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.
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'.
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.
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.