WiredのOnion Taken Seriously。
The article in the Beijing Evening News told a shocking story of American hubris: Congress was behaving like a petulant baseball team and threatening to bolt Washington, D.C., unless it got a new, modern Capitol building, complete with retractable roof.
There was a problem with the story. Rather than do his own original reporting, Evening News writer Huang Ke had cribbed, nearly word for word, his text from an American publication. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Ke hadn’t bothered to vet the source he had plagiarized: The Onion.
“Some small American newspapers frequently fabricate offbeat news to trick people into noticing them with the aim of making money.”
“That’s what we do at The Onion,” she laughs. “We do print lies to make money.”
In September 2002, The Onion ran a piece called, “Al-Qaida Allegedly Engaging in Telemarketing.” The piece told of the terrorist organization’s nefarious plan to raise funds through various phone scams. It also showed screenshots of a videotape the CIA had uncovered in which al-Qaida’s second in command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, is seen with a headset, presumably tricking an unsuspecting victim.
“We had known about al-Qaida’s practice of raising money through drug trafficking and money laundering, but it seems the full scope of their depravity had barely been imagined,” the story fictitiously quoted CIA Director George Tenet saying.
Thus, upon seeing the story, the Branch County sheriff’s department in Coldwater, Michigan, which had been investigating telemarketing scams targeting the elderly, issued an urgent press release
“In the course of this investigation, it was learned that this is going on throughout the United States, and some of these telemarketing programs are believed to be operated by al-Qaida,” the release stated. “The CIA has announced that they acquired a videotape showing al-Qaida members making phone solicitations for vacation home rentals, long-distance telephone service, magazine subscriptions and other products.”
“Average readers do themselves no disservice if they’re skeptical about every news story they read,” he says, “fake or not.”