FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Onion Website Joins the U.S. Anti-Syria Club

by SHAMUS COOKE

The Onion is the most famous fake news website in the world, adored by millions who visit the site regularly for a cheap laugh as well as sharp political satire. But even fake news has certain responsibilities.

Recently The Onion began publishing articles that framed the Syrian conflict according to the very biased views of U.S. politicians and mainstream media. Suddenly The Onion’s objectivity and satire was reduced to regurgitating the war mongering that the website had previously mocked.

For example, a recent satirical Onion article was entitled: “‘Help Has To Be On The Way Now,’ Thinks Syrian Man Currently Being Gassed.”

The article quotes a fictitious Syrian named “Amir” who is a victim of a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government. Amir begs for foreign intervention to help save him from the Syrian government.

The article begins:

“As Syrian military aircraft rained chlorine gas on his community Tuesday, local man Amir Najjar, 36, reportedly assured himself that military and humanitarian aid from foreign governments must certainly be racing toward the country at this very moment to protect him and other helpless civilians.”

Given the current international debate about the use of chemical weapons in Syria — and the potential for this debate to result in a military invasion — the Onion’s article is profoundly irresponsible. The article assumes that the U.S. intelligence agency (CIA) is correct when it stated that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against the U.S.-backed rebels.

But the same CIA also said that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction,” which was a fabricated lie. Millions of lives are at stake in Syria, and the situation is uncertain. Blindly echoing these statements of the U.S. government against Syria only serves to re-enforce these yet-proven accusations, the consequence of which could be the loss of millions of lives.

This isn’t to say that The Onion doesn’t have a right to satirize the Syrian conflict. But the current situation in Syria is critical, and a U.S.-backed invasion a very real possibility. The Onion hasn’t shown appropriate caution as to how its assertions may affect impressionable readers on a subject that is still very much in flux. One need only imagine if the Onion published articles before the Iraq War calling for U.S. intervention against Saddam’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Syria situation is no different.

To be clear, there has been zero evidence presented that supports accusations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the U.S.-backed rebels, let alone civilians. Middle Eastern journalist Robert Fisk wrote an excellent article about this, while President Obama was forced to acknowledge as much the same day The Onion article was published.

With its Syria articles The Onion has thrown its influence firmly into the pro-war camp. This is significant because The Onion remains — like Jon Stewart’s Daily Show — a very real source of political influence; the website has written articles with a sharp political perspective to intentionally cultivate this image.

For example, when President Obama recently visited Israel, The Onion wrote a number of excellent articles about the trip that exposed Obama’s unabashed support of Israel while offering zero realistic solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The Onion has likewise written a number of great articles about the U.S. economy that millions of people can relate to — articles that again expose the lies that U.S. politicians are telling people about the economy. (This writer has posted several Onion articles on Facebook with the intention of raising political awareness.)

The point is that The Onion’s readers enjoy the articles, in part, because they trust the writers to base their satire on a foundation of accurate political analysis. Many readers would be less enthusiastic about The Onion if they concluded that some of their articles were mimicking U.S. war propaganda.

Worse still, The Onion’s article suggests that U.S. military intervention would be a “good” thing, presumably based on the previous “successful” U.S. invasions that destroyed and fragmented the nations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.
The article again quotes the fictional ‘Amir’:

 “The United States and many other nations publicly stated that the use of chemical weapons was a line that [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad could not cross and would draw a swift and overwhelming response, so I have 100 percent confidence they [U.S.-NATO] are on their way to save us right now.”

After the examples of Iraq and Libya, few Middle Eastern people — even opponents of Syria’s government — would have any reason to believe that a U.S. military invasion would “save” them.

Ultimately, The Onion has zero responsibility to practice responsible journalism, but it does have a duty to its readers — who trust the website’s liberal political perspective — not to re-enforce war propaganda that could result in yet another U.S. military adventure.

Hopefully, The Onion corrects its mistakes about Syria before it acquires the sad honor of being the first fake news website with blood on its hands.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)  He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

More articles by:

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Rick Baum
While Public Education is Being Attacked: An American Federation of Teachers Petition Focuses on Maintaining a Minor Tax Break
Paul C. Bermanzohn
The As-If Society
Cole A. Turner
Go Away, Kevin Spacey
Ramzy Baroud
70 Years of Broken Promises: The Untold Story of the Partition Plan
Binoy Kampmark
A New Movement of Rights and the Right in Australia
George Ochenski
Democratic Party: Discouraged, Disgusted, Dysfunctional
Nino Pagliccia
The Governorship Elections in Venezuela: an Interview With Arnold August
Christopher Ketcham
Spanksgiving Day Poem
November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail