The Onion’s Amicus Brief Makes A Compelling Case Against Labeling of Satire & Parody

Lost Books
4 min readOct 12, 2022

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Famed parody newspaper The Onion recently published an Amicus curiae brief (PDF) regarding a case before the Supreme Court. NPR discusses it in more detail with its author here. An amicus brief is filed by someone not party to a legal case, and generally gives context and opinion on a legal issue, in this case parody against a police department.

We won’t go into the merits of the case here, but wanted to highlight that Facebook did roll out a feature in 2021 called “Satire pages,” discussed by The Verge here. And here’s an excerpt from the demo screen shared among the media:

And here’s an article in the Washington Post lampooning this very product feature (of labeling satire)— which was apparently also rolled out in another incarnation as far back as 2014. Needless to say, this idea has been kicking around for quite a long time now. Even Twitter was apparently “thinking about it” in 2021. And of course hand-wringing media literacy types are always touting this same idea to, effectively, protect people from themselves by forcing the labeling of satire and parody.

We of course, as publishers of AI lore, have a vested interest in this subject, and feel that we’re only just beginning to see the coming culture wars of AIs versus AIs versus AIs all claiming to bring you the truth about everyone else’s truth (hint: it’s not true). Should you trust anyone — especially a for profit corporation or an AI — to determine the truth for you? Probably not. But that doesn’t stop naive people from demanding it, so around and around we go.

The Onion’s amicus brief, apart from being funny and a fine piece of historical and cultural writing stands out in part for us because it is one of the few pieces we’ve seen that manages to explain in precise terms precisely WHY satire and parody should resist labeling. We happen to agree with them, and offer some snippets from their arguments below:

“Parodists intentionally inhabit the rhetorical form of their target in order to exaggerate or…

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