The Onion’s ‘Gorilla Control’ Story Shouldn’t Be Taken Seriously (Except It Should Be)

What’s the best way to start a serious chat about a very touchy issue? If you’re The Onion, the answer is “satire.” A recent article successfully trolls the NRA by “reporting” a spike in gorilla sales after a fictional gorilla attack last week that resulted in the deaths of 21 individuals. In case you’re not seeing the link to the gun control conversation in the US right now, you will in a minute.

Several Onion stories have often been mistaken by some media outlets as real news. Their latest entry, a story about gun control that swaps “guns” for “gorillas,” may not have snuck past the MSM’s filters, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

The gist of the story is this: Last week in San Diego, a “crazed western lowland gorilla ruthlessly murdered 21 people in a local shopping plaza after escaping from the San Diego Zoo.” Since that horrific (and fictional) event, The Onion reports that gorilla sales have spiked. The story contains several familiar tropes to gun control articles, including the recent increase in this type of attack line, the government response following a people’s mandate, and the idea that if you had a “gorilla” of your own, you won’t become a victim of a “gorilla” attack.

” ‘The answer to this systemic problem is not more gorillas,’ ” said one of The Onion‘s fictional commentators. ” ‘The answer is fewer gorillas.’ “

Though the article pretty accurately summarizes the gun control conversation in the US following the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and some blogs are praising The Onion for their not-so-subtle mockery of the NRA with their gorilla article, don’t misunderstand The Onion on this one. They’re not as much taking a stance on the issue as they’re mocking the conversation around it.

Remember, The Onion is more social satire than political commentary. This isn’t Real Time with Bill Maher, where a serious political playground is occupied by darkly cynical humorists. The Onion is Mystery Science Theater3000, but instead of mocking B-films from the 70s, they’re mocking American culture, our strange obsessions, and our often-contradictory emotional reactions.

Of course, I could get an email from The Onion tomorrow that says “No, we’re definitely mocking the NRA,” but until that happens, as a long-time reader of The Onion myself, I just don’t think that’s how they work. If they’re saying anything about gun control, they’re saying “The conversation you started is horrible. Start over.”

Therefore I urge you to take The Onion article titled “Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack” seriously, but let it allow you to re-examine your position on the issue of gun control, and amend if you find your perspective wanting.

Or you can keep going at each other like this:

Your choice.