Fake news story leads Pakistani minister to issue nuclear threat against Israel.

A Fake News Story Leads Pakistani Minister to Issue Nuclear Threat Against Israel

A Fake News Story Leads Pakistani Minister to Issue Nuclear Threat Against Israel

The Slatest
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Dec. 26 2016 2:33 PM

A Fake News Story Leads Pakistani Minister to Issue Nuclear Threat Against Israel

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Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif (C) speaks to the media after a hearing over the Panama Papers in Islamabad on Nov. 3, 2016.

ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

Fake news can have very real consequences. We already learned that a few weeks ago when someone opened fire at a Washington pizzeria that is at the center of a crazy conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate.” But now the consequences appear to have gone international as Pakistan’s Defense minister threatened to use nuclear weapons against Israel, seemingly based on a report on a fake news site.

How did this all start? The spark appears to have been a story that was published on fake news site AWD News under the headline “Israeli Defense Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops into Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack.” The story is riddled with problems, mainly that it doesn’t actually quote Israel’s current defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, but rather former minister Moshe Ya’alon. "As far as we are concerned, that is a threat, if, by misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do, we will destroy them with a nuclear attack," Yaalon was quoted as saying.

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Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja M. Asif then took to Twitter and in a seeming response to the story noted that “Israel forgets Pakistan is a nuclear state too.”

Apparently countries talk to each other via the social network now because Israel’s Defense Ministry also took to Twitter to respond, and assure the minister that the story was simply not true.

Asif was widely mocked in Pakistan for the tweet. “Our nuclear program is too serious a business to be left to Twitter-addicted politicians,” prominent TV journalist Nusrat Javeed said. Asif has not commented further and has not deleted his tweet.

Snopes has described AWD News as website that “doesn't have more than a nodding acquaintance with facts, instead playing on nationalistic fantasy and conspiracy theory to create alarming (and thus clickable and shareable) stories.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.