Friday night, ice tinkles in the glass. The shape of downtown is visible through the negative space where there are no office lights on at this hour. Some shapes and lights move out there – a car on the shoreway, a train just up the block from Clifton Boulevard. Shapes made of light move across the screen, too. i’m organizing some files and come across a content analysis of The Onion. The bulk of work in a course frequently spoken of dread beforehand and relief after. A wild Friday night.
i didn’t find it to be so. To an analytical mind, learning to understand the underlying logic in content messages held no small amount of appeal. Plus, we got to design a scientific inquiry into any subject we chose. The professor made it very clear that some of the material potentially included things like colorful language or other socially uncomfortable content, and that was okay. The project was to be factually honest, both technically and ethically.
My research question was:
Does the inclusion of profanity, referential material, and visuals with traditional journalism combine to make “The Onion” an effective satirical news source?
After a lot of counting swear words intellectual debate with myself over things like if a lion lamenting its own slow death counted as real people (the lion is real), a mythical being, maybe even just “other,” the results showed that The Onion is pretty true-to-form when it comes to traditional inverted pyramid style. Much more often than not are references to real people and things. Also there were enough ticks in the “other” category that further tests should expand the possible choices.
The articles from The Onion that have been cited elsewhere as credible sources contained no contextual profanity. There had been 17 times where that happened at the time of the research.
So basically, if they cut out the profanity, they could easily be mistaken for real – if not absurd – stories.
As a heads up, here’s one of my all-time favorite stores from The Onion. If you ever hear them report this on the nightly news, you’ll know it’s a fake. The original piece has artists renderings of the stunning discovery.
AL JIZAH, EGYPT—A team of British and Egyptian archaeologists made a stunning discovery Monday, unearthing several intact specimens of “skeleton people”—skinless, organless humans who populated the Nile delta region an estimated 6,000 years ago.
“This is an incredible find,” said Dr. Christian Hutchins, Oxford University archaeologist and head of the dig team. “Imagine: At one time, this entire area was filled with spooky, bony, walking skeletons.”
“The implications are staggering,” Hutchins continued. “We now know that the skeletons we see in horror films and on Halloween are not mere products of the imagination, but actually lived on Earth.”
Standing at the excavation site, a 20-by-20-foot square pit along the Nile River, Hutchins noted key elements of the find. “The skeletons lived in this mud-brick structure, which, based on what we know of these people, was probably haunted,” he said. “Although we found crude cooking utensils in the area, as well as evidence of crafts like pottery and weaving, we are inclined to believe that the skeletons’ chief activity was jumping out at nearby humans and scaring them. And though we know little of their language and means of communication, it is likely that they said ‘boogedy-boogedy’ a lot.”
Approximately 200 yards west of the excavation site, the archaeologists also found evidence of farming.
“What’s puzzling about this,” Cambridge University archaeologist Sir Ian Edmund-White said, “is that skeletons would not benefit from harvested crops, as any food taken orally would immediately fall through the hole behind the jaw and down through the rib cage, eventually hitting the ground. Our best guess is that they scared away a group of human farmers, then remained behind to haunt the dwelling. Or perhaps they bartered goods in a nearby city to acquire skeleton accessories, such as chains, coffins and tattered, dirty clothing.”
Continued Edmund-White: “The hole in that theory, however, is that a 1997 excavation of this area which yielded extensive records of local clans and merchants made no mention of even one animated mass of bones coming to town for the purpose of trade. But we are taking great pains to recover as much of the site as possible, while also being extremely careful not to fall victim to some kind of spooky skeleton curse.”
As for what led to the extinction of the skeletons, Edmund-White offered a theory.
“Perhaps an Egyptian priest or king broke the curse of the skeletons, either by defeating the head skeleton in combat or by discovering the magic words needed to send their spirits back to Hell,” Edmund-White said. “In any case, there is strong evidence that the Power of Greyskull played a significant role in the defeat of the skeleton people.”
According to Hutchins, the skeletons bear numerous similarities to humans, leading him to suspect that there may be an evolutionary link between the two species.
“Like humans, these creatures walked upright on two legs and possessed highly developed opposable thumbs,” Edmund-White said. “These and many other similarities lend credence to the theory that hundreds of thousands of years ago, human development passed through a skeletal stage. These skeletons may, in fact, be ancestors of us all.”
“Any of us could be part skeleton,” he added.
Other experts disagreed.
“The evidence of an evolutionary link between humans and skeletons is sparse at best,” said Dr. Terrance Schneider of the University of Chicago. “Furthermore, it is downright unscientific to theorize that skeleton life originated in Egypt merely because mummies, another species of monster, are indigenous to the area. Spooky creatures are found all over the world, from the vampires of Transylvania to the headless horsemen of Sleepy Hollow.”
OSU winning the national championship was only 96-pt.
And i couldn’t leave you without the best headline in the history of news journalism. This news is so big…
Then there’s me, and the Onion Project.
Speaking of satirical news, the guy who first introduced me to The Onion has been keeping up with his own satirical news site for many years now. The Morning After Post is that site, and it’s time- space- and reality-warped news articles are densely woven to create a place you can get lost at for a while in its dizzying volumes.