Incredible as it may seem, thousands of social media users were actually fooled by a Photoshopped image published recently by the satirical website The Onion that appeared to suggest that hundreds of Cubans desperate to escape economic adversity in their country climbed onto the body of President Barack Obama’s Air Force One jet leaving Havana and clung to the wings as it took off from the Jose Marti International Airport.
The Photoshopped image published by the well-known satirical website on March 23, 2016, under the headline, “Hundreds Of Cuban Refugees Clinging To Air Force One On Flight Back To U.S.,” appeared to show hundreds of people standing, sitting, and clinging to the wings of Air Force One as it took off from the airport in Havana at the end of President Obama’s historic three-day visit to the country.
The incredible photo also appeared to show some of the daredevil passengers falling off the wings of the plane and plunging down from the sky as the plane gained altitude.
The published item consisted only of a photograph under the headline, “Hundreds Of Cuban Refugees Clinging To Air Force One On Flight Back To U.S.” But in accordance with the saying that a “picture is worth a thousand words,” the photograph appeared to indicate that hundreds of desperate Cubans had actually thought that clinging to the wings of President Barack Obama’s departing airplane as a way of escaping from their country was a good idea.
Despite the fact that The Onion is known widely as a satirical website that publishes stories that poke fun at issues with the intention of making readers laugh, many social media users actually failed to understand that the obviously doctored image was meant as a joke.
The fact-checking website Snopes wrote that it received “multiple e-mails… from readers and social media posts” that indicated that “not everyone got the joke.”
Obama wants to see how many cubans he can bring back on air force one. pic.twitter.com/XfijchiF4F— Mike Cheatham (@MikeCheatham1) March 23, 2016
Some apologists argued that some were fooled by the image because they did not know it came from The Onion. But critics replied that regardless of its source, anyone who saw the image should have known immediately that it was fake.
Critics asked how anyone could believe that a crowd of people could sit or stand on the wings of an airliner taking off or that the president’s security officials and the airport authorities in Havana would allow anyone to cling to the wings of the departing Air Force One jet.
But as Snopes noted, this is not the first time that thousands online have been fooled by photographs published by The Onion. The website cited an example of a previous humorous photo published by The Onion that fooled many social media users: The photo, with a headline, had suggested that SeaWorld keeps its Orcas in plastic bags while the tanks were being cleaned out.
President Obama’s three-day historic visit to Cuba made him the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
The 1959 revolution by Fidel Castro ruptured relations between both countries, leading to decades of tension and hostility. After Castro overthrew the government of the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Havana and imposed a trade embargo.
Obama arrived in Havana at the Jose Marti International Airport at 4:19 p.m. on Sunday, March 20. During the visit (March 20-22) Obama held talks with the Cuban President, Raul Castro, on trade and other issues.
The visit was preceded by a series of secret talks that culminated in an announcement in December 2014 that both countries planned to restore diplomatic relations.
Cubans look on as Air Force One makes its historic landing in Havana. History in the making. pic.twitter.com/ktaXvoz2WU— Nelson Kgwete (@NelsonKgwete) March 21, 2016
The reaction to the visit in the U.S. has been mixed. Conservative analysts have criticized the decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, saying it legitimizes the repressive Castro regime and could help to perpetuate the dictatorship.
Some liberal analysts argued that the move will help to bring greater openness that promotes a regime-change in the country. The openness would put more pressure on the Castro regime, forcing it to address issues of its human rights record, some liberal analysts argued.
President Obama appeared to echo this view when he said that his visit would help to speed up change in Cuba.
Other liberal analysts argued that the decades-old trade embargo had been counterproductive became it gave the communist regime the excuse to explain away the country’s poverty as the result of foreign persecution.
[Photo By Desmond Boylan/AP]