The Onion co-founder Scott Dikkers gives talk to Tulane students

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It’s always been The Onion’s character to berate readers and tell them that they’re dumb and they don’t know anything, and The Onion will tell them what they need to know. So that’s always been fun,” Scott Dikkers, the co-founder and former editor in chief of The Onion, said in an interview with The Hullabaloo.

Dikkers visited New Orleans for the first time to discuss the success of this style of journalism and his experience as one of the pioneers and leading forces behind the satirical journalism movement.

Scott Dikkers

Courtesy of Tulane University Campus Programming

The event, hosted by Tulane University Campus Programming, was Monday at 7 p.m. in the Kendall Cram Room of the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life.

The Onion covers a variety of topics, ranging from sports and entertainment to social and political satire. With headlines like “School Bully Not So Tough Since Being Molested and “Anorexic Woman At Gym Looking Good,” The Onion is not afraid to tackle contentious issues using satire.

According to Dikkers, however, satirical editorials can take satirical journalism to another level.

“Some of the funnier articles in The Onion are the editorials because they’re just written by these total wackos,” Dikkers said. “There was an editorial once by this guy, and the headline was, ‘Why do all these homosexuals keep sucking my cock? And I just thought, ‘Now that’s funny. That’s just funny.'”

Though The Onion is a comedy publication and not meant to be defamatory, not all readers take The Onion’s style of comedy lightly, according to Dikkers. Readers sometimes respond with anger and call or write letters to complain.

“I would never respond to anybody who was upset, ’cause frankly, I think that’s stupid,” Dikkers said. “If I saw something in a publication that upset me, I would shrug and move on. I wouldn’t read that publication. The idea that I would stop my life and write a letter or call and say, ‘This really upset me’ — that’s just weird. I just don’t understand that compulsion.”

According to Dikkers, a number of celebrity figures have threatened to sue The Onion, including President Donald Trump and Former President George W. Bush. Dikkers said he still has Bush’s cease and desist letter framed in his office. No one, however, has successfully sued the publication.

“Once [potential plaintiffs] get serious about it and talk to a lawyer about it or whatever, they find out, ‘Oh, there’s this thing called the First Amendment, and the Onion can actually say whatever it wants,'” Dickers said. “And everybody knows it’s a comedy publication so nobody takes it seriously, so we can’t really be sued for defamation or libel.”

According to Dikkers, satirical publications such as The Onion serve a purpose beyond comedy and entertainment.

Kabir Shah | Staff Photographer
Scott Dikkers, co-founder and former editor in chief of The Onion, spoke on his experiences with the organization on Monday.

“The extra thing that satire does where it has this sort of higher purpose is that it endeavors to give the audience some meaning to help them think more critically, to help them look at themselves from a different perspective and possibly improve their lives or improve society,” Dikkers said.

Dikkers’ career provides students with an excellent model for success, according to TUCP Direction Chair Sydne Klein, who personally booked Dikkers.

“I think Scott provides an awesome learning experience because his mantra is following what you believe in, but staying true to your individual style while doing so,” Klein said. “With such a unique, outgoing and passionate student body, I think this is a mantra Tulane students not only live by, but embrace.”

Klein said she can not reveal what other speakers TUCP will book, but she did say they have an “unbelievable year” planned.