Staff at China's People's Daily aren't the only people who've mistaken an Onion punchline for the real thing. City Pages alerted readers to the Facebook page of a Minnesota radio host who confused a doctored image from a satirical Onion story about Barack Obama's inauguration for reality.
The Onion published its story, "Obama Begins Inauguration Festivities With Ceremonial Drone Flyover," on Jan. 21, along with a photoshopped image of drones flying over the National Mall. Andy Driscoll, host of KFAI's "TruthToTell" show in St. Paul, shared the photo on his Facebook page Tuesday and captioned it "Ugly."
"1984 is no longer fiction," wrote one commenter.
"Sad, but true - and been increasingly intrusive since 1984," Driscoll replied, later adding, "Never seen three in a cluster formation like that, but they're obviously scanning the crowd for potential trouble - all monitored by a site in Las Vegas."
After one commenter linked to The Onion's original story, writing "Luckily, this version of 1984 is still a ways off," Driscoll responded:
There's a reason the Onion can make satire out of this photo, which was obviously doctored to give us a laugh (ceremonial drone flyover, indeed! HA!), is that satire is a stretch of the truth. Drone use for domestic surveillance and targeting killing abroad is a very real - and frightening - deployment of US firepower. So - the photo is satire - but why wouldn't a surveillance drone have flown over the crowd of a half-million attendees at the inaugural? A very effective use of the technology, perhaps. So. Have a laugh about formation flyovers of drones, but keep in mind that truth is the basis for all satire.
The burden of proof for factual and researched content falls to everyone - and this dialogue is a perfect example of how important knowing the facts should be - in all quarters. Thanks to Art Hughes for finding the photo's true source - the Photoshopped "flyover". But, we do, in fact, live in a country where easily 50% or more of everything we're told is believed, often because it sounds "official". There may be no completely "reliable" sources for our news. But, it's often what we're NOT told that determines where the truth lies.
President Obama has been criticized for his persistent use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, in the war on terror.
Driscoll's KFAI profile describes him as a "veteran broadcaster and public affairs specialist" who has run for local office three times.