The National Post today sank about as low as a newspaper can go, essentially constructing a sensational and emotionally-charged story out of little or nothing, upsetting millions all over the world and probably making it much harder for a peaceful outcome with Iran to be achieved.
It did it by exploiting the Holocaust, no less.
I speak, of course, of its shocking front-page story today, Iran Eyes Badges For Jews. (The link now seems to have died. But here's a matcher from the Jerusalem Post and another one from the right wing NewsMax.)
Writ large across six columns, with a poignant black-and-white photo of an unnamed Hungarian Jewish couple (c. 1944) wearing their Nazi-imposed yellow stars, the story has made world news. Of course, it has exploded through the blogosphere, giving the right wingdings new reason to call for a war on Iran. See here and here and here and ... you get the point.
And no wonder. The photo, which dominates the page, evokes every horrific memory of the Holocaust while the accompanying report paints a terrifying picture of a regime ready to single out non-Muslims the way gays in Hitler's Germany were forced to wear pink triangles and Roma brown ones. Here's a chunk of it, which I post here since the original online version has been vapourized. (The only reason I still have it on my screen is because I meant to blog this earlier today but, as the developments kept rolling in, I decided to wait. I never closed the window.)
Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.
"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."
Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."
The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.
Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.
"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."
Bernie Farber, the chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he was "stunned" by the measure. "We thought this had gone the way of the dodo bird, but clearly in Iran everything old and bad is new again," he said. "It's state-sponsored religious discrimination."
Ali Behroozian, an Iranian exile living in Toronto, said the law could come into force as early as next year.
It would make religious minorities immediately identifiable and allow Muslims to avoid contact with non-Muslims.
Mr. Behroozian said it will make life even more difficult for Iran's small pockets of Jewish, Christian and other religious minorities -- the country is overwhelmingly Shi'ite Muslim. "They have all been persecuted for a while, but these new dress rules are going to make things worse for them," he said.
The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Scary stuff no? Which is why Prime Minister Stephen Harper jumped to condemn the news.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to condemn Iran on Friday for an anti-Semitic law that appears not to exist.
Harper seized on a newspaper report that said Iran's hardline government would require Jews and Christians to wear coloured labels in public.
The prime minister couldn't vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper report, but he added that Iran was capable of such actions and compared them to Nazi practices.
"Unfortunately, we've seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action," Harper said.
"We've seen a number of things from the Iranian regime that are along these lines . . .
"It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany."
Thank God it appears not to be true. The Post has backed away from it, with this online story by Chris Wattie, who wrote the original. Pay special attention to the third paragraph.
Several experts are casting doubt on reports that Iran had passed a law requiring the country’s Jews and other religious minorities to wear coloured badges identifying them as non-Muslims.
The Iranian embassy in Otttawa also denied the Iranian government had passed such a law.
A news story and column by Iranian-born analyst Amir Taheri in yesterday’s National Post reported that the Iranian parliament had passed a sweeping new law this week outlining proper dress for Iran’s majority Muslims, including an order for Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians to wear special strips of cloth.
Just for the record? I doubt Wattie had any choice in writing the story. I have reason to believe that this came from above.
Sources say that the Taheri commentary page submission -- still online -- was the start of the story. That's because, I'm told, it was sent ahead of time to the Simon Weisenthal Centre which was justifiably outraged and then alarms elsewhere. The Post then had what appeared to be a legitimate story which it torqued out of all proportion.
Here's a bit of Taheri's ''commentary."
While the Iranian economy appears to be heading for recession, one sector may have some reason for optimism. That sector is the garment industry and the reason for hopefulness is a law passed by the Islamic Majlis (parliament) on Monday.
The law mandates the government to make sure that all Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing, and to eliminate "the influence of the infidel" on the way Iranians, especially, the young dress. It also envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean).
Who flagged the Taheri's op-ed to the SWC? Unconfirmed word is, it was Taheri himself.
And who is Taheri? (See one of the comments in my Global Issues post below.) According to his column's tagline:
Iranian author and journalist Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.
And who are Benador Associates?
Oh just your typical right-wing war-mongering PR agency, that's who.
Meet Eleana Benador, the Peruvian-born publicist for Perle, Woolsey, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney and a dozen other prominent neoconservatives whose hawkish opinions proved very hard to avoid for anyone who watched news talk shows or read the op-ed pages of major newspapers over the past 20 months. Also found among her client list are other major war-boosters, including former New York Times executive editor and now New York Daily News columnist, A. M. Rosenthal; Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer; the Council on Foreign Relations' resident imperialist Max Boot; and Victor Davis Hanson, a blood-and-guts classicist and one of Vice President Dick Cheney's favorite dinner guests.
Doubts have been cast on the story all day, starting with a radio report on AM 940 Montreal.
(I)ndependent reporter Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli Middle East expert who was born and raised in Tehran, says the report is false.
"It's absolutely factually incorrect," he told The New 940 Montreal.
"Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colours. I've checked it with sources both inside Iran and outside."
"The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn't be stupid enough to do it."
And from there it just snowballed.
Here is Liberal Catnip, which has a photo of the Post's front page today.
This story spread like wildfire throughout the blogosphere today amid fears that the world might have another Nazi Germany situation on its hands and it was all the work of one reporter who failed to get any official confirmation of its veracity.
Now that Rush Limbaugh, who has millions of radio listeners, has also picked it up, it's going to require a tremendous amount of effort to get the real truth out there that this has been debunked.
It certainly didn't help that Canada's Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, commented on the story without verifying it with his official sources as well. Instead, he only added fuel to the fire. That was extremely irresponsible and is definitely not what you'd expect from a world leader.
The National Post owes Canada and the world an apology and Chris Wattie should be fired.
Peace, Order and Good Government, Eh? has more.
There are obviously a fair number of people who are in a hurry to create a crisis where Iran is concerned. And there are obviously a lot of people who have already forgotten the con job that was pulled in the run up to the invasion of Iraq and the role that expatriates played in the propaganda. Either that or they'd like us to forget.
I wonder if we have our newest zombie lie -- a story that won't die no matter how often it's debunked.
It would appear so.
What a shameful, shameful episode.
UPPITY DATE: Canadian Cynic is tracking how the right wingnuts who jumped all over this are not backing off it, even though it's not true.
UPPITIEST DATE: The Star's John Goddard will have more in tomorrow's paper. (link) Just for the record, the Post's editor-in-chief Doug Kelly did not return John's repeated calls.