When Satire Goes too Far… Bangladeshi Papers Believe It


In recent news, two Bangladeshi newspapers apologized for publishing an article taken from the satirical US news website “The Onion.”

The article in case claimed that the Moon landings were faked and that the source of this information was quoted Neil Armstrong himself who allegedly said in a news conference that the whole “moon landing” was an “elaborate hoax.”

Neither The Daily Manab Zamin nor The New Nation realized that The Onion was not a genuine news site – and there is a perfectly reasonable explanation. If you search for “The Onion” online, the first thing you will see in Google’s search results is the following title: “The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.” There you have it. No reference to “satire” in the title. Just plain and simple “America’s Finest News Source.” So we cannot blame foreigners who are not aware of America’s sense of humor for believing what they read in the country’s “finest news source” now can we?

The Onion as it appears in Google Search results.

The Onion is a fine publication, indeed. They do go too far sometimes, but as a general rule their “news” do have a “je ne sais quoi” that makes people smile. Unfortunately there are many people who are tempted to believe their stories, because America’s finest news site fails to disclose the “satire” up front. Considering that The Onion is published in an international environment, where cultural differences abound, it’s probably a good idea for the site to disclose its intent somewhere visible. As it stands today, The Onion has no disclosure on its front page, and no visible link to an about page. The only place where I could find that The Onion is a satirical publication was the Privacy Policy page, under “Copyright”:

The Onion is a satirical newspaper published by Onion, Inc.

The Onion uses invented names in all its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.”

In my opinion, The Onion is not playing the game fair and the fact that they don’t disclose that they run a satirical newspaper will continue to generate confusion in the future.