In March of last year, the New Yorker magazine ran a satirical story that was written by comedian Andy Borowitz. The story depicted a frantic President Trump, holding court in a bathrobe, ordering his aides to wrap the White House telephones in tinfoil to prevent his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, from eavesdropping on him.
The story was purely satire poking fun of the paranoia of Donald Trump. However, that did not stop the Chinese news outlets from running the story as real news.
Many satirical stories from the US about Donald Trump are being depicted in China as Newsworthy. Stories about Donald Trump running around the White House in a bathrobe looking under beds and peeking into closets mumbling “I know Obama is still here,” has been portrayed in China as an American news story.
This was not the first time that American humor has captured the Chinese news media. In 2012, People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party, reported that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, had been named “Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.” The newspaper based its report on a satirical article in The Onion. Many news outlets in China repeated the story and people to this day believe the story to be true.
In China fake news stories taken as satire in the US dominate the internet. Some of the stories depict Donald Trump as a child in a man’s body. The stories show Trump comparing how much bigger and better his toys are compared to the toys of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Another satirical column written by comedian Andy Borowitz in 2013 also went viral in China and was reported as a real news story. Mr. Borowitz’s wrote about the purchase of The Washington Post by Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief executive. The New Yorker article stated that Mr. Bezos had bought the Washington Post newspaper by clicking on it by mistake. Many people in China to this day now believe that the Washington Post is owned and operated by Amazon.
The satirical stories from the US are first picked up in China online and reprinted by Reference News, a newspaper that translates foreign news and is published by Xinhua.
Fake news articles, conspiracy theories and rumors are rampant on the Chinese internet, and media analysts say it is not surprising that Chinese news outlets feed on those stories. One problem about the Chinese news outlets is that many jokes are translated literally into Chinese but what we in the west see as obvious humor gets lost in the translation and many in china see the jokes as real news.
Many of the fake news stories here in China can be quite humorous as they are intended to be. But what is also humorous is the gullibility of those who believe the stories are real and news worthy. This is where I have fun with my students here in Suzhou, China, by explaining how humor in America can get lost in the translation for the Chinese audience. But no matter where you live Donald Trump can and will continue to be a humorously off balanced individual that just so happens to occupy America’s White House. That unfortunately is not fake news and it seems Donald Trump has now become the focal point for the world’s comic relief.
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
WeChat - Thomas_F_ONeill
U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:
Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.