The US Air Force issued an apology Thursday for a tweet that linked a bloody Taliban attack in Afghanistan that has killed dozens of people with a viral Internet meme that has mushroomed in the last few days under the hashtag #YannyLaurel.
The message was published at 8.44am in Washington on the main Air Force account, ostensibly to draw attention to the US military response to an attack on the Afghan city of Farah. A-10 attack jets responded, targeting Taliban fighters with their seven-barrel 30mm cannons.
"The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10," the tweet said, using another popular hashtag in the military to describe the noise the A-10 cannon makes. It included a link to an Air Force Times story about the operation.
But at 1.28pm, the Air Force tweeted again that it had removed the tweet with an apology.
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"We apologise for the earlier tweet regarding the A-10," the message said. "It was made in poor taste and we are addressing it internally. It has since been removed."
The initial tweet appeared to be an attempt to garner attention using a hashtag that has generated a large Internet audience in the last few days. It centers on a debate whether a short audio clip includes the words "Laurel" or "Yanny," and not much more than that.
But the background of the battle in Farah is much starker. The Taliban has launched numerous attacks in the city in western Afghanistan in the past few days, prompting the United States to launch numerous airstrikes as Afghan forces fight to prevent the fall of the city.
The Taliban has claimed to have taken control of the city, but the U.S. and Afghan governments deny that is true. At a news conference Thursday, a Pentagon spokeswoman, Dana White, said that she had not seen the Air Force's tweet, but that it "shouldn't be forgotten in any of this" that Afghans are "dying to secure their own future."