Mocking The Media: Government Shutdown Edition
November 18, 2013
Mary Clare Fischer


The government shutdown has ignited plenty of media coverage, but none so saucy as the first post in Slate’s “If It Happened There…” series. This feature covers American events as if they were happening in another country — with all the elevated language and sense of distance from the subject that international correspondents typically use in their writing.

See a particularly amusing section of the piece below:

“The current rebellion has been led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a young fundamentalist lawmaker from the restive Texas region, known in the past as a hotbed of separatist activity. Activity in the legislature ground to a halt last week for a full day as Cruz insisted on performing a time-honored American demonstration of stamina and self-denial, which involved speaking for 21 hours, quoting liberally from science fiction films and children’s books. The gesture drew wide media attention, though its political purpose was unclear to outsiders.”

The author, Slate staff writer Joshua Keating, said he’d had the idea for a while but was waiting on the right event to use for his first post.

“Other countries obviously have plenty of forms of political deadlock and turmoil and dysfunction, but the actual shutdown of the federal government for reasons like this is something that only happens in America, and I could see from reading some of the foreign coverage of this that people were a bit confused,” Keating said. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to put on foreign correspondent goggles and look at it from a naïve point of view.”

Keating, who normally runs the blog The World for Slate, said he plans only to write “If it happened there…” posts for the events that fit well into the series. However, the first installment did so well on social media (119,700 Facebook shares and 8,900 tweets) that his editors are pressing him to write these posts more frequently.

Keating said most of the feedback he received was positive; even the foreign correspondents enjoyed the satire. Those that were unhappy with it tended to be Democrats, he said, who didn’t like the portions that made Obama sound like a tyrant.

“That was part of the joke — calling it a regime, talking about his rule, using vocabulary like that,” he said. “I don’t actually think Obama’s a dictator.”

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