The Onion describes itself as "America's finest news source," and for a while, that was funny. Then they started getting prescient and people started noticing.
However, if there's anything to say about the year 2015, it's that it was a year where the news became a parody of itself. So let's look at some of the biggest news events and issues of the year as predicted by The Onion. It's uncanny.
The real estate mogul entered the presidential race this summer and continues to outpace seasoned Republican politicians with his unscripted rants and frightening populist agenda. The Onion was on it back in 2012.
If "shrieking white-hot sphere of pure rage" doesn't describe the ongoinng GOP primary as a whole, and Donald Trump's style of bluster specifically, we don't know what does.
If that's not good enough for you, in 2002, they published "Millionaire Vows To Do For Government What He Did For Turkey Ranches."
Piggy-packing off the previous entry, we have this Onion item from January: "Area Man Willing To Give Up Any Of Muslims’ Rights Necessary To Feel Safe."
Even prior to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, it was clear that Muslims faced civil rights abuses in the U.S. Trump didn't help matters when he proposed banning all Muslim immigration to the country, a view that is teetering on the precipice of being favored by the majority of Americans.
The Islamic State, ISIL, Daesh—whatever you call the terrorist group, they were certainly one of the most important organizations of the year, both domestically and abroad. In 2003, The Onion was right there, predicting that the war in Iraq would undoubtedly inspire "a million bin Ladens" in a point-counterpoint piece: "In 10 or 15 years, we will look back fondly on the days when there were only a few thousand Middle Easterners dedicated to destroying the U.S. and willing to die for the fundamentalist cause."
Americans, according to poll numbers, haven't been this afraid of terrorism since immediately after 9/11.
The Onion's rueful 'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens was posted after the Isla Vista shootings in 2014, but regularly cropped up on Twitter, Facebook, and other social channels throughout 2015 as mass shootings reached epidemic status. Presidential candidate Marco Rubio even accidentally echoed the piece's headline, appearing on CBS' This Morning Dec. 4, saying: “None of the major shootings that have occurred in this country over the last few months or years that have outraged us, would gun laws have prevented them.”
You can always tell it's been a bad day for the country when post is at the top of the most popular heading on The Onion's homepage, and in 2015, there were, again, too many.
There was perhaps no bigger domestic issue in the U.S. in 2015 than the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically with their calls to check police power. The Onion jumped on this after several awful incidents with a July article titled, "Horrifying Police Body Camera Footage Clearly Shows Current State Of America." Sample quote:
It’s stomach-turning to go frame by frame through this video and see the grotesque realities of our country unfold in such visceral detail. But it’s vitally important to have a visual record that tells the truth about this nation rather than be forced to trust the accounts of those who might have something to cover up. Without this video, we would be left to dispute about what really happens in America.
The article's real-world equivalent came a few months later when the city of Chicago was forced to release the footage of CPD officer Jason Van Dyke killing Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was actually indicted, which is rare enough, before the video was made public because, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said she "hoped the charges would tamp down the public response to the graphic images."
The deal the U.S. made with Iran was historic, and after some foot-dragging, the Republicans eventually got on board, even though Benjamin Netanyahu wasn't. The Onion skewered U.S. and Israel's head-butting with the article "U.S. Soothes Upset Netanyahu With Shipment Of Ballistic Missiles" in July. Days later, news leaked that the U.S. in fact did just that to placate Israel over the Iran deal.
The Onion, 2008: "Wealthy Teen Nearly Experiences Consequence"
The Real World, 2015: "Manhunt For Texas 'Affluenza' Teen Ethan Crouch Continues"
Pope Francis was one of the biggest newsmakers of the year. He apologized for scandals at the Vatican (one of which is believed to be a gay priest being dismissed from his post), visited the United States, and took a strong pro-refugee stance, among other things. Occasionally, the Vatican apologizes for the Pope's off-the-cuff remarks, a thing The Onion once joked about.
It happened again in 2015 when Pope Francis blessed a same-sex family in a letter. According to Quartz:
Father Ciro Benedettini, the Vatican spokesperson, published a note(link in Italian) asserting that in no way is the letter “meant to endorse behaviors and teachings unfit to the Gospel.” Benedettini also says that the Pope’s blessing was meant for the individual, and was “not in line with the church’s doctrine on gender theory, which has not changed in the slightest.”
The issue of women enduring verbal abuse in public came to a head in 2015, and The Onion commented on it with its usual panache with "Report: Retailers Pull In $5 Billion Annually From Women Coming Off Street To Avoid Harassment." (Punchline: "$12 billion is spent annually by men who entered a business because they spotted a lone woman through the storefront window.")
2015 saw Hollaback, an anti-harassment organization, grow exponentially, to the point they co-published research with Cornell University. Unlike some of the above issues and events, street harassment might be on the way out. 2016 goals!
Following the Charleston shooting at AME Baptist Church in June, discourse shifted from guns to the racial overtones of the Confederate flag. The Onion jumped on it with "Black Man In Support of Confederate Flag Triples His Media Appearance Rates." In September, Ben Carson said he was a-OK with people flying the flag on private property:
“I am not opposed to anybody doing whatever they want to do on their private property,” he told reporters following his campaign stop at a Baptist Church here.
Carson said, “we’ve already talked about the Confederate flag issue way too much,” calling it “old news.”
“But as a general principle,” he added, “people can do whatever they want on their private property, that’s one of the basic tenets of freedom in America.”
If Ben Carson wasn't enough, a week after the Charleston shooting, The Washington Post reported on a viral video featuring Karen Cooper, a black Virginia woman who is a member of Virginia Flaggers, "an activist group that rejects the idea that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and hate." In the video, Cooper says the Confederate flag "represents freedom; It represents a people who stood up to tyranny.”
The "I'm Leaving New York" essay literally became the thing of parody in 2015. In 2010, The Onion predicted the navel-gazingest of navel-gazing essays with an article titled, "8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live." Sample sentence: "All 8.4 million citizens in each of the five boroughs packed up their belongings and told reporters they would rather blow their brains out with a shotgun than spend another waking moment in this festering cesspool of filth and scum and sadness."
Apropos of nothing, Fusion hears Asheville is wonderful.
There are reports that Denver Bronocs quarterback Peyton Manning will retire after this season, ending an illustrious NFL career, because of a string of nagging injuries to his ribs and left foot have sapped him of his effectiveness. The Onion foresaw the end in 2012 (Peyton On Beginning Of Manning Era In Denver: ‘I Will Break My Neck’), but really made us laugh in November, publishing, "Aging Peyton Manning Now Forced To Take Field With Assistance Dog." Better than the alternative.
2015 saw further proliferation of streaming services as Comcast, NBC's comedy offshoot Seeso, BeachBody debuted. However, there was no stranger streaming service to be announced than Overstock's—two years after The Onion made that exact joke (complete with a punchline about reviving a canceled sitcom—Piven, we hardly knew ye).
In real life, Overstock President Stormy Simon was asked about The Onion article and said, ""It's hysterical. Reading it today, I thought, 'This looks like a press release!'"
Whether it was llamas on the loose or a rat dragging a comically large piece of pizza down some steps, there were news stories this year that truly captured the nation's attention. The Onion's been on this forever, but really nailed in 2010.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org