The Onion has fooled many with its fake news stories. Now it has caught its biggest fish yet: the official Iranian news agency, Fars.
Fars reported as fact an Onion spoof about a fake Gallup poll that found that 77 percent of rural white Americans would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than President Obama. The Fars story included The Onion‘s fake quote from a West Virginia resident who purportedly said the Iranian leader “takes national defence seriously, and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does”.
Fars has apologized for its blunder, but I think its apology tells us something more significant about Iran than the fact that Fars was initially duped by The Onion. In the apology, the Fars editor-in-chief said: “Although it does not justify our mistake, we do believe that if a free opinion poll is conducted in the US, a majority of Americans would prefer anyone outside the US political system to President Barack Obama and American statesmen.”
If the head of the official Iranian news agency truly believes that Americans would prefer a hateful, repressive, anti-Semitic figure like Ahmadinejad to our own President, there is a huge gulf in understanding between our two countries. When those two countries are jousting about Iran’s reckless efforts to obtain nuclear capabilities, such a lack of understanding can be extremely dangerous. If Iranians think it is plausible that rural Americans would vote for an intolerant, deluded bigot like Ahmadinejad, what are they thinking about President Obama’s warning, in his recent speech to the United Nations, that the United States “will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.“ Are they taking that warning seriously, or are they kidding themselves about that, too?