Didn’t Orson Welles already pull this stunt?

As ably covered by my colleagues over at BlogPost and the Federal Eye, there’s been quite a stir today over some fake tweets by the Onion alleging gunfire and hostage-taking at the Capitol.

The offending Tweet offends. (The offending Tweet. )

So everyone lighten up! It’s things like this that make people think the Capitol Police have no sense of humor.

“We can take a joke,” they maintain. “But this wasn’t a very good joke.”

Still! If we panicked this much every time the Onion’s Twitter doesn’t contain a very good joke — well, we’d panic less than if we panicked every time my Twitter doesn’t contain a very good joke, but we’d still be panicking a fair amount.

But it's the Onion, for crying out loud. America’s Finest News Source. The nation’s No. 1 parody newspaper.

Fool me once, I’m Orson Welles’ radio audience in 1938. Fool me twice, I’m one of those people who takes the Onion’s Twitter seriously, and shame on me. There are entire Web sites set up to mock people who take these things seriously.

But maybe I’m being too harsh.

Congress holding children hostage? It might not be so unbelievable as the Onion thought. They've been holding the legislative process hostage for months. Maybe The Legislative Process is like The Situation, one of those hip sobriquets the kids use these days, if you can use “hip” and “sobriquet” next to each other like that without breaking the English language.

And real threats are getting sillier lately. Exploding toilets endanger the GSA. They just arrested a man planning to fly model airplanes into the Capitol. Admittedly, he was planning to put explosives in them, but it still sounds funny to a layman.

It’s news like this that makes me think there ought to be a branch of the FBI dedicated solely to brainstorming about silly-sounding terrorist plots. The agents already seek to infiltrate the plans of those who wish this nation harm (some might say, to entrap them), helping with equipment and the run-up to execution. Why not get in on the ground level with the ideas?

Imagine if, every few months when the word comes of a foiled terror threat, the headline was something like, “Man in Bear Suit Filling Stuffed Unicorns With Sodium Nitrate Arrested By FBI.” (“Nothing breaks the American spirit like the fear that every time people see a man in a bear suit holding stuffed unicorns, it might be terror,” the undercover agents would whisper.)

People are more often incompetent than malevolent. But when they’re both, why not have a laugh?