Never Trust the Onion News Network: Why Readers Must Fact Check Themselves When It Comes to Political Satire


On the tails of the widely viewed Mother Jones video of Romney at a private dinner, satire website the Daily Currant ran a story adding to the clip in SNL fashion: "Hispanics will never vote for me because they can't possibly understand my ideas. They are descended from a primitive culture. They were sacrificing 9-year-olds to the gods before Cortés came."

"And these people. The ones that come to the America ... These people are losers. They couldn't cut it in their own countries, and now they want to freeload in ours. When I’m president I’ll send Mexico a message — take 'em back. We don’t want these taco jockeys anymore." (Remember, this is all from a satirical web site like the Onion.)

A different website which refers to itself as "Digital Urban Voice," then runs this story with barely a disclaimer regarding the source. Even some of those who have responded to the story on its home site didn't realize it was satirical. And then there were those who lost all sense of civility as soon as their hands touched their keyboards on Twitter.

This is where media has failed us. The Daily Currant piece was obviously satirical article; no website should run the story again without loudly announcing, "This is not real!" This snafu harkens back to Tina Fey's infamous Sarah Palin skit, and shows that some people can't tell the difference between entertainment and reality. 

We as news readers, in addition to those who report the news, need to be responsible for ourselves. We need to make sure that we read the whole story and make sure the source we get it from is reliable. Those reporting the news need to make sure their sources are legitimate, and they leave their political feelings at the door.

It's one thing to be a commentator, or to express your own opinion. It's another thing altogether to pass yourself off as a news article or website and to run a story just for the shock factor, with minimal disclaimers to inform the readers as to what they are reading — and, in this case, without ensuring that potential voters know that what they are reading about never really took place.