“The Onion cannot stand idly by in the face of a ruling that threatens to disembowel a form of rhetoric that has existed for millennia, that is particularly potent in the realm of political debate, and that, purely incidentally, forms the basis of The Onion’s writers’ paychecks,” the brief said.
It pointed to The Onion’s history of blatantly ridiculous headlines: “Fall Canceled After 3 Billion Seasons.” “Children, Creepy Middle-Aged Weirdos Swept Up in Harry Potter Craze.” “Kitten Thinks of Nothing but Murder All Day.” A footnote reads “See Mar-a-Lago Assistant Manager Wondering if Anyone Coming to Collect Nuclear Briefcase from Lost and Found, The Onion, Mar. 27, 2017.”
Sometimes, of course, discerning which headlines are parody is not always easy. It has become customary for people on social media to attach the disclaimer #NotTheOnion when a news item seems too strange to be true. (“Indeed, ‘Ohio Police Officers Arrest, Prosecute Man Who Made Fun of Them on Facebook’ might sound like a headline ripped from the front pages of The Onion,” the brief said.)
To prepare the filing, The Onion worked with lawyers in Grand Rapids, Mich., who had previously worked with Mr. Jaicomo.
One of those lawyers, D. Andrew Portinga, said Monday that writers at The Onion had helped his team flesh out the text and legal citations with quips.
“One of the points they wanted to make is that if you’re a comedy writer, you can’t tell people you’re going to tell them a joke before you tell them a joke,” Mr. Portinga said.
The brief also noted that the case posed a threat to The Onion’s business model.
“This was only the latest occasion on which the absurdity of actual events managed to eclipse what The Onion’s staff could make up,” it said. “Much more of this, and the front page of The Onion would be indistinguishable from The New York Times.”
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