On Sunday, Jack Warner, now a member of Parliament in Trinidad, released a video statement in a bid to defend himself from bombshell allegations of corruption during his time as a vice president of FIFA. In his video, Warner asked how he could be “responsible for any perceived culture of FIFA” and how Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, could have been reelected if FIFA was so bad.
But then, Warner stopped to make his most dramatic point. “And then I look to see that FIFA has “frantically” announced 2015 — 2015, this year — this year, Olympic final, and the World Cup begins May 27.”
Warner was holding up a printout of an article from the Onion titled: “FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup In United States.” As most American readers will know, the Onion is a satirical publication. This article was a joke. The U.S. is not hosting the World Cup in a few months’ time.
It’s certainly an embarrassing mistake for Warner to make, but he’s far from the first person to make such a gaffe. Since its foundation in 1988, the satirical publication has been taken seriously by people all over the world. It seems that sometimes, satire just doesn’t translate internationally.
So, here are six of of the other examples of the Onion convincing foreign readers that America is even more weird than it actually is.
A Chinese newspaper reported that lawmakers were threatening to pull out of Washington unless they get a new Capital with features like a “retractable rotunda.”
In 2002, the state-run Beijing Evening News published an article based upon the Onion’s “Congress Threatens To Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built.” While the Beijing Evening News originally refused to run a retraction, even challenging Western reporters to prove that their article was wrong, it later offered a printed apology to readers.
“Some small American newspapers frequently fabricate offbeat news to trick people into noticing them, with the aim of making money,” the apology read. “This is what the Onion does.”
A Danish TV station reported that Sean Penn had written a 1,900-word open letter to The Washington Post to find out who had registered “SeanPenn@gmail.com” before he could.
The Web site of TV2, a major television station in Denmark, published an article in 2006 based on an Onion article that said actor Penn had written to The Post and threatened “a certain inconsiderate a——” who had taken his name for the e-mail address.
“It is difficult to decide who is most ridiculous,” the article concludes. “The person who believed that he could go be Sean Penn on the Internet, or Sean Penn who is trying to create an email address with his own name.”
Two Bangladeshi newspapers reported that Neil Armstrong had admitted that the moon landing was fake.
Both Daily Manab Zamin and New Nation picked up a story published by the Onion, titled “Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked,” in 2009 without realizing it was satire.
“We thought it was true so we printed it without checking,” associate editor Hasanuzzuman Khan told the AFP news agency after his paper apologized for the error. “We didn’t know the Onion was not a real news site.”
A former Singaporean MP posted an article to her Facebook about Obama not wanting another term.
Lim Hwee Hua posted “Obama Openly Asks Nation Why On Earth He Would Want to Serve For Another Term” to her Facebook page in 2012, apparently not realizing it was satire. “Increasingly challenging everywhere, whatever Obama’s campaign strategy might be,” she wrote in a comment, according to screenshots.
The post now appears to be deleted.
Iran’s official FARS news agency republished a fake poll published in the Onion that said rural whites preferred then-Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Obama.
FARS apparently not only took the Onion’s 2012 article “Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama” as fact, they also took it word-for-word and republished it, plagiarizing a satirical article in the process.
The Onion later added a line to the bottom of their article: “For more on this story: Please visit our Iranian subsidiary organization, Fars.”
A Chinese state newspaper ran a 55-page slideshow of pictures of Kim Jong Un after the Onion named him sexiest man of the year.
China’s People’s Daily apparently took the Onion’s “Kim Jong-Un Named The Onion‘s Sexiest Man Alive For 2012” seriously and, in a bid to get their own spin on the news, published 55 photographs of the North Korean leader on their Web site.
Remember, we get fooled too.
Before American readers get too comfortable, it’s worth pointing out that Americans have been fooled by the Onion’s stories, too: For example, in 2012 Republican Congressman John Fleming posted a link to an article on the Onion about an $8 billion Planned Parenthood “Abortionplex” to his Facebook page.
And it’s not just home-grown satire that dupes us. Remember the story of Kim Jong Un feeding his uncle to a pack of dogs? That story was eventually sourced back to a satirical Chinese Weibo account.