It’s that time again.
Time to treat Alabama like your 17-year-old daughter — defend her honor and her reputation. We’re Alabamians, so we’re used to this. Critics take pot-shots at us all the time. Like redheads and obese kids and high school bookworms, we’re an easy target for meanies.
If anything, we know how to take a punch.
For clarity’s sake, be advised that the offending sentence came this week courtesy of The Onion, which touts itself as “America’s Finest News Source.” That’s kind of like calling Fox News “fair and balanced,” or saying, as that ubiquitous TV commercial goes, that everything on the Internet is true.
The Onion is a satirical news website that, as its disclaimer advises, is not intended for readers under the age of 18. I concur. Depending on your sense of humor, The Onion is either (A.) a hilarious adult-aged take on the day’s news, a la Stephen Colbert, or (B.) a useless website filled with crude language and sophomoric essays.
It is Internet spinach: take or leave it.
But we can’t shrug off this indignation, can we? Shouldn’t we be fightin’ mad that The Onion has again used Alabama as the foil for its offbeat brand of humor?
We’ve been insulted, right?
Here’s a bit of kindling for our fire:
In its article, “PR firm advises U.S. to cut ties with Alabama,” The Onion mockingly claims that a national firm, Hill & Knowlton, has laid out a strong case for why America should disavow its relationship with the 22nd state. In essence, The Onion says Alabama is bad for business in the United States, as if we’re moldy leftovers stinkin’ up the joint.
“The marketing team, which reportedly cited results from focus groups and surveys that revealed a widespread perception of the state as misguided, intolerant and poorly educated, has strongly encouraged U.S. officials to downplay its connections with Alabama and to avoid being seen in any of its cities,” The Onion wrote.
“There are other states with a lot going for them. Look at Colorado or California,” a fictional PR rep told The Onion. “And Utah is beautiful — the world wants to see that. But there’s nothing about Alabama shouting ‘cutting-edge country I want to invest in.’”
“There’s just a lot of baggage with Alabama,” he went on, noting Alabama’s history of controversy was “not something anyone wants to be associated with. Everyone knows about the racial issues. The violence, the intolerance, the whole Birmingham fiasco in 1963. That’s not the image you want to project while you seek new investors.”
Ha, ha, ha.
Problem is, the truth hurts.
Granted, The Onion is an equal-opportunity satirist. No one’s safe: not liberals, not conservatives, not the famous, not the poor, not the rich, and not Alabama. It cracks on everyone. Sometimes it’s silly. Other times it’s slightly raunchy.
Yet, in Alabama’s case, The Onion’s writers are taking a few of the state’s truisms — its sorry rankings on health and education, for instance — and embedding them in their scripts. We can get red-faced at The Onion if we like, but the bottom line is that if Alabama’s worst ills weren’t so negative, satirists wouldn’t have as much fodder for their brand of humor.
The Onion says Alabamians are poorly educated.
Well, the state never has done public education right.
The Onion says Alabamians have high rates of obesity, poverty and divorce.
Well, we do.
The Onion says Alabama has a lot of baggage, and in an accompanying video, calls the state a “Southern territory” and says it’s “been a liability” to the United States. “Simply put, Alabama is not the kind of place you want dragging down the image of a flourishing democracy,” it said.
Well, we do have baggage — most states do — but the liability part? Not so much.
Here’s the deal. Don’t throw rotten tomatoes at The Onion. It is what it is.
Instead, let’s improve the state. Fund public education so that it’s in the top 10 in all areas. Get rid of that illegal-immigration law. Treat our obesity-related problems as a health epidemic, which they are.
In other words, help Alabama reach its potential.
When that happens, silly satirists will leave us alone.
Phillip Tutor —email@example.com — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.