Following up on this post, I want to point out a much, much better Onion article essentially taking aim at the same folks.
WASHINGTON—Tempers in the crowd ran high Monday during a massive rally at the nation’s capital aimed at provoking tempers in the crowd to run high. “There is a palpable sense of anger within the American voting public today,” media correspondent Janet Hargrove said of the event, which played on such base human emotions as ignorance, fear, and xenophobia to give the impression of a palpable sense of anger within the American voting public today. “It’s almost as if thousands of people came to this rally with the intention of being angered, and then were.” When asked later about their rage, people at the rally were unable to pinpoint its cause, but expressed a vague desire to “take back America.”
This is how the Onion does its best work. In 120 efficient words, they state literally the main purpose of events like Glenn Beck’s rally (stoking anger) and also tweak the ways in which the media talk about such events. This is much more intelligent and effective satire than calling Glenn Beck a piece of shit. I’m also particularly glad they used the words ‘palpable.’
I love The Onion and I loathe Glenn Beck, but their recent article mocking him is a notable misfire.
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.
With Glenn Beck in the news, I thought it a good time to link to an Onion video from last year that my friend Matt Klinman had a hand in writing.