In 2010, the Onion published an article about President Obama supposedly sending off a "rambling, 75,000 word email" to everybody in the country. As with everything the Onion publishes, it was satire — 75,000 words would be about 150 pages. But the satirical element was somehow lost on the good folks at Fox, who went ahead and republished the joke article as if it were actual news (the classy operation it is, Fox News reacted to the embarrassment not by publishing a correction, but by deleting the article and pretending it never existed).
While it's easy to make fun of Fox for this, it's not all that uncommon for people to mistake the Onion for actual, real-life news. Everybody from the New York Times to the People's Republic of China has done it. Sometimes, it simply leads to embarrassment and public shaming; other times, it results in the police getting involved. This is all a testament to the quality of the Onion's satire, the gullibility of humans, and — perhaps most importantly — the utter insanity of the world we live in.
Indeed, it’s getting harder and harder to tell what’s actually news and what’s from the Onion — so hard, in fact, that we bet you can’t tell the difference between the two, either.
Each of the following is either an actual headline from a recent news report or a headline from the Onion. Can you tell which is which? Answers are bellow each round, following an actual excerpt from the article.
ROUND 1: WHAT'S APPLEBEE'S?
"The app is exclusive for Applebee’s customers who are at the restaurant at the same time. The app uses iPhone location services to determine whether the users are currently inside an Applebee’s or are within 100 meters of one. Once a user is out of that coverage area, they can no longer chat up anyone who’s in the restaurant."
Answer: The Applebee's chat app actually exists.
ROUND 2: GENDER SEGREGATION IN CONGRESS
"To better educate lawmakers on complex reproductive issues while also providing a safe, nonthreatening environment where they can speak up and ask questions without feeling self-conscious, the U.S. Senate’s 100 members were separated into male and female groups Thursday afternoon prior to arguments on S.1696, the Women’s Health Protection Act."
Answer: As far as we know, Congress didn't actually do this. (Yet.)
ROUND 3: VENTURE CAPITALIST ROBOT?
"A press release from Aging Analytics UK, a company that conducts research on biotechnology and regenerative medicine, made two announcements this morning: first, that they’ve launched an new A.I. tool called VITAL (Validating Investment Tool for Advancing Life Sciences); and second, that they’ve licensed VITAL to Hong Kong V.C. firm Deep Knowledge Ventures, where the tool will become an “equal member of its Board of Directors."
Answer: The VC robot actually exists.
ROUND 4: LOST POWERBALLS?
"Right now, it’s looking like tonight’s record $500 million Powerball drawing could be canceled as embarrassed lottery officials have admitted: They lost the balls."
Answer: The lost Powerball snafu didn't actually happen.
ROUND 5: OBAMA DOESN'T LOVE BO?
"President Obama cannot seem to shake the mounting rumors that he does not love his dog, Bo. It started three weeks ago on right-wing message boards speculating on why President Obama was so rarely photographed with the Portuguese water dog given to the first family in 2009."
Answer: Everyone knows Obama loves Bo.
ROUND 6: RAY J SEX TAPE GIFT?
"The singer has offered to give the couple approximately $47,000, a portion which reportedly represents four months of his 2014 profits from a pornographic film that he made with Kim Kardashian."
Answer: Ray J did indeed do this.
ROUND 7: DODGING INCOME INEQUALITY?
"The well-documented and steadily increasing gap between the rich and poor has come to the fore as the hot-button issue that all congressional candidates will be dodging at town halls, in televised debates, and at voter meet-and-greets in 2014,” said political analyst Rebecca Diemer, noting that both Democrats and Republicans were already holding meetings with top aides and focus groups to strategize the best way to brush aside the subject before they hit the campaign trail."
Answer: While a lot of politicians probably will avoid talking about income inequality, this is an Onion article.
ROUND 8: STUDENT AND TEACHER VYING FOR SAME JOB?
"Noting that it would be nice to finally have a little spending cash on hand, both Pittsfield High School junior Marissa Klemp and chemistry teacher Rebecca Murphy applied for the same seasonal waitress position at a local diner, sources confirmed Thursday. “Right now, I’m borrowing money from my family half the time, so even picking up a few dollars here and there would be great,” said the 16-year-old Klemp."
Answer: We wouldn't be surprised if something like that happened at some point, but this was satire.
ROUND 9: WHITE POLICE OFFICIAL?
"A police commissioner in a predominantly white New Hampshire town says he won't apologize for calling President Barack Obama the N-word, and he sat with his arms crossed while angry residents at a meeting called for his resignation on Thursday."
Answer: Unfortunately, this one is real.