- 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.
- 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
- 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
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- Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link: