Pacific Side

4 January 2014

120 Dogs: Chinese Satirist's Tweet Takes All English News Media For A Ride

UPDATE: Posted a response to requests for further comment on this story.

On 11 December 2013 at 02:38:07 UTC, the China-based online satirist personality known as Pyongyang Choi Seongho (or someone posing as him/her) posted a tweet to his/her Tencent Weibo account describing in detail how Kim Jongun had his uncle Jang Songtaek devoured by ravenous dogs. The original tweet can be seen here:
http://t.qq.com/p/t/312572016688539

The page features a background image of cartoon Kim Jongun giving the middle finger to his people from a balcony while flanked by senior officers. Given that the username is "choiseongho000", it's also likely this is simply a copycat account mooching off Pyongyang Choi Seongho's good name. One example of his/her style is this amusing tweet posted on U.S. Thanksgiving Day that says, "Today is Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day is the day for giving thanks to Kim Jongun. The American people eat turkey to thank him. What do you people eat?" It also includes a poster of Kim Jongun in sunglasses saying, "Don't know how to be thankful, then you'll get shot."
http://t.qq.com/p/t/310283022424717

More can be read about the Pyongyang Choi Seongho phenomenon at the links below:
http://beijingcream.com/2012/12/writer-choi-seongho-sina-weibo-star-dprk-patriot-brilliant-satirist/
http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20130418000086&cid=1103
http://www.theworldofchinese.com/article/weibos-premier-sino-satirists/
http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/775419.shtml

Even in China and North Korea it would still have been the morning of December 11 when the tweet was posted. The following day on December 12, the Wen Wei Po news source in Hong Kong published an article quoting the tweet nearly word-for-word:
http://news.wenweipo.com/2013/12/12/IN1312120039_2.htm

A screenshot of the original tweet was included with the article on Wen Wei Po. The article also cites Pyongyang Choi Seongho by name as the original source. In addition to describing how Jang Songtaek and five accomplices were stripped naked, thrown in a cage, and fed to 120 wild dogs, the article also describes how Kim Jongun removed his uncle from power for supporting his exiled oldest brother Kim Jongnam in a potential power grab. It also says that no one else had the guts to arrest his uncle so they had to have Kim's second oldest brother Kim Jongchul come out of the woodwork to personally arrest him before fading back into obscurity because he'd be perceived as a threat himself if he actually tried to hold a senior government post.

The Wen Wei Po article must have sounded plausible enough for the Straits Times in Singapore to publish the first piece in English on it on December 24:
http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/asia-report/china/story/jangs-execution-bodes-ill-china-20131224

From there, the story snowballed across the mainstream English news media and it still seems to have momentum. Major English news outlets from the U.S. to the UK to India to Russia have been publishing the report:
https://www.google.com/search?q=north+korea+dogs&tbm=nws

Several have also taken a more cautious approach to the story, citing analysts and experts, but still all missing the obvious fact that the original source of the Wen Wei Po story was a tweet from a known satirist or someone posing as him/her:
http://www.nknews.org/2014/01/rumor-jang-song-thaek-was-killed-by-hungry-dogs-re-emerges/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/01/03/no-kim-jong-un-probably-didnt-feed-his-uncle-to-120-hungry-dogs/
http://www.businessinsider.com/jang-song-taek-really-eaten-by-dogs-2014-1
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-echochambers-25597324
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100252705/did-north-koreas-kim-jong-un-kill-his-uncle-with-120-starving-dogs/

It's amusing that given our faith in modern global news media to get to the bottom of a story, no one has actually gone back to the Wen Wei Po article and caught this. All analysis in the swaths of content that have been devoted to this report since it came out stops abruptly at a linguistic wall between the English language Straits Times story and the Chinese language Wen Wei Po article.

What do I take away from this? One, I'm reminded that language is always a barrier. Nowadays I think we imagine that global news organizations probably have multilingual experts from a wide variety of backgrounds covering all the bases. Maybe that's not the case. The ability of any one party to navigate fluidly across linguistic barriers will always be an advantage. Two, many Chinese news providers do sometimes play a little bit fast and loose with their sources when there is something that backs a viewpoint they support. Regardless of whether the tweet's content was true or false or whether the writer was aware of the source's reputation as a known satirist, Wen Wei Po saw it as something worth legitimizing. If Wen Wei Po is a government mouthpiece as some of the articles have said, then maybe that is telling. Or maybe not.

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

[…] firm who grew up in Taiwan, went back to check the Wen Wei Po story, and noticed something unusual. Writing on his blog, Powell describes how he noticed that the dogs detail of the Wen Wei Po story appears to be sourced […]

and here is the Latvian version of the story. The story really flew around the world!
http://www.delfi.lv/news/world/other/kima-cenuna-tevocis-izbarots-izsalkusiem-suniem-vesta-laikraksts.d?id=44006300

[…] Powell writes: […]

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[…] blogged about the post here. He could not immediately be reached for […]

[…] Powell blogged about the post here […]

[…] La frenesia dei media internazionali sulla notizia che lo zio del leader nordcoreano Kim Jong Un sia stato giustiziato gettandolo a un branco di cani, sembra essere satira su un sito cinese. La storia s'è diffusa a macchia d'olio dopo esser stata ripresa da un quotidiano di Hong Kong. Mentre in Corea democratica lo zio di Kim, Jang Song Thaek veniva processato e condannato alla fucilazione, una storia alternativa della sua morte veniva spacciata da un post satirico sul sito cinese Tencent Weibo, ottusamente ripreso da molti media, soprattutto dai più provinciali ed insulsi del mondo, i quotidiani italiani. Il post dell'11 dicembre su Tencent Weibo affermava che Jang e cinque collaboratori furono uccisi da un branco di cani. Il post fu visitato 290.000 volte. Il giornale Wen Wei Po di Hong Kong pubblicò un articolo e uno screenshot del post sul Weibo, per giustificare l'articolo su Jang sbranato. L'articolo a sua volta fu ripreso 12 giorni dopo dal quotidiano di Singapore Straits Times, e infine dal vasto circo mediatico occidentale, statunitense ed europeo. Il ruolo dei buffoni che non fanno ridere spettava, però, ai gazzettieri italiani sempre a caccia di storie sensazionali contro il nemico del padrone di turno. Trevor Powell, ingegnere di Chicago, che per primo scovò il post su Weibo, aveva segnalato sul suo blog che “analisti ed esperti avevano ignorato del tutto l'ovvierà che la fonte originale del Wen Wei P….” […]

[…] EDIT 6 Gennaio: Ora è ufficiale che la storia dei cani non è nient'altro che un pezzo di satira . Anzi, un'imitazione di un pezzo satira. […]

[…] известный юмористическими высказываниями, пишет в своем блоге программист Тревор […]

[…] известный юмористическими высказываниями, пишет в своем блоге программист Тревор […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] guess what. ^ this guy was right: Pacific Side | 120 Dogs: Chinese Satirist's Tweet Takes All English News Media For A Ride Did That Execution-By-Hungry-Dogs Story All Start With a Twitter Joke? […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] -que además deben enfrentar mecanismos de censura- son todos elementos que, como anota el blog Pacific Side, provocaron que esta dudosa noticia terminara siendo publicada como […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] appears now the story was likely satire. On Monday, Reuters cited a blog post by software engineer Trevor Powell, which noted that the story originated from a post on the satirical Chinese site Tencent Weibo […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] Kim had undeniably had his uncle purged and killed, the dogs had been the invention of a Chinese satirist. Even before the story's origins had been uncovered, skeptics were pointing out reasons to think […]

[…] Γράφτηκαν πολλά για το εάν ο βορειοκορεάτης δικτάτορας …. Η ουσία είναι πως ούτε ξέρουμε ούτε σύντομα θα μάθουμε πως ακριβώς πέθανε ο θείος που τον έκριναν ένοχο για εσχάτη προδοσία. Πιθανότατα -δεν θα μάθουμε ποτέ. Όπως ακριβώς δεν θα μάθουμε ποτέ ό,τι δεν εξυπηρετεί τη βορειοκορεάτικη προπαγάνδα. Διότι, βλέπεις, μυστήριο δεν είναι μόνο η εκτέλεση του θείου. Είναι  η ίδια η Βόρεια Κορέα. Παρατήρησε λίγο αυτές τις φωτογραφίες… […]

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[…] blogged about the post at http://trevorpowell.com/2014/01/04/120-dogs-chinese-satirists-tweet-takes-all-english-news-media-for…. He could not immediately be reached for […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] de software con sede en Chicago, fue quien descubrió el link al post de Weibo. Este especialista señala que la historia de Wen Wei Po apareció como el tuit de un escritor satírico que se hizo pasar […]

[…] Trevor Powell […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] But the story — which experts told the Daily News was perfectly plausible given the country’s horrific history of flouting all basic human rights guidelines — was actually lifted from a Chinese satirist who was poking fun at the notorious North Korean leader on social media, savvy blogger Trevor Powell pointed out. […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] известный юмористическими высказываниями, пишет в своем блоге программист Тревор […]

[…] 欲查看Powell的博客文章,请点击here。 […]

[…] Kim had undeniably had his uncle purged and killed, the dogs had been the invention of a Chinese satirist. Even before the story's origins had been uncovered, skeptics were pointing out reasons to […]

[…] Trevor Powell […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] известный юмористическими высказываниями,пишет в своем блоге программист Тревор […]

[…] le journal hongkongais Wei Wei Po, étant peu réputé pour sa fiabilité. Et voilà qu’un blogueur de Taïwan, Trevor Powell, a reconstitué la chaîne qui a abouti à la médiatisation de cette fausse nouvelle: tout est parti d’un «tweet» […]

[…] отмечает в своем блоге Тревор Пауэлл, чикагский инженер-программист, который […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] stemmed from a Chinese satirist, Pyongyang Choi Seongho, whose Tencent Weibo account often made fun of North Korea. The original joke can be found […]

[…] am Samstag berichtete der amerikanische Blogger Trevor Powell, die Ursprungsquelle der Meldung sei der "in China […]

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[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

[…] 3.しかし、1月4日(ブロガー)にトレヴァー・パウエルChoiSeungHoが中国の1つでもある点に注意しました最も人気のあるインターネット・トロール。 […]

[…] le journal hongkongais Wei Wei Po, étant peu réputé pour sa fiabilité. Et voilà qu’un blogueur de Taïwan, Trevor Powell, a reconstitué la chaîne qui a abouti à la médiatisation de cette fausse nouvelle: tout est parti d’un «tweet» […]

[…] некоторое время наконец нашелся человек, который прочел первоначальную публикацию «Вэнь Вэй […]

[…] blog called Pacific Side then aggregated substantial evidence that the fed-to-the-dogs story was fed to the media as satire on Weibo, China's microblogging […]

[…] further and noted that the experts were still missing the point that the newspaper's source of the information had been a tweet of a well-known satirist or one of his […]

[…] отметил, что эксперты все еще упускают из вида то, что источник информациигазеты был твитом известного сатирика или какого-то, […]

[…] dat hij aan de honden zou zijn gevoerd. Dit gerucht bleek uiteindelijk afkomstig te zijn van een Chinees satirisch blog, maar het kwaad was toen al geschied: het verhaal was tegen die tijd al verspreid via CNN, Fox […]

[…] been pointed out by those who've unearthed the trail that all it took was a bit of Chinese and some basic curiosity. But as the sensational story was […]

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