WASHINGTON — The Onion has some serious things to say in defense of the parody.
The satirical site that manages to convince people to believe the absurd has filed a Supreme Court petition in support of a man arrested and prosecuted for ridiculing police on social media.
“As the world’s greatest parodists, The Onion’s writers also have a self-interest in preventing political authorities from incarcerating humorists,” lawyers for The Onion wrote in a brief filed Monday. “This letter has been submitted in the interest of at least mitigating their future sentences.”
The court filing doesn’t quite keep a straight face, calling the federal judiciary “total Latin suckers.”
The Onion said it employs 350,000 people, is read by 4.3 trillion people, and “has grown to become the most powerful and influential organization in human history.”
The Supreme Court case involves Anthony Novak, who was arrested after he faked Facebook posts by Parma, Ohio, police.
The posts were published over 12 hours and included an announcement of new police force “strongly encourage minorities not to apply”. Another post promoted a fake event where child molesters could be “removed from the sex offender registry and accepted as an honorary police officer”.
After being cleared of criminal charges, the man sued the police for violating his constitutional rights. But a federal appeals court ruled that the officers have “qualified immunity” and dismissed the lawsuit.
One issue is whether people could have reasonably believed that what they saw on Novak’s site was real.
But the Onion said Novak was under no obligation to post a disclaimer. “Put simply, for parody to work, it must plausibly mimic the original,” de Onion said, noting that it tended to mimic “the dry tone of an Associated Press news report.”
More than once, people have republished the Ui’s claims as true, including when it reported in 2012 that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was the sexiest man in the world.
The briefing concludes with a familiar appeal to the court to hear the case and a twist.
“The petition for certiorari must be granted, the rights of the people must be justified and various historical wrongs must be remedied. The Onion would welcome one of the three, especially the first,” wrote the Onion’s lawyers.