x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Beyond parody

Kim Jong-un voted the sexiest man alive? In a tabloid age, it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between parody and real news.

Somebody in a senior position with China's state-controlled media enjoys a joke and likes to share it. Either that, or they just don't "get" satire. Following in the footsteps of the Iranian press agency, which recently reported a fake poll saying Americans preferred Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Barack Obama, ThePeople's Daily this week announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had been voted "sexiest man alive" - and celebrated that revelation with a 55-page photo gallery.

The source for both (now-retracted) reports was The Onion, a satirical newspaper and website based in Chicago. The original story held plenty of clues that it was all a black joke. Mr Kim was described as a "real hunk with real intensity who also knows how to cut loose and let his hair down", and previous winners of the award were said to include Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski.

Still, the mistake is understandable. With tabloid media outlets in the West often presenting trivia, rumour and fabrication as fact, perhaps the line between news and parody has been permanently blurred. And of course, Kim does look rather debonair on a horse.