This essay argues that satire should be defined as a rhetorical genre rather than a literary genre or mode. It begins by analyzing a little-known meta satirical poem from the English Renaissance—John Weever's The Whipping of the Satyre (1601)—in order to highlight the range of potential rhetorical consequences of satire, which include not only blame for the target but also blame for the satirist, polarization of the audience, and more satire in the way of imitation and response. It then shows that these potential rhetorical consequences are consistent across time by analyzing The Onion's coverage of mass shootings in the twenty-first-century United States. This comparison between English Renaissance satire and modern American satire suggests that satire is consistent in rhetorical rather than formal terms, and therefore that satire is less a type of art than a type of social action. Satire is a way of using creative expression to make someone or something look bad.

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