"TOPEKA, KS—Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday the grand opening of its long-planned $8 billion Abortionplex, a sprawling abortion facility that will allow the organization to terminate unborn lives with an efficiency never before thought possible.”
Controversial? Yes. Improbable? Yes. But Remotely Possible? Yes. True? No.
This bit of journalistic sleight-of-hand came to us from the Onion, the leading practitioner of satirical journalism in the U.S.
Not everyone got the joke, however. Congressman John Fleming, a Republican from Louisiana, linked to it on his Facebook page with the notation “More on Planned Parenthood, abortion by the wholesale.”
Fleming joins a multitude of people and organizations who over the years slipped on the banana peel of satire, exposing a certain lack of sophistication while gaining immediate membership in the Bonehead Hall of Fame.
If the Abortionplex is Exhibit A, Exhibit B would be the Washington Post blogger who breathlessly announced to the world that Sarah Palin had signed on as a contributor to the Arab-owned Al Jazeera American News network.
"As you all know, I'm not a big fan of newspapers, journalists, news anchors and the liberal media in general," Palin allegedly said. "But I met with the folks at Al-Jazeera and they told me they reach millions of devoutly religious people who don't watch CBS or CNN. That tells me they don't have a liberal bias."
The source? A satirical news outlet called the Daily Currant. The editors who let it get into the paper? Probably now making minimum wage at Wal-Mart.
Alas, it seems satire being presented as actual news has become a full-blown phenomenon, thanks in no small part to the advent of bloggers, tweeters, citizen journalists and others who have checked their critical thinking skills at the door.
In fact, just this past week, Facebook decided its 1.28 billion users were so gullible that it is attaching a “satire” tag on entries that are, well, satirical.
For example, a recent Facebook posting taken from the Onion, announced that “Apple Promises to Fix Glitches in Map Software by Rearranging Earth’s Geography.” Funny? Not to one reader who angrily responded, “Is this really cost effective?”
Another Onion offering on Facebook headlined “Study: Nation’s Third-Graders Now Eating at Ninth-Grade Level” brought this comment: “I’m sorry, but isn’t this a huge waste of money?”
A simple “Satire” tag would have prevented these angst attacks.
I decided to try it. I posted an Onion piece on Facebook that shows Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell with bloated neck and jowls headlined “Mitch McConnell Inflates Throat Pouch in Show of Dominance Over Fellow Congressional Males.”
No “satire” label was attached. Maybe it was too believable.
So are people just getting dumber? Or is it that so many spend their lives in a state of perpetual anger about what they see as the decline and fall of civilization that nothing seems too far-fetched for them to believe.
Perhaps the answer lies in a study by the Media Insight Project that found “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week."
Or maybe the clue can be found in a Time magazine survey that asked readers to identify "the most trusted newsperson in America." John Stewart of Comedy Central's satirical "Daily Show" was the runaway winner.
Whatever the case, the satire business is booming at the same time traditional news outlets such as newspapers are facing extinction.
Among the most popular satirists:
The Borowitz Report, unique because it actually appears in a legitimate publication, the NewYorker.Com. Its latest entries tell us that the recent indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry “has sparked widespread bipartisan support for the concept of sending politicians to prison for ninety-nine years.” We also learn that “As the West ramped up its sanctions against the Russian Federation…Russian President Vladimir Putin convened a high-level meeting of his imaginary friends to craft a response.”
A site called Cabrolic Smoke Ball, which advertises itself as “news unencumbered by the facts,” recently came up with this blockbuster: “Donald Sterling: World Community Should Not Associate With Boko Haram Because Its Members Are Black.”
The aforementioned Daily Currant headlined “Russia Bans U.S. Food Imports, Obesity Plummets” and “Saudi Arabia Seriously Considering Allowing Women to Use Forks.”
A Free Wood Post story reveals that “New Poll Reveals Ebola More Popular Than Congress.”
But when it comes to fooling some of the people some of the time, the Onion gets the last laugh:
--- Its story saying that Neil Armstrong is convinced that the moon landing was staged was picked up in numerous foreign papers.
--- A piece claiming that Congress is threatening to leave Washington, D.C., unless a new capitol with a retractable dome is built made headlines in Beijing.
---A story claiming Harry Potter books sparked a rise in Satanism among children became the topic of a widely circulated chain e-mail.
--- A satirical piece claiming President Obama sent the nation a rambling 75,000 word e-mail was picked up by a Fox News website.
--- A story saying that a 1998 homosexual recruiting drive was nearing its goal was embraced by Fred Phelps, of Westboro Baptist Church fame.
--- The Mecklenberg County, Va., Republican Party thought there were really on to something when they posted an Onion story that Obama’s 19-year-old son made a rare appearance the Democratic National Convention. On their Facebook page, they wondered why no other media had picked up the story.
All of which proves that folly is not that much stranger than truth.