Satire sends Williston viral

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.


Many would agree that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Publicity, in any form, gets your name out there and people will talk–and remember.

However, last week the tiny city of Williston found itself in the middle of an online publicity rant when The National Report, a satirical website, featured it in a story called "Small Florida Town Signs Police Privatization Deal With Walmart."

Shared on Facebook, the satirical news story caused concern for many who feared their loved ones would be unemployed, and that Williston's city leaders had sold out to the corporate giant.

The story cited a sour economy and lack of funds as the main reason the city was examining other options and eliminating its police department.

But if readers went to the fourth paragraph and knew anything about Williston, they would have spotted the first glaring error of the article: Williston's mayor is not someone named Kevin Michaels.

The next paragraph quotes Williston Sheriff Wayne Carlisle Sr. and almost everyone knows that sheriffs oversee county law agencies and the real Williston has a police chief, Dennis Strow, who heads up its police force.

Aside from the name of the city, the only thing that resembled truth in the online article is that the Red Devils were named.

Strow, and the Williston Pioneer, took to Facebook last week to try and quell the rumors, but it surfaced again this week, prompting Strow to issue a press release.

"Since the story posted," Strow wrote, "the Williston Police Department has received numerous phone calls, emails and Facebook messages asking about the validity of the story.

"The story stated the Mayor of Williston Kevin Michaels sent an email saying that the “town has struggled financially” The Mayor of Williston is R. Gerald Hethcoat, and in fact the City of Williston is in sound financial shape.

"This story is a futile attempt of humor and has absolutely no truth! The Williston Police Department will continue to serve the citizens of Williston and all who pass thru like they have done since 1897."

And since the story is fiction, the last paragraph about every Williston resident getting a $100 voucher to their local Walmart is also fiction.