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It Fish Time!
July 21, 2009 1:07 AM   Subscribe

In rather unsettling news, it appears that a chinese corporation bought one of America's most reliable news sources. For now, the editorial line doesn't seem to have changed, but will it last?
posted by vivelame (90 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm impressed with their thorough execution of the concept. (And free press. Har.) Clever, as always. Makes me want to dig out Our Dumb Century, a book I'm sad to say was responsible for teaching me far too much history, one way or another.
posted by disillusioned at 1:18 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to wonder what this Yuan Mei Device they're selling is. Unfortunately, at $4250.99, it's too high for me to try out.

But seriously, the Onion is brilliant.
posted by movicont at 1:20 AM on July 21, 2009


Err...I meant Yu Wan Mei. Should be reading more.
posted by movicont at 1:25 AM on July 21, 2009


I object to this FPPvertisement for the Onion.
posted by Avenger at 1:27 AM on July 21, 2009


Onion posts are disavowed here by most Metafilter consumer citizens, but in cases such of this, with teeming news of good fortune, surely the many intelligent moderators will allow passage of this gravely excellent posting.

This message not brought to you by the Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corp. 鱼
posted by Malor at 1:27 AM on July 21, 2009 [15 favorites]


Nobody objects to this FPP, because it is pure and true.
posted by WalterMitty at 1:40 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


A link to one onion story is a little thin, but I reckon an overhaul of the whole site seems like a fair thing to share. Metafilter is designed to share the best of the web, and The Onion certainly qualifies.

This stunt might have something to do with their financial difficulties (AV Club: The Onion shuts down print offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles), so this could be a cheeky response to stories like this:

Gawker: How the Onion will sell out

Perhaps some links investigating some of this backstory might improve the FPP?
posted by Cantdosleepy at 1:55 AM on July 21, 2009


The Onion: Seeking truth from fake facts.
posted by ericost at 1:57 AM on July 21, 2009


And here's Gawker's response to the hoax:

Chopped Onion Makes Us Cry
posted by Cantdosleepy at 1:58 AM on July 21, 2009


I don't know though - there is a lot of stereotyping going on. If a private Chinese firm bought a Western media outlet, I don't think much would actually change. It's a business - why fuck with it? I mean, I get the joke, but it's a but thin. It looks like a gag from during the Cold War with the word "China" substituting for "Russia" and instead of ice hockey jokes it's Ping Pong. Now if it was Xinhua buying the Onion, then the joke would be a bit better. But a random fish products company is just kind of weak.
posted by awfurby at 2:02 AM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


As of press time, the brute and inexpressive English language could not convey the full magnificence of China, nor its excellence in every arena, nor the protective warmth of the red sun that shines forever on its borders, nor the innumerable glories of its Great Leaders.

This is fantastic stuff. Even by Onion standards.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:06 AM on July 21, 2009


It's good to know you can still mock the yellow folks and get away with it in the name of hilarity.

No, wait. It's not.
posted by brina at 2:08 AM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


It may be a riff on the recent news that a Chinese firm bought a TV station in UK. The group, Xiking Group, is involved in, printing, real estate, media, chemicals, autos, mining, etc.
posted by FuManchu at 2:10 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes it is.
posted by Telf at 2:12 AM on July 21, 2009


It's good to know you can still mock the yellow folks and get away with it in the name of hilarity.

No, wait. It's not.


Woosh!
posted by Space Coyote at 2:15 AM on July 21, 2009


I'm impressed that they actually translated the Yu Wan Mei pages into Chinese. (I checked one of the shorter sentences and confirmed that the Chinese version was a translation rather than some kind of lorem ipsum boilerplate.)

"Yu wanmei", by the way, means "Fish Perfect".
posted by zompist at 2:17 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Yu wanmei", by the way, means "Fish Perfect".

Son of a! I thought "Aha, 'You And Me' corporation...I don't get the joke but..."

Now that The Onion is "America's Finest News Source And Salvage Fishery" it's comforting to know it's also fish perfect. The onionfish logo is pretty nice too.
posted by Glee at 2:38 AM on July 21, 2009


Yeah it also just occured to me that besides being kind of a weak post, the Onion is doing some pretty obvious "Hong chong ping pong look at the funny chinks" routine. They must be getting desperate for eyeballs.

(and only the round kind, apparently)
posted by Avenger at 2:43 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm getting pretty sick of the, "Hey, if I'm racist ironically, then I'm not being racist!" meme.
posted by bettafish at 2:44 AM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


You know, I think you're just getting sick of irony.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:06 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Onion's new slogan... "Engrish. It's not just for dumb blogs anymore..."
posted by wendell at 3:10 AM on July 21, 2009


Onion Article Offends Area Tight Asses:
MetaFilter, Internet

Severall area tight asses claimed to be offended by an article published in the satirical newspaper, The Onion. In what has been called just another abuse of the "If I'm racist ironically, then I'm not being racist meme", several easily offended Mefites had their delicate sensibilities crushed by the intentionally offensive publication.

A Regular contributor, Avenger, noted that "The Onion is doing some pretty obvious 'Hong chong ping pong look at the funny chinks' routine."

Other Mefites seemed amused by The Onion's ironic skewering of chink-dinkery.
posted by Telf at 3:15 AM on July 21, 2009 [35 favorites]


I have to wonder what this Yuan Mei Device they're selling is.

Yu Wan Mei to explain it?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:18 AM on July 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm not seeing the racism here. I took it more as a satire of China's state-owned media than anything else. And the things that could be considered derogatory -- child labor, unhealthy overindustrialization, lax regulatory standards, nationalism, skepticism of rival cultures, "Engrish" -- are all objective realities. Taken to absurd levels, yes, but that's the point of satire, right?
posted by Rhaomi at 3:32 AM on July 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


Once there, the reliable report states that men and women were in no way unloaded from the backs of vehicles, made to strip off their clothes, and forced to kneel down, heaving backs toward the full moon.

Nothing then occurred.

"Dig now, it is already late," first commanding officer Xiu Li Jeng would have said, were he not at home with his wife and other alibis at the time. "Dig quietly and dig fast."


I'm often struck by how utterly fucking sad The Onion can be. If they have a good idea they take it all the way to its conclusion, and sometimes it'll be the most depressing thing I read all day.
posted by Nomiconic at 3:38 AM on July 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


I've become a big believer in a pay wall future. I want a model that works, and not to see things like The Onion and the NYT on the verge of destruction. I'd pay fifteen dollars a year for The Onion, twenty-five for the NYT.*

News sources, true news sources, are disappearing. Our local paper runs outrage of the day pieces straight from the police report. The restaurant reviewer can only order two entrees. Investigative journalism is drying up. We're being left without genuine news sources---look at CNN. What the fuck is it? Why does it continue to exist?

Someone needs to figure out how to make money from online news and media. The Onion, as an organization without any real competition, would be a good first candidate.

*five years ago this would have made me laugh and laugh. Pay for content! lol
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:15 AM on July 21, 2009


I have to admit that my visits to the Onion have become infrequent, so this post has been a welcome reminder of what I was missing. The Today Now piece on the missing woman was comedy gold.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:41 AM on July 21, 2009


I was unaware that satires of repressive/authoritarian governments were now considered racist. Does this mean I have to stop printing my regular news bulletin on the still-deceased status of Generalissimo Franco?
posted by ubernostrum at 4:43 AM on July 21, 2009


The letter from the publisher is so blatantly over-the-top old timey racist that I honestly can't fathom how anyone can see actual racism in the other posts. If you are racist ironically than YOU ARE QUITE LITERALLY NOT BEING RACIST BECAUSE OF THE DEFINITION OF IRONY. Ironic racism MOCKS racism and exposes it for the idiocy it is. Seriously, so much of the point of The Onion is to voice opinions that are patently ridiculous yet not that far from reality in order to demonstrate the insanity of the actual media. Do you think they sat down and said "I wonder what would happen if a Chinese company bought us?" A country that controls its media is begging to be satired and doing so should be encouraged.
posted by haveanicesummer at 5:02 AM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Those of you who are only looking at the main page and sundry articles might want to look at vivelame's second link, which to my mind is the biggest point of contention.

...I have sold The Onion and all of its various holdings to a syndicate of industrious China-men from the deepest heart of the Orient. One of their representatives oozed and crawled from his dank hut to visit me in person at my bedside last week, and make known his superiors' desire to expand their clammy clutch into the Western world. After subjecting me to a good 20 minutes of infernal bowing and other assorted chinky-dinkery [etc.]

You're kidding, right? Look, I love the Onion, and always have. But jokey racism still perpetuates racism and it still hurts people. Frankly, I'm getting tired of hipster racism from people making jokes about subjects they can't really grasp or refuse to handle respectfully, who then call "uptight" anyone who calls them out on wanting a laugh more than caring for other people's feelings. You don't even need to bring race into it; that's just being a jerk.

But hey, folks who write more eloquently about hipster racism and why it's bad than I do:

meloukhia.net - Hipster Racism;
stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com - think that racism is okay if you're being ironic about it, act like a racist in order to demonstrate that you're not a racist.

Really important quote from the last link:

White hipster humor about race is often meant to point out racism, but not in order to fight against it; the goal instead is ultimately narcissistic. The performance is an effort to get laughs, but it's also the comedians' self-centered effort to show that underneath it all, they themselves are not racists. This form of humor thus does little to dislodge the obstinate centrality of whiteness, because again, it's really all about the supposedly non-racist white performer, and not about the abuses endured by the targets of racism.

Which is to say, ironic racism supposedly fights racism, but actually it's all about white people.

Like I said, I do love the Onion - but this is far, far from their best work. Probably a sign of the times and the desperate state of the press, but it's not making me inclined to give them any money.
posted by bettafish at 5:10 AM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Thank god that Uncle Miltie is dead, if making fun of people is so bad. Oy.
posted by elfgirl at 5:14 AM on July 21, 2009


the Onion is doing some pretty obvious "Hong chong ping pong look at the funny chinks" routine.

I don't see that at all. The language in the articles is more-or-less perfectly grammatical English. The joke is about people who are trying very hard to appear as hip, native-English speakers -- and doing so for amoral, purely commercial ends (And health experts agree: Fish Time cannot cause acute peripheral neuropathy).

In other words, just another day at The Onion.
posted by PlusDistance at 5:25 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's worth it, if only for the article praising Jason Kendall for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the team.
posted by drezdn at 5:59 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com - think that racism is okay if you're being ironic about it, act like a racist in order to demonstrate that you're not a racist.

I really hate this blog. It took a cute and insightful idea (Stuff White People Like) and turned it into tedious, humorless LJ-style "activism" that preaches endlessly to the outrage-addicted crowd.

Which is to say, ironic racism supposedly fights racism, but actually it's all about white people.


I don't care if The Onion fights racism. As long as it isn't actively, minstrel-show racist, I don't mind humor with racial themes, since white people's fear of the subject makes for some great comedy (remember when they ran that Obama story--"Black Man Asks Nation for Change"?). If you insist it has to be all activism all the time, you're a humorless prig who doesn't understand the meaning of comedy.
posted by nasreddin at 6:06 AM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Those of you who are only looking at the main page and sundry articles might want to look at vivelame's second link, which to my mind is the biggest point of contention.

Well, this portion of the site update is written in the voice of fictional editor T. Herman Zweibel (born 1868) whose character always speaks in a deliberately antiquated fashion.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:30 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought it was well-done, and they're satiring corporatism and the Chinese media and industry, not Chinese people (the Chinese rank-and-file are out of the picture for the most part, and it's the Americans who are held up for mockery). The Yu Wan Mei site, in particular, is a pitch-perfect parody of real Chinese industry websites (for that matter, swap out the pictures and lightly edit the text and it'll accurately parody many American industry websites).

> But jokey racism still perpetuates racism and it still hurts people.

You weren't upset by T. Herman Zweibel's undiluted contempt and hate for you, yourself personally, in that piece? "When my ancestor Friedrich Siegfried Zweibel founded The Mercantile-Onion in 1756, he did so with the express purpose of fleecing its porridge-brained readers out of as much precious capital as could be wrung from their grubby, desperately toiling fingers, and I say bully and bully again to that." He has been fulminating against blacks or the Italians or the Jews or Rosicrucians, or bankers or undertakers or whomever else for years. He vends ham-fisted old-timey full-on hate for everybody, everywhere, from the start of Creation to the end of the universe.

Zweibel is a one-note gag that I don't find particularly funny, but I find it hard to get wound up about him either, in large part because he's a one-note gag in the context of a publication that appears to have a considerably more broad-minded editorial stance. Any regular reader of The Onion ought to be familiar with his schtick by now, because he crops up nearly weekly and rarely discusses anything else but complaining about how he'd been wronged and/or how he intends to abuse somebody else.
posted by ardgedee at 6:32 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


T. Herman Zweibel sell The Onion? I don't believe it. This must be the work of Mr. Tin.
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:34 AM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


The second link (Zweibel's "Well I've Sold the Paper to the Chinese") does indeed play with many racist stereotypes. But I'm not sure that it fits with the "hipster racism" linked by bettafish. The object of the humour is not Chinese people, but American racists who fear China, and corporations/industrialists who on the one hand could care less what they do to make a buck, and on the other are happy to promote the (racist/oppressive/whathaveyou) ideologies of power. In other words, it's making fun of white people, not Chinese people.

As for this from the post on "hipster" racism:

The very hipster lifestyle is, in some ways, racist, and definitely not very introspective when it comes to race. Hipsters ... consistently co-opt and appropriate elements of other cultures, piecemeal, and often without any cultural sensitivity or respect.

Oh please! This is a description of everything American (and Canadian), not just some sub-set of white people. We're immigrant nations, we're immersed in a slurry of random cultural elements. Piecemeal and insensitive adoption of other people's culture is not limited to "hipsters", as I learned once when a Ghanaian man spoke about how profoundly offensive it is to see people (black, white, rasta, whoever) who are not part of his people's traditional religion wearing dreads.
posted by carmen at 6:43 AM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm generally not a fan of 'ironic racism'. A lot of times it's people's way of saying, "I'm going to say this incredibly racist thing, but it's cool because I know I'm not racist." Which always raises the question "Well, how do I know that?" I think white people who haven't really experienced racism will say "HA HA! CLEARLY SATIRE!", while minorities who have had racial jokes aimed at them will be "What the hell?"

Like this:

The letter from the publisher is so blatantly over-the-top old timey racist that I honestly can't fathom how anyone can see actual racism in the other posts.

Clearly this guy's not an Asian guy who's had this sort of thing thrown at him before. So you're thinking "Gee, that's old timey racism!" But growing up (I'm a Floridian, I grew up around a lot of old people), I knew people who thought like this. It's not really that long ago that that sort of stereotype was everywhere in movies, you know?

There are also a lot of people who confuse "Chinese" with "Communist Chinese" and "Communist Chinese Government". Some of you are saying that this makes fun of an authoritarian government, which is fine and one thing, but making fun of Chinese people to make fun of the Communist Chinese Government is conflating 'Chinese' with 'Communist'. It's one of those common things, and actually something I hear a lot. Generally I do not have the energy to give my ten minute lecture on the Chinese Civil War.

All that being said, a lot of time 'satirical' humor being aimed at Chinese people is just an excuse for some tin-eared frat boy to spew a bunch of tired racial stereotypes. This Onion stuff is actually (mostly) pretty well done.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:50 AM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


If you insist it has to be all activism all the time, you're a humorless prig who doesn't understand the meaning of comedy.

I never said the first, and as to the second, well, I'm not sure why it's the people with "good senses of humor" who are the first to start getting tetchy and eventually nasty when others say they don't think the joke's very funny. No further comment.

I don't think the context of the Zweibel piece does much except to make it lame, unfunny hipster racism, instead of just unfunny hipster racism. ... But I do think the Lazy American Children editorial is clever, I'll give them that much.
posted by bettafish at 6:52 AM on July 21, 2009


I was bored by the first 2-3 sentences which seemed to be relying entirely on well troden racial stereotypes for gags.
posted by mary8nne at 6:56 AM on July 21, 2009


On non-preview: carmen, thank you for disagreeing with me without being insulting; it's appreciated.
posted by bettafish at 7:00 AM on July 21, 2009


lol @ subsidiary Century 1 Realty
posted by joecacti at 7:05 AM on July 21, 2009


I have to wonder what this Yuan Mei Device they're selling is. Unfortunately, at $4250.99, it's too high for me to try out.

I went through the first few steps of the checkout process, and it seems like they will actually let you buy it, whatever it is. I wonder if they would really let anyone go through with it?
posted by HumanComplex at 7:19 AM on July 21, 2009


What does that mean, huh? "China is here." I don't even know what the hell that means.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:33 AM on July 21, 2009


Hi, I'm on Metafilter and I could overthink a plate of soybeans.
posted by Adam_S at 7:33 AM on July 21, 2009


FYI, that guy pictured as "Area Man Uninterested In Creating A Better Community..." is one of the writers.

Look, at his pudgy, racist face. That is the face of evil.
posted by fungible at 7:59 AM on July 21, 2009


It looks like a gag from during the Cold War with the word "China" substituting for "Russia" and instead of ice hockey jokes it's Ping Pong.
Actually, this is more like the 80s-era anxiety about Japan, when they were buying all of our stuff and we feared that we were going to be forced to adopt Japanese mores, since, after all, they were buying us out and they were the future.

The fact that a local grocery store where I grew up was owned by a Japanese family and forced the staff to wear kimono-like uniforms -- I swear I am not making that up -- just made such anxiety seem plausible.
posted by deanc at 8:02 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, thank you to everyone who moved this thread into fantastic new territory. bettafish, especially -- your comment about ironic racism managed to say things I've been feeling for years about one friend of mine who does EXACTLY THIS kind of humor. He jokes all the time about the brown people who serve him, etc, and he says he means it as a joke, but it just irritates me. I've tried to go along with it, but thanks to you I don't have to anymore.

This also helps me understand a bit more my own feelings about when someone uses a homosexual slur "as a joke", and I get frustrated. Even here on the MetaFilter I've had others I respect respond to me with an explanation of "oh, well, see, they're using that ironically, it's meant as a signifier of X and Y, blah blah blah." It's nice to know that my instincts about insulting language and slurs are not incorrect, after all.
posted by hippybear at 8:05 AM on July 21, 2009




You know, I'm getting pretty sick of the, "Hey, if I'm racist ironically, then I'm not being racist!" meme.


Lighten up already.. it's healthy to joke around.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2009


If you are racist ironically than YOU ARE QUITE LITERALLY NOT BEING RACIST BECAUSE OF THE DEFINITION OF IRONY. Ironic racism MOCKS racism and exposes it for the idiocy it is.Well, here is what wikpedia has to say about the definition of irony:
Henry Watson Fowler, in The King's English, says “any definition of irony—though hundreds might be given, and very few of them would be accepted—must include this, that the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same." ... The American Heritage Dictionary recognizes a secondary meaning for irony: “incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.” This sense, however, is not synonymous with "incongruous" but merely a definition of dramatic or situational irony.
It seems like it would be pretty easy to come up with an example that fits the second definition, like if some Black person ended up hating other black people. That would be incongruous with what was expected.

Now obviously you meant the first definition, but it can be a little ambitious. A lot of times the humor isn't actually mocking racists, but rather the ambiguity of the statement. With Sarah Silverman, for example, her entire shtick is to make totally outrageous statements, like being molested as a child or anal sex or whatever. The point of her "Racist" jokes isn't to mock racists, it's just to say something outrageous and unacceptable. The irony isn't the incongruity between her statements and her actual underlying non-racism, rather it's the incongruity between the sweet, innocent persona and the outragiousness statements she's making (Regardless of the topic. By the way, do you think when Sarah Silverman did her "I'm fucking Matt Damon" the point was to mock people who wanted to have sex with Matt Damon? Come on)

The point is, making racist statements without actually being a racist might be ironic, but it certainly doesn't imply the speaker is mocking racism or trying to "expose" it. It's certainly a possibility, but not a certainty.

Also, I'm pretty sure this Onion thing is mostly about mocking China's authoritarian capitalism, not Chinese people as an ethnicity.
posted by delmoi at 8:22 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, I looked up the 鱼 symbol. It means "fish".
posted by Malor at 8:23 AM on July 21, 2009


The Chinese version of that Yuwanmei website is rather poorly done. I'm not sure their use of the equivalent of Engrish in Chinese is meant to be laughed at.
posted by of strange foe at 8:35 AM on July 21, 2009




Also, I'm pretty sure this Onion thing is mostly about mocking China's authoritarian capitalism, not Chinese people as an ethnicity.



Yeah, clearly.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:38 AM on July 21, 2009


Angry Asian Man seemed to like it and he finds the racism in everything.

"Also, I'm pretty sure this Onion thing is mostly about mocking China's authoritarian capitalism, not Chinese people as an ethnicity." (delmoi)
Stop being reasonable delmoi, these are emotional issues and must be milked as such.
posted by Iron Rat at 8:49 AM on July 21, 2009


Lighten up already.. it's healthy to joke around.

Nobody's ever required to laugh at themselves.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:58 AM on July 21, 2009


As long as it isn't actively, minstrel-show racist

What about ironic minstrel shows that are so over-the-top offensive that clearly blackface performers, not black people, are the ones being mocked?
posted by pravit at 9:01 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm pretty sure this Onion thing is mostly about mocking China's authoritarian capitalism, not Chinese people as an ethnicity.

Sure, but the original intent is really just one (small) part of it.
posted by statolith at 9:04 AM on July 21, 2009


Okay. You guys win. Let's never discuss race ever again without being deathly serious.

First person to titter gets the chair.
posted by fungible at 9:09 AM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


movicont

The device would be an advanced version of the internet.
posted by Laotic at 9:12 AM on July 21, 2009


Oh, and -- jesus christ, did you people ever miss the fucking point. The whole reason they did this just sailed by miles overhead, while you shriek and moan about the wind of their passing. You're so stuck in seeing racism in everything that you can't even appreciate parody anymore, and I honestly feel rather sorry for you. Something that should have been purely joyous fun has been all twisted up by your racism goggles, and then you're vomiting it back out in this thread. It's time to take them off, because they're fucking up your life.

This isn't a racist screed about Chinese people, this is parody pointed at the Onion itself, and at media in general. They're apparenly having (real) financial trouble, which got them thinking about at least the possibility of selling out. So, they're parodying their own need for profit, by inventing a purely profit-based corporation that bought them, and then showing how everyone on the Onion staff would happily go along with obvious bullshit. The Chinese part of it is just for amusement. It's not painting Chinese people as stupid, it's parodying an evil corporation that happens to be Chinese. It's aimed at capitalism, not Asians.

When the joke would work just fine with a French corporation, or a Russian corporation, the country of origin isn't the point. Yes, they would need to write differently, and it might be a little less funny, because we haven't all seen badly-written Russian manuals, so we don't know what Russian corporate-speak should sound like. But you could replace virtually every article on their page with a Russian version, talking about the wonderful Putin and the miraculous Gazprom, or a French version praising Sarkozy and bashing Americans for eating so poorly, and the humor would come through intact.

Why? Because the humor is really about the Onion itself, and the media, and capitalism, not about the Chinese. In this particular case, they happened to do an absolutely pitch-perfect imitation of flawless grammar from non-native English speakers, of a greedy and grasping corporation, and of that corporation's views of its authoritarian government. The weird English is indeed funny, but it would work in any "accent".

The part that you CAN'T change and still have it be funny is the Onion staff going along with the idea enthusiastically, embracing their evil corporate overlords and turning into shills overnight. THAT'S the real joke. The Chinese corporation is just the method to get there.

Not everything is really racist. There's nothing in these articles that would make you think that Chinese people are inferior or stupid. There's plenty that would make you think that corporations can be terribly evil and untrustworthy. And they get in a few digs at authoritarianism for bonus points.

But racist? It would work with any nationality that doesn't speak English natively. Hell, with more effort, it might even work with an American corporation taking them over. It would be harder, since they wouldn't get the cheap amusement value of oddly-written English, but it could have been Monsanto, and they STILL could have kept most of the jokes.

They went with Chinese because parody-for-humor needs to be obvious to work really well, and lord knows, the present Chinese culture has plenty of greedy, amoral capitalist companies in it. Recognizing that truth is not racist. It's just an observation of reality. So does ours. Probably, you can find examples in almost any culture, but they're easy to find in China and America. A parody of China can be less subtle, requiring less work from readers. That means they laugh sooner, which means the joke is better. But it doesn't change the underlying message, that the Onion is a bunch of amoral shills that would poison you and your children for profit, while smiling the entire time.

That's the joke, not the Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corp.
posted by Malor at 9:12 AM on July 21, 2009 [23 favorites]


FWIW, I thought the Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated etc. stuff was pretty funny and well-executed. I think people who are offended are referring to the T. Herman Zweibel thing.
posted by pravit at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2009


Malor: How can you complain about people being uptight when you're pissier then everyone else in this thread?

In fact Only one person complained then some people bean-plated it, and some people disagreed. From reading you're financial analysis it's pretty obvious you're not really into "numbers" but you really should learn the difference between "one" and "more then one"

I went through the first few steps of the checkout process, and it seems like they will actually let you buy it, whatever it is. I wonder if they would really let anyone go through with it?

Maybe it's a fund raising idea, like the totebag you get for donating $1,000 to your local PBS station.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Nothing is funny anymore.
posted by GilloD at 9:36 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kelly, you sellout!
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:52 AM on July 21, 2009


The very hipster lifestyle is, in some ways, racist, and definitely not very introspective when it comes to race. Hipsters ... consistently co-opt and appropriate elements of other cultures, piecemeal, and often without any cultural sensitivity or respect.

Jesus Christ, this is the supidest bit of "insight" into race I've ever read.
posted by spaltavian at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


So. That's Stuff White People Like up there, being cited like a primary source in an academic paper or something. "Really important quote." Q.E.D.

It's true, you know, especially in these hypertexted intertubed times: Live long enough, eventually you'll see everything.
posted by gompa at 10:38 AM on July 21, 2009


Oh, and -- jesus christ, did you people ever miss the fucking point. The whole reason they did this just sailed by miles overhead, while you shriek and moan about the wind of their passing.

I'm Chinese by ethnicity, and don't see racism in the Onion parody. I laughed, and it didn't seem to me like they were going for cheap race jokes.

However, even though I'm ethnic Chinese and quite sensitive to racism due to being a minority in my country, I still don't assume that somehow means my interpretation and understanding of the impact of a parody piece is the one and only correct one. Though I disagree with bettafish and others in this case, their comments made me think: if so many people see stereotypes in this... maybe I've missed something. Because the fear of the Chinese taking over is not exactly new - and it's only likely to get stronger, as China's economy and military grows and power shifts. It is possible for well-intentioned comedy to accidently reinforce stereotypes, prejudice and fears. I can laugh, and also consider subtle and unintended effects it may have - the two are not exclusive.

The people who raise concerns raise them because they care, and even if I disagreed with them, I appreciate that they care - the world is not full of people who care about such things. The people who raise concerns are not "tight asses" who are looking to be offended (that never made sense to me - who would look to be offended?) "Several easily offended Mefites had their delicate sensibilities crushed..." - this is the language of bullies. Believe it or not, people who raise these concerns also find things funny and don't hate laughter. (They also don't hate freedom either.) They probably enjoy satire about or related to race or racism, as long as to them it's done well. They too talk about race openly and joke about it. "Okay. You guys win. Let's never discuss race ever again without being deathly serious. First person to titter gets the chair." makes you sound like you're three, and throwing a tantrum.

It occurred to me that if I were ever inclined to troll, the easiest way to complete derail any discussion like this would be to play the humorless PC bogeyman - it would be the surest way to get a bunch of people jumping down my throat and "shrieking and moaning" that I dare question something they find funny - as if they were the guardian of what is funny, as if that was all the funny they had left, and I was snatching it away from them.

If you are racist ironically than YOU ARE QUITE LITERALLY NOT BEING RACIST BECAUSE OF THE DEFINITION OF IRONY.

Communication is NOT JUST ABOUT YOU. It is also how it is received, its impact on the audience. You may not be intending to be racist, but still unintentionally reinforcing racism and prejudice. Have you really never come across ironically racist humour that gets appropriated by unironically racist people? Happens all the fucking time.
posted by catchingsignals at 11:19 AM on July 21, 2009 [15 favorites]


Kelly you Perv!
posted by delmoi at 11:20 AM on July 21, 2009


Like most funny things on the internet, Old Man Murry did it first, and more offensively.
posted by straight at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2009


This whole thread illustrates why China is winning.
posted by b.an.dekker at 12:03 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I still don't assume that somehow means my interpretation and understanding of the impact of a parody piece is the one and only correct one.
[...]
You may not be intending to be racist, but still unintentionally reinforcing racism and prejudice.


This. If there's one thing I've learned in my life so far, it's that intentions matter far less than I thought. *You* may not have meant to hurt someone, but perhaps you did. If so, it is not this persons fault for feeling this way. Telling someone "but I didn't mean it that way!" isn't going to make them feel any better.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:21 PM on July 21, 2009


This. If there's one thing I've learned in my life so far, it's that intentions matter far less than I thought. *You* may not have meant to hurt someone, but perhaps you did. If so, it is not this persons fault for feeling this way. Telling someone "but I didn't mean it that way!" isn't going to make them feel any better.

Well, the flipside of that is that everything you do will offend somebody, so it's up to you to decide whom to offend.
posted by nasreddin at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2009


This whole thread illustrates why China is winning.

You mean because rather then complaining on the internet, Ethnic groups express their dissatisfaction with each other by running around town smashing stuff and beating the crap out of eachother?
posted by delmoi at 12:42 PM on July 21, 2009


I don't know though - there is a lot of stereotyping going on. If a private Chinese firm bought a Western media outlet, I don't think much would actually change. It's a business - why fuck with it?

Well, to promote an "unbiased" view of China to the world's stage. English language Chinese media has been increasing lately with an eye toward doing just that. See the case of the Global Times, Xinhua's expansion onto European supermarket televisions, or (in the most directly analogous example) a Chinese businessman has purchased a nonprofit satellite television in the UK with the express purpose of changing (some, all?) programming to shows promoting China and Chinese culture in Europe. Both state media and individuals seem to be looking toward promoting "harmony" abroad.
posted by msbrauer at 1:27 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh please! This is a description of everything American (and Canadian), not just some sub-set of white people. We're immigrant nations, we're immersed in a slurry of random cultural elements. Piecemeal and insensitive adoption of other people's culture is not limited to "hipsters", as I learned once when a Ghanaian man spoke about how profoundly offensive it is to see people (black, white, rasta, whoever) who are not part of his people's traditional religion wearing dreads.

I believe the author is talking about the whole movement (if we can even call the hipster thing that; maybe vacuous phenomenon is more appropriate) which is primarily driven by "innovation" by urban, college-aged whites. Cultural appropriation (e.g., that "ethnic" bracelet from Anthropologie that really makes me look open-minded and conveys that I appreciate African culture, something any black man, woman, or child will certainly respect) and cultural appreciation and respect are two different things. We have Juliette Lewis dressing up in a stereotypical Native American outfit, we have those fashion magazines putting white-skinned models in an African backdrop, we have ugly, ugly appropriation. There are certainly people of other groups guilty of these acts too, but when we talk about a whole crowd of people willingly going along with it... this is cause for concern. It's patronizing at best, ignorant at its worst.
posted by intelligentless at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Have you really never come across ironically racist humour that gets appropriated by unironically racist people? Happens all the fucking time.

I try not to base my actions or what I like on what unironically racist people will do. They, being unironically racist, need no help from The Onion to fuel their racism, as they weave it from thin air regardless.
posted by haveanicesummer at 1:53 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I believe the author is talking about the whole movement (if we can even call the hipster thing that; maybe vacuous phenomenon is more appropriate) which is primarily driven by "innovation" by urban, college-aged whites. Cultural appropriation (e.g., that "ethnic" bracelet from Anthropologie that really makes me look open-minded and conveys that I appreciate African culture, something any black man, woman, or child will certainly respect) and cultural appreciation and respect are two different things.

Cultural appropriation is not a symptom of hipsterism. It's called civilization. It's not that I don't understand the reason people find cultural appropriation objectionable, it's just that I find the caterwauling over it to be an exercise in futility, and demanding that people stop is like demanding that people stop having tacky taste in clothes and household decoration: it's just the way things are. "Information wants to be free," so we're going to take, adapt, and appropriate whatever we find in front of us.

There are no intellectual property rights to cultural totems and aesthetic styles, and such changes in styles and trends is what created the present day that we find ourselves in. Getting offended by it is just an act of finding things to get offended about, not to mention spitting into the wind to show other people that you're willing to engage in the futile act of spitting into the wind.
posted by deanc at 1:56 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Malor: How can you complain about people being uptight when you're pissier then everyone else in this thread?

Because this thing is freaking awesome and nobody's having any fun! I expected to come back to a thread full of win, and leave with a big smile on my face, and instead we've got this ever-so-terribly serious discussion of racism, perceiving it where it doesn't exist, while the exquisitely crafted humor whooshes past far overhead.

This isn't racist, this is Onionist. Sheesh!
posted by Malor at 2:41 PM on July 21, 2009


There are no intellectual property rights to cultural totems and aesthetic styles, and such changes in styles and trends is what created the present day that we find ourselves in. Getting offended by it is just an act of finding things to get offended about, not to mention spitting into the wind to show other people that you're willing to engage in the futile act of spitting into the wind.

Not to mention the fact that the only thing separating "culturally-appropriated" things from "non-culturally-appropriated" ones is the passage of time. Culture is always a process of synthesis and contestation, and there isn't a single culture (if "single culture" even means anything) that hasn't "appropriated" things from its neighbors, its conquerors, its victims, or its trading partners. In fact, the idea that we shouldn't appropriate things from African or Native American cultures carries the pernicious implication that these are noble savages we must preserve in their primeval purity. Bullshit.

Now, I do think it's problematic when native artifacts are presented as being somehow representative of an underlying sympathy or affinity, thus enabling the consumer to somehow speak for that culture--which is why I'm not a fan of intelligentless's examples either. The ethnic bracelet you're wearing is no longer ethnic, properly speaking, at all. But it's important to understand that the ideology that drives this "speaking for" is the same one that drives the resistance to cultural appropriation. What you are buying at Anthropologie is "ethnicness," and "ethnicness" is what people like intelligentless believe shouldn't be sold. But there's no such thing as ethnicness. There's just culture.
posted by nasreddin at 2:57 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nomicomic: "I'm often struck by how utterly fucking sad The Onion can be. If they have a good idea they take it all the way to its conclusion, and sometimes it'll be the most depressing thing I read all day."

Oh, God, yeah. Take, for example, this devastating (and also China-centric) story from a few months ago: Son, It's Time We Have A Talk About Where Babies Go.
You see, when a mommy and daddy love each other very much, but they're being pressured by the People's Republic of China and they have nowhere else to turn, sometimes they will walk miles away to a place where nobody knows who they are, and they'll—wait, no. Hold on. Let's start over. Can Daddy just think for a moment here?

Play with your toys for a bit. Why don't you take out Mr. Bear and Mrs. Giraffe and play with them for a little while? It's all right, Daddy's okay. He just needs to go splash some cold water on his face.

Okay, this might make more sense. You know how sometimes I complain about there being too many toys in your room, and how I say that they're making a mess, and in order to not make such a mess, you might need to throw some of your toys out? Well, China is kind of like that, too. What's that? You're right, I've never told you to throw any of your toys away. Because that would be very mean—yes—you're right. Xiu, my son, please don't cry. None of your toys will have to be thrown out.

Nobody should have to get rid of anything they love.
Some other stories in this vein: Daddy Put In Bye-Bye Box and God Angrily Clarifies "Don't Kill" Rule (one of the stories from the magnificent post-9/11 issue)
posted by Rhaomi at 3:01 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, I get the Onion. I like the Onion. But I still think this is racist. The same way I think a lot of "Hey, I'm one of THEM/US so I can make fun of THEM/US" comedy is racist. It might be funny, and it might be ironic, but it's still racist.
posted by threeturtles at 4:00 PM on July 21, 2009


Relations Break Down Between U.S. And Them
posted by Rhaomi at 4:07 PM on July 21, 2009


Does it help that I think actual racists are also hilarious?

I understand the complaints about ironic racism—the old critique of irony allowing us to say something we believe without being held to defending it, but that doesn't mean that all ironic racism functions that way. There's also, for example, the self-deprecating racism, where folks mock themselves and their ancestors for the deranged racist beliefs that used to be held. That's why it was funny to pull an icebreaker from a party games book written in the early '50s at a recent party, where each guest was supposed to "tell their favorite Irish joke," despite the fact that none of us actually knew any bona fide Irish jokes. "So, these two Irish guys walk into a bar. No, wait, I think they started in a bar, because, you know, they're Irish. Also, one of them believes in the Pope and the other one eats haggis and lives in a Blarney stone. Wait, I'll start over."

It's almost like how just as it's incumbent upon all of us to use a little critical thinking about context and how our words will be interpreted by folks who are harmed by racism, it's also incumbent upon all of us to use a little critical thinking instead of yelling, "That's racist!" every time there's a joke about race, power and class.

Unfortunately, no solution that starts with "Get smarter, America!" will ever be adopted.
posted by klangklangston at 5:07 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread is an Onion article. Too effing funny.
posted by NoMich at 5:31 PM on July 21, 2009


The reason why I thought this parody was pretty underwhelming was because the writing bore no resemblance to the writing of present-day state-run Chinese media. Most of the purple, "you greedy American capitalists" prose sounds like a bad parody of Cultural Revolution era China. China has changed just a little since then. It would have been a lot funnier to me (but probably much less funny to most other people) if they did a less anachronistic parody.
posted by alidarbac at 6:25 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


The reason why I thought this parody was pretty underwhelming was because the writing bore no resemblance to the writing of present-day state-run Chinese media.

I have to disagree with you. There is still a lot of over the top prose in English language news from China that rivals the most outrageous stuff from the Cultural Revolution era. The more widely read Xinhua outlets have toned it down to be a bit more subtle, yes, but it's still there in spades in regional papers and in state-run political magazines. (It tends to be worst for certain topics, like Taiwan and Tibet.) Yes, the Onion took it up a few notches from that. But they had to, in order to make the joke obvious to those Americans who don't read Chinese news on a daily basis.

Racist and demeaning? I can see that point, and concede that some people would take it that way. I still found it funny, though.
posted by gemmy at 7:09 PM on July 21, 2009


I thought it was pretty clear that Mr. Zweibel was channeling the late-great (and racist as all-get-out) H.P. Lovecraft. All he needed to add was the word "cyclopean" and it would have been perfect.
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:09 AM on July 23, 2009


[Weird little sidebar removed. Maybe not so much with the examples-of-racism-are-fun stuff unless it's really going to serve the thread in some useful way, okay?]
posted by cortex at 8:45 AM on July 23, 2009


NPR reported this story on ATC yesterday. I'd like to thank my wife for calling it to my attention.

Quality reporting of a quality story.
posted by Man with Lantern at 9:52 AM on July 23, 2009


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