Monday, May 22, 2006

Out Of Whole Cloth

Did you catch the surreal hysteria on Friday about how Iran supposedly passed a law requiring Jews to "wear a yellow strip of cloth" in public? A brief recap: early on Friday, Canada's National Post ran a story reporting that "Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes" according to a new law passed by Iran's parliament. Predictably, the story caused an uproar, with the usual suspects from politicians to bloggers to Drudge trumpeting it as an "Ah Ha!" moment. One problem: it was complete bullshit. The link to the story was here. By mid-afternoon the link was dead, the story was gone, and the National Post had published this retraction. The headline disappeared quietly from Drudge as well, replaced not by the retraction, but by a story about a woman who ripped off her husband's testicles with her bare hands.

Some background: the National Post was founded by Conrad Black. In 2001, CanWest Global Communications bought the paper. CanWest's founder was Israel "Izzy" Asper. From the Wikipedia entry on Asper:
He was a prominent member of Canada's Jewish community, and was well-known for his strong faith and support for Israel. While a Liberal in domestic Canadian politics his views in regard to Zionism coincided with the right wing Likud - he was an admirer of Vladimir Jabotinsky. Asper would occasionally pen editorials defending the nation in his various papers and was accused by a number of media observers of censoring opinions critical of Zionism or which he deemed sympathetic to the Palestinians.
According to Bill Marsden, a veteran reporter with the CanWest-owned Montreal Gazette, "[The Aspers] do not want any criticism of Israel. We do not run in our newspaper op-ed pieces that express criticism of Israel and what it is doing."

Last week's controversy was hardly the first for the National Post. From a CBC report in 2004:
The world's oldest news agency, Reuters, says it will complain to CanWest Global's newspaper chain about its use of the word "terrorist" when editing stories dealing with the Middle East.

Papers owned by CanWest Publications, Canada's largest newspaper chain, have been altering words and phrases in some newswire copy stories dealing with the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thereby changing their meaning.

In one Reuters story, the original copy reads: "...the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank."

In the National Post version, printed Tuesday, it became: "...the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel."

The global managing editor for Reuters, David Schlesinger, called the changes unacceptable. He said that CanWest crossed a line from editing for style, to editing the substance and slant of news from the Middle East.
Some bloggers who trumpeted Friday's "yellow badges" story are also media professionals who should know that many consider CanWest to be the Fox News of Canada, and that this type of story in the National Post merits immediate skepticism just as it would if it ran in the New York Post. But that's not what happened; even some clear-thinking opiners who have expressed dismay at the deception and incompetence behind Iraq still get in line to push this sort of agenda-driven slop. At what point will an appropriate sense of skepticism displace the reflexive, unthinking hysteria that got us into Iraq? Never?

We face two dangers in dealing with Iran: self-doubt and paralysis through analysis because of the disaster in Iraq, or a repeat of that disaster because we refuse to recognize and reject the same mendacity from the same cast of characters.

Right now, the greater threat is the latter.


Blogger Mike said...


Full agreement regarding the Iran ethnic badge fiasco. In addition to all the other sloppy reporting you mention, don't forget that the original BS story mentioned that Christians and Zoroastrians, too, would have to ear a badge. Those details were left out of the hysterical coverage.

That said, I take issue with something else you say. You're normally a leading light when discussing the perversion of language in order to spin, to twist, to persuade. And kudoes to you for that.

But unless you don't believe its own claims of responsibility for *suicide attacks* on civilians, what's objectionable about referring to the Al-aksa Martyr's Brgade as a terrorist group?

Isn't the phrase, "has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank," in the absence of any evidence linking them to the murder of civilians, exactly the kind of half-reporting and spin you normally decry?

Anyway, it's a small quibble. Keep up the good work, keep banging that drum!

5/22/2006 12:35 PM  
Blogger Jimmy the Saint said...

He was not arguing about calling Al-Aksa Martyr's Brgade a terrorist group. He was pointing out how the newspaper was editing a Reuters story on their own, yet still publishing it under the Reuters banner. From what I know, you are not allowed to edit a AP or Reuters story and claim it came from them. It's misleading and fraudulent.

5/22/2006 7:43 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Ok, I'm sorry.

I misunderstood.

5/22/2006 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Language is a powerful thing.

5/23/2006 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is mind boggling how we are manipulated, and we are a Democracy. To go to war and be told the truth is one thing, but to go to war and be lied to seems so sinister. I think Americans want to do the right thing, we are thinking people, and can see through the BS. If Iraq was the right thing, why didn't Bush have the faith in the American people or the faith in his war, to tell us straight out rather than having his admin and croonies jumping through these hoops
to concoct stories. I don't think truth is a left or right issue, it is "the" issue.

I learned a lot from Robert McNamara's interview in the movie, "The Fog of War".

DemocracyNow.Org has an interview from a retired Army Colonel who was arrested for handing out files to a movie, "Sir, No Sir: The Suppressed Story of the GI Movement to End the War In Vietnam.”

In the 21st Century, war doesn't seem like the appropriate response. We have the technology to destroy everything. It will be difficult, but we have to think of greater solutions for mankind to live in peace.

Should there ever be a profit motive in war? I just don't think we, or those in the world, have the will to stop making wars.

5/24/2006 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is much more than a misreported story.

This is a shot in a deliberate misinfomation campaign.

The source for this story is Amir Taheri who is kind of the Iranian Ahmed Chalabi. The point to the story was not accuracy, it was to generate headlines like the one on the front page of the NY Post about Iran enacted "Nazi" laws.

Amir Taheri is part of Benador Associates who are were active participants in the misinformation campaign against Iraq.

Here's an article from Taheri on the Benador website about how things are looking up in Iraq.

This is starting to feel like spring 2002 again.

I think we should start a general divestment campaign. If Bush goes to war with Iran, we should pull all of our money out of the stock market.

5/25/2006 6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, civilization has lasted about 5,000 years, more or less. A lot of it was bloody and brutal, but on the whole we managed to stumble forward, by the grace of God, whatever you want to call him or her.
But the way things are going, I don't think the human race will manage to survive 8 years of Bush.

Too bad, but I think the crazies in the White House look forward to the second coming, and they are making sure it is coming sooner rather than later.
They will be disappointed because they will be meet with open arms by Lucifer and not by St. Peter and certainly not by Jesus.

5/27/2006 3:37 PM  
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