Review: The Onion misfires with Glenn Beck article


I love The Onion and I loathe Glenn Beck, but their recent article mocking him is a notable misfire.

Nation Once Again Comes Under Sway of Pink-Faced Half-Wit

When The Onion steps into social or political satire, it does its best work by rephrasing its subject in mocking, sarcastic, or ironic terms.  The piece relies on the reader’s knowledge of the topic, and the absurdity of what the article is literally saying, to bring the mockery into focus.  The “Giuliani To Run For President Of 9/11” article is a good example of this.

Sadly, this latest article on Glenn Beck lacks the ironic observations or tongue-in-cheek journalism of good Onion pieces.  It’s clear upon reading (and this is feeling I almost never get from reading The Onion) that the writer merely hates Glenn Beck and is out to insult him.

The biggest tell of this is the fact that the article does not flesh out its decent premise.  Pointing out a history of “pink-faced half-wits” in American politics is a funny idea, and using Charles Coughlin, Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as data points is a start.  But the article doesn’t run with that.  Rather, it seems to be mainly trying to fit as many disparaging adjectives about Beck into 677 words.  I counted 77 words or phrases employed in some way to disparage Glenn Beck and, to a lesser extent, the school of pink-faced half-wits:

pink-faced, half-wit, spewing, reactionary, manipulative, diatribes, bloated, hateful, multimillionaire, exploiting, vain, avaricious, self-interests, fleecing, bombastic, demagogues, disgusting, ambitious, narcissistic, outlandish, easily debunked, shameless, self-promotion, lack of credentials, pasty, shallow, dullards, inane, thinly veiled, untenable, fringe, ideological, truly baffling, irresponsible, without fear of accountability, frothing, shouting, dim-bulbs, porcine, loudmouth, incendiary, virulent, shamelessly, preying, intellectually corrupt, piece of shit, asshole, fat, disgusting, pig mouth, jowly, nitwits, false, moral superiority, rash, philandering, steal, vociferous, foaming, morons, nauseating, self-aggrandizing, hypocritical, outright racism, arrogant, self-important, bullshit, fleshy hole, invincible, ruddy, pabulum-spewing, cretin, perjure, fanatical, oversimplified, jingoistic polemics, enchant

I guess that list, by itself, is somewhat funny.  But it doesn’t save the article.  Rather than taking its customary high ground by showing Beck’s inanity through an exaggeratedly-literal depiction of his behavior (such as the Giuliani article), the Onion here loses points to Beck by appearing childish and petty.

The Onion can have a dud, that’s fine, comedy is tricky.  It was a strange feeling of being disappointed in The Onion that prompted me to write this piece.  It doesn’t matter that I am glad the article points out certain things (“Anytime followers heed his advice and do something illegal, [the pink-faced half-wit] can simply claim that his work is intended only for entertainment purposes“) with which I agree.  The Onion’s satire is better, and taken more seriously, when it doesn’t show its cards so clumsily.

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Onion misfires with Glenn Beck article

  1. MCGIRV

    I tried to find the typical Onion humor in this article but realized the person writing it was possessed with hate for Glenn Beck and blew his cover.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Review: The Onion Gets It Right | My Web Presence

  3. zack

    I actually disagree with you on this one. I think this is is just another example of another kind of funny. Its so point blank. I think the point is that it’s so easy to satirize glenn beck, that they’d rather just avoid lifting the finger to come up with some sort of hyper-literal joke and just call him an asshole a lot.

    Reply
    1. nmirra Post author

      I can see the approach you suggest: not feeling it worthwhile to do any hard thinking and just call him an asshole. But I don’t think the article pulled that approach off, either. It feels to me like a regular Onion article where the author didn’t have a sufficiently clever conceit to carry him through, and hates Glenn Beck too much to not write about something else.

      If I were writing that “meh, not worth it, let’s call him a douche” article, I wouldn’t have made up fake books and made it sound as bitter as it sounds (to me).

      Reply

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