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A slideshow saluting Kim Jong-Un’s satirical win as “Sexiest Man Alive” has vanished from the website of China’s People’s Daily, Alexa Olesen reports.
People’s Daily reported the honor straight, despite the fact that it was bestowed on the North Korean dictator by satirical paper The Onion. Olesen explains how the story, which Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV recognized as satire, “morphed into straight news”: the state-run Yangtse.com took up the story, which then moved to People’s Daily.
Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei.com, a firm that researches Chinese media and Internet, said that one of the peculiarities of the Chinese news business is that stories can be freely shared by any other media outlet in their entirety, or edited, as long as the original source is credited somewhere on the page.
The joke “was perfectly engineered to appeal to editorial biases” in Chinese state media, Adam Minter writes. One of those biases: “stories that highlight foreign leaders or news organizations praising aspects of China that might ordinarily be criticized by overseas voices.”
For example, after the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, and accusations that China played a leading role in that breakdown, the paper ran an article with the headline, “World media reports praise China’s contribution to Copenhagen Climate Talks.” Likewise, in 2010, after a now-annual deluge of overseas articles criticizing China’s pressure-filled college entrance examinations, the paper ran a piece entitled “British media praise China’s college entrance compositions.”
Kim’s not Chinese, obviously, but “he does run a Chinese client-state about which the Chinese leadership has serious misgivings,” Minter writes. “Thus, foreign praise for him — even his looks — is likely very welcome in places where, no doubt, his handlers are keenly aware that his image reflects at least in part on China’s.”
Onion Editor Will Tracy told Edward Wong, “The Onion fully intends to provoke international incidents.”
Back in the less irony-proofed United States, the press still can get snookered. Jack Shafer writes about a fake press release that fooled lots of outlets Monday:
When a prank press release gets published, it identifies the outlets and journalists who were too lazy to make the single phone call that would have defused the joke. I consider that a real public service.
Related: A mesmerizing photo of Kim Jong-Un on a horse (People’s Daily)