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#MemeOfTheWeek: That Article From The Onion About Mass Shootings

You might have seen the article by now: "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.'" The Onion, a satirical news site that runs fake news stories, has published a story with that headline three times over the last year and a half: this week after a shooter killed nine people at an Oregon community college; in June of this year after a violent rampage in a black Charleston church that also killed nine people; and last May, after a shooting at the University of California Santa Barbara that killed seven.

The facts and dates surrounding the particular shooting change each time the story is republished, but key lines remain:

  • ...citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded... that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place.
  • "This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them," said _______ resident ________, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world's deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations.
  • At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as "helpless."

The article's been shared thousands of times on social media, and some on Twitter have taken notice of the piece's repackaging:


The Onion, in its satire, has done something most of the "mainstream media" has refused to do: say how they really feel about mass shootings in America, said Dave Cullen, a journalist who has covered mass shootings for years and wrote the New York Times bestseller Columbine. "I think what [the Onion article's popularity] says is we look for the people who tell us the truth — kind of the emperor's new clothes — who see through the stuff, and don't just print the same old stuff, or do the same old stuff, or do the safe stuff — the people who call us on our s***."

Cullen agreed that The Onion article is #MemeOfTheWeek worthy, explaining, "The Onion completely nails it. That [the article] resonates because they totally got it."

Cullen said another type of news satire has been doing the same thing — saying what journalists are afraid to say — for years. "I think it's the same reason that a lot of the media, about 10 years ago, were shocked and kind of disgusted and horrified that a lot of young people were getting their daily news from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Not all of The Onion's satirical coverage of mass shootings in America have gone over as well. After a shooting that killed 12 at Washington Navy Yard in 2013, the website published a story with the headline: "Location of Newest Mass Shooting Revealed. It's A Navy Yard, Authorities Confirm." One person tweeted, "This isn't funny." Another called it "gross stupidity."

Of course, sometimes, there's no satire to praise or ridicule at all. Some tragedies leave even the satirists are at a loss for words. After the Charleston church massacre, Jon Stewart, instead of delivering a biting, satirical monologue on The Daily Show, started his comments after the shooting with the words, "I've got nothing." And The Onion, after the Sandy Hook massacre, wrote an article with the headline, "F*** Everything, Nation Reports."


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