Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Onion Effect: Satire vs. Politics


Something scary is happening in American politics.  And this time I’m not just talking about the war on women, but something that’s even more fundamentally wrong with our collective psyche.  What I’m talking about is the inability to discern satire – or what I like to call “The Onion Effect.” 

I believe this recent phenomena began with this story about Planned Parenthood opening an “8 billion dollar abortion megaplex.”  This article was written by the Onion – a website that exclusively specializes in satire by writing faux news stories designed to mock politics and current events.   But somehow LOTS of people overlooked the clear tones of sarcasm in the article and became outraged – including one member of the United States House of Representatives named John Fleming, who commented on the article saying, “More on Planned Parenthood, abortion by the wholesale.”

Now there’s even an entire website solely dedicated to the (hilarious) reactions people have to the Onion’s satire when they think it’s for real.  Some headlines that people were unable to accurately interpret as satire include, “Brain-Dead Teen, Only Capable of Rolling Eyes and Texting, to be Euthanized” or “Vatican Dispatches Elite Team of Bishops to Sabotage Contraceptive Manufacturer.” 

I’d like to think that this is just a concentrated epidemic of stupidity that will run its course and eventually we’ll all be healthy and smart again.  But I think this is actually reflective of an ever increasing trend of crazy that has become the norm in our political system.  Can I really blame these people for failing to understand that this headline is a joke when this headline  is actually real?  If we can’t tell the difference between hilarious satire and real life politics, what does that say about the values we’re working with right now?  Legitimate core values like freedom and responsibility have gotten all twisted up into outrageous, ugly politics.  And try as we might, it’s been tough work trying to reclaim them.  

I don’t know about you, but I’m still holding out for the moment when we take a long hard look at our collective self in the mirror and decide we have better things to do with our time and ABUNDANT resources than promoting policies that seem like they came straight out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

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