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The Writer of "The Onion" SCOTUS Brief Takes Parody Seriously

The long-running First Amendment case of an Ohio man is suddenly getting a lot of attention, thanks to the satirical news site The Onion.

And that's not because it's been spoofed. It's because the publication has gotten involved directly, submitting a brief to the Supreme Court in defense of parody itself.

The 23-page amicus brief was filed on Monday in support of Anthony Novak, who is asking the Supreme Court to take up his civil rights lawsuit against the police officers who arrested and prosecuted him for creating a parody Facebook page of their department (more on that here).

"Americans can be put in jail for poking fun at the government? This was a surprise to America's Finest News Source and an uncomfortable learning experience for its editorial team," the brief opens.

It goes on to defend the purpose and power of parody in society before explaining that successful satire comes from being realistic enough that it initially tricks readers into believing one thing, only to make them "laugh at their own gullibility when they realize that they've fallen victim to one of the oldest tricks in the history of rhetoric."

None of this would work if it were preceded by a disclaimer, the brief argues, noting that most courts have historically shared this view — except for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which, in this instance, sided with the police officers. The Onion's brief urges the Supreme Court to take up the case and rule in Novak's favor. It also wants "the rights of the people vindicated, and various historical wrongs remedied," by the way.


Mike Gillis, head writer for The Onion and author of the brief, told NPR in a phone interview that he hopes the filing won't just help convince the Supreme Court to take on the case, but also show the public why parody matters so much.

"To just get this many people thinking about parody, and the fact that it adds a lot to their lives and that it's something worth defending, was very, very satisfying for me," he says.

Read entire article at NPR