Satirical news websites are a dime a dozen these days. I’m not going to bother researching if The Onion is the granddaddy of them all and the main influence on anyone trying it, because it’s patently, obviously true; nobody calls Babylon Bee the conservative version of The Hard Times. To my eye, the most successful satirical site of the past few years is The Betoota Advocate, and in fact I would say it has surpassed The Onion. Like all the most popular Not-The-Onion sites, it combines a few basic principles of its ascendant – a mixture of topical political attacks and explorations of basic social situations – with a very particular worldview. In this case, the Betoota Advocate is an Australian site that purports to be the local newspaper of a fictional small town called Betoota (hence why the site refers to itself as The Advocate in articles but is referred to as Betoota or the Toots by fans). The local colour means it’s tackling topics unique to Australia – The Onion isn’t exactly making jokes at the expense of Barnaby Joyce – but it also means it has a unique worldview. On a basic textual level, much of its humour comes from combining the language of a slightly drunk Australian standing uncomfortably close to you with a half-assed attempt to sound like a real reporter, but it also has a specific, particular-but-not-peculiar take on the things it looks at.
The most common criticism I see of The Onion is that only the first and last lines of any article are necessary and the rest tends to be repetitive filler, and this is absolutely not true of the Toots. In fact, its articles tend to be poignant short stories that can fit an incredible amount of Seinfeld-esque analysis of social mores and foibles into a small amount of space; not just making jokes about #relatablecontent the way Onion headlines tend to, but actually looking at different attitudes and the ways people can justify their behaviours to themselves. Like all the best comedies, everything is a chance for a joke, and that means it has a diverse range of jokes just within an individual article. It also has a simple, clear, and incredibly righteous sense of right and wrong that informs its political satire, not just targeting specific wrongs committed in the public sphere but roasting them with a relentless fury that makes ‘”No Way To Prevent This,” Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens’ look like ‘Beautiful Cinnamon Roll To Good For This World, Too Pure’.