You’ll be shocked to hear this but The Onion is pissing people off again. On Monday, the satire site ran a piece called “Redskins’ Kike Owner Refuses To Change Team’s Offensive Name,” which offered a blisteringly clever attack on Washington owner Dan Snyder by hammering him with ethnic slurs related to his Jewish heritage. Snyder, as you know, has been adamant in the strongest possible terms about not changing the name of his team, despite the fact that whether you’re willing to shrug it off or not, “Redskins” is a shockingly derogatory word. And so, as it so often does so well, The Onion gave Snyder a taste of his own medicine by describing him with a series of Jewish stereotypes and slurs, casually referring to him as a “hook-nosed kike” and a “shifty-eyed hebe.”
Was it vicious and offensive? You bet. Did it make the point it was aiming for? Dead fucking on.
We know this because it took no time at all for the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman to pen the least self-aware open letter of condemnation in history:
The Onion’s attempt at satirizing the controversy over the Redskins team name over-stepped the bounds of (even your) comedic license. Surely, the Onion could have found a more clever way to comment on the controversy than by targeting the team owner with ugly anti-Semitic epithets.
No, actually, it couldn’t have, because what it did was flat-out perfect. I don’t even need to bother explaining why; if you can’t see the irony of a representative for one minority group complaining about being the target of ethnic insults while thinking nothing of rattling off an ethnic insult against another group, nobody can help you. Foxman’s outrage feeds flawlessly into The Onion‘s argument, making its point for it.
CBS News, meanwhile, may have gone even further in proving the hypocrisy at play here. Just read this and see what stands out to you:
Under the headline, “Redskins’ K— Owner Refuses To Change Team’s Offensive Name,” The Onion referred to Snyder as “hook-nosed” and “shifty-eyed.” The K-word was used three times, once in the headline and twice again in the story — and it wasn’t the only derogatory term used.
Make no mistake: this is exactly why The Onion exists. This is why satire in general is such a necessary form of social commentary and has been dating all the way back to Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Over the past several months we’ve seen one aggrieved party after another cry foul about something The Onion has said or done — creating, supposedly, a looming overall question of whether it’s somehow lost its way — but this is absolute horseshit.
The Onion has certainly pushed the boundaries in the past and will hopefully continue to. Yes, it can misfire on occasion, but those misfires are rare and you know something? They’re worth it. It requires a willingness to take the kinds of shots the site does and to risk going wide to hit the targets it does with such pristine accuracy and commanding authority so consistently. As a culture, we need The Onion. Pieces like Monday’s — and the comically tone-deaf reaction to it — prove why. The site doesn’t have a damn thing to apologize for.
A good rule of thumb: When somebody asks if The Onion has “gone too far,” that’s usually when you know it’s done its job.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.