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October 24, 2005

The Onion, the Presidential Seal and, the use/mention distinction


The Onion is in trouble with the White House for publishing a picture of the Presidential seal in conjunction with the magazine's regular parody of Bush's weekly radio address:

"It has come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential seal on its Web site," Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28. (At the time, Mr. Dixton's office was also helping Mr. Bush find a Supreme Court nominee; days later his boss, Harriet E. Miers, was nominated.)

Citing the United States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement." Exceptions may be made, he noted, but The Onion had never applied for such an exception. [NYT permalink]

Although, apparently it's IOKIYACNN.

Color your own Presidential Seal online!

[Via Jedmunds and The Editors]


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What--apart from the fact that they generally make the juiciest targets--accounts for conservatives' hostility toward parody? Sperber and Wilson pointed out irony (and the specific ironies of parody) pretty near requires mention posing as use. Do they see mention as a usurpation of proprietary ownership?

And why are they so quick to feign ignorance, to admit to not getting the joke ("Someone might mistake the Onion's address for the real thing!")? Perhaps it's the only alternative to showing themselves as whiny bullies able to get the joke, but unable to take it.

The Onion Presidential Seal; Jon Stewart's parody of "Mallard Fillmore"; The Wind Done Gone. Cons seem offended by the very existence of parody (although they have a real jones for its cousin caricature).

link is dead ... did The Onion cave?

still there ... never mind.

Link fixed, sorry.

Well, if they have to take it down, they should deface it in some way ... but the admins would take umbrage to that, too.

Michael, I would imagine it has something to do with Caliban and mirrors.

This isn't the first time these losers have made clowns of themselves siccing lawyers on satire. (
Earth to fucking Whitehouse: you have more important things to do.

Don't egg the morons on. When they actually DO something, somebody usually ends up getting killed.

No one familiar with the Onion's material--almost exclusively parody with a liberal bent-- would presume that the Presidential Seal on the Onion site indicates any endorsement from Georgie. Given this, and the related and long established legal precedent that an obvious parody is exempt from copyright law, and a case can be made that The Onion cannot be considered to have violated the law cited.
It is obvious that Georgie and his henchmen are so annoyed by The Onion's persistent leftyness (unlike CNN)---the Onion's stubborn refusal to embrace Georgie's proto-fascist/ fundamentalist (funny how those fit together so naturally!) outlook on life and government, that The Onion was added to the burgeoning list of those targeted by the vast Presidential harassment machine. Nixon was known for his large "enemies list" ---- Georgie's must be the size of Texas. After all, God himself told Georgie to "bring democracy to Iraq" and Georgie has enlisted us all in his Democracy Jihad ---- for which we must be prepared to "sacrifice" even more.
When will the country wake up fully to the fact that Georgie is a megalomaniac who is so twisted and blinded by his ideological armor that even overwhelming opposition to his misrule makes no dent in it and will not move him to alter his course away from the ruin of this country's economy, military and foundation of civil rights.
He really does see his opposition as the enemy within; "you're either with us or against us" --is meant very seriously by Georgie,
and it is code for--- you are either with him and God or against him and God-- So, what's next-- a little burning at the stake?
We already have the inquisition with the FBI is helping out. You see, God, the big guy upstairs, well, he and Georgie have a special
kind of relationship and if you interfere with that, like making fun of God's administration on earth, as the Onion did, well
you deserve harassment, deserve to be silenced. It's divine retribution.
Georgie's distorted rationale for his actions resembles to me the psychotic general's rationale, in "Dr.
Strangelove", for starting a nuclear war: needed in order to "preserve precious bodily fluids". You think this comparison is an exaggeration on my part-- and I sure as hell hope it is --and Georgie does not slip deeper into his current delusion and thence into
some kind of psychotic state of vengeful wrath--- God knows the FBI will do his bidding no matter his state.
I suggest that we all pray for Georgie's early "rapture" as a way out of this mess--- given the demos continuing disarray.
God (not Georgie's God) help us all.

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