Thursday, September 29, 2011

U.S. Capitol Police discover "satire"

Apparently, I've been making the mistake of failing to check the Onion's Twitter feed. TPM reports:
As of the latest update on Twitter: "BREAKING: Congress demanding $12 trillion ransom or 'all the kids die' #CongressHostage"

Shortly after the story began being posted, the Capitol Police released this statement to the press, from spokesperson Sgt. Kimberly Schneider:

It has come to our attention that recent twitter feeds are reporting false information concerning current conditions at the U.S. Capitol. Conditions at the U.S. Capitol are currently normal. There is no credibility to these stories or the twitter feeds. The U.S. Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting.

When contacted by TPM, Sgt. Schneider declined to comment on what the Capitol Police might be doing to investigate the matter, saying that the police do not discuss the preliminary stages of a law enforcement investigation.
Obviously (to everyone but the Capitol Police), it's a satire on "holding America hostage" in the debt-ceiling fiasco.
Late morning on Thursday, The Onion tweeted: "BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building."

This was then followed by an "update," and a new hashtag for the story: "BREAKING: Capitol building being evacuated. 12 children held hostage by group of armed congressmen. #CongressHostage"

The paper then posted an article laying out the "breaking news" of the hostage situation -- having it begin when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "suddenly burst into the National Statuary Hall with a pair of black panty hose over his head and began firing a Beretta 9 mm handgun into the air, shouting, 'Everybody down! Everybody get the fuck down !'"

The article includes a plainly Photoshopped image of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) at a door to the Russell Senate Office Building, holding a gun to a little girl's head, and flanked by an unidentified man wearing a ski-mask and holding a rifle. The caption reads: "If the money is not delivered by this evening, members of Congress say they will shoot a new child every hour on the hour."

The article also includes a fictional cell-phone video, seemingly taken by a child hostage, seated on the ground depicting Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rep. Dan Lipisnki (D-IL) threatening the group of schoolchildren. "Lipinski" says, "Hey, Boehner, this kid's got a phone," and the video suddenly stops after a loud noise -- presumably meant to represent some violent act, possibly a gunshot, being committed against the child.

This story kicked off various negative reactions across Twitter. In a very notable example, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) real-life spokesman Brad Dayspring tweeted: "The Onion: FAIL. #notfunny"

A minute or two later, The Onion tweeted a message about Cantor: "Arlington gun shop confirms Rep. @EricCantor bought 6 semi-automatic handguns, 3 rifles & 600 clips of ammo last month #CongressHostage"
Not a coincidence, one hopes.

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