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Nackers, who has helmed the Onion since 2017 but has worked at the publication since before the 1999 Columbine massacre, told BuzzFeed News that he and his staff decided to take action after feeling exhausted and angry at the recent shootings.
“One week it’s a hate crime on people of color in Buffalo; this week, it’s kids in a primarily Hispanic school,” he said. “We have this platform, and we felt like this is a very effective way to show how it just keeps on happening.”
Each variation of the Onion story changes only a few details.
The first and most prominent is the dateline of the story, listing the location of the latest attack.
It then features a new photo from the scene, which appears similar to the others in that they all tend to show police cars, flashing sirens, or crime scenes taped off.
Finally, the name of a fake person is changed to provide the same quote, which the Onion then proceeds to dismantle to highlight its absurdity. In Wednesday’s story about the Uvalde elementary school shooting, it read:
“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Idaho resident Kathy Miller, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.”
The effect of the repetition, Nackers explained, is the point.
“It’s a little bit more of a meta take, where it’s like the more you see it, it tends to grow stronger,” he said.
The headline was first written back in 2014 by former Onion writer Jason Roeder.
Four years later, Roeder expressed his shock when the words he had written were applied to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, close to his own home.