Why The Onion Must Be Held Accountable for Its Vile Tweet

(2/25/2013 11:50 AM UPDATE: As Jim Romenesko reported, The Onion has issued an apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.)

During last night’s Academy Awards, The Onion, a well-known satirical newspaper operating in Chicago, decided to row its barge into choppy waters. The Onion called Quvenzhane Wallis, a nine-year-old actress nominated for her performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a “cunt” on its Twitter feed:


In less than 140 characters, The Onion betrayed and violated 25 years of satirical good will. For unless you are a sociopath, there is nothing funny about calling a child a “cunt” — especially when there isn’t any additional context to the purported “joke.” It’s possible that the tweet was meant to mimic some of Academy Award host Seth MacFarlane’s misogynist misfires such as the insinuation that Wallis would be ready for George Clooney in sixteen years. Still, if one doesn’t apply a modest dose of narrative artistry, a joke falls dead in the moraine. And it was this vital part of comedy that was clearly ignored by the nameless person at The Onion who concocted the tweet. Because of this, the tweet became nothing less than thoughtless hatred, an act of bullying where a Twitter feed with a very large pull used its power (4.7 million followers) to attack someone verbally.

Here’s what the Onion failed to do: When Hustler published a fake Campari ad of Jerry Falwell on the inside front cover of its November 1983 issue, the descriptive details were reasonable enough to be considered fabricated and absurd. A fictitious interviewer asked a fictitious Falwell about his “first time” and the result was a clearly ridiculous incestuous affair in an outhouse. Falwell sued, but he wasn’t able to win. Because the humorist behind the parody performed the basic professional duty of supplying a narrative. And because of these vital details, all clearly wrong and all clearly part of a joke, Hustler won an unanimous verdict from the Supreme Court.

Until last night, The Onion had maintained a commendable comedy reputation with narratives along these lines, although The Onion had been pushing the envelope more in recent months. One reads, for example, this commentary from “Joe Hundley” — a piece that the Onion‘s defenders (nearly all of them male) offered to those appalled by the tweet. But the reader immediately understands the irony of professed victimhood behind the act. Unlike the tweet, it is not mere invective, although there is unpleasant language conveyed for the sake of verisimilitude. Nor are any of the supporting characters in the story real figures. Whether you find Joe Hundley’s commentary funny or not, the piece takes on the qualities of Hustler‘s Campari parody and is defensible.

The Onion‘s tweet was especially troubling because the newspaper courts a largely male demographic, with 48% of its readership making $75,000/year or more, and there is undeniably privilege when a newspaper with a largely white, male, and affluent audience with just under 5 million followers on its Twitter feed picks on an African-American girl who is the daughter of a teacher and a truck driver.

As of early Monday morning, the offending tweet had been deleted from The Onion‘s Twitter feed. There was no acknowledgment in the Onion‘s Twitter feed that the tweet had been deleted, and there was no apology on the Onion‘s Twitter feed or its website. But there was a lot of understandable bile.

Now I don’t wish to suggest that the word “cunt” be prohibited from public speech. However, those who elect to use it in public dialogue need to understand the implications of the word, especially when it is directed at children. There’s a world of difference between what The Onion did last night and how George Carlin’s famous routine used “cunt.” Carlin was careful to illustrate the meaning of “cunt” and six other words. He was not using it to insult people, although people were insulted by his demystification of “cunt.”

But if someone is going to use “cunt” for hateful purposes — and there is truly no other interpretation of the Onion‘s tweet, whether the hatred was intended or not — then the organization or individual which employs such usage needs to be held accountable. As Gawker‘s Camille Dodero exposed last week in horrific detail, bullies with a power base can make an innocent person’s life quite miserable. Could not the Onion tweet, ratcheted up by others with too much time on their hands, be used to similarly hurt Quvenzhane Wallis? We take the risk every time we send something out into the universe, but sometimes we need a bit of forethought.

On Sunday evening, I put forth the proposition on Twitter that anyone who worked for The Onion and The A.V. Club, a print edition bundled with The Onion, should be held accountable for this tweet.

I called out members of The A.V. Club. Scott Tobias, film editor of The A.V. Club, claimed that because he and his writers do not write for the Twitter feed, they should neither consider the impact nor be held accountable for what their employer does. TV Editor Todd VanDerWerff, said that he “had literally nothing to do with the Onion.” I asked a point blank question to both Tobias and VandDerWerff:


VanDerWerff replied with a fairly straightforward answer and explained that he has no regular contact with The Onion, which I thought at the time to be a fair and reasonable reply, until I checked his LinkedIn page and discovered this among his job duties:

Planned TV coverage with a freelance staff of several dozen. Editing that coverage. Wrote 10-15 pieces per week.

No contact with the Onion at all while managing several dozen freelancers? Really?


However, the other striking aspect about VanDerWerff’s reply is that he had the decency to offer a direct answer to my question.

Tobias did not.


As a film editor, Tobias almost certainly coordinates with people who work at The Onion. But he suggests in this tweet that The A.V. Club, a print supplement that is bundled with The Onion not unlike a newspaper section, is a publication that is as discrete as a separate magazine. This is misleading. One does not typically get Entertainment Weekly folded into an issue of Time. Nor is The Onion on the level of Time Warner. Time Warner employs 32,000 people. It is believed that Onion, Inc. employs 70.

I pointed out to Tobias that he was quite obligated to the company that signed his paychecks. Unlike VanDerWerff, he could not put himself on the line and respond with a firm position. He finally did answer my question, but his response is quite telling.


So let’s break this down. Despite the fact that he works with people at The Onion, he is “not responsible.” In other words, Tobias has such lackadaisical journalistic standards that he could not care less about how the tone set by one part of The Onion (in this case, the Twitter feed) affects the section he edits.

Now it’s possible that I’m applying too much institutional value to The Onion‘s operation. But when I was on staff at a computer magazine, I learned very quickly the degree to which other editors and executives put pressure on you to adhere to the magazine’s standards and principles. As an articulated example of this, you can look no further than the very clear ethos adopted by The New York Times:

The company and its units believe beyond question that our staff shares the values these guidelines are intended to protect. Ordinarily, past differences of view over applying these values have been resolved amiably through discussion. The company has every reason to believe that such a pattern will continue. Nevertheless, the company views any intentional violation of these rules as a serious offense that may lead to disciplinary action, potentially including dismissal, subject to the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Tobias doesn’t appear interested in such guidelines (if, indeed, any are in place), much less having a discussion about how an Onion staffer’s misogynistic breach might affect his operation. He’s “not responsible.” That’s how little he cares about The Onion and that’s how little he cares about the right tone.


As Laurie Penny argued in November 2011, “If we want to build a truly fair and vibrant community of political debate and social exchange, online and offline, it’s not enough to ignore harassment of women, LGBT people or people of colour who dare to have opinions.” And it’s this unthinking idea of “not taking responsibility” and not taking a stand that allows casual misogyny to perpetuate. It is Tobias’s refusal to address challenges and this need to get approval from the people who already like him which kill the dialogue.

I’d like to think that The Onion and Tobias were better than this. I’d like to believe that they have it within them to do some soul-searching on what this failed joke really means for the work they do. But as long as The Onion circles the wagons, they’ll remain part of the problem that won’t go away, no matter how much they try to ignore it.

2/25/2013 11:50 AM UPDATE: As Jim Romenesko reported, The Onion has issued an apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.

Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.


  1. Dude. The AV Club writers you’re talking to don’t write Onion jokes. AV Club is just owned by The Onion. The paper may be combined, but they operate as separate entities. The freelancers Todd referred to are AV Club writers, not Onion writers.

    Just because The Onion doesn’t have bylines doesn’t mean you can’t figure out who some writers from The Onion are. If you really want to complain to The Onion, do some real research and find out how to complain to people who actually write Onion jokes.

  2. Who wrote the tweet? Was it someone from England? They tend to lob the c-word around a lot there, with it being liberally sprinkled in my Twitter timelines by both male and female writers from England. Not excusing it, but to me there seems to be more behind the tweet than just a word that Americans find the worst word to throw at someone.

  3. I’m from England, and I’ve been known to use the word ‘cunt’, but I’d never say it about a kid. Any kid. I don’t think any right minded human being would, joke or not.

  4. Maybe you should retitle this, “Why The AV Club Must Be Held Accountable for The Onion’s Vile Tweet.”

  5. What’s with blaming the AV Club? Also, you need to get over it; this isn’t real news. The point of the joke was that she is such a sweet innocent girl, and it supposed to be completely absurd to call her a cunt. The joke did what is aimed to do, despite the blow-back with hordes of bloggers who want to show the world how outraged they are.

  6. I think people need to stop cupping and smelling farts here.

    It was off the cuff, I didn’t watch the academy awards but I’ve seen a kid be a cunt before, been a cunt myself too. Let’s not devalue the word “vile” over this.

  7. So rather than talk to any Onion writers, you talk to AV Club writers instead? You do know the AV Club is a separate entity to the Onion, right?

  8. This is like saying that the brother of a thief is just as culpable for a robbery. If you feel you must lead a witch hunt, at least make sure you’re hunting the witch.

  9. Is your previous piece really called “How Should an Essayist Write?”? Because here’s the rules that you appeared to have used for this article:

    Step One: Know nothing about who you’re attacking (A.V. Club isn’t “a print edition bundled with The Onion,” but what do you care?)

    Step Two: Don’t bother finding a real injustice to get angry over; defend an Oscar-nominated actress from an anonymous Twitter-er! (Not that there isn’t a power dynamic between whatever you think these two people represent, but hey don’t bother addressing those concerns).

    Step Three: Find someone vaguely related (They could have absolutely nothing to do with it, but as long as you follow Step One, you won’t ever have to confront that) and harass away!

  10. I think you fundamentally misunderstand that these are two different, independent publications that happen to have the same publisher. The writing staff is not the same.

  11. Man, it’s pretty low to call a little kid a cunt. Oh… pardon me, it appears no one here actually has done that. No one from the AV Club, or anyone from The Onion. Why are you being such a… such a… dope.

    P.S. Is this actually a meta commentary on satire that people are too much of a dim-bulb to get? If so, kind of clever, because it’s almost working on me.

  12. I’m with you on the fact that it was a misogynistic, shitty joke, much hatred for the “c” word being tossed around so (not) hilariously, by all means get outraged at that, but stop clutching your pearls at the guys at the AV Club’s reaction. There are better targets for your ire.

  13. “In other words, Tobias has such lackadaisical journalistic standards that he could not care less about how the tone set by one part of The Onion (in this case, the Twitter feed) affects the section he edits.”

    Yes, tell me more of these journalistic standards that The Onion adheres to. Their in-depth research for each satirical article truly rivals Woodward and Bernstein.

  14. Is anyone honestly upset about this? Like, authentically disturbed in a real way that a comedy website made an off-color joke. Or has this kind of internet outrage circle jerk become totally rote by now? I know that we’re supposed to believe that calling a nine-year old girl a cunt is the worst thing ever, but it’s still amazing to me that with all the things in the world to be indignent about this is what people have chosen today. Give it a rest. If you want to get angry about something, try fuming over the adults in the entertainment industry who are exploiting this child to enrich themselves.

  15. So Tobias points out that, though Time Inc. owns both Time and Entertainment Weekly, you wouldn’t expect one magazine’s writers to comment on the other’s. And your response is that, because the parent company decides to print an AV Club section in The Onion print edition, they must be in cahoots? Why would Tobias have any responsibility for how the parent company distributes the content? You refuse to believe his word because his company’s distribution model doesn’t line up one-to-one with Time Inc.’s?

    For one, The AV Club’s offices are in Chicago. The Onion’s are in New York.

  16. Whoops. Just double-checked my last claim above and had the story I was remembering backwards: The Onion editorial staff was moved from New York to its corporate headquarters city of Chicago two years ago, where The AV Club already was. Doesn’t mean they coordinate on content.

  17. Yeah, why should AVC staff be held responsible for something someone in another part of their company did? They should just cash their paychecks and not worry about what their company does to generate buzz for their products. Similarly, petroleum engineers who work for BP should feel NO RESPONSIBILITY for enabling the existence of that corporation by continuing to work for them. After all, it was SOME OTHER ENGINEER’S well that blew out, not theirs. They had NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. It’s someone else’s fault. It always is.

  18. seems like your only audience is me and onion/av-whatever (never heard of’em) but i enjoyed the onion, and liked their interview on npr a few months back (dont recall mention of av-whatever). i think you wrote an article that solid hard work and engineering logic can make, not the commies who are drowning the world

  19. So, by your logic, if I think you’re an idiot for blaming AV Club for an Onion tweet… then Sarah Weinman (a contributing editor on your blog) is an idiot, too?

  20. Why didn’t you go after The Onion with this stuff? Why did you spend time attacking the AV Club? Honestly, it just doesn’t make much sense.

  21. Folks, let’s not forget that The Onion is a fake newspaper. Tweeting that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a cunt is not hateful. It’s preposterous. And that’s why it’s hilarious.


  23. “No other interpretation for this tweet”. Yeah, that’s ridiculous. Calling a beautiful, innocent and sweet thing a vile horrible name is absurd. It’s ridiculous. No one would ever assume that it is authentic. Absurdity is funny – this isn’t a complex thought.

  24. The cunt comment was merely a reaction to the mindless blather we hear about 9-year-old actress, such as “isn’t she cute?”, she’s “smart and talented,” she’s a “wonder to behold.”

  25. So, on the one hand, we’ve got a major online magazine with millions of followers hurling a misogynistic obscenity at a nine-year-old girl for the sake of an unfunny, poorly worded joke.

    And on the other hand, we’ve got a blogger being mean to a bunch of privileged men who write for a popular film and TV site.

    So glad to see that everyone in this comment thread has a firm grasp on which one of these is a bigger deal, and more worthy of getting upset over.

  26. I have been inside the Onion building and I can tell you that while they share office space and a parent company, writers from the AV Club and the Onion have no overlapping duties whatsoever. The AV Club guys that you so mindlessly harassed saw that offensive tweet at the same time you did. They had nothing to do with it nor is there any kind of stance they could take internally that would make any difference. In any case the CEO already stepped in and made the necessary apology, very graciously I thought. He is a good guy and knows the folks in charge of the Oscar night Twitter feed (probably one or two people) messed up badly. He manned up and took complete responsibility for their actions as a leader should. He won’t let anything like this happen again. Now can we all get on with our lives?

  27. You lunatic, Scott Tobias shouldn’t be accountable, nor should he even be asked to comment, on that tweet. Get over the fact they made the joke, they apologized and removed it. Thousands die everyday in Africa, but nobody asks Bono why he isn’t doing enough (straw man, I know, but I don’t care, because it’s apparently acceptable to outrageous things with little consequence).

  28. @Sam:

    Being upset about the actions of hand #2 doesn’t preclude one from being upset about hand #1.

    It certainly seems to on this thread. Every single person here thought the second point was worth getting outraged over, to the extent of commenting and saying so. Not a single person thought so about the first point. I think that gives a pretty clear picture of the priorities at work.

  29. Thank you, Charles Bogle, for the helpful information about how the Onion works and for your insights into CEO Steve Hannah, who has indeed stepped up and done the right thing. I appreciate you taking a higher tone than the lynch mob that has shown up in response to my piece.

    Since the Onion has stepped up to apologize for its tweet, I feel that I owe the AV Club a modest apology. While I still believe, as I specified in the piece, that The Onion and The AV Club should be beholden to some form of institutional values so that nastiness like this does not happen again, and while I feel that those who work for a publication should be intimately familiar with the way in which regrettable tweets set a tone, and while I feel that the seventeen tweets I offered over the course of 45 minutes (eclipsed by the scores of tweets from AV staffers over a period of seven hours throughout much of today, while I was busy working) do not constitute “mindless harassment,” I should have been more circumspect in contacting the people directly responsible for the Twitter feed.

    Like the people who have left comments here and on Twitter, I was coming from a place of emotion. I have witnessed the way that casual misogyny prevents smart and capable women from advancing in their lives and careers, and it sickens me with every fiber in my being. I have seen very good and talented people stifled when they were meant to take off. It’s an issue I had been examining at length over the last few weeks. And the Onion tweet was symptomatic of the same underlying issues.

    It is generally my practice to attempt a dialogue by any means necessary. In this case, I’m sorry that the dialogue has devolved into accusations of “crazy” or “idiot.” That helps nobody in a discussion.

    Nevertheless, I still stand by the spirit of this post and preserve it as is.

  30. @Abigail:

    I’d imagine that that’s the case for two reasons.

    1) What The Onion did was clearly satire and not intended as an insult to young Ms Wallis, so while the joke failed and it was right of The Onion to apologize, the level of over-the-top pious outrage in this article is unnecessary.

    2) There are lots of other places on the internet for people to express their outrage or general bad feelings about the joke and my guess would be that many of those commenting here (including myself) have expressed those feelings elsewhere. This is the only place, however, where it’s appropriate to tell Edward Champion how stupid and wrong he is for attacking random AV Club employees over the joke.

  31. @Edward:

    I posted my last comment before your apology. I don’t know if everyone who commented here is a regular AV Club reader, but for those of us that are, you can understand why we’d feel protective of its writers and editors. Just as you were offended by the Onion’s tweet, I and others were offended by your obvious association fallacy and the way your article belittled people that I like and respect, people that had nothing to do with the original infraction. I find it ironic that you used the term “lynch mob” in regards to an article about people being racist and misogynistic, but that’s neither here nor there. If you can accept The Onion’s apology, then I’m sure that people can accept yours, however qualified. Maybe you should consider apologizing directly to Scott Tobias and Todd VanDerWerff directly if you haven’t already.

  32. I don’t understand how you expected these writers to react. You seemed to understand that they didn’t write the joke or have the power to prevent the joke’s publication, and yet you were surprised to find that they were unwilling to accept personal responsibility for the joke.

    Quvenzhané Wallis is more privileged than a handful of AV Club writers. She is an Oscar-nominated, award-winning actress who will next be appearing alongside Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in Twelve Years a Slave.

    I can appreciate that she is nine, but the idea that this joke is going to seriously harm Wallis is an invention by people who long to be offended. Am I supposed to believe that an adult can’t just explain the joke to her? Oh wait, I forgot, everyone making noise about this issue is also pretending not to get the joke.

    (The rather obvious joke, as previous commenters have already pointed out, is that Wallis is an adorable and likeable little girl, and so the idea that anybody, anywhere, would think she is a “cunt” is inherently, laughably absurd.)

  33. Thank you for your response and your own apology of sorts to the AV Club. I used the word “mindless” not in relation to how many tweets were exchanged but to describe your being offended at what an Onion staffer (or staffers) did, and taking out your offense on the AV Club, which again, has no organic connection except that it inhabits the same office building and answers to the same upper management. It is good to have clear institutional values and to uphold them. Steve Hannah’s apology is an admission that the Onion has such values and he knows they were violated, which doesn’t happen often. In fact I believe this apology is unprecedented. AV Club no doubt shares those values but that does not put them in the position to see this doesn’t recur because once more, they have nothing to do with Onion content. The original problem is on the writer or writers of the offending joke, totally. Correcting the problem is on management, totally. That you are coming from a place of emotion and have witnessed too much casual misogyny or whatever in no way excuses pointing the finger at innocent parties. Period. That was my main point. I do share your offense. Don’t multiply the damage by projecting anger on to the wrong people.

  34. This article is shrill, humorless and reflects a misguided confusion. You are like the Joe Arpaio of cuntdom.

  35. I’m not going to engage in this argument or your non-apology apology, Edward. However, I asked on Twitter to take down that picture of me and you haven’t done it. You do *not* have my permission to use that photo and certainly do not have the right to slime me by pasting the offending tweet next to a picture of me. Take it down immediately.

  36. Dear Mr. Tobias:

    I have no desire to engage with you any further. If you wish to address your concerns through formal correspondence, I will respond accordingly.


    Edward Champion

  37. Yes, Scott. How dare you contact Edward on his actual website to discuss his website content?

    You should probably just yell at him on Twitter. That seems to be how he prefers things be handled.

  38. I thought this was funny, but thankfully a horrifying looking bald white dude who looks like a pedophile was able to set me straight.

  39. So beyond the apology they’ve already made and being made the subject of your Strongly Worded Letter, what is your precise plan for holding these monstrous fake-newsists accountable, per the title of your post?

    Would a week in the stocks for the entire staff be too lenient? Medically unnecessary amputation without anesthesia a bit severe? Also, what counts as “staff,” anyway? Should we punish the custodial employees in the building that houses the Onion — those who have yet to quit in solidarity with your position, anyway?

    Can we track down everyone who has ever chuckled at an Onion story, even the headline, and bullwhip them until they give a full accounting and confession? Accountability must be imposed! Spoils must be distributed! This will be fun!

  40. Journalistic ethics, as per Mr Champion: when you’ve made a factual error, such as blaming the entirely wrong people for an offensive tweet, you should 1) bury your grudging apology in the comments, where fewer people will see it; and 2) refuse to take a reasonable step to stop spreading the false impression you created.

    [golf clap]

  41. By keeping an unauthorized photo of Scott Tobias on your website, next to an offensive joke that he neither wrote, nor had any authorization to publish or nix, you are not only violating Mr. Tobias’s basic rights. You are engaging in the age-old tactics of yellow journalism and tabloid innuendo.

    I agree, Mr. Champion, that the original “joke” at Ms. Wallis’ expense was unfunny and offensive. However, this does not justify slandering any available target in a blind rage. There is no more connection between the AV Club and the Onion comedy staff than there is between, say, a Pepsi bottler and a Frito-Lay delivery driver. For god’s sake, man. Think.

    Since you obviously have no regard for either logic or the feelings of others, I’d ask you to consider your own standing in the journalistic community. After all, you are held in reasonably high regard in literary circles. With just a little bite of crow, and a few keystrokes at your computer, you can avoid being perceived as a vindictive bully who doesn’t know the difference between an award-winning film critic and an anonymous writer’s-room spitballer throwing out live-tweet insta-quips.

  42. Good lord, what is wrong with you? You admit that you made an incorrect association between the AV Club and The Onion. That’s been show to you multiple times. Yet you refuse to take down a picture that obviously implies the person in the picture wrote the tweet that you got offended by. That’s wrong, and more wrong than some off-color joke that didnt harm anyone. Quit being a jerk and take that stupid picture down.

  43. It’s really funny how you directly quote reasonable, rational responses to your pointless rant. I appreciate it personally. It’s like a political ad that has asterisks and “blantant lie!” on screen whenever the politician goes off-field. So refreshing.

  44. Abigail –

    I’m sure everyone here was as upset and offended by the Onion’s tweet as you are, and, as Sam said, expressed their displeasure in other forums. But since this is the only place where an AV Club writer had a picture of himself posted without permission and used in a potentially libelous manner, this is the proper place to express our displeasure about that. And so even though he’s a “privileged man” I think it’s ok to express displeasure about the fact that he’s being mistreated.

  45. So Edward, are you trying to prove that you have as little to do with justice and defending the innocent as Scott does with the Tweet you’ve put next to his picture?

    I mean, the Onion admitted it was wrong and took down the Tweet, yet you are insisting on punishing Tobias for something you admit he has no control over. It really makes your righteous indignation on behalf of an Oscar-nominated actress seem superficial.

  46. I’m absoultely amazed that no one seems to get the joke. It wasn’t aimed at this little girl. Repeat, IT WASN”T AIMED AT THIS GIRL. The joke is at the exspense of the writer. This joke only works because Wallis is 100 percent blameless; she is the embodiment of innocence. It wouldn’t have even worked as well if they’d picked an adult actor who’s thought of as nice like Sally Field or Anne Hathaway because some might think they don’t know the whole story on those two women,”maybe they are secretly cunts, I’m no Hollywood insider”. Wallis could never be considered a cunt. She’s the very last person you’d ever call that, and that’s what powers the joke. It would be the equivilent of calling Bill Gates a ignorant, cheapskate. Mother Teresa a selfish layabout. It’s simultaneously a parody of show business and celebrity culture, where baseless judgement calls are tossed around with absolute certainty. The part that sets up the joke is the first phrase, “Everyone else seems afraid to say it.” See the joke? No one is afraid to say it. No one has even thought it. It’s ridiculous that this is some insider secret. The joke is in the writer saying something no one would, or could possibly believe, then turning to an astonished crowd and saying, “Am I right? We’re all thinking it. Come on!” The problem this article gets wrong is that there need to be some kind of narrative to set up the joke and there doesn’t need to be one. That’s the brilliance of this simple joke. The sad thing is the outrage. Like that dick from the Wire. Or the people that have tried to racially charge this subject. If it wasn’t for them, this little girl would have never know about this tweet. I doubt a 9 year old follows the Onion.The original joke wasn’t being cruel to her, but the reaction has made it that way.

  47. you’re a bonafide psychopath and you make me ashamed to be a member of the human race. but congrats on your largely successful attempt at self-promotion. next time try and do it without cyberbullying television critics though.

  48. The title reads “Why The Onion must be held accountable for its vile tweet”, whereas the banner image reads “Why Scott Tobias must be held accountable for a tweet he had literally nothing to do with”.
    Be outraged as much as you like, but remove the defamatory image, at least.

  49. For the record, if an actual journalist were this fucking hacky, lazy and misinformed and published a wholly unfounded attack piece on someone mostly out of ignorance about how basic publishing actually functions, they’d have been FUCKING FIRED. For much more valid and obvious reasons than someone who works for a satirical publication crossing a line on Twitter that made some folks upset.

    You are an idiot and a hack and unaccountable jackasses like you are why real journalism is dead. Your stupid self-aggrandizing, solipsistic bullshit isn’t speaking truth to power, you’re not educating anyone about anything and you aren’t helping any social justice causes, you’re a loudmouthed ignorant child.

    Fuck you, man. The only thing worse than a bigot is a fucking phony who pretends to crusade for social justice and is CLEARLY only doing it for the personal attention. Being at the front of the misinformed lynch mob going after the wrong guy doesn’t make you some kind of hero, it makes you the root of the fucking problem. Nobody’s going to take this shit seriously if empty-headed reactionary clowns and drama queens like you are paid any mind at all by anyone.

  50. Ed:

    The several dozen freelancers I manage all write for The A.V. Club. They live all over the country. Not a single one writes for The Onion. Hell, most of them don’t even write for other sections of The A.V. Club. Cursory Googling of my name or The A.V. Club or any of the writers who work in my section (and since you found my LinkedIn profile, you’ll know it’s the TV section) would more than confirm this.

    Furthermore, as I explained to you on Twitter, I live in Los Angeles. The Onion is based in Chicago. I could not tell you a single person who writes for The Onion, and I am being quite honest about that. We work for the same corporation, but I have as much knowledge of them as they do of me. However, the few times we’ve had serious breaches of ethics at The A.V. Club, the issues have been dealt with swiftly and appropriately; I can only assume the same will happen with The Onion, as Mr. Hannah’s apology is not only sincere but accepts culpability for the actions, instead of just saying, “We’re sorry if some were offended.” Again, I’m not based in Chicago, so I don’t know.

    I realize that you were emotional. I understand why that was and don’t blame you for feeling as such. I also understand that The A.V. Club publishes bylines, while The Onion does not, so it was easier to reach out to us, then lash out when we didn’t seem to accept culpability. But nobody is trying to duck this issue. Nobody is trying to avoid blame here.

    You seem like a decent guy. You believe in causes I wholeheartedly subscribe to, and I hope I’ve been able to explain to you my own role within the company. But by continuing to use Scott’s photo atop this post, you create unfair associations about what he’s done. Removing it would be the decent, human thing to do. So please do that? Thanks!

  51. I feel like chiming in on this comment thread is only going to serve as fuel for what drives a man who thrives on this kind of attention.

    The filename of that photo is called “tobiastweet.jpg.” If you image search Scott’s name right now, this photo is presented out of context and clearly makes it seem like he wrote this tweet that you are so offended by.

    In 10 years, when this is all a distant memory – people will be able to easily discover this photo you mocked up and wrongly accuse Scott of something he did not do. They will do this because of you.

    This has nothing to do with apologies or who’s right and who is wrong with regards to the tweet – it is about that photo. Let’s look at Wikipedia’s definition of LIBEL for a second.

    “There are several ways a person must go about proving that libel has taken place. For example, in the United States, first, the person must prove that the statement was false.”

    Scott did not compose that tweet, or have anything to do with it’s making. You have admitted that yourself.

    “Second, the person must prove that the statement caused harm.”

    Right now it’s clear that Scott and many other critics are suffering from stress caused from your actions.

    “Third, the person must prove that the statement was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement.”

    You yourself have admitted that Scott was not the writer of the tweet, despite the way this photo clearly indicates.

    “These steps are for an ordinary citizen. For a celebrity or a public official, the person must prove the first three steps and that the statement was made with the intent to do harm or with reckless disregard for the truth.[14] Usually specifically referred to as “proving malice”.”

    I would call leaving this photo up as a “reckless disregard for the truth.” The truth is that Scott didn’t write that tweet. Which you acknowledge and willingly have decided to do nothing about.

    It’s baffling to me that someone who feels so compelled by the truth to strongly criticize a website who permanently celebrates opposite day by committing such a textbook act of defamation.

    The tweet was offensive. It was also a lie. Your photo above is more offensive. And an even bigger lie.

  52. “The Onion‘s tweet was especially troubling because the newspaper courts a largely male demographic, with 48% of its readership making $75,000/year or more, and there is undeniably privilege when a newspaper with a largely white, male, and affluent audience with just under 5 million followers on its Twitter feed picks on an African-American girl who is the daughter of a teacher and a truck driver.”

    This quote from your article completely and utterly makes you look stupid. Instead of sticking to the fact…that a 9 year old girl was called a cunt…you have to try to draw non-existent lines to racism and elitism. Anything legitimate you may have written on the subject is undermined by this garbage. Was the joke funny? No, not really. Was it racist, or poking fun of some poor person? Not at all. Give your head a shake and stick to the facts.

  53. If the tweet is so cruel and offensive to Ms. Wallis, wouldn’t it make sense to not continue to propagate it by insisting on keeping a picture of it posted here?

    You’re officially now part of the problem, Mr. Champion.


  54. Are you fucking kidding me? It’s ironic because you actually sound like a 9 year old cunt, your blog post proves your a bigger idiot then the person that tweeted from The Onion. Who really gives a shit, it’s the fucking onion not CNN, everything they write is offensive to someone.

  55. Who knew that the AV Club had so many (probably white) smug and obsessed fan boys in dire need of an approving father figure… wait a minute.. oh yes… of course… we are talking about the AV Club.

    By the way. This whole pop culture kerfuffle is ridiculous and both sides are being unreasonable.

  56. Ed, you’re a “crazy” “idiot.” Now do the right thing and remove the picture. And amend the piece to include an apology. Thanks.

  57. Ed,It seems that most of the posts I read were mad at you for being upset about this, instead of being upset about the actual event. They seem more concerned about the poor AV Club, and The Onion, than about a little girl. What a sad state of affairs!! Pitiful bunch, this one.

  58. this is a pretty shockingly terrible article. This dude just has no idea what he’s talking about – please edward champion, stop writing about things you don’t understand, i can’t tell you how singularly unenjoyable and irritating your writing is

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