Mother Jones, Gawker, Salon, AlterNet, and others taken in by satire site

Saturday, June 30th, 2012 · 5 Comments »

Come on, people, satire isn’t that hard to detect.

I like all you guys—I read all you guys—so I’m offering this little heads-up as a service. You don’t want to be like those people who think Landover Baptist Church is real.

On Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, Nick Baumann at Mother Jones cited the website ToBeRIGHT as an example of particularly unhinged rightwing reaction to the ruling. “This conservative blogger,” wrote Baumann, “[is] taking things to a new conspiratorial level” with the suggestion that Roberts voted to uphold because someone in the Obama administration threatened to kill his family. Actually, Nick, I think that’s what we call satire.

Let’s look at the original post at ToBeRIGHT:

How could John Roberts side with the liberals? The individual mandate is so clearly unconstitutional – even to a layperson – how could it be?

That’s a funny line: “so clearly unconstitutional—even to a layperson.” See how he’s skewering the ignorance and lack of self-awareness on the right? It’s good satire.

The post continues:

Kind of like a Vince Flynn book. Someone got to Roberts. I bet they got to him and told him he has to vote this way or members of his family – kids, wife, parents, whoever – were going to be killed.

Later this afternoon, it’s going to come out that Roberts was coerced. A Secret Service agent overheard Obama and Axelrod discussing the Roberts blackmail. He managed to get them on tape discussing it. Later this afternoon, the whole story will come out, Roberts will issue his REAL opinion, and Obama and Axelrod will be taken away in handcuffs.

He over-eggs it with the “later this afternoon,” but that’s your giveaway if you have trouble detecting satire. Even in a world where genuine wingnuts are blaming Roberts’ epilepsy medication for the decision, no one thinks the truth is going to come out in a big dramatic reveal “this afternoon.” Also: handcuffs. This afternoon. Satire, people.

If you’re still unsure, check out the About page at ToBeRIGHT:

ToBeRIGHT is about a lot of things. Questions that vex even the most potent thinkers of our time: Is the bluegrass sub-culture a conservative or a liberal enterprise? Can you be so far right, you’re left? Is there such a thing as a patriot liberal? Are liberals always pacifists, or are they only pacifists when it suits political goals? Many questions, many answers, and all of them right.

See? Satire.

I don’t know the person behind the site, but I imagine he’s a little bemused by the fact that so many people aren’t getting the joke. That probably explains why his subsequent post was much more blatantly satirical: Obamacare Ruling Fosters New Legislative Action. An excerpt:

If the law passes, doctors will be required by Health and Human Services (HHS) to report the Body Mass Index (BMI) of every child in their care. Any child with a BMI over the limit established by HHS will fall into the protection of the program.

Once a child is determined by the HHS panel to have an unacceptable BMI, the parent(s) will be required to buy the minimum required servings of fruits and vegetables for the child. If the proper quantity and type of foods are not purchased, the parent or legal guardian will be taxed $300 per month, with a progressively increasing scale as long as the problem persists. In the event of non-compliance, the parent will face additional fines and potential jail time under IRS Code 1917.

Daniel De Leon, Director of HHS Child Wellness Programs said, “The government has the primary responsibility for the health of our children. Parents are all too often in the way of raising a child properly.”

In an early morning Rose Garden press conference, President Obama was joined by De Leon, and the President agreed, “In the wake of this historic Supreme Court decision, it is time for the nation’s children to come under the care of the bureaucracy that can make the best decisions for them. Now is not the time for party politics, it is the time to save our children.”

Kathleen Sebelius was attending a late-term abortion rally and unavailable for comment, but her office issued this statement: “We believe that HHS and the Executive Branch have the primary responsibility in raising our nation’s children…”

This is nice work, but the problem is that he’s switched genres. Instead of satirizing wingnut commentary on real news, he’s faking the news itself.

At any rate, a number of publications have followed Mother Jones in treating this guy as the real deal. Max Read at Gawker, Rebecca Schoenkopf at Wonkette, and Joshua Holland at AlterNet all jumped on the bandwagon. That last one went viral; it was republished at Salon and is now propagating throughout the known universe.

So come on, people. Wise up.


UPDATE: Nick Baumann at Mother Jones, who is a total mensch, has updated his article with a note and a link back here. And as I said to him in email, it was actually a very understandable mistake given the tremendous overload of news on Thursday and the fact that genuine wingnut reaction was already at parody level. So I apologize if my post sounded a bit snarky; it’s a bad habit of mine. I snark reflexively.

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5 Responses to “Mother Jones, Gawker, Salon, AlterNet, and others taken in by satire site”

  1. cellocat says:

    Maybe he should put smiley faces in after all of his jokes.

  2. Violet Socks says:

    Parody can be difficult when the thing you’re parodying is already over the top. I vaguely recall an interview with Stephen Colbert in which he commented on the difficulty his writers have in staying ahead of the wingnuts.

  3. Nina M. says:

    What a shame the pundits decided to highlight a parody when there are genuine right wing responses that are comedy gold.

    My favorite is this, which I received via email from the Life Issues Institute:


    “In arguably one of the most contentious decisions of the decade, the US Supreme Court has sacrificed the interests of the people to an uncaring government bureaucracy. The implications of this decision will go down in history as devastating to our nation.

    The Court ruled the entirety of Obamacare constitutional. This means Americans will have to surrender control of their healthcare to a callous government entity. It is a demoralizing defeat for all those who believe in individual freedom.

    What will healthcare in America look like under Obamacare? This legislation is riddled with anti-life measures. You can expect to see rationing of medical care. It will also lead to passive and active euthanasia of our elderly and chronically ill. Expect the number of abortions to skyrocket, funded by taxpayers provided through a monthly, secretive surcharge. Americans will now be forced to comply and forego their personal and religious beliefs.

    Executive Director of Life Issues Institute, Bradley Mattes, states,

    “The Court’s ruling is a tragedy which will open up the floodgates—or more accurately, the ‘bloodgates’— of abortion throughout the country. Obamacare is not the cure for America; instead, it will prove to be a death sentence.”

    Now *that’s* the good stuff.

    My second favorite response – also via email, from Tea Party News….


  4. Violet Socks says:

    And then there’s the armed rebellion guy, and the “I hope they all get colon cancer” guy.

    To be honest, I kind of feel about this the way I do about Feminist Mormon Housewives. Remember when we were talking about them? It’s so sad to see people all wound up—their whole lives warped—over something that isn’t even true. These poor befuddled wingnuts have been so wound up about this, they’re scared to death. And it’s all over nothing. I feel sorry for them.

  5. quixote says:

    Reflexive snark is good. Do not lose the reflexive snark! (Do I need a :D here?)

    If there’s a serious point to be made, maybe it’s that the left needs to stop gloating over how wingy the wingers are. Yeah, it’s nice to feel so smart and superior and all, but, really folks, it’s just shooting fish in a barrel. If Salon & Co. are really that smart, they should choose non-self-skewering targets.