Everybody loves to make fun of people for believing Onion stories, until they are the ones being made fun of for believing Onion stories.
In a stunning twist it is now web-savvy Twitter users, and not oblivious Chinese journalists and naive Midwesterners, who have been caught taking the famous satirical newspaper at face value. [Full disclosure: This author once made coffee and copies for Onion writers.]
Ealier today, The Onion sent off a string of Twitter updates to introduce a running story about Congressmen taking hostages in the Capitol building. Nothing out of the ordinary, especially from the minds who brought us “Supreme Court Overturns Car.” Except that the first tweet went like this:
BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building.
Blogger Michelle Malkin also got into the act, calling the story “fake, pointless … [and] not funny.” Thee U.S. Capitol Police were even forced to respond, officially reporting there was “no credibility” to the story.
We’re hardly unbiased here, but if you take Onion stories at face value you have no one to blame but yourself. In its two-decade history the paper has never printed any serious news. If you follow the paper on Twitter, you would also know that The Onion also has been recently rolling out ‘breaking updates’ to their joke stories on the microblogging service. To think that today, and not the death of Osama bin Laden or the earthquake in Japan, would be the first time they would abandon precedent is simply short-sighted.
(As for the cries about “insensitivity,” well, it’s always something. The people complaining today were most likely laughing at “Investigators Determine Air France Disaster Caused By Plane Crash” and “Gymnast Shawn Johnson Put To Sleep After Breaking Leg.” Things you find funny, other people will find offensive; things you find offensive, other people will find funny.)
What do you think? Did The Onion go too far?