Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 | 2 a.m.
The satirical website The Onion published a headline on Monday that echoed the thoughts of many Americans who were, once again, processing a horrific mass shooting.
“'No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”
The headline was not new. It was the fifth time The Onion had published it.
Most jokes, when repeated, lose their power. Yet each time The Onion publishes this particular headline, it seems to rocket around the internet with more force. A tweet with the headline from The Onion’s account on Monday had, by Tuesday afternoon, been retweeted more than 55,000 times.
The headline — and the accompanying article, which is always the same save for some minor details to reflect the latest location and the number of victims — has, with each use, seemed to turn from cheeky political commentary on gun control into a reverberation of despair.
“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” the article quotes a fictional person as saying. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep these individuals from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.”
The Onion first ran the headline in May 2014, after a gunman went on a rampage in Isla Vista, California. It was published again in June 2015, after the shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. And again that October after a mass shooting at a community college in Oregon. And again that December after a shooting in San Bernardino, California.
“How Many Times Will The Onion Have To Repost This Article?” HuffPost wrote after that shooting.
The Onion does not republish the story after every mass shooting. It did not appear, for instance, after 49 people were shot and killed last year at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The Onion, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the recurring headline. “We believe the satire speaks for itself,” the spokesman, David Ford, said.
Like all Onion articles, the one accompanying the headline carries no byline. Onion headlines are generally composed by a group of writers and editors. Articles typically follow the headlines, though they are rarely written by the person who wrote the headline.
The “No Way to Prevent This,” headline was originally conceived during Cole Bolton’s tenure as The Onion’s top editor. He plans to step down this month.
Though The Onion is a satirical site with headlines and articles written for laughs, it has dabbled in darker territory. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, The Onion ran an issue that parodied the articles that were being published by its far more serious counterparts.
“U.S. Vows to Defeat Whoever It Is We’re at War With,” one headline read.
Another: “'We Expected Eternal Paradise for This,’ Say Suicide Bombers.”
A third: “Rest of Country Temporarily Feels Deep Affection for New York.”
Some called the issue cathartic. Others were less pleased.
The Onion also recently published a satirical trove of documents on President Donald Trump.
The recurring “No Way to Prevent This” headline was not The Onion’s only sharp commentary after the Las Vegas shooting.
“NRA Says Mass Shootings Just The Unfortunate Price Of Protecting People’s Freedom To Commit Mass Shootings,” one read.
A second struck a different, though no less caustic, tone: “Americans Hopeful This Will Be Last Mass Shooting Before They Stop On Their Own For No Reason.”