Monday, June 25, 2007

Malkin's Pics Not What They Seem

By Cernig

Yesterday, I posted a long critique of Michelle Malkin as a human rights concern troll. She, along with others, had posted pics of what she claimed to be abuse of common Iranians for infringement of the dress code.

But the photos weren't all they seemed to be.

I got a heads-up from Iranian blogger Amir in comments, one that was borne out by the NY Times update to their story:
The headline over the article said that Iran was cracking down on dissent and “parading examples” in the streets, and one paragraph in the article also said that young men detained for wearing tight T-shirts or western-style haircuts had been “paraded bleeding through Tehran’s streets by uniformed police officers.” The Times caption on an official Iranian news agency photograph that ran with the article said that it showed a police officer punishing a young man in public for wearing un-Islamic clothing by forcing him to suck on a plastic container normally used for intimate hygiene, a punishment the article also asserted was for that offense.

But the man in the photograph, according to widespread Iranian news reports, was one of more than 100 people arrested recently on charges of being part of a gang that had committed rapes, robberies, forgeries and other crimes. The caption published on the Web site of the news agency, Fars, had said only that the man was being punished as part of a roundup of “thugs” in a Tehran neighborhood.

The current repression has made reporting in Iran difficult. In this case, The Times relied on an interview with a researcher for a nongovernment agency that no longer operates within Iran who said the photograph was evidence of a more visible police role in public crackdowns on what the authorities consider immoral behavior. The reporter then wrongly interpreted what the researcher said as applying to a crackdown on dress, and incorporated the erroneous interpretation into the body of the article, without giving any indication of the source for it.

These errors could have been avoided with more rigorous editing. The article should not have said that young men had been paraded through the streets for wearing un-Islamic dress, and the headline over it should not have said that dissenters were being paraded as part of the crackdown.
Ali Eteraz, who also ran with the Malkin line originally, was swift to admit his mistake while still correctly maintaining that even so Iran's human rights record is not a good one.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, I looked at the pictures with a lot more scrutiny when I got home, and compared crowd reaction in all of them, finding that to be the weirdest component of the pictures. I started to get the sense that these were either men involved in prostitution (were pimps), were homosexuals, or the pictures were staged. From a human rights perspective, it is probably not OK for the Iranian regime to treat people in this manner no matter what their alleged immoral behavior. However, one of the big impetuses of the pictures was that the crackdown seemed unconscionably violent compared to the offense (wearing a soccer jersey). Prostitution and homosexuality, assuming those are the “real” offenses here (and who knows if that is the case), are illegal in Iran and in many other nations. That wouldn’t legitimize police brutality but it makes it easier to contextualize. However, and this is crucial: the fact remains that the Iranian regime does use violence, most notably upon its women, for their fashion choices, and there are numerous youtube videos on cell phones capturing that.
Ali gets this absolutely right in my view. As I said yesterday:
if you are, like me, opposed to the neocon narrative for yet another U.S. war of aggression against a despicable regime that is, even so, no threat to the U.S. It's worth reminding ourselves that our purpose in opposing that narrative is not to defend a brutally repressive regime but to prevent a senseless destruction of lives that would be utterly ineffective.
Our abhorrence for the second shouldn't get in the way of our outrage for the first - as Callimachus points out, police brutality is reprehensible even if its aimed at rapists and drug dealers - but neither should outrage at the first be allowed to pave the way for the warmonger's narrative.

Malkin, of course, doesn't believe the NY Times' retraction. She wants her monent of faux-outrage even if she has to bend belief all out of shape to get it.
So now they will take the word of the repressive Iranian regime and its state-run “news reports” over dissident groups and citizen reports...After looking at the photos, watching the videos embedded here of women being dragged off the streets for un-Islamic dress, and re-reading the past coverage of the ongoing crackdown, I’ll let you decide which interpretation is more accurate.
Hang on - wasn't the whole point that these pictures came from the Iranian state media as proud proof of how brutal they could be? She then links to the Iran Focus website which seems to be the "non-governmental source" mentioned by the Times as well as Malkin's source (while conveniently ommiting the one line from their article that confirms the official state source for the pictures).

Iran Focus are an interesting bunch. They've been accused of being a mouthpiece for Mujahedeen e-Kalq, the utterly-nutterly Islamist/Marxist terror organistation which is the neocon's biggest propoganda pal in their efforts to incite a war with Iran. Their sister site, Iran Terror, is unashamedly pro-war and unashamed in being an apologist for the MeK. The MeK's political wing claims that its leader, wife of the charismatic wannabe-messiah who leads the movement, is the "President-Elect" of the whole Iranian resistance. The Iraqi government is pressing a court case against the MeK to have roughly 100 members face prosecution for human rights violations from their days as bully-boys for Saddam.

So what Michelle Malkin means when she refuses to retract her connection of her story to those pictures is : "who do you believe, the Iranian state media or some nutcase-terrorist, neocon-sponsored, regime-change outfit who constantly shill for a U.S. war on Iran so they can take over Chalibi-style, citing the Iranian state media as their source but carefully not mentioning that the folks in the pics were rapists and drug dealers, not clothing-crime victims?"


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