November 22, 2013

The Onion's hard-hitting satire of the Obama Administration

Reading through a 1970s issue of National Lampoon raises the question of the change in political satire. The most direct contemporary comparison for National Lampoon is The Onion, so let's look at all the Obama Administration-related headlines on The Onion's homepage on 11/22/13:


Anonymous said...

Onion needs to go out of business. It can't top this.

Son of Brock Landers said...

What if the left's leadership looked at anti-war protests with LBJ in office and media satire of Carter (especially Saturday Night Live) gave the nation Nixon and Reagan and they decided to silence the guns of satire for good? Look at SNL's treatment of Clinton. All criticism of his sex and weight issues. No policy satire. Obama is an even more untouched character, as all comedy is about the fools around him or the situation he is in. Never him. It might not be him being black, as you imply in posts, but simply by him being a Democrat.

Anonymous said...

Typical Left ... support free speech only when convenient for them. The Left is now are the cops, the Faculty, the Establishment, the Military-industrial Complex. The Tsar, too, for that matter.

Whiskey said...

Son of Brock Lesnar --

SNL did a fairly funny skit satirizing Nancy Pelosi. And gays. Involving the Safe Word. So, yeah its because Obama is Black.

Anonymous said...

The internet abhors a vacuum.

agnostic said...

I was just thinking that you don't see too many anti-authoritarian smartass characters anymore.

You can crack wise, but it has to be to the effect of "I'm so awesome and you're not." Rather than mock power-tripping authority figures and take one for the team on behalf of your fellow ruled-over youngsters.

Where's the 21st century Jeff Spicoli, John Bender, Ferris Bueller, or Bart Simpson?

Same with political satire -- you can take potshots at their public image, but not their overweening ambition, vainglory, pomposity, etc.

Anonymous said...

The Diversity Police are much more active under Obama than they were under Carter. There are serious career implications these days for selecting the wrong subject for political satire. Remember, who, whom.

Anonymous said...

Not that long ago I read an Onion headline that made me laugh out loud at its complete "inappropriateness." Looking through the archives, I couldn't find it. Probably removed.

/cool story, bro.

Anonymous said...

The consecration of lies over hatefacts has had stultifying consequences everywhere, not just in college comedy mags.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, Onion isn't really satire. It's just goofing around, more like farce.

It's closer to Dave Barry the kidder than Mike Royko the kicker.

Anonymous said...

You can crack wise, but it has to be to the effect of "I'm so awesome and you're not."

Gladiatorism ... dog-eat-dog fights in a world where "awesomeness" is a zero-sum game.

Rather than mock power-tripping authority figures and take one for the team on behalf of your fellow ruled-over youngsters.

Where's the 21st century Jeff Spicoli, John Bender, Ferris Bueller, or Bart Simpson?

Or a 16-year-old "fight the power" John Galt type with a sense of humour?

I would pay good money to see something like that. A super-smart super-wise teen or pre-teen who not only walks out of government school, but who frees other kids from school and steers them and their families towards library-based unschooling.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think the onion's writers might understand obama better than you give them credit for.,14360/

Anonymous said...

Obama seems never to have been promiscuous like Clinton and he doesn't seem to be especially for money or material luxuries. Of course he is mad for power but what politician? His most obvious failing is his humorless self-absorption, and left leaning satirists love the image of a black president too much to notice the actual man for the rather unimpressive figure that he is.


goes to an Onion link 2-3x/yr tops said...

Perhaps not-coincidentally the only Onion publication I found consistently hilarious was their historical-revue special edition, "Our Dumb Century" (e.g. hed: "Eisenhower Orders Marlon Brando to Gain 100 lbs.") Their regular issue is mirthful at best, sort of like a sketch comedy troupe hamming it up in imitation of a new hit song or movie that's out and so you crack a smile or two. I did like The Onion TV show though they quickly exhausted the potential of the format; as someone who wouldn't endure watching cable news for payment, it's no big improvement to have a super-close parody of same to derisively snicker at.

James Kabala said...

The Onion has never really specialized in political satire. They weren't in the forefront of Bush-bashing as far as I remember (except this famous article published before Bush even took office:,464/).

Anonymous said...

For satire to be funny it has to be based on some bit of truth. Leftists basically control all the levers of power now, even the military is now theirs, so when the Onion tries to be funny about some right wing political plot or moralizing law, its just not funny because these things no longer happen in the real world.

As for them having a go at left wing politicians, because they are sympathetic to left wing causes, their satire for lefty politicians never really has any oomph.

Anonymous said...,34637/

Anonymous said...

The Obama/ piece was amusing, but I got a bigger kick out of the Onion's review of 12 Years A Slave, which was on the sidebar. (I was already a fan of the reviewer after seeing his review of The Butler).

Anonymous said...

The Obama shtick. President corndog.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous: thanks for that "12 years a slave" onion review! i never bothered to go that b/c i thought it was an actual review - it was beautiful (& uplifting)! thanks!

Anonymous said...

Those Onion reviews of 12 Years A Slave and The Butler are hilarious and derserve a post of their own. Thanks for the links.

John F said...

The only good Obama piece from The Onion which I can remember was a frontpage headline from the '08 election: "Black Man Asks Nation for Change." Accompanied by a large, apt photo, it had me cracking up.,2409/

The Onion really has gone downhill. Firstly, I think it's because they've spread themselves out too thin-- launching two TV shows, revamping their online presence, etc.; and secondly, as noted above, their writers' loyalties are increasingly belonging to the left, but in an ideological manner typical of the smiling, cool, emotionally thin-skinned SWPL set. For instance, here is their coverage of the Zimmerman case:

It's a shame. Our society needs quality artisans of ridicule right now. I only hope The Onion can continue to put out apolitical gems like this classic video:,14321/

John F said...

And yeah, Our Dumb Century was great. My favorite headline: "Frank Sinatra Tells Russia: Knock It Off". The lede, something like: "Sinatra says tell Ruskies 'to knock it off or it's ring-a-ding-ding for those bozos.'"

Robert What? said...

The Onion has lost its bite because they are too timid to take on the true sacred cows. They've sort of lost their purpose.

Anonymous said...

I found The Onion's Zimmerman coverage pretty disturbing.

For a long time, I figured the smart people at The Onion were just playing along, sort of. I always figured they were making fun of Obama amongst themselves, and just not letting the rest of us see it.

That's the way I assumed the whole media was, really.

When Obama got elected, the big story was about how America had finally gotten over its racism and elected a black President.

So the last thing media types would want people to start thinking was "You know, maybe that wasn't such a hot idea.".

Not that they might not think it themselves, but they just didn't want to give us dumb rubes permission to think it.

Remember, these are the people who thought, ten years or so ago, that people in the heartland would literally start killing Jews if they saw The Passion Of The Christ. They really thought that. It wasn't some kind of joke.

Obviously, none of them ever killed a Jew after seeing it. But they're sophisticated and able to handle that kind of stuff, even if the rest of us aren't.

So I figured they were just being condescending, and weren't really true believers. Condescension I can handle. I've been putting up with it my whole life.

Then I saw their coverage of Zimmerman. And, nope. These people actually believe their BS.

I always assumed that everyone would realize the sick, almost surreal grotesque humor in a man's fate being partially in the hands of Rachel Jeantel. Yes, I know they couldn't say it, but they HAD to be thinking it.

But when I saw The Onion's unhinged reaction to the verdict, I realized that they weren't just playing it cool. This is actually what they think.

So they probably genuinely don't find anything mockable about Obama either.