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‘Unfunny, unlike': Joke causes furore in US

Satirical news publication The Onion gets a lot of laughs by crossing the line. Even some of the most devoted fans of the popular humour outlet, though, were recently left complaining that it may have gone too far.

The Onion posted a cryptic update to its 3.1-million Twitter followers and 1.9-million Facebook fans:

Following the posts, the Onion feed remained silent for 10 minutes. In this period, discussion was rife on both Facebook and Twitter as to whether the Onion was being serious, had been hacked, or was being satirical.

Subsequent tweets and Facebook updates, however, made it clear the message was part of a joke and quashed all speculation.

With a link to an article titled “Congress Takes Group Of Schoolchildren Hostage” it became clear the Onion was parodying a Congressional debate on the controversial US education policy, No Child Left Behind.

Following the clarification, the debate centred on whether or not the original message was in bad taste. New York Times journalist Brian Stelter and National Public Radio’s Linda Holmes, who tweets from an NPR blog’s twitter account, expressed their opinions on the matter on Twitter.

There were more than 1 000 comments replying to the “screams and gunfire” post on the Onion’s Facebook page, with the majority of the comments being negative.

“Unfunny. unlike,” wrote Brendan Burke.

“Poor choice for humour. Hostage taking and gunfire have never been funny,” said Pat Donovan Baessler.

“There’s a fine line between irreverent humour and poor taste,” said Lori Hein. “This post has crossed that line.”

Reader Eric Vogel parodied The Onion’s original message for his comment. “BREAKING: Witnesses report that The Onion isn’t as funny as it used to be,” Vogel said.

Other readers expressed surprise anybody could be offended by The Onion.

“Isn’t the whole point of The Onion to be tasteless?! Hello!” wrote Debbie Pollack DeKalb.

Furthermore, as the original Onion tweet rocketed around Twitter, US Capitol Police were compelled to issue a statement saying conditions were “normal” and there was “no credibility to these stories or the Twitter feeds”.

“The US Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting,” added a spokeswoman for the US Capitol Police, Sergeant Kimberly Schneider.

Adding to the furore was the fact that the joke news story came one day after US authorities announced they had arrested a US Al-Qaeda follower who allegedly planned to fly explosive-packed, remote-controlled airplanes into the Pentagon and the US Capitol.

The Onion declined to comment on the furore. — AFP with additional reporting by Staff Reporter