Chinese paper prints spoof as fact

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The Independent Online

The age of satire is not dead. It is alive and well and taking Chinese newspapers for a ride.

The age of satire is not dead. It is alive and well and taking Chinese newspapers for a ride.

Billing itself as America's finest news source, The Onion, the satirical newspaper and website, is famed for its deadpan, convincing but entirely fictional articles. Its current top story, for example, reads: all Americans have been issued with life jackets – to be kept on at all times – for unexplained reasons, alongside an item on drought- ravaged New York instituting alternate-side-of-the-street firefighting.

A recent item told how the US Congress wants to leave Washington because there are not enough concession stands in the outmoded Capitol building. Plans are afoot, said The Onion, to move to Memphis, home of Elvis Presley, and occupy a new home that would have a retractable roof, dancing water fountains and luxury hospitality boxes.

Unfortunately, The Beijing Evening News took the tale as fact, perhaps unaware of The Onion's editorial policy of making everything up or earlier stories such as "CNN deploys troops to Iraq", "Nagasaki bombed just for the hell of it" and "Apollo 13 astronauts drown as Ted Kennedy flees splashdown site". In the late 1980s it ran a report titled "Chinese rockers hold benefit for oppression" describing a concert to raise money to help the government buy bayonets and leg irons for its campaign to crush dissent.

The Beijing paper learnt of its error when contacted by foreign journalists. It has, however, yet to pass the information on to its readers.

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