North Koreans Don't Believe Americans Drink Snow Coffee and Eat Pigeons After All

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 13 2013 12:45 PM

North Koreans Don't Believe Americans Drink Snow Coffee and Eat Pigeons After All

UPDATE: As much as the Internet may want the video below to be authentic propaganda from North Korea, it appears increasingly as though it is not. Wired's Spencer Ackerman, one of many reporters to originally flag the clip in question, tweets: "My apologies, guys. I fell for what appears to be a hoax video -- as hilarious and awesome as it is. Sorry."

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

As I noted in my original post (which you'll find below), the video's true origins weren't clear. The Web's current best guess is that the footage in question—along with the original narration—is indeed from North Korea. The English-language narration about "snow coffee" and American tent cities that plays over top, however, was most likely added by someone else, and is not an actual translation. (One likely giveaway, in hindsight, is that most North Korean propaganda videos don't come with an English translation.)

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One reason why so many people were so willing to accept the video's voiceover as legitimate without confirmation is because of North Korea's history of hyperbolic statements and bizarre propaganda videos, like this one from earlier this year that included footage from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 playing to the tune of We Are the World. At this point, for most people there's no story about the reclusive nation that is too crazy or too bizarre to be believed. Nonetheless, this serves as the latest in a string of seemingly never-ending reminders to bloggers (including myself) that not everything is as it seems on the Internet.

UPDATE #2: The Huffington Post gets to the bottom of things, confirming suspicions that the voiceover isn't legit: "The man behind the farce? British travel writer Alun Hill, who doesn't speak a word of Korean. Hill told The Huffington Post over the phone Wednesday that he received the original video from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, which said it depicts the failure of European democracy."

Original Post at 11:25 a.m.: This video actually began making the rounds over the weekend, but I didn't spot it until this morning over at Wired's Danger Room, which dubbed it the "Greatest Propaganda Video Ever." It's unclear exactly when the film was made, or who made it, but given its content the North Korean government appears to be the obvious answer to the latter (although, again, not confirmed).

In the America presented by the narrator—with the help of some geographically questionable stock footage—people live in tents, drink coffee made from snow, and eagerly await their next heroin fix. Also: There are no birds because "they've been eaten by the people who live in these tents and corridors." Or at least there are almost no birds, except for the ones that are shown less than a minute later in the clip: "Again there are no birds in the trees apart from these, which will be eaten on Tuesday." Watch for yourself (and keep an ear out in the first 30 seconds for commentary on the ongoing gun control debate).

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