Iranians are poking fun at new billboards posted around Tehran by the city government that disparage what they call “American-style human rights.

Among the messages meant to inform the public about the real American lifestyle – as opposed to what Iranians see in American movies and music videos — are statistics about domestic violence, children born out of wedlock and the number of prisoners in the United States.

The billboards generally start with, “Did you know that?” Here are a few examples:

“Did you know that…an American woman falls victim to domestic violence every 9 seconds?”

“One of out of every 110 American citizens is in jail?”

“Two out of five Americans are born out of wedlock?”

Although the statistics have roots in reality, many Tehranis have been irritated by the overall anti-American message hardliners are attempting to get across. This has caused widespread negative reaction on social media platforms such as Twitter and Telegram. In fact, a separate Telegram channel has been created specifically for such reactions.

Most Iranians are charmed by the United States; the notion of anything American is almost sacred to the point that many Iranians don’t believe the slightest thing could possibly go wrong in the States.

Many believe an exaggerated version of reality, creating a rainbow-filled, faultless paradise in their minds. The more the Tehran municipality – and hardliners in general – try to tarnish this image, the more people believe their contrasting rosy view.

The cause of most people’s critique, however, is not the fact that they don’t believe that what the billboards say is true, but that there seems to be a double standard: Iranians are struggling with so many problems on a daily basis and here the Tehran municipality is trying to distract their attention to focus on the ills of American society, while not doing a fraction of what it should do to address the real difficulties Tehranis face.

Among those actual problems: drug addiction, child labor, low income, unemployment, pollution and horrible traffic.

Iranians are irritated by the hypocrisy of the government authorities and as a result, the propaganda is having a boomerang effect. Billboards aimed at informing people about the negative aspects of life in the U.S. have instead garnered more sympathy for America and the American way of living.

Abdolmoghim Nassehi, head of the Cultural Commission of Tehran’s City Council, has spoken to Iranian media about the billboards, disapproving of them. “Though some of the facts that the billboards refer to are true, we need to think twice before putting up such messages while we have so many issues in our own society, issues such as widespread addiction in children,” he said.

The anti-American messages have their share of hardliner avid fans, however, albeit small in number. One of these fans, Mojtaba Shakeri, happens, not uncoincidentally, to be a member of the Tehran Council for Approving Billboards. He defended the decision to display such messages, adding, “The United States accuses Iran of violating human rights principles, while it violates a multitude of said principles itself, in ways worse than us, without talking about it. Well, guess what? We’re going to talk about it!”

Some say the billboards are a political tactic by Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf to appease hardliners and gather votes for himself in the next presidential election, coming up in less than a year.

Others claim that the billboards could have been erected unbeknownst to the mayor –who hasn’t taken a position on them yet — just as billboards questioning “American honesty” appeared three years ago during the nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers led by the United States.

Those billboards were prepared by the “Owj Institute of Arts and Culture,” which belongs to Basij, a hardline paramilitary group. They were taken down within five days of their debut, due to what was said to be a missing permit from the municipality. They were later described as intended to undermine the nuclear talks. After they disappeared, hardliners, including the Kayhan Daily newspaper, harshly criticized Qalibaf, accusing him of cracking under pressure.

Politics aside, one can never get enough of the creativity of Iranians making light of such situations. After a few Iranian celebrities tweeted using the hashtag “Proposed banners for Tehran Municipality,” and called upon the public to do the same, keeping up with the critique and the mockery proved to be difficult.

Parodies of proposed billboard messages, they all start like the real ones with the question, “Did you know?” These messages take a jab at the government, employing facts and statistics about Iranian society. For example:

“Did you know that…in Iran, your race, religion, and beliefs may cause you trouble?”

“…women aren’t allowed to enter stadiums?”

“…one out of four journalists is in jail?”

“Iran holds the highest record of executions?”

“Iranian youth are more scared of the police than of robbers and felons?”

And, of course, the most priceless one of all:

“Do you know that…Iranians are so in love with the United States that the city is forced to produce banners to curb this love?”

Mehrnaz Samimi is a journalist and simultaneous interpreter based in Washington, DC. On Twitter: @MehrnazSamimi