Why Do Media Outlets Still Fall Victim to Twitter Parody?

'Morning Joe' has egg on its face—but the mistake is understandable.

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Aug 10 2015, 6:33pm

When political analysts are fooled by parody accounts, it's tempting to blame them for not doing their homework. But it may just be a side effect of how we digest media in the age of the internet.

This morning, MSNBC news program Morning Joe was discussing the Megyn Kelly-Donald Trump exchange that has mushroomed into a larger conflict, with Fox News reporters jumping in and vehemently coming to their comrade Kelly's defense. (It's also somehow become a conversation about how political correctness is supposedly ruining everything, but that's an issue for another time (never)).

"There is somebody coming to [Trump's] defense, though," smirks political analyst Mark Halperin. "The North Korean government, on their Twitter account."

Everyone on the show has a good laugh, especially at the wording calling Trump a "scholar."

However, @DPRK_News is actually a parody account run by one of the guys from Popehat, a group blog that focuses on politics, law, and "geek culture."

Halperin et al. are far from the first to fall for @DPRK_News's bone-dry parody. Back in January, Gizmodo actually had to write something to clear up the issue, since so many people were scratching their heads over the account. "CNN, Newsweek, and Fox News have all quoted the account as a real voice coming from the North Korean government. And even though these news outlets clearly should have taken a minute to realize that it's fake, it's not hard to see why they were fooled. Many of the tweets are only about 10 percent more ludicrous than the real English-language news feed of North Korea." (There was a link to that feed, but it's broken, or else I just couldn't access it.)

Gizmodo is right. After all, North Korea just decided to create its own time zone—a line that would be right at home on a parody account, if it wasn't for real. And most of the tweets on @DPRK_News read very straight, with humor only breaking out in tiny, subtle flashes. It seems the big-picture concept behind the account is simply to point out how outrageous North Korea is as an entity by making the parody barely distinguishable from reality.

News outlets fall for internet parodies and pranks fairly often, and we love to point and laugh at bigheaded pundits for not getting the joke, or at giant media companies for failing to fact-check. But somewhere in the dizzying vortex created by the internet, a constant news cycle and an absurd political playing field, the line between parody and reality is easily obscured. We click without thinking, we get outraged before we have all the facts, we fire off comments without even reading the material. Morning Joe jumped the gun on this one, but we shouldn't get too smug about it. There but for the grace of not being on television go I.