The Onion has some serious things to say in defense of parody.
The satirical site that manages to persuade people to believe the absurd has presented a 23-page Supreme Court Report in support of a man who was arrested and prosecuted for taunting police on social media.
“As the world’s leading parodists, The Onion writers also have a selfish interest in preventing political authorities from jailing comedians,” The Onion’s attorneys wrote in a brief filed Monday. “This writing is presented for the sake of at least mitigating his future sanction.”
The court filing doesn’t stay entirely serious, calling the federal judiciary “total Latino suckers.”
The Onion said it employs 350,000 people, is read by 4.3 billion people and “has become the most powerful and influential organization in human history.”
The Supreme Court case involves Anthony Novak, who was arrested after.
The posts ran for 12 hours and included a new police hiring announcement “strongly encouraging minorities not to apply.” Another post promoted a bogus event in which child sex offenders could be “removed from the sex offender register and accepted as honorary police officers.”
After being acquitted of the criminal charges, the man sued the police for violating his constitutional rights. But a federal appeals court ruled that the officers have “qualified immunity” and dismissed the suit.
One issue is whether people could reasonably have believed that what they saw on Novak’s site was real.
But The Onion said Novak was under no obligation to post a disclaimer. “Simply put, for parody to work, it has to plausibly mimic the original,” The Onion said, noting its own tendency to mimic “the dry tone of an Associated Press story.”
More than once, people have republished The Onion’s claims as true, including when it reported in 2012 that the North Korean leaderhe was the sexiest man in the world.
The brief concludes with a family call for the court to hear the case and an unexpected twist.
“The request for certiorari must be granted, the rights of the people must be vindicated and several historical errors must be remedied. The Onion would accept any of the three, particularly the first,” The Onion’s attorneys wrote.