Anatomy of a fake news campaign: Media spreads lie from US govt-funded Korean outlet that Kim Jong-un died
Corporate media outlets spread fake news claiming North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had died. The lie originated with a Seoul-based website funded by the US government’s regime-change arm the NED.
by Ben Norton
Part 3 - Anatomy of a fake news campaign
Birthed from the belly of the US-funded disinformation network in Seoul, the global press corps enthusiastically adopted the fake news and delivered it to the Western public.
After the initial Daily NK reports first appeared on April 20, major media outlets in Hong Kong and Japan helped popularize the rumor.
The New York Post followed with a stunning headline: “North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un rumored to be dead.” (Like many other outlets, the Post later edited this headline, as it became clear that the story was unconfirmed, but the original titles of many of these false reports can be seen in their URLs or through internet archives.)
The New York Post based its claims on a report from a Hong Kong broadcast network (later identified as HKSTV – Hong Kong Satellite Television), which claimed it had a “very solid source” that Kim was dead.
The Post also amplified an article in a Japanese magazine insisting the North Korean leader was in a “vegetative state.” It even claimed that “senior Community Party sources in Beijing” had confirmed the rumor that Kim died in a botched surgery.
After the New York Post article, the fake news spread like wildfire through tabloids from TMZ to the Daily Express, to Metro, to The Sun (UK), to the Toronto Sun, to the Irish Post, and finally, The Mirror.
It was then picked up by numerous local media networks in the United States and other countries.
Next, seemingly “respectable” media groups fueled the fake news frenzy, including the National Interest, the International Business Times, Yahoo News, and Foreign Policy.
Neoconservative American politicians pounced on the rumors in predictable fashion. Republican Lindsey Graham, the most fanatically militaristic member of the Senate since the death of his friend John McCain, told Fox News with an air of confidence, “I pretty well believe he [Kim] is dead or incapacitated.”
Graham continued, “I’d be shocked if he’s not dead or in some incapacitated state, because you don’t let rumors like this go forever or go unanswered in a closed society, which is really a cult, not a country, called North Korea.”
Americans’ gut instincts that the fake news just “feels true,” after decades of consuming a steady diet of loony regime-change rumors, was taken as proof that it must be true.
On Twitter, the hashtag #KimJongunDead went viral as well, and millions of users swallowed the fake news whole.
Next, a photoshopped picture went viral on social media purporting to show Kim dead in a glass coffin. The image was reported on by Western media outlets like The Sun, a tabloid owned by the same right-wing Rupert Murdoch-owned media group that controls the New York Post.
As the fake news spread across the media ecosystem, Western journalists and professional Korea watchers began mulling the possibility that the presumably dead North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, was being groomed to replace him.
Without any solid evidence, dozens of outlets ran stories confidently asserting that Yo-jong was preparing to take her brother’s place. The Daily Beast even published a piece purporting to explain why she is so “feared” in the country.
The Washington Post printed an op-ed by Jung H. Pak, a former senior analyst at the CIA and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, with the title, “Why we shouldn’t rule out a woman as North Korea’s next leader.”
The Guardian, Foreign Policy, the BBC, the New Yorker, TIME, Deutsche Welle, The Australian, and Newsweek all added to the baseless speculation.
While some of these outlets amplified the phony story while feigning a tone of skepticism, VICE News threw all caution out the window. The “hipster arm of the empire” published an article trumpeting, “A Prominent North Korean Defector is ‘99% Certain’ Kim Jong Un Is Dead.” Its source was a defector trained and funded by the NED.
Days before, the US government-funded Daily NK had also praised VICE for producing a slick documentary that effectively amounts to fawning PR for the disinformation outlet, in a perfect circle of propaganda.
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