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Iran’s fake US ship for movie set sparks media hype

Published time: March 24, 2014 20:28
Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (AFP Photo / US Navy)

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (AFP Photo / US Navy)

A mock US aircraft carrier built in Iran for a movie about an Iranian passenger plane downing sparked media frenzy in the US and Israel. Media outlets claimed the ship was meant to be blown up for “black propaganda” and labeled it a “symbol of mistrust.”

Satellite images of what looked like a US Navy ship docked at a dockyard near the coast of Iran were obtained by The New York Times and CNN last week, puzzling media and military experts.

The latter concluded that the ship was not an actual aircraft carrier, but was “made to look like one,” US Navy Fifth Fleet spokesman Jason Salata said, as quoted by Reuters.

The New York Times stated that the Nimitz-class carrier-shaped ship looked “more like a barge” with no nuclear propulsion system and was “only about two-thirds the length of a typical 1,100-foot-long Navy carrier.”

Salata actually pointed out that the replica was “more akin to a Hollywood set than a warship” but could not immediately comment with certainty on the purpose of its construction, admitting it was “a little bit of a head-scratcher.”

That, however, did not stop US media from drawing quick conclusions.

CNN came up with a story claiming that “the revelation that Iran is constructing this mock carrier comes at a potentially pivotal moment in US-Iranian relations.”

Referring to the deal on Iran's nuclear program, a CNN article said that “amid ongoing high-level diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, it’s a symbol of underlying mistrust.”

Citing US intelligence analysts, The New York Times said the ship was “something that Iran could tow to sea, anchor and blow up – while filming the whole thing to make a propaganda point.”

Israel’s Ynet news then directly referred to the purpose of the mysterious vessel as “black propaganda.”

“American intelligence sources estimate Iran is building nonworking US-based carrier to bomb and drown it, then showcase it falsely,” the media outlet said.

The US “decided to stay ahead and expose the vessel and prevent black propaganda,” it claimed.

What particularly puzzled various media was the fact that “the Iranians have made no effort to conceal the construction of the mock aircraft carrier.” This was readily explained by unnamed analysts as “the fact the Iranian are building it openly for concealed purposes.”

The reality, however, turned out to be more prosaic.

According to Iranian newspapers quoted by Reuters, the mock ship was in fact “part of the decor” of a movie being made by director Nader Talebzadeh on the 1988 shooting down of an Iran Air civilian plane by the USS Vincennes. All 290 passengers and crew on board the plane were killed in the disaster, which the US called an “accident.”

“The issue has turned into a good excuse for another wave of hype against Iran,” Iranian news website Alef said, commenting on the mock aircraft story. “Without any proof or real basis, Western media have jumped again to paint a more negative picture of Iran.”

This is only the latest example of US mass media taking on a story about another country without definite evidence. In February, the readiness of US media to use unconfirmed reports for “Sochi-bashing” during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia was even ridiculed by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who hosts a show on ABC.

Kimmel staged a scene of a wolf freely wandering in an Olympic dorm, which was then uploaded to YouTube by US luger Kate Hansen. The latter fact was perceived as sufficient evidence of the encounter by US media, which did not bother to do any fact-checking on the ground or request comments from Sochi organizers. CNN, FOX, and NBC were among the networks that fell for the embarrassing prank.