I’m re-starting the 100 Hoax Countdown! I’ve recovered from the devastation of losing all of my computer files, and re-compiled the list. I won’t be posting a new hoax every day like I was before, but I’ll try to post a new hoax at least once a week. On with the show…
Number 83 on the countdown is two accidental hoaxes, caused by the satirical news printed in the Onion being taken as true.
In 2002, the Beijing Evening News printed a surprising story, that the United States Congress were threatening to move out of Washington unless a new Capitol Building was built:
“Don’t get us wrong. We actually love the dilapidated [old] building,” House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was quoted as saying. “But the cruel reality is, it’s no longer suitable for use by a world-class legislature. Its contours are ugly, there’s no room to maneuver, there aren’t enough bathrooms, and let’s not even talk about the parking.”
The reporter for the Beijing paper apparently lifted the story from the Onion, reworked it a little, and submitted it without realizing that it was satirical. Even after the editor of the Beijing
Evening News was told about the error, he defended the story and did not retract it:
Yu Bin, the editor in charge of international news, acknowledged Thursday that he had no idea where the writer, Huang Ke, originally got the story. Yu said he would tell Huang to “be more careful next time.”
But he adamantly ruled out a correction and grew slightly obstreperous when pressed to comment on the article’s total lack of truth.
“How do you know whether or not we checked the source before we published the story?” Yu demanded in a phone interview. “How can you prove it’s not correct? Is it incorrect just because you say it is?”
I think Yu Bin has something to learn about burden of proof.
While it might be conceivable that congress would demand a new building, the next accidental Onion hoax is pretty inexcusable…
In August 2009, the Onion published a satire making fun of people who believe that the moon landing was a hoax, with the headline “Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked.” How anyone could possibly believe that is beyond me, but two Bangladeshi newspapers ran the story not realizing it was a joke!
The Daily Manab Zamin reported that Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, had admitted at a news conference that the historic landing was part of an “elaborate hoax”.
Neither they, nor The New Nation, which also ran the story, realised that The Onion, which also prints a parody newspaper, was not a genuine news site.
It’s crazy that any newspaper would print a story without even checking for one corroborating source.
See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.