Something “offbeat”: In June of 2002, the Beijing Evening News — a state-controlled publication with a circulation of over one million — translated a story entitled “Congress Threatens to Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built.” The article claimed that Congress would leave Washington for Memphis, Charlotte or Toronto unless a new Capitol building was built with a retractable dome. When it was disclosed that the newspaper was actually headlining a piece from The Onion, mocking sport franchises that vowed to jump ship unless cash-strapped city governments built new stadiums, they courageously stood by their story and demanded further substantiation. Amid an international chorus of laughter, the piece was eventually retracted. In their ensuing statement the editors deferred blame onto, “Small American newspapers [that] frequently fabricate offbeat news to trick people into noticing them with the aim of making money.”
It might seem like a stretch, but I think this response brilliantly captures the spirit of a vulgar “Marxism,” long dead elsewhere, that’s hung on in a mutated form in hyper-capitalist 21st century China. Like the most crude of these analyses, Evening News isn’t completely wrong about the way The Onion operates. They don’t respond well to humor, either.
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