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Friday, November 2, 2012

Anyway You Slice It, The Onion Tears Into Politics

An Onion reader takes in the headlines. (Kevin Harber/Flickr)

Here are some headlines you may have missed this political season: “Entire Nation Now Undecided After 4 Debates.” “Romney’s Sons Forced To Quickly Enlist In U.S. Army Ahead Of Foreign Policy Debate.” And this one out today: “Nation Suddenly Remembers Simple Comforts Of Having Out-Of-Touch White Man Run Country.”

Those stories and more come from the satirical newspaper and website The Onion.

The publication’s editor, Will Tracy, says nothing is sacred. And with two million weekly newspaper readers and 10 million website visitors, fans seem to agree.

The Onion is also out with a new compendium, “The Onion Book of Known Knowledge.”

Here are some sample entries:

• Biden, Joe, (b. Nov. 20, 1942), 47th vice president of the United States. At the age of 12, he walked in on the mother of a school friend changing and then asked if she really wanted him to leave. Graduated from high school in 1961, but for three years afterward periodically hung out in the parking lot of his alma mater in his 1957 Ford Del Rio station wagon (which he had converted into a cot and mini bar) in order to, in his words, “check out the fresh crop of sweet peaches.”

• Congress, national legislative body of the U.S. government that had such amazing potential, damn it. Established by Article I of the Constitution, Congress comprises the Senate and the House of Representatives, an ingenious bicameral system that seemed on paper like it was going to be something really special, you know? Really, really special.

• Constitution (U.S.), supreme law of the United States, adopted in 1787, that never needs to be updated or reassessed because the nation’s founders included clear instructions on what to do if homosexuals ever want to get married, how to fairly regulate the Internet, and whether or not digital inspections of computer hard drives at the U.S. border are legal.

Highlights from the Q&A:

Robin: You tweet during the debates. I remember re-tweeting one of The Onion tweets that said something like, “Quick, everybody tweet us your opinion because it will mean absolutely nothing at all.”

Will Tracy, editor of The Onion.

Will: That’s sort of our general view towards our readership is that they’re kind of a teeming ignorant mass. And we like to kind of keep that voice in-line as much as possible, throughout the book, too.

Robin: Are you ever worried – and I already know the answer to this, but I have to ask – that someone will take something you say seriously? I’m thinking of what happened in September when the Iranian News Agency, Fars, re-published an Onion Gallup poll that was a fake Onion poll in which you said, “according to 77 percent of rural Caucasian voters, they would rather go to a baseball game or have a drink with Iranian President Ahmadinejad than spend time with President Obama.” They re-printed that!

Will: I’m not worried about that, no. I mean, it was picked up and re-printed by Fars and, no, I love that. I cackle maniacally in my little office…

Robin: But now there are Iranians walking around thinking that actually 77 percent of rural white voters in America would rather go to a baseball game with Ahmadinejad.

Will: Isn’t that kind of a lovely thought? I think it is. No, they did print some sort of a retraction. I hope that story didn’t actually have that kind of impact but if it did, in a sense we have to consider that a job well done.


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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