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Latest Hitler: how lies become news

Lenin's Tomb


May 20, 2006

Canada's National Post ran a false story claiming that Iran was planning to oblige non-Muslims to wear badges to indicate their ethnicity so that they could be distinguished in public. Experts have already dissed the story.

The National Post tries, in a lustrum written by Chris Wattie, to distance itself from the sensationalist item by describing it as a "news story and column" by Amir Taheri - a column, an opinion piece, the work of a malevolent hoaxster perhaps. Except of course that the original news story was by, well, Chris Wattie. Wattie adds, in his own defense: "The Simon Wiesenthal Centre and Iranian expatriates living in Canada had confirmed that the order had been passed, although it still had to be approved by Iranĺs "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect." Also cited in its defense is the view of the Simon Weisenthal Centre that, although it had no independent corroboration of the report, they believe it to be true. Further, Stephen Harper, the Tory Prime Minister of Canada, said Iran is "very capable" of enacting laws similar to the Nuremberg Laws under the Nazis.

Amir Taheri, of course, is a dubious figure. He is a sublunary of the Benador Associates, a right-wing PR firm that supplies conservative speakers for all sorts of occasions. He specialises in producing bilge about Iran, interpreting Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush as an attempt to provoke a clash of civilizations so that the Hidden Imam will return, while asserting not only that Iran wants a nuclear bomb, but that it wants one to - well, hasten a clash of civilizations so that the Hidden Imam will return. He has claimed that attacks on London and New York were inspired by a desire by some Muslims to exert total dictatorial control over what you eat for breakfast (which is cartoonish nonsense), referred to Tariq Ramadan as a Muslim Brotherhood militant (which is flatly false), smeared antiwar protesters as defenders of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and asserted that Israel must claim victory over Palestine. As an "Iranian-born analyst" (they never forget to mention this), he is the neoconservative's favourite 'native informant' about Islam, the Middle East and how well various imperialist adventures are going. Commentary Magazine loves him, the Wall Street Journal loves him, the Telegraph loves him, the National Review loves him - to put it mildly, his brand of 'insight' is very popular with that baroque sodality of reactionary imperialists. Noteworthy that, after the story has already been rebutted, Amir Tehari has gone and retold the story to the New York Post with the headline 'Iran OKs "Nazi" Social Fabric'.

But what is more interesting than Tehari's corroborative role is that this utterly false and utterly implausible story was first published by the National Post and then taken up by newspapers and television stations across America and the West, and even a supposedly leftish site called Truthdig. The report cited no solid sources, merely adducing unnamed "human rights groups" were were "raising alarms" and unnamed "Iranian expatriates" who "confirmed reports". Well, I say 'unnamed' - one Iranian expatriate is named, some geezer called 'Ali Behroozian'. Quite how he was able to 'confirm' this claim, what qualified him in other words, is a mystery. Googling yields nothing about him, so either he's a private citizen, in which case the question about his qualifications to confirm anything for the National Post is repeated, or the name is all made up, in which case other questions come to mind. Possibly, these human rights groups and expatriates are of the same character as the Iraqi exiles who obligingly told Bush what he wanted to hear - or what he wanted others to hear - so that he could invade Iraq. Or one could equally suspect the hand of such PR groups as Hill & Knowlton, who famously manufactured a story about Iraqi soldiers ripping babies from incubators and leaving them to die on the floor. But what is clear, abundantly clear, is that any news reporter worth his or her salt would have spotted that this set of claims had fuck all to it. Hardly any sources, obtuse style, vagueness of details, nothing but colourful, arresting and emotionally involving claims and expostulations that divert one from analysis. As Alexandra Kitty explains in her useful book on lies becoming news, those are the absolutely standard tell-tale signs of a hoax. CBS boasts that it did not publish the story because "there were too many red flags" and not enough concrete information. Yet Fox News, MSNBC the New York Post, the New York Sun, the Washington Times, the American Jewish Congress, the Jerusalem Post and any number of wingnut sites and of course our progressive friend Truthdig all repeated these outrageous, obvious lies as if they were fact. Most, including our progressive friend Truthdig, followed the National Post's lead by illustrating their coverage with artefacts or photos from Nazi Germany.

At any rate, bear with me while I ponder the obvious: the sheer volume of misleading, manufactured, slanted, spun, stilted and distorted information being generated about Iran right now - and particularly the time-worn repetition of He's-A-Hitler themes - suggests that some kind of attack is afoot. In order to blast a geopolitical opponent to Hades these days, they must first be portrayed as genocidal maniacs, ready to launch aggressive wars, pointing nukes at us... any war will not only be defensive, therefore, but also an act of humanitarian largesse.

:: Article nr. 23417 sent on 21-may-2006 05:15 ECT


Link: leninology.blogspot.com/2006/05/latest-hitler-how-lies-become-news.html

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