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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, May 22, 2006

McIlheran Watch: Lies that won't die

The conservative half of the blogeteria was in hysterics over the weekend based on a report out of Canada stating that Iran, bugaboo du jour of the martial right, had passed a law requiring Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims to wear colored tags identifying them as such.

Trouble is, no such law was ever passed.

But the conservative Cheddarspherians are not backing down from their stories. Owen was in Appleton all weekend at Woodstock or something, which may explain why he hasn't taken down his post. Peter claims that he doesn't "see anything in the denials that convinces me the original story is inaccurate." He goes on to say that "just because someone in Iran says it isn't true doesn't mean it isn't true."

Had he read the links I and mr. mxp provided him in his comments, Peter would have seen that it wasn't just "someone in Iran" saying that the law in question never existed. it was, in fact, a Jewish representative from Iran's Parliament (plus plenty of other poeple in positions to know). Peter thinks he can get away with not retracting the story by saying "to me, this fits the evil that is eminating from these nutjobs." In other words, because this is the sort of thing Iran might do, I will believe it even if it is clearly false.

This is where our good friend Patrick McIlheran comes in:
It was my honor to be one of the panelists Sunday on “Sunday Insight with Charles Sykes.” On it, I mentioned the report from Canada’s national newspaper, the National Post, that Iran passed a law requiring non-Muslims to wear colored badges identifying them as Jews, Christians or Zoroastrians.

The day after the show was taped, National Post reported that Iran denied such a law was passed. A spokesman for the U.S.-based Iranian-American Jewish Federation also said that Jews in Iran said that no such measure was in place--though the spokesman, Sam Kermanian, “added that Jews in Iran still face widespread, systematic discrimination,” according to National Post.
You'd think that here, P-Mac would say "my bad" and move on. But the title of his post is "Retraction. Well, OK, not a retraction." And he quotes the parts of the National Post citing others who doubt the falsity of the story.

In particular is this line from Bush-buddy and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who must read Peter's blog: "Unfortunately," Harper said, "we’ve seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action."

I'm not saying Iran is all lollipops and roses for everyone living there, but we should not try to prop up lies when there are plenty of truths to tell. We've been down that road before--and it turns out to be very expensive. But Iran is the story suddenly being thrust into our consciousness, hawks apparently being bored with Iraq. And so any story that can be spun will be spun, and for many months now, no doubt, some people on the internet and perhaps even in real life, will defend a (potential?) decision to attack Iran by citing the law that never was. In the meantime, real tragedies--like the horror show in Darfur--will go unremarked.

For example, Daily Kos front-pager SusanG suggests we look closer to home:
As a long haul suggestion then, I would offer this advice to the coming-late-to-the-party faux feminists on the right: Forget Iran. Begin with Saudi Arabia. Yes, Iran is oppressive to women. But at least there women can vote, run for office and drive. In Saudi Arabia, they can do none of these things, and just last week word came down from their king that women are no longer to be allowed to have their pictures in newspapers.

Since we are (temporarily) on better terms with the Saudis, perhaps we can get our country's hand-holding president to whisper in a sheik's ear that public erasure of half its population is just ... not quite playing well in Peoria. My guess is, we'll have to wait for a Democratic president to play even the politest game of hard ball with the Saudis--and even then, only once we're on the road to energy independence.
So, add another one to the list of lies that won't die--like Al Gore's having claimed to invent the internet, or that cutting taxes raises revenue, or that Bush speaks Spanish.

(Update: Casper points out in the comments that his blogmate Cantankerous covered this on Saturday. I didn't see it.)

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