NOS News•Today, 00:08
The creators of the satirical newspaper The Onion filed a letter with the U.S. Supreme Court to support a man on his way to court. It concerns Anthony Novak of Ohio, who was arrested after posing on Facebook as the local police force.
Novak posted a series of satirical messages on the social medium that supposedly came from the Corps. He wrote, among other things, that the police were looking for new officers, but that minorities were not welcome to apply. He also ‘promoted’ a fake event where sex offenders could register with the police for an honorary job.
The American was subsequently arrested and prosecuted for the fake messages. He was acquitted and subsequently brought a case against the police himself, because he believed that his rights had been violated. That case was ruled inadmissible by a judge.
‘Mitigating future punishment’
The Onion now comes to the rescue of Novak, with a touch of satire. For example, the editors wrote to the Supreme Court that the makers of the newspaper also have an interest in preventing humorists from being detained by political authorities. “This letter has been submitted with the aim of at least mitigating their future punishment.”
“The letter is hilarious and also absurd, but the content is very serious,” says Jochem van den Berg in NOS Met het Oog op Morgen. He is editor-in-chief of De Speld, a Dutch-language satirical platform. “The Onion sees its own art form and business model being endangered here.”
The Onion also states that the man did not have to put a disclaimer with his messages on Facebook to make it clear that it was satire. The Onion itself does not do that, the editors argue.
Van den Berg: “If you always have to say that it is a parody, you actually strip it of its power. By copying a journalistic form and enlarging or inverting the content, the criticism actually works from within and it is extra powerful.
De Speld has been working with de Volkskrant for years and the newspaper’s site always states that it is about satire. “I’d rather not have the media add that, but I can’t prevent it either,” says Van den Berg. “A medium can choose to add a label. But if something like that suddenly becomes legally required, that’s really something else and that’s what this is about.”
The Onion wants a judge to hear the man’s case against the police again.