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William Rivers Pitt | Not The Onion

(Photo: Ken / Flickr)

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It ain’t getting any smarter out there, people.

– Frank Zappa

Gun.(Photo: Ken / Flickr)Reality is a funny thing these days, because it’s pretty much bent. A guy named Nathan Poe, after a number of singular interactions on the website, came up with an adage that has come to be known as Poe’s Law: “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”

To wit: it has become pretty much impossible to distinguish between actual craziness and parodies of craziness, because the craziness has gotten so crazy that literally everything is on the it-could-be-real table.

I run a fairly well-populated Facebook page, and whenever I post a true story that is too demented to be believed, I am compelled to caption it with three words: “Not The Onion.” The Onion, in case you somehow don’t know already, is the gold standard for internet satire. My two favorite Onion headlines of all time are: 1. “ACLU Defends Nazi Skinhead’s Right to Burn Down ACLU Headquarters,” and 2. “Pat Buchanan to Gays: ‘I Will Not Incinerate You.'”

Years ago, when The Onion made its bones, it was still pretty easy to spot satire online. In the last few years, however, that bright line has gotten blurred. Example: I saw a Facebook meme just the other day quoting Michele Bachmann saying that Native Americans aren’t real Americans and should be happy with what they have. I actually Googled the quote to make sure it wasn’t real – it was fake, as it turns out, made up by another satire site called DailyCurrant, but it got plastered into memes anyway because it was so gruesomely believable. Poe’s Law wins again.

This entire country, of late, has been transformed into a proving ground for the larger point behind Poe’s Law: We can no longer distinguish between crazy and fake crazy.

For example:

A guy in Kansas brought a concealed pistol into a bar on Saturday, got drunk, and accidentally shot himself and another patron when he reached into his gun pocket to grab some cash. The name of the bar was “Shot Time II.”

On the very same day, a corrections officer in Ft. Lauderdale walked into a bar with a concealed pistol, got drunk, and injured nine people when he reached into his gun pocket for cash and accidentally discharged the weapon. Those nine were injured by the one bullet because the bullet fragmented upon impact with the table he was seated at. The name of the bar was “Shooter’s Waterfront Café.”

Eleven people in one day shot by two bullets fired in places named “Shot Time” and “Shooter’s Café,” because irony leaves deep footprints when it stalks the land nowadays.

Oh, and also, a man in California found a gun by his garbage barrels, picked it up, and immediately shot himself in the abdomen.

Not The Onion.

Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council recently gave us a new take on the Gospel’s version of the Resurrection: “The Lord is a warrior, and in Revelation 19 it says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior. A mighty warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe. I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies, ’cause he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword. And I believe now – I’ve checked this out – I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.”

He’s checked this out. Jesus will be packing an AR-15.

Not The Onion.

In Harris County, Texas, the Democratic candidate for district attorney, Lloyd Oliver, made it clear to the voting public that prosecutions for domestic violence are altogether over the top by stating to the Texas Observer that, “Family violence is so, so overrated.” When pressed on the content of his comments, Mr. Oliver clarified by stating, “There are some people – I don’t understand it – but part of their making love is to beat one another up first. Why do we want to get involved in people’s bedrooms?”

Not The Onion.

On Tuesday, residents of Bobtown, PA, were startled from their beds by a tremendous explosion that turned out to be a fracking well blowing itself to pieces. The flames from the detonation reached high into the sky. One person was injured, and another is still missing, presumably incinerated and scattered across the landscape. The heat from the resulting fire could be felt by the community twelve hours later.

Chevron, owner of the blasted well, sought to soothe the affected communities by offering them coupons for free pizza.

Not The Onion.

A state representative from Utah declared on Tuesday that what America needs is not less carbon dioxide poisoning in the atmosphere, but more, and offered legislation to make sure that happens. “We are short of carbon dioxide for the needs of the plants,” claimed Rep. Jerry Anderson (R-Price). “Concentrations reached 600 parts per million at the time of the dinosaurs and they did quite well. I think we could double the carbon dioxide and not have any adverse effects.”

Not to look ill upon the small victory to be found in the fact that a Republican acknowledged that dinosaurs did actually exist…but all the dinosaurs died. Every single one of them. They did not do “quite well.” Like, at all.

Not The Onion.

Earl Ray Tomblin, governor of West Virginia, has not enjoyed this winter. After championing his state as being friendly to the coal business – and after taking lots and lots of Big Coal money – Tomblin has had to deal with a coal chemical spill into the Elk River that poisoned the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of his residents, and then had to deal with 100,000 gallons of coal slurry that was dumped into yet another water source called Field’s Creek. His response to these twin disasters? Push legislation that would allow companies involved in fracking to dump their radioactive wastewater into landfills all over his state.

Irony is dead. Satire is doomed. Welcome to the future.

Not The Onion.

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