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Onion: Congress Hostage Tweets

Twitter is abuzz this morning by a series of bizarre tweets from The Onion:

Arlington gun shop confirms Rep. @EricCantor bought 6 semi-automatic handguns, 3 rifles & 600 clips of ammo last month #CongressHostage

Beginning with “BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building,” a series of tweets with the #CongressHostage hashtag has flummoxed followers. The follow-ups were, well, equally unfunny:

If this is supposed to be a parody of something . . . I’m not getting it.

Patrick Thornton thinks he gets it: “Today we’re seeing @theonion at its blinding finest. We are being held hostage by Congress. That’s the joke. #CongressHostage.” Well . . . okay. Still not funny.

And it’s not just the Twitter account. There’s an actual story (“Congress Takes Group Of Schoolchildren Hostage“) to go along with it.

Brandishing shotguns and semiautomatic pistols, members of the 112th U.S. Congress took a class of visiting schoolchildren hostage this morning, barricading themselves inside the Capitol rotunda, where they remain at press time.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has emerged as spokesman for the bipartisan group, informed FBI negotiators that the legislative body’s demands would be issued within the next hour, and that if any attempt is made to stage a rescue “all the kids will die.”

“At this time, we are waiting for more information and to see what the U.S. Congress’s demands might be,” Special Agent Douglas Burkett of the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit said. “In the meantime, we have snipers on the Supreme Court building, the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, and the National Museum of the American Indian, but so far none of them has been able to get a clear shot at any senators or representatives.”

“While there’s an assault team on the way, they won’t be able to breach the door if members of Congress have rigged the place with explosives,” Burkett added. “And that’s quite possible. From the looks of things, I’d say they’ve been planning this for a while.”

There’s more but it doesn’t get any funnier.

Update (Doug Mataconis): The Capitol Hill Police are not amused:

The tweets came the day after a Massachusetts man was arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up the Capitol and the Pentagon.

The Capitol Police were quick to address the rumors, issuing a statement that “It has come to our attention that recent Twitter feeds are reporting false information concerning current conditions at the U.S. Capitol.”

According to Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, “Conditions at the U.S. Capitol are currently normal. There is no credibility to these stories or the twitter feeds. The U.S. Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting.”

A spokesman for The Onion told the Washington Post: “This is satire. That’s how it works.”

Actually, satire works when it’s funny. This isn’t.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I think it’s a play on the oft repeated remarks that the other party in congress is “holding X hostage” whenever they take a hardline negotiating stance. The fact it isn’t funny is the point: actual hostage takings are horrible things and the term shouldn’t be just flung about for cheap rhetorical points.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  2. Boyd says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I see your point, but if you’re correct about their intent, I don’t think The Onion accomplished their goal with this effort.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  3. @Boyd:

    Well, the good idea badly executed is the bane of comedians everywhere.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  4. CJ Robinson says:

    Considering you’ve spent such time defending the Tea-tards hard line on the debt ceiling and their “hostage taking” tactics in the past, of course you’d be humorless when the Onion pokes fun at it.

    You’re the butt of the joke, of course you’re going to harumph about how unfunny it is.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  5. James Joyner says:

    @CJ Robinson: You may be lost.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 17

  6. CJ Robinson says:

    And you may lack self-awareness, but I forgive you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4

  7. Lit3Bolt says:

    @James Joyner:

    When you don’t find satire funny, it’s clearly the fault of the satirist.

    Clearly, had “A Modest Proposal” just been published, James would be scold everyone that the dangers of infant cannibalism are very real and how shocked….I mean, just shocked he is about that Johnathan Swift.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  8. CJ Robinson says:

    And yes “defending” the Tea-tards may be too strong a word, but you’ve tut-tutted about calling them out as extremists or terrorists. So saying this is unfunny now is entirely consistent with that, but it’s also a defense mechanism to allay any sort of cognitive dissonance on your part and difficult to take at face value – you’ve staked out a stance and you’re not giving up on it.

    But your failure to see the humor or point of the satire is because that would undermine your own stance, not because it was badly done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  9. @CJ Robinson:

    I don’t think you’ll find a single post written James, myself, or Steven Taylor that defended those in Congress who didn’t want to raise the debt ceiling. So, yea, I think you may be thinking of some other website.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  10. John Peabody says:

    I just thought it mildly distasteful until I read “…and kids will die.” Perhaps the majority of Onion readers are not parents, so they cannot realize how those words leap off the screen and cause you to think of your greatest love and happiness, and to feel revulsion to anyone who would joke about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  11. mantis says:

    Everyone get mad at The Onion! That will certainly accomplish something!

    Well, the good idea badly executed is the bane of comedians everywhere.

    Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  12. Franklin says:

    I don’t give a rat’s ass if the Capitol Police are “not amused”. It’s similar to when Boston’s “finest” closed down the city because of a Lite Brite, except in this case The Onion is a very well-known satirical website. Was it funny this time? No. But that’s not actually a criminal offense (yet).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  13. Franklin says:

    Also, War of the Worlds. Does anybody seriously believe John Boehner is holding children hostage? Christ, people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  14. Tlaloc says:

    for the record I think it’s funny. I especially think it’s funny when people who breathlessly wait the next big splash in order to eke out a few more hits/viewers in a 24hour news world get mad that they jumped to conclusions without getting the facts because they couldn’t possibly wait for the facts before making the jump (not speaking of this blog here).

    Also the picture is pretty damn funny. Particularly because of the obvious nerve it’s hit on the right. They’re all for cheering the death of those without insurance and working to undermine the ability of kids to have insurance but put 2 and 2 together and they get just oh so indignant.

    Jackasses (again not Joyner).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  15. Tlaloc says:

    I just thought it mildly distasteful until I read “…and kids will die.” Perhaps the majority of Onion readers are not parents, so they cannot realize how those words leap off the screen and cause you to think of your greatest love and happiness, and to feel revulsion to anyone who would joke about it.

    speaking as a parent of two: lighten up, Francis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  16. bandit says:

    It’s about as funny as a family funeral.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  17. CJ Robinson says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    No, I most certainly have the correct website. And not OTB on the whole, but Joyner specifically: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/biden-tea-party-terrorists/

    As I previously stated: not defending, but definitely tut-tutting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  18. John Peabody says:

    Thanks, Tlaloc! :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Franklin says:

    @CJ Robinson: That’s some REALLY weak evidence. In fact I’d go so far as to say you’ve just cited evidence against your own argument. OTB is against name-calling, and The Onion is making fun of name-calling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  20. Brendan S. says:

    Actually satire works when the persons it’s targeted at don’t get it and everyone else does. So: VICTORY!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  21. Adrian says:

    To the team at the Onion:

    C’mon you guys, hostage taking is serious business. Your insensitive attempt at humor caused alarm among a small group of psychologically fragile TeaTard moufbreavers. Leave the satire to comedy experts like James Joyner and the silly billies at Fox’s Red Eye.

    Love, Adrian

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  22. mshart says:

    Oh my goodness, the only thing funnier than The Onion’s story and tweets is this!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. CJ Robinson says:

    @Franklin: Sure, it’s possible that the Onion is making fun of name-calling. But lines like this speak otherwise:

    “I know Speaker Boehner personally, and I know that he and his colleagues will not hesitate for a second to kill these poor children if they don’t get their way.”

    Comedy works best when there’s a nugget of truth, and the nugget in that one sure as heck ain’t “Name-calling is bad, mmkay.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Ol' Lefty says:

    Cheesh, lighten up folks. Every one knows (or should know) the Onion is satire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  25. Robert Bell says:

    Actually I see a big difference between tweets and a post on the Onion’s website. People who read the Onion expect to see satire, and quotes are taking in context.

    On the other hand, Twitter is increasingly used in emergency situations (e.g. the 2006 fire in San Diego) to communicate. Seems to me that there is a much greater risk of a tweet being mistaken for something serioues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. tpartynitwit says:

    It’s disappointing to realize Rep. Eric Cantor (R.-Transylvania) won’t be taking a well-placed 7.62 caliber bullet in the forehead from a mile away. That would be so much fun in HD!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Franklin says:

    @CJ Robinson: If this is actually a gag on how the Republicans have taken the economy and everything else “hostage”, it just seems a little too obvious to be comedy. It’d be like joking that the sky is so blue. “How blue is it?”

    So maybe I just don’t get it. But no, that doesn’t actually mean I’m sympathetic to any of those bastards or their tactics. I’m just saying, neither are the bloggers at OTB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. mantis says:

    @Robert Bell:

    On the other hand, Twitter is increasingly used in emergency situations (e.g. the 2006 fire in San Diego) to communicate. Seems to me that there is a much greater risk of a tweet being mistaken for something serioues.

    Anyone following The Onion‘s Twitter feed should really know what to expect, i.e. not serious things.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. Tlaloc says:

    Anyone following The Onion‘s Twitter feed should really know what to expect, i.e. not serious things.

    Precisely. If you’re reading the news too fast to get any sense of context as you leap from one visceral button pushing issue to the next then the solution is to slow down and think. Not punish those who rightly mock you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  30. bandit says:

    The zenith of ‘humor’

    It’s disappointing to realize Rep. Eric Cantor (R.-Transylvania) won’t be taking a well-placed 7.62 caliber bullet in the forehead from a mile away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Franklin says:

    @Tlaloc: Who the hell gave you an ‘unhelpful’ vote? Apparently, someone who thinks that you should mash buttons and skim so fast that you don’t get any context.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0