On Rifle Used In Planned Parenthood Shooting.” Read more.

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