A must read on lies and how the media/activists will push them. (h/t: J)
Everybody on earth knows that last weekÂ a deal on Iranâs nuclear program was announced. Â Everybody also knows that this apparent step toward peace launched a new stage in an old war: of propaganda. Proponents praise the possibility of a historic opening. Opponents â who include Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Republican Party â warn of disaster. Â Both sides want to expand their constituencies. In Western countries, gay communities â small but politically influential â are more and more the targetÂ for just this courtship and recruitment.
The right-wing pundit Amir Taheri greeted the nuclear deal with a storm of tweets and screedsÂ condemning it. One 140-character charge drew specialÂ attention.Anyoneâs first reaction would be some version of âMy God.â It sounded horrible. Â I wrote to Taheri asking for more information â and so, judging from Twitter, did at least three other people.
But the story quickly began to show cracks. Taheri didnât reply toÂ me, or anybody. I sat down that night with a Farsi-speakingÂ friend and began searching for the story in the Iranian press: under the youthâs name, under various other key words. It didnât turn up anywhere. I wrote to the Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), a diaspora-based group ofÂ LGBT Iranian activists with which Iâve worked closely over the years. They searched the media as well andÂ found no sign of it. They also reached out to contacts in Isfahan. On Friday morning, they told me no one there had heard of the story, either.
Amir Taheri lies a lot. Eight years ago, Jonathan Schwartz called him âone of the strangest ingredients in Americaâs media soup,â adding, âThere may not be anyone else who simply makes things up as regularly as he does, with so few consequences.â An arch-conservative protege of the Pahlavis, an editor of the Tehran daily KayhanÂ under the Shah, he repeatedly fabricates stories about Iran to please right-wingers in his adoptiveÂ West. Most famously, in 2006 he claimed in Canadaâs National PostÂ that a new dress-code law in Iran would impose special clothes onÂ religious minorities, including yellow badges for Jews. Many conservatives swallowed the story; even the Canadian Prime Minister repeated it. But it was a completeÂ falsehood, and after a huge furorÂ the National Post retracted it and apologized: âIt is now clear the story is not true. âŚÂ We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused.â (The Post also noted that Taheri went âunreachableâ after his fiction was exposed, rather as he did on Twitter.) Undeterred, in 2008 Taheri concoctedÂ a quote from Ayatollah Khomeini, complete with a fake citation of an inventedÂ source; AmericanÂ neoconservative luminaries duly repeated it. In 2002, Taheri claimed that âOsama bin Laden is deadÂ âŚ.Â the fugitive died in December and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.âÂ The list of his duplicitiesÂ goes on and on.Â In 1989, an academic reviewingÂ one of Taheriâs books
detailed case after case in which Taheri cited nonexistent sources, concocted nonexistent substance in cases where the sources existed and distorted the substance beyond recognition when it was present.Â âŚ [The reviewer]Â concluded that Nest of Spies was âthe sort of book that gives contemporary history a bad name.â
Larry Cohler-Esses condemns Taheri as a âjournalistic felon,â part of a âmedia machine intent on priming the public for war with Iran.â
There are ample grounds for skepticism about stories Taheri spreads.
But skepticism doesnât make headlines. Propagandaâs best friend is the ambition of the press.Â On Thursday, a reporter for the UK-based Gay Star News also tweeted to Taheri.
Taheri didnât answer him, either. I know this because the reporter didnât wait for a source. About 25 minutes later, hisÂ story â âGAY TEEN, 14, âHANGED FROM TREE’â â topped the website of Â Gay Star News, and it saidÂ Taheri hadnât told them anything. In other words, their entire account was based on oneÂ single tweet with no evidence behind it. ThisÂ tweet was special, though. The topic of gay killings in Iran has shownÂ its passionateÂ drawing power over a decade, its ability to keep queers clicking.Â GSN wanted the clicks for itself.