NPR Explores the Laughs at Waterboarding SpongeBob

National Public Radio is always on the lookout for satire against conservatives. On Saturday morning’s Weekend Edition, NPR reporter-slash-pagan witch Margot Adler chronicled how left-wing artist Steve Powers constructed a Coney Island booth called "The Waterboard Thrill Ride." NPR loved the story enough to transcribe it for the website and give it top billing. The first issue that arises is how quickly Nickelodeon’s lawyers will go to court to get him to remove SpongeBob SquarePants from the enhanced-interrogation satire (photo from NPR). Is SpongeBob now supposed to be into bondage and masochism? Adler reports:

Powers took over an old photo studio near the Coney Island Side Show. There's a picture on the wall of someone who is tied down and looks a lot like SpongeBob SquarePants. "It don't Gitmo better" is painted above the picture, a reference to the Guantanamo Bay prison.

You climb three cinder block steps up to a small window with prison bars, where you can peer into a cell. If you deposit a dollar in a slot, two robotic figures come to life for 15 seconds. An interrogator in black pours a kettle of water into the mouth of a "prisoner" in an orange jumpsuit who is tied down. The orange-suited robot convulses as the water is poured into its mouth.

Some thought the satire wasn't very funny, so Adler found someone to compare America to the Third Reich:

Some people are not impressed. "I thought it would be funnier, more satirical," one passerby observes. But Mark Kehoe, an artist and the former art director of the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade, says it reminds him of an act that he once saw on the Bowery that was intended as a comment on Nazi atrocities. "What's different and more interesting about this," Kehoe says, "here we are looking at our own atrocities."

Adler's story concluded:

Powers said his art piece asks this question: What's more obscene, saying waterboarding isn't torture or creating a waterboard thrill ride?

The Waterboard Thrill Ride is sponsored by the nonprofit arts organization Creative Time, and is part of its Democracy in America project, a national campaign that will involve more than 40 artists.

Unsurprisingly, "Creative Time" has creative plans for convention protests.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis