The Onion Chastises Supreme Court Over Satire Rulings

The satirical publication filed a genuine amicus brief before the Supreme Court.

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The satirical publication filed a genuine amicus brief before the Supreme Court.

The Onion has long been one of the most prominent satirical news sources in the world, reporting on various world events, especially politics, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Even when reporting on extremely serious events, the publication rarely breaks character, steadfast in their mission to satirize anything and everything. As such, in the instance that they do decide to break character, it can only be for something exceptionally important.

Back in 2016, an Ohio man named Anthony Novak created a satirical Facebook page of the Parma Ohio Police Department’s page, taking jabs at the department’s practices. Novak was arrested for this on the grounds of creating inflammatory content under the guise of a public official, though he was later acquitted. Novak attempted to sue the department for violating his First Amendment rights, but the case couldn’t make it to the higher courts.

Of its own volition, the writers of The Onion submitted an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court touting the importance of satire. “The Onion cannot stand idly by in the face of a ruling that threatens to disembowel a form of rhetoric that has existed for millennia, that is particularly potent in the realm of political debate, and that, purely incidentally, forms the basis of The Onion’s writers’ paychecks,” the brief says.

“[T]he Sixth Circuit’s ruling imperils an ancient form of discourse,” the amicus brief warned. “The court’s decision suggests that parodists are in the clear only if they pop the balloon in advance by warning their audience that their parody is not true. … The Sixth Circuit’s decision in this case would condition the First Amendment’s protection for parody upon a requirement that parodists explicitly say, up-front, that their work is nothing more than an elaborate fiction.”

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