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Not Funny: the Onion Spreads Fake, Pointless Report on Capitol Hostage-Taking, Children at Gunpoint
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This morning, the satirists at The Onion took things too far. The tasteless timing — more on that in a moment — makes their latest prank especially unfortunate.

Onion editors posted the above photo of House Speaker John Boehner taking children hostage and mock-reported:

WASHINGTON—Brandishing shotguns and semiautomatic pistols, members of the 112th U.S. Congress took a class of visiting schoolchildren hostage this morning, barricading themselves inside the Capitol rotunda, where they remain at press time.

If the money is not delivered by this evening, members of Congress say they will shoot a new child every hour on the hour.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has emerged as spokesman for the bipartisan group, informed FBI negotiators that the legislative body’s demands would be issued within the next hour, and that if any attempt is made to stage a rescue “all the kids will die.”

“At this time, we are waiting for more information and to see what the U.S. Congress’s demands might be,” Special Agent Douglas Burkett of the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit said. “In the meantime, we have snipers on the Supreme Court building, the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, and the National Museum of the American Indian, but so far none of them has been able to get a clear shot at any senators or representatives.”

The Onion Twitter feed sent out multiple mock-messages:

Capitol Hill police were forced to respond:

US Capitol Police on Thursday flatly denied a joke claim on the popular satire website The Onion’s Twitter feed of “screams and gunfire” in the congress and said they were investigating the comment.

“Conditions at the US Capitol are currently normal. There is no credibility to these stories or the Twitter feeds,” said a spokeswoman for US Capitol Police, Sergeant Kimberly Schneider

“The US Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting,” she said in a statement issued roughly half an hour after The Onion’s first tweet about a supposed violent standoff in the US Congress.

The satirical publication had tweeted: “BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building” as part of an effort to publicize a mock news story in which lawmakers took 12 schoolchildren hostage.

That piece, published on The Onion web site, described lawmakers as “brandishing shotguns and semiautomatic pistols” and vowing to “shoot a new child every hour on the hour” unless they got “$12 trillion in cash.”

The stunt comes on the heels of yesterday’s arrest of an American jihadi plotting to blow up the Capitol and the Pentagon. He planned to kill women and children in a bloody massacre by land and air.

According to the DOJ, Ferdaus aimed to create a devastating psychological impact with the attacks, saying at one point, “I just can’t stop; there is no other choice for me.”

“Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including, being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks,” the DOJ said in a news release.

Ferdaus, a Northeastern University graduate with a degree in physics, allegedly visited Washington in May, taking pictures of his intended targets and proposed launch-sites for the remote-controlled aircraft, according to the DOJ.

Ferdaus’s plan allegedly evolved to include a “ground assault” as well, in which six people would coordinate an automatic weapons attack with the aerial assault and massacre whomever came into their path, according to the DOJ.

Maybe if some of these humorists had relatives who worked in the Capitol they would have thought twice.

One Onion follower on Twitter in Washington DC echoed the reaction of many:

“I work at the Capitol and I just yelled at my coworkers that there was gunfire… you scared the s*** out of me.” #fakenewsscares

More to the point, neither the Onion article nor the tweets were funny, insightful, or pointed.

It’s Harry Reid who held up the latest short-term government funding band-aid, not Boehner. It’s President Obama who refused to act on his own bipartisan debt panel’s recommendations. And it’s massive entitlement expansions and bailouts passed by both parties that have robbed our kids’ futures.

Moreover, the moronic satire comes just as “smooth sailing” is guaranteed for the continuing resolution:

The House is on course Thursday to pass a one-week spending bill that will keep the government running through Oct. 4. The measure is expected to be approved by unanimous consent; leadership isn’t expecting anyone to jump ship on the vote, aides said.

But first things first.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a leading critic of government spending, won’t object to the bill, his office said. The offices of other key conservatives ducked calls on Wednesday, including that of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), about whether they intend to seize the spotlight and force the government to the brink of a shutdown.

A single objection Thursday would force Congress to return to work Friday to head off a shutdown, with the new fiscal year starting Saturday.

Tomorrow’s action sets up a Tuesday vote on a longer six-week stopgap spending bill while lawmakers hammer out details on a likely omnibus measure to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal 2012.

So photoshop all that, Onion staff.


Left-leaning Boing Boing pans The Onion stunt.

Reader Bill disagrees:


I just wanted to say I like your work and for the most part agree with your politics. That being said, I have to disagree with you on the Onion article today. I think that what passes for humor at the Onion , for the most part, ranks up there with fart jokes. But every now and then they hit the nail on the head. The article about the Republicans taking school children hostage is a perfect example. This article works on two levels. For me it points out the ridiculousness of the Democrat and MSM accusations/talking points that Republicans took the country hostage during the last debt limit debates. Presenting a real hostage taking act on the heels of the hyperbole used by the the left does a great job of calling attention to the nasty rhetoric. To the left it is funny because it it shows the next obvious evolution (pardon the pun) of the GOP; to Nancy Pelosi, the taking real hostages is the obvious next step. You are much better at this stuff than I am but if I were you, I would have used the article to point out how the folks on the right and those on the left could both view this article as funny for completely different reasons. Hope I am not being too harsh. Keep up the great work.

What do you all think?

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics