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Onion founder has few boundaries

Dikkers speaks at the College, showing an early issue of The Onion.
Dikkers speaks at the College, showing an early issue of The Onion. (Janika Berridge / Photo Assistant)

Today more than ever, Americans are finding it difficult to trust the news. Everyone has a bias, an agenda; where, oh, where is there a news source that the average American citizen can look to? Has the golden age of reporting ended?

Fear not. There is one news source that stands head and shoulders above the rest. A news source that has an editor-in-chief confident enough to state, “Our facts are better than our competitor’s facts.” A news source whose sole goal is to provide its readers with a “newsgasm.” That news source is The Onion.
College Union Board and the College Democrats brought Scott Dikkers, the longest running editor-in-chief of this shining beacon of truth, to Kendall Hall Main Stage on Monday, Nov. 5.

“The Onion is a for-profit organization,” Dikkers began, before boasting that it is “the only reputable news organization in the world.” The Onion, according to Dikkers, makes $11 trillion every year. It has an audience of 14 billion, both on Earth and on the international space station. It checks every fact three times (which, incidentally, is twice more than The Signal checks its facts). It’s philanthropic, donating high-speed internet to third-world countries! (Though not food. It has its priorities, after all.)
Dikkers led the audience through the history of The Onion in a series of slides. It began in the 1700s, and over the years has included headlines like “Bill Clinton Finally Just Shows America His Penis” and “Holy Shit Man Walks on Moon.” (For the record, Neil Armstrong’s first words on the moon? “Holy living fuck.”)

As appealing as it is to believe that The Onion has been satirizing the news since the days of the founding fathers, the real story behind The Onion’s conception is slightly less comedic, and certainly more modern. Dikkers purchased The Onion in 1989 when he was 22. He explained in an interview that he had helped found and edit the weekly paper, eventually buying it along with two other partners for $16,000.

Dikkers never could have imagined at 22 that The Onion would become the success that it is today. “Our fondest hope was that one day The Onion would stand toe-to-toe with The Harvard Lampoon,” he said in an interview.

The Onion has done just a little better than Dikker’s expectations. It has, according to Dikkers, roughly six core writers and three dozen field reporters and publishes both online and in print, including video and audio clips. Its satirical stories are so convincing that they are often mistaken for actual news articles. Dikkers recalled that Fred Phelps, of “God hates fags” fame, once linked to an Onion story about a homosexual recruitment drive on his website, using it as evidence of the growing homosexual menace. Apparently God doesn’t just hate fags, he hates fact-checking as well.
Dikkers also shared with the audience The Onion’s sometimes prophetic articles. Before his death, The Onion ran a story with the headline “Chris Farley Has Hilarious Cardiac Arrest.” In a less macabre prediction, an article titled “Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades,” written by a fictional representative for Gillette, called for the five-blade razor two years before the company released one.

One might wonder, considering some of the headlines presented, whether The Onion is ever worried about going too far. Dikkers, however, doesn’t believe that this is possible. “The idea of going too far is confusing to me,” he explained in a question-and-answer session after the lecture. He proved this by showing the audience an Onion clip of a fictional talk show covering the story of a boy with leukemia who bankrupted the Make a Wish Foundation by asking for infinite wishes. The program ended with both the talk show hosts and the president of Make a Wish hoping for the early death of the boy.

“There’s ways to make jokes about anything,” Dikkers said in an interview. The Onion might as well use this as its motto. At the end of the day, it seems pointless to be offended by America’s self-proclaimed “Finest News Source.” If you’re not laughing at it, you can be sure that it’s laughing at you.


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