In light of the presidential debates this week and the fast approaching elections, I would like to stress an area of importance during this time: well-informed opinions. As America delves deeper into this political roller coaster of electing who will govern our country for the next four years, people should take the time to formulate their opinions based on reason and consideration. I suddenly feel the urge to emphasize this point due to a comical, though troubling, event that took place this week in the world of political journalism.
The Onion, the well-known American news satire organization, released a poll claiming that “rural whites prefer Ahmadinejad [the Iranian president] to Obama.” Some of these rural whites quoted in the sardonic poll made rather outlandish comments, such as having a greater respect for Ahmadinejad because he does not attempt to hide the fact that he is Muslim. Like most of the news posted on The Onion, it was a false and rather silly ploy to get a few laughs.
Unfortunately, Fars, an Iranian news agency, did not get the message that the poll was untrue and republished it as fact. The dangers of accepting journalistic fact at face value aside, the most striking and utterly ridiculous part of this whole situation was the comment retrospectively stated by the editor-in-chief of Fars. After apologizing for the spoof article, the editor said, “Although it does not justify our mistake, we do believe that if a free opinion poll is conducted in the U.S., a majority of Americans would prefer anyone outside the US political system to President Barack Obama and American statesmen.”
For whatever odd reason, the unnamed editor-in-chief of Fars has established a clear opinion about the desires of American citizens. What he is lacking, especially considering the intrepid nature of his statement, is an explanation or basis for his opinions. I initially found this quote to be a shocking exhibition of boldness from an anonymous man trying to cover up a sad mistake, but soon afterward found this to be a bold statement from an individual in a position of power who has no basis for his claims. This is dangerous. Assuming most Americans would rather have someone “outside the U.S. political system” to Obama, or to any other American, makes little sense. Americans are far too patriotic, invested in the interests within our borders and, though there is certainly dispute over whom, would want an American to govern America.
Considering the editor-in-chief made no further comment about the mishap, I am troubled to think about what the future will hold if everyday people continue making judgments without clear reasoning. I am especially concerned about this in the context of a presidential election. Rash assumptions or judgments are not what we expect from the leaders of our country, and it should not be what we expect from one another, particularly in journalism.
Let this serve as a lesson during this time of political tension. During the election season, be as well-informed as possible in order to formulate opinions on a rational basis and in a reasonable context.
Terri Burns is a contributing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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