The Onion, a satirical news publication, filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court (Picture: Getty Images)
The Onion launched a serious defense of parody by filing an amicus brief before the US Supreme Court after a man was arrested for mocking his local police department.
The satirical news publication has asked the high court to hear a case about an Ohio man who was arrested after creating a fake Facebook profile for his local police department and publishing tongue-in-cheek posts for 12 hours.
‘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,’ lawyers for The Onion wrote in a 23-page legal brief Monday.
‘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 Onion’s brief brings attention to the case involving Anthony Novak, who was briefly arrested after he parodied the Pharma, Ohio, police department on a fake Facebook page.
Posts made to the page by Novak included an announcement of new police hiring ‘strongly encouraging minorities to not apply’ and promoted a fake event for child sex offenders to be ‘removed from the sex offender registry and accepted as an honorary police officer.’
Novak was eventually acquitted of criminal charges, but later sued the police department for violating his constitutional rights. His lawsuit was tossed by a federal appeals court, which ruled that officers have ‘qualified immunity.’
Officials also argued that people might have believed Novak’s outlandish, satirical posts, as there was no disclaimer on the page to indicate it wasn’t real.
But according to The Onion, Novak didn’t need to post a disclaimer.
‘Put simply, for parody to work, it has to plausibly mimic the original,’ The Onion said.
‘The petition for certiorari should be granted, the rights of the people vindicated, and various historical wrongs remedied. The Onion would welcome any one of the three, particularly the first,” lawyers for the Onion said while concluding their brief.
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