CNN claims 'credible threat' from Yemen, writes hilariously bad propaganda piece

News-parody channel CNN has a great satirical piece today about a new, super scary threat coming straight outta Yemen and into your house. It’s really, really goofy, and if they published it in seriousness you’d think they existed purely as a propagandist arm of the government.  The headline reads:

“‘Credible threat’ from al Qaeda in Yemen” 

OH NO!  This “credible threat” sounds like a pretty credible threat.  Let’s look at their first paragraph for some details.

“Washington (CNN)— The United States is closely monitoring a “credible threat” from al Qaeda in Yemen against the U.S. homeland, two senior officials told CNN.”

Okay, okay, CNN.  I get that it’s a “credible threat.”  You’ve already said that.  Who are these two senior officials with all this information?

“At the same time, one official Wednesday cautioned that the threat is fairly general in nature and does not have too much specificity.” 

Wait, CNN, stop.  You’re rambling.  Who is this new official?  Is he or she one of the officials also mentioned in the first paragraph?  And, again, sorry if I don’t understand.  Now THIS official is saying, “the threat is fairly general in nature and does not have too much specificity.”  So…what then?  I suppose we should disregard the screaming headline calling this a “credible threat.”  Let’s look to the third paragraph for some clarity and context.

“The first official did say, though, that the U.S. had gleaned that al Qaeda is already “adapting” to new U.S. security measures and that, in part, has raised the concerns.”

CNN, have you been drinking again?  What does that mean?  Who is the “first official”?  One of the two officials named in the first paragraph?  Okay, okay.  So this official — who has enough information to go to the press, but not attach his or her name to it, gotcha — told you that al Qaeda is adapting to, what, body scans?  OH MY GOD ARE THEY INVISIBLE?  CNN, are you just trying to scare me?

“A third source said that in following up on accused Christmas Day airplane bomber Omar Farouk AbdulMutallab, officials came across some information relevant to aviation.”

Wait, wait, slow down, CNN.  A third source?  CNN, put down that bottle of Wild Turkey.  Now, you say that “officials came across some information relevant to aviation.”  Great, great.  That’s not very specific, though — care to expand?

“A fourth source confirmed the information has to do with aviation and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).”   

What?!  Fourth anonymous source?  Why?  Did they buy you a bottle of Wild Turkey?  How many more officials are you inviting to this blind-fold party?  And, hang on a minute.  Again, the information “has to do with aviation.”  Why are you telling me this, CNN?  If you’re just telling me that “terrorists” have “information” about “airplanes,” thanks, but that’s not really necessary.  I assumed as much. 

I mean the headline was “credible threat” or something, right?  I mean, what is actually being reported in this article

“The U.S. has some information about time frame, this source continued, saying, “It is more definitive than it usually is.””  

I believe that’s the fourth anonymous source using all those vague, unhelpful pronouns.  So, the officials have this on lockdown, or what?

“The U.S. does not have information on location, however…”

Okay.  That’s fine, but, again, what the fuck are we talking about?  Aviation still, right?  CNN, are you reporting on measures that have been taken to address this “credible threat”?  Is that what’s going on here?

“This source pointed out that aviation security is rigid already and that no additional protective measures have been taken.”


“But, the source says, “there is a lot of stuff going on in the next day or two” relating to analysis.”

Now what in god’s name does that mean?  A lot of “stuff going on” “relating to analysis”?  I defy anybody to find any trace of information contained in those words.  Seriously, CNN?  “Stuff going on”?  You couldn’t get anything better for an off-the-record quote than there’s “stuff going on”?  Are there also times in our intelligence community when there isn’t “stuff going on”?  CIA agents just come in to work, stare at a blank wall for 8 hours and call it a day? 

That quote really has to go up there with the best investigative journalist scoops of all time.  STOP THE PRESSES: THERE’S STUFF GOING ON.  Guys!  Stuff!  Maybe next time you can pressure somebody to acknowledge that, “things are happening,” or “shit be crazy.”     

CNN, is there anything you have to say for yourself?

“Separately, one U.S. counterterrorism official would say only that, “No one believes the threat from AQAP ended on December 25, 2009. They continue to plot and plan.”” 

And CNN continues to keep the fear levels high, and the accountability nonexistent, which is about as surprising as the fact that — indeed — shit be crazy.


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19 Responses to CNN claims 'credible threat' from Yemen, writes hilariously bad propaganda piece

  1. whatwhatwhat says:

    There are Al Qaeda people in Yemen, I think that’s what they were trying to say. Also they were stating that the measures they have in place now will combat any threat. As for the officials and sources, as you know sometimes you don’t disclose the sources or the officials names. Why did you need this clarification?

    • John Knefel says:

      “There are Al Qaeda people in Yemen, I think that’s what they were trying to say.”

      No, what they were trying to do was make their readers feel like they were in danger. That’s why they had “credible threat” in the headline.

      “Also they were stating that the measures they have in place now will combat any threat.”

      No. This was not a report about how effective or ineffective airport security is. An unnamed official only said that no additional measures had been taken.

      “As for the officials and sources, as you know sometimes you don’t disclose the sources or the officials names.”

      Anonymity is meant to be reserved for whistle-blowers, ie, those who’s job and or safety would be endangered by revealing their identity. Many papers have explicit policies for who is to be granted anonymity — they just often break their own rules because they think their job is to pass along government information.

      “Why did you need this clarification?”

      I’ll ask you the same question.

      • whatwhatwhat says:

        Well sure it’s a credible threat if there is a terrorist organization taking up camp in a country wrought with civil war and unrest. And yes if you look through many news sources they will simply state sources as well sources, same with officials.

      • John Knefel says:

        If something is truly a “credible threat,” then officials should be willing to go on the record. That way, if it turns out that the official in question was simply exploiting the threat of terrorism to create an atmosphere of fear, they can be held accountable.

        And the fact that this awful practice is widespread makes it more important to criticize it — not less.

      • kramer says:

        What John said. Anonymous sources were once used when they had specific information, and when revealing said information could put them in danger. That standard has slipped so ridiculously that we now have multiple anonymous sources saying absolutely nothing. Hence: comedy.

  2. Nuno Furtado says:

    Great article,as I read the CNN piece these were my thoughts exactly. I could never be as eloquent as you when recapping. Very well done.

    BTW, as I read this..I was also thinking at what point to they raise the threat level to red? When the carnage is already happening?

  3. arlojones says:

    So I’m not very familiar with this website, for through Yahoo Buzz, I found it twice. Now that we have the internet, is everyone a pundit? This article is just childish. There actually are Al Qaeda in Yemin. The fact that they believe there is a looming threat in and of itself is newsworthy.

    One thing you didn’t establish is a motive for trying to scare people. What’s in it for anyone? I remember how much criticism the Bush administration got for not being public enough with vague threats. So now the Obama administration is trying to be more transparent and I guess that’s a problem, too.

    Honestly, you’re not adding anything to the conversation. Your writing is childish and amateurish. If you have to use exclamation marks and all you’re actually doing is telling the world how smart you are, you’re probably not.

    • John Knefel says:


      Thanks for reading, though I’m not sure how calling me childish and amatuerish is “adding anything to the conversation.” That said, I appreciate your comment, and I think that my replies to whatwhatwhat answer some of your concerns.

      As far as motive, goes, that’s pretty simple. The Bush administration proved how effective politicizing threats of terrorism can be. Virtually every change of the “threat level” corresponded to a low point for Bush or other GOP members, and the terror color change provided a suitable distraction. Whether or not this is happening under Obama is unclear, but that behavior — anonymously hyping terror threats — should be criticized no matter who is in office.

      And your claim that the Obama administration is being transparent in this case is, I think, wrong. Four anonymous officials whispering into the ear of a reporter, who offers no justification for granted nonymity is anything but transparent.

      And, look at that. No exclaimation points. Again, thanks for reading and commenting.

      • arlojones says:

        I should clarify. I’m not trying to add to your conversation because you haven’t raised any valid points. Are you familiar with the phrase “addition through subtraction”? I’m suggesting you stop writing altogether. It’s not your thing. I’m suggesting you take your skateboard and run over your laptop repeatedly until it breaks. Then go back to playing Call of Duty or whatever you kids are investing your life in these days.

      • John Knefel says:


        I tried to respond to you in good faith. That clearly a mistake.

        I’m not sure what’s making you so unhappy, but I hope you find a way to get out your anger in a healthy way. Maybe take up a hobby? I suggest skateboarding.

      • jeremywinter says:

        Arlojones, obviously you didn’t understand the article. Thats ok, we all make mistakes, but if you didn’t get the point about 4 uncredited sources spewing random nonsense to scare people, you are as blind as a bat.

        Great piece John, it was definitely funny and insightful.

      • John Knefel says:

        Thanks Jeremy. I wonder if Arlo didn’t really want to understand it….

  4. longday says:

    Great article. Witty and right on target. I’ve since read the Sarah Palin Founding Fathers article too and laughed hard.

    Arlojones, it’s clear that you don’t understand sarcastic humor (!) or the basic fundamentals of quality journalism. If you did, you would understand and appreciate this article instantly.

    Keep up the great writing John, it’s appreciated.

  5. kett says:

    I was just beginning to wake myself up with a giant cup of coffee when I started reading this and I laughed so loud that fellow-cubicle dwellers were compelled to gopher up and look over the walls to see what was happening. Thanks for the laugh!

  6. I’d just finished skateboarding and was about to play some Call of Duty when I came across this. I laughed audibly while reading, and feel obliged to thank you for deciding not to run over your laptop.

  7. How ’bout arlojones is a CNN hack behind the hilarious ‘news’ item?’ I’ve been on the CNN policy case for years and in particular the Christiane Amanpour personality cult that heralded the depths the wire has plummeted to. Good piece, and right on the money sir!

  8. Pingback: CNN anchors attack the scourge of anonymity | Liberal Politics - Latest news, updates & developments

  9. Pingback: Drasties - Dutch on the World - World on the Dutch

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