The Onion has some serious things to say in defense of parody.
A satirical site that manages to persuade people to believe the absurd has filed a Supreme Court brief in support of a man who was arrested and prosecuted for making fun of police on social media.
As the world's premier parodists, The Onion's writers also have a self-serving interest in preventing political authorities from imprisoning humorists, lawyers for the Onion wrote in a brief filed Monday. The brief is submitted in the hope of at least mildigating their future punishment. The court filing doesn't keep a straight face, calling the federal judiciary total Latin dorks. The Onion said it employs 350,000 people, is read by 4.3 trillion people and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history. Anthony Novak, who was arrested after he spoofed the Parma, Ohio police force in Facebook posts, was arrested.
The posts included an announcement of new police hiring that encourages minorities not to apply and was published over 12 hours. Another post promoted a fake event in which children sex offenders could be removed from the sex offender registry and accepted as an honorary police officer. After being acquitted of criminal charges, he sued the police for violating his constitutional rights. The officers were found to have qualified immunity and threw out the suit, according to a federal appeals court.
One issue is whether people might reasonably have believed that what they saw on Novak's site was real.
Novak had no obligation to post a disclaimer, according to the Onion. Put simply, for parody to work, it has to mimic the original, noting its tendency to mimic the dry tone of an Associated Press news story, the Onion said. More than once, people have republished the Onion's claims as true, including when it reported in 2012 that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was the sexiest man alive.
The brief ends with a familiar call for the court to listen to the case and to make a twist.
The right of the people vindicated, and the various historical wrongs, should be remedied in the petition for certiorari. The Onion would welcome any of the three, particularly the first, lawyers for the Onion wrote.