The 5 Biggest Tech Lies Governments Tried To Pull Off
Governments lie about lots of things -- what they're doing, how much they're doing, whether they're doing anything at all. You know, the usual stuff. But they especially like to lie about how crazy advanced their technology is. There are myriad reasons for this, from intimidation to keeping the population on their side with a list of impressive accomplishments. And besides, who's going to call them out on bending the science a little? Everyone, as it turns out. Absolutely everyone.
Iran's "New" Fighter Jet Was A Copy Of A U.S. Plane From The '70s
In 2018, Iran unveiled a new fighter jet "designed and manufactured solely by Iranian military experts." It was proclaimed a groundbreaking engineering development, and all the government officials beamed with pride ... until about five days later, when one of the jets crashed.
Then reports came out that the crashed plane was actually one of the American-made Northrop F-5s that were sold to Iran in the '60s and '70s, back when their horribly oppressive dictatorship was the kind we approved of. But you can understand the confusion, seeing as how the two craft look so much alike. In fact, one might say they're ... completely identical.
There's even a Jefferson Airplane fan club newsletter on the floor of the cockpit for some reason.
The "advanced," "100 percent indigenously made" Kowsar was a (technically illegal) copy of an American plane from the Nixon administration. The Kowsar might be useful in training new pilots, but if it finds itself in a modern dogfight, it will be as about as effective as a stern frown. But President Rouhani still took advantage of the big reveal to taunt the United States, like a man confidently declaring that he could take LeBron James one-on-one while safe in the knowledge that the situation will never, ever arise.
At least Iran still has the awesome might of the Qaher-313 stealth fighter. Why, according to analysts, it, uh, is about 75 percent the size of a real plane, would probably melt on takeoff, and seems to have the same stealth technology as a Smartcar. Just keep all this in mind the next time the media tries to hype Iran as a big military threat.
Venezuela Launched A Cryptocurrency Scam
Venezuela is staring down a possible 10 million percent inflation rate in 2019. So President Maduro, desperate for an outside-the-box solution, announced two surprising measures. First, Venezuela launched the Sovereign Bolivar, an "upgrade" to the country's physical currency that would simply drop five zeroes and hope that fixed the problem. They also announced the creation of a cryptocurrency called Petro, in which the value of each unit would correspond to the price of one barrel of Venezuelan oil (around 66 USD) while being backed by secure government crude reserves.
On paper, that all sounds ... well, not "fine," exactly, but less than completely terrible. However, a cursory look shows an alarming combination of bad execution and nonexistent technology. A few months after the Petro's debut, Maduro proudly announced that sales had already raised $3.3 billion. But no major crypto exchange platform sells it, there aren't any known shops that accept it, there's no public record of these alleged transactions, and of the 16 little-known exchange agencies "certified" by the Venezuelan government, half lack any form of online presence, and the others either refuse to share any information or outright deny their involvement.
In August 2018, Maduro made matters even more confusing by announcing that salaries, pensions, and even the exchange rate of the Sovereign Bolivar should be tied to the Petro. Meanwhile, the office of the Superintendent of Cryptocurrencies created to oversee the Petro doesn't appear to exist. Always a tad worrying for a government official. Oh, and the alleged five billion barrels of crude oil that are supposed to provide these virtual tokens with tangible value are lying untouched underground, and would require billions of dollars of work before anyone in the country could see the supposed benefits.
The whole thing is essentially a government-sanctioned scam. And that's somehow the best-case scenario, as economists argue that a functional official cryptocurrency would only make the country's hyperinflation worse. It turns out that if you want to help your flailing economy, you shouldn't look to "the power of imagination" as a business model.
Hamas Tried To Pass Off A Wooden Tank
Regardless of your opinion on the Israel-Palestine issue, there is an objectively huge disparity in military might -- in that Israel has it, and Palestine does not. So when Hamas managed to capture Israeli tank components and assemble them into their own mighty weapon, they figured they'd drum up morale by parading it across Gaza while giving speeches.
But if you're wondering how Hamas managed to build an entire tank while living in an area where even basic weapons have to be smuggled in, the answer is that they super didn't. Their vehicle appears to be a glorified parade float made by gluing plywood and Plexiglas to a truck. The most telling flaw is that, when viewed from the right angle (in this case, any angle), the "treads" are floating while it rolls along on wheels that real tanks definitely do not have.
The stunt prompted a wave of international mockery. Even Fatah, Palestine's other major political party and Hamas' perpetual frenemy, ridiculed them with a sardonic poster asking "Can they excite the feelings of their supporters with ... sewer pipes and fiberglass panels?"
That almost sounds like a dare ...
Gaddafi Claimed To Have Invented The Perfect Car
On the 30th anniversary of the Libyan Revolution, the government unveiled the Saroukh el-Jamahiriya ("Libyan Rocket"), which was trumpeted as the safest car in the world. The narrative was that Muammar Gaddafi felt compelled to find a solution to the alarming rate of road fatalities in his country. And being, among other things, a Wile E. Coyote-style Certified Genius, he took on the task himself.
The Rocket came equipped with additional air bags, puncture-resistant tires, a fireproof fuel tank, whatever an "electronic defense system" is, and other exaggerated versions of normal safety features. Basically, crashing in this thing would be downright pleasant. Oh, and it also had a luxurious interior -- perfect for a country where a huge chunk of people live below the poverty line.
After all the hype, and a promise that the car was going into mass production, the Rocket then vanished for a solid decade until the 40th anniversary of the Revolution, at which point Gaddafi presented a new version with some supposed upgrades. The car was real, in the sense that an Italian manufacturer took vague credit for making a single model, but a claim that it was going to start rolling out of factories and saving countless lives again amounted to nothing. Gaddafi, untrustworthy? Who could have foreseen?!
The Egyptian Military Claimed To Have Cured AIDS
When the military seized control of Egypt after a long stretch of unrest, they really needed a PR win. Claims about security and stability seemed like the obvious route, but the military thought bigger. Much bigger. Way, way too goddamn big. In 2014, they announced to the people of Egypt that they had invented a device that could detect and cure AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other viruses that have foiled the most brilliant medical minds for decades.
Oh, and not only had Egypt casually revolutionized modern medicine, but they didn't even need blood samples from patients. They had a literal magic wand. The invention was shown to the country during a televised presentation where doctors made vague explanations and patients and/or actors were told that their AIDS had been cured with what appeared to be a baroque coffeemaker.
There was swift backlash from Egypt's scientific community, because the stunt undermined the reputation of the country's actual scientists, as well as from the general population, who just thought that the whole affair was moronic. But the government stuck to their idiotic guns and tried to force mandatory adoption of the systems in hospitals across Egypt, before finally backtracking and claiming that the devices needed "further testing," then never mentioning them again.
E. Reid Ross has a couple books, Nature Is The Worst: 500 Reasons You'll Never Want To Go Outside Again and Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, both available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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