On Monday morning, in a segment devoted to how the media is overhyping the supposed implosion of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" pointed to one supporter that the American businessman and Republican 2016 hopeful had apparently retained: North Korean state media.
Speaking to hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics said the North Korean government had offered support to Trump via its Twitter account. He referred to the following tweet:
"Got the North Koreans," Halperin noted. "That's a pretty strong coalition."
The idea of North Korea and Trump banding together is humorous and terrifying for a variety of reasons. The problem, however, is that it is not true. @DPRK_News is a parody account run by bloggers for the libertarian law blog Popehat.com, who noticed MSNBC's mention of their tweet a little later on Monday and swiftly began mocking the network.
There's two ways to think about this. On the one hand, it's possible to feel some sympathy for MSNBC and Halperin. North Korean state media is often ridiculous, and it frequently likes to comment on American politics and culture in bizarre ways. Since it was launched in 2009, there have been plenty of Western media outlets that have taken @DPRK_News seriously, including The Washington Post.
But on the other hand, even a cursory online search for @DPRK_News will yield a large number of articles that reveal that the account is fake and that mock the news outlets that take it seriously. "This North Korean Twitter account is fake, but journalists keep falling for it" is how Vox put it in December.
Even if you somehow miss those articles, a quick scan of the account's timeline should provide a hint that maybe, just maybe, this isn't a real account. For example:
In the grand scheme of things, MSNBC's mistake is just a silly one, but it belies a more worrying aspect of reporting on North Korea: The information we have about the country is limited and controlled, and often scurrilous, unsourced rumors are taken as fact because the world loves a crazy North Korea story. Consider the stories about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un having his uncle fed to a pack of hungry dogs that spread through mainstream outlets last year: It later emerged that a satirical Chinese Twitter account may have been the source of these rumors.
Given that the "Morning Joe" segment was talking about how the media was "getting it wrong time and time again" and "jumping to conclusions," well, it's a little awkward.
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