Fast Chat: The Onion

After taking a week off, the online news parodists at The Onion have seen weekly traffic nearly double in the wake of the attacks. Why? "You're the first people that have made any sense of this," e-mails one fan. NEWSWEEK's Bret Begun talked with editor Robert Siegel.

SIEGEL: Part of the healing process is to embrace the petty and insignificant. We miss being able to care about stupid things. We miss being able to be mean to each other, because that means we're all alive and well. I'd rather those people be alive and all of us just walk around not making eye contact, saying bitchy things about each other behind our backs.

Stories we normally would say are fine in terms of offensiveness we did not run because we did not want to come off as callous. We had one, "America Stronger Than Ever, Say Quadragon Officials." The Pentagon was reduced to four sides. That was going to be the one-liner. But you say to yourself, "Does this laugh do more harm than good?" We went with "Massive Attack On Pentagon Page 14 News." Normally, we'd go much, much further.

First we said, "We can't do anything about this whatsoever." Then we thought, "It's going to look ridiculous if we come back with stories about Gary Condit, shark attacks and Jennifer Lopez." I don't think the act of laughter negates the act of crying. The two are not mutually exclusive things where one cancels the other. But my first reaction was "We got to lay low and wait for people to be sarcastic again."

It just morphed a little. Sarcasm and irony are tools used by people who really do care. I don't think they're tools of the stony-hearted, the coldhearted. People employ irony and sarcasm--we do--because we're bothered by false sentiment. It was an incredibly nonironic moment. It helps you understand why, during World War II, people thought Bob Hope was so funny. It's jokes at no one's expense. It's amazing--you're not even seeing nasty Internet jokes. Nobody was making those jokes--and nobody is. No one's taking advantage of it. There's a guilt about capitalizing on this in any way. It's just a big, collective "Holy f---ing s---."