Rumors circulated on social media on 8 March that Ayatollah Khamenei, the autocratic Supreme Leader of Iran, had died. They were just rumors, and it had not been officially confirmed. The right-wing media, nonetheless, jumped all over it.
Arutz Sheva published an article titled “Report: Iran’s Supreme Leader Dead,” writing:
Posts on social media indicate that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has died, Breitbart News reports Sunday, although no official announcement has yet been made.
Breitbart, a far-right blog with notoriously low journalistic standards (one might call it a neo-con tabloid) is the “source” for Arutz Sheva’s claims. Breitbart’s story is based on tweets.
If it were interested in creating headlines that were not misleading, Arutz Sheva would have written “Rumors: Iran’s Supreme Leader Dead,” not “report.” Apparently an article by a shoddy far-right blog, based on social media rumors, constitutes a “report,” however. Notice how, through the layers of dissemination, the uncertainly gradually diminishes.
This is very sloppy journalism.
Fox News later conceded “Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appears in public amid rumors about his health.”
Arutz Sheva followed up with a piece titled “Khamenei Alive, Makes Public Appearance to Stop Death Rumors,” but expressed doubts whether the footage of Khamenei was real, insisting it may have been recorded beforehand.
The right-wing Jewish Press published a similar article, then updated it, advancing the same conspiracy theory: that “Iran May Have Faked Events to Show that Khamenei is not Dead.”
If there is a rumor about a dictatorial regime that is not a Western ally, then it is completely fair game to propagate grandiose rumors about it. Even the most basic of professional journalistic standards no longer apply.