A bucket full of fail: How the world's journos fudged Thailand fried chicken story

Never before has a story about fried chicken resulted in so much fail. It all started on May 28 when Andrew Spooner Tweeted this pic:

Hitler Fried Chicken

Just to recap: it's a pic of a restaurant called Hitler that probably sells fried chicken. When Andrew posted the snap, the Twitterverse reacted with a somewhat modest outpouring of witty remarks and sniggers. It wasn't the first time Hitler had popped up in an unexpected place in Thailand. There was little more to say about the matter. So it had really been forgotten until the Daily Mail came along on July 5 with its story headlined Fried chicken takeaway called 'Hitler' opens in Thailand and comes complete with logo of Nazi leader in a bow tie. Yikes!

Leading into the story, we got these two bullet points:

  • Bizarre restaurant opened last month in Bangkok
  • Images of Hitler have also been seen on t-shirts in Thailand

Then the fun really began:

Thailand's obsession with so-called 'Nazis chic' just won't go away – and now a fried chicken takeaway called Hitler – complete with a logo showing the Nazi leader in a bow tie – has opened its doors.

The bizarre restaurant opened last month in Thailand and images of it are doing the rounds on Twitter as shocked customers take photos of the offensive eatery.

At this stage, I may as well point out a handful of things:

The restaurant isn't in Bangkok
Amusing Thailand posted the picture, submitted by someone using the handle Volker, along with a caption saying it's in Ubon Ratchatani, about 300 miles from Bangkok.

It didn't open last month
The pic on Amusing Thailand is dated March 12, 2012. Andrew's pic is from May just past.

There are no images of it doing the rounds, it's just this one pic
The pic posted by Andrew is the only one "doing the rounds".

Nobody has been taking photos of it because it isn't open any more (update: at least in this guise)
A user on the Thai Visa forum writes:

The photo of that supposedly "recently opened" fried chicken fast food joint in Bangkok is actually from a fried chicken restaurant in Ubon Ratchathani and at least 2 years old! Needless to say that this shop has CLOSED DOWN long, long ago (due to copyright infringement, by the way, because it had used 'Col. Sanders').

Things aren't off to a good start for the Daily Mail's article, apparently written by "Daily Mail Reporter". It gets worse, though:

Londoner Andrew Spooner, who spotted the takeaway, tweeted: “Very bizarre Hitler Fried Chicken shop in Thailand. I kid you not. Complete with pic of Hitler in bow tie.”

Andrew didn't spot the takeaway. He tweeted the pic. Then we get a quote from "Alan Robertson, 43, who lives in Bangkok":

“The place opened last month and nobody quite knows what to make of it.

“I went in for a bite last week and got some fried chicken, which was pretty good, and asked the guy behind the counter why it was called Hitler.”

“He just shrugged his shoulders and said the owners had thought it was good image.”

ORLY, Alan? If it opened last month, there must have been a break in the space-time continuum because Andrew's Tweet is from May and the Amusing Thailand post is more than a year old. Did the Daily Mail make the quote up? Probably.

The media wasn't done yet, however. The Sun also picked up the story along with Huffington Post's Ron Dicker, who wrote that KFC is planning to take action against Hitler Fried Chicken, even though it likely doesn't exist.

"We find it extremely distasteful and are considering legal action since it is an infringement of our brand trademark and has nothing to do with us," a spokesman for KFC parent Yum! told The Huffington Post in an email.

Again, our friend Alan Robertson makes an appaerance. There's also a reference to the supposedly new trend “Hitler chic”, which of course is neither new nor much of a trend.

Never ones to miss out on a scoop, the Bangkok Post then hashed together a story based on the Daily Mail's effort.

Images of the restaurant taken by shocked customers are making the rounds on Twitter, according to a report on Friday in the Daily Telegraph in London.

There is no story, at least that I can find, on the Daily Telegraph's website, so I'll assume that's just one of a number of successive blunders. Again, we have “images” taken by “shocked customers” “doing the rounds”, none of which is true.

Andrew Spooner, a Bangkok-based journalist who spotted the restaurant, tweeted: "Very bizarre Hitler Fried Chicken shop in Thailand. I kid you not. Complete with pic of Hitler in bow tie."

Andrew Spooner is not Bangkok-based and he didn't spot the restaurant. Alan Robertson again shows up. For someone who more than likely isn't real, he's been getting a huge amount of publicity. (Alan, if you are real, I'll publish a full apology.)

The Bangkok Post apparently felt so ashamed of the story that it decided to delete it from its website in the hopes that maybe nobody would notice. It's still available on the mobile site at the time of writing, though.

Numerous other media outlets have also picked up the story, but it doesn't look like anyone is going to write a correction. Meanwhile, the comments sections of various newspapers have come alive with vitriol directed at Thailand, Thais and all the rest.

So how did so many people get so many things wrong with this story? It pretty much comes down to laziness. Thailand gets a lot of bad press for all kinds of reasons, but this is one of those times when it's the journos who have well and truly bodged it up.

Unless of course there really is a chicken shop in Bangkok called Hitler and Alan Robertson ate there last week. If that's the case, I'll stand corrected.

Addendum:

Not only did the Post delete their story, they also posted this one blaming everyone else for starting the fail ball rolling:

A widely circulated story about a fried-chicken restaurant in Thailand bearing the name and image of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler is stale news.

The story was first published on Friday in the London-based Daily Mail, one of the world's most visited news sites, and was picked up by the Bangkok Post among countless others.

The story has a basis in fact but the 'Hitler' restaurant has long since undergone an image makeover as the owner wanted to avoid criticism of any Nazi association. The Daily Mail observed that Hitler's image has appeared and continues to appear in many unusual places in Thailand.

The restaurant is in Ubon Ratchathani, not Bangkok as reported by the Daily Mail. Today it is known as 'H-ler' and bears a different sign, a local correspondent in the northeastern province said.

The picture used in the Daily Mail story was taken sometime in 2011 and copies have appeared in various online forums including Amusingthailand.com.

Andrew Spooner, a Bangkok-based journalist, expressed bemusement at the exposure the old news had received. "My tweet from a couple of months back about Hitler Fried Chicken in Thailand is in Daily Mail," he wrote on Twitter yesterday.

Andrew Spooner, however, remains a "Bangkok-based journalist", despite living in London. And his Tweet is from today, not yesterday. But I'm just nitpicking!

This pic from May 2011 may or may not be the most recent incarnation of Hitler Fried Chicken. I have no idea if this is the same place or not. I have no clue about anything in this story any more. (Update: This place does, however, have its own Facebook page, complete with pics and map.)

Hitler Fried Chicken

Addendum 2:

Here's a pic from 2009 posted on a forum when the restaurant was known as UEU (h/t: a reader):

Hitler Fried Chicken

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11 Responses to A bucket full of fail: How the world's journos fudged Thailand fried chicken story

  1. SteveCM says:

    Bangkok Post's original story is still there on their mobile site. Since then, they've published a revised version http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/358663/hitler-chicken-off-the-menu which, in time-honoured Post fashion, admits none of their own errors. The revision is as near as they ever come to publishing a correction. So much for their [cough] journo's adherence to the Thai Journalists' Association Code of Conduct:

    #2 – Provide only accurate news information and arrange to correct those found to be inaccurate.

    Still, #5 reads: Perform duties for the greatest benefit of the public and restrain from seeking self-gain and from being an instrument of any group of people. – the second part of which they breach daily, so why expect anything quaint and trivial like accuracy or accepting responsibility?

  2. Andrew Spooner says:

    That Hitler thing… I just found it on FB, tweeted it as a funny 2months back and forgot about it.

    To see it in Mail, Sun, Huff Post and god knows where else today was extraordinary.

    No idea who put them on to it and I'd not approached them nor they me before publication.

    I did send Mail some corrections today but they didn't respond. I also pointed out that they couldn't have spoken to someone in Bangkok as the restaurant was in Ubon and that I hadn't taken the photo anyway.

    Absurd but there you go.

    At least Huff Post gave my book a plug… ;-)

  3. Furzy Mouse says:

    Thanks a bunch for the clarification!!

  4. [...] just keeps on running, despite the fact that Daily Mail's story is, most likely, all made up, as I blogged about the other day. Heaps of journos have now picked up the story, complete with Alan Robertson's now infamous [...]

  5. [...] story has done the rounds with many other news agencies citing the story, but as Matt outlines in this post, the Daily Mail story has numerous factual inaccuracies and dubious man-on-the-street [...]

  6. [...] Sun, Bangkok Post, Time, Gawker, MSN Money, Huffington Post have in common? They all published a story about the existence of 'Hitler' Fried Chicken Store in Bangkok which was recently [...]

  7. [...] Sun, Bangkok Post, Time, Gawker, MSN Money, Huffington Post have in common? They all published a story about the existence of ‘Hitler’ Fried Chicken Store in Bangkok which was recently [...]

  8. James says:

    So there was fried chicken joint that used Hitler as an icon, right?
    In Thailand there seems to be an acceptance of use of Hitler's image as a symbol of things other than hatred and bad things, right?

    I really think the rest is really just cutting teeth.

  9. James Stuart says:

    In large parts of the world, in particular in Asia, Hitler is just seen as the guy who waged war on the British Empire, and as far as their perspective on history goes, that makes him a good guy. An added bonus is that he built his empire (with the de rigueur accompaniment of slavery and genocide) slap bang in the heart of Europe, instead of doing it to them, like the Brits and Yanks did.
    A simplistic and flawed view? Absolutely. But then ask anyone in the US about WW2, or indeed any other aspect of world history, and simplistic understanding of the issues would be a major step up!

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