July 14, 2008

McCain Camp Should Be Wary of Huffington Post Hoax

On July 9, the Huffington Post published a story called “McCain Issues Top Ten Funniest Ways to Kill Iranians”. Almost immediately, the link hit the web like a virus, spreading out from one Iranian inbox to another as fast as the web can handle. Obviously Iranian Americans were outraged, as this was McCain’s third reference to killing Iranian people during this campaign, but even non-Iranian Americans were likewise baffled and disturbed.
Outrage, scandal, atrocity? Sure.  But only at first – fortunately for the McCain campaign, the article was a hoax.

Columnist Andy Borowitz regularly posts satirical articles on the Huffington Post, but with little evidence of their true nature other than the sheer outrageousness of it all.
What was supposed to be a joke column was read by many – including myself, initially – as a real news report. It was not until a close friend told me the link that author Andy Borowitz provided directly to McCain’s website was bogus did I realize that it was all ‘bollocks’ as the Brits would say.
Borowitz – surprise, surprise, a comedian – was only joking, yes, but the phenomenon here was not that it was a parody, but that so many people – not just Iranian Americans – believed it to be real.
Why? Because past comments by Senator John McCain have made this not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
Last year’s ‘Bomb, bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran’ comment to the tune of the Beach Boys’ ‘Barbara Ann’ was the first case. Last week, when McCain was asked his thoughts on the US companies importing cigarettes to Iran, he responded that ‘maybe that’s a way of killing them’. After a poke in the back from his wife, he back-tracked immediately, saying he was joking.  That comment was condemned by many from here to Iran, with the Iranian foreign ministry issuing their own statement.
Again, with these comments, McCain targeted the Iranian people, not the government, and thus crossed a threshold that many people here in America and around the world find unsettling.
The McCain camp should be wary of their candidate’s ‘jokes’. Although comments such as these may resonate well in some places, these are few and far between. There are many Republican Iranian Americans, and comments such as this will, undoubtedly, send them running for the hills.  Next November, it’s very likely that Senator McCain will be the only one paying the electoral price for his own misstatements.

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