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ISSUE #114
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Features

ArrowSchlep Boys
Failing forward in one act

Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Britney Budget
Matt Taibbi

ArrowEeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
Blogger and journalist Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog on the hijacking of democracy and more

ArrowObama
The best BS artist since Slick Willy

Matt Taibbi

ArrowSweet Nothings
Lies my paper told me

Allan Uthman

ArrowMenace in Seat 36F
Based on a True Story

Michael J. Smith

ArrowBEAST gets poetic on dat ass!
Saul Williams schools us on Hip Hop and our choice of lunch

ArrowCelebrity Buttholes Will Be the End of Us
A. Monkey

ArrowThe BEAST Melanin / Electability Index

ArrowThe Truth Spin
Sometimes, honesty really is the best policy

Allan Uthman

ArrowTV Highlights
CBSs Numb3rs signals the end of the end of the American Empire

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Departments
ArrowKino Korner: Movies
The Abandoned, Wild Hogs, The Number 23, Zodiac, Reno 911!: Miami, Amazing Grace, Black Snake Moan, Shooter, The Astronaut Farmer, Inland Empire

ArrowBEAST-O-Scopes
As divined by your ethereal guide

Arrow[sic] - Letters
The Pussy of the Christ, How Great We Art, Dumb Shit, PhD, All You Need is Loathe and more

 

Sweet Nothings
Lies my paper told me
Allan Uthman

For all the complaining I do about deception in the media, I have to admit I get a giddy thrill out of reading it. As with any addiction, I’ve developed an increasing tolerance and require an ever purer dosage of insidious mendacity and appeals to conformity to get off. Now I have a special appreciation for the most extreme variety of corporate press dishonesty: pieces written solely to impugn reality.

There’s a pattern that articles seem to follow when some poor bootlicking journalist is tasked with refuting an objectionably true piece of information, despite having no coherent case against it. Usually, the majority of the piece will assess the offending claim and generally summarize the evolution of the controversy. This first 80% or so of the article will read like a regular, reasonably evenhanded piece of journalism, perhaps even containing sympathetic quotes from the suspect claim’s proponents. Then, having nearly filled their word-count and still at a loss for a decent argument, the author will make a wild u-turn and hurry through a brief, entirely subjective, incomplete and patently idiotic dismissal of whatever point they were just explaining, a tacked-on “there, there” to soothe their tender, easily rattled readers. It reeks of editorial interference, but what’s really remarkable is how clumsy and transparent the process is.

I recognized this pattern last year, when the New York Times addressed the fact that, despite having been quoted as saying “Israel must be wiped off the map” by every man, woman and child in the United States over the past year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a frequent victim of deliberate mistranslation, never actually said that. A correct translation, according to many native Farsi speakers, goes something like, “The regime occupying Israel must vanish from the pages of history,” and was a direct quotation of Ayatollah Khomeini.

The article, by Times deputy foreign editor Ethan Bronner (“Just how far did they go, those words against Israel,” 6/11/06), is really something special. Of course, a regime—that is, a government—vanishing from the page of time doesn’t evoke the apocalyptic image that a nation wiped off the map does, and this specific misquotation has done probably more than any other piece of domestic psy-ops to vilify Iran. It’s an effective lie, so it must be saved, and it’s Bronner’s job to do it.

Despite Bronner’s obvious reluctance to go along, the facts practically drag him kicking and screaming toward the inexorable conclusion that, in fact, Juan Cole and the Guardian’s Jonathan Steele have it right; that Ahmadinejad didn’t even say the words “Israel,” “wipe” or “map.” Bronner sprinkles a generous portion of bullshit throughout the piece, stating that the verb translated as “wipe” is transitive when it is intransitive, and even arguing that the fact that the Iranian president actually said “the regime occupying Jerusalem” instead of “Israel” makes the statement worse, because Ahmadinejad refuses even to utter the name Israel.” That is some amazing spin, I have to admit. But Bronner still cannot deny that “map” is wrong and significantly different in tone than “pages of history,” even offering weak excuses for the error, and at least acknowledges that Ahmadinejad referred to Israel’s government, not the whole of Israel. He really can’t avoid decimating the original misquotation, which was and still is so oft-repeated in the media.

But then an amazing, incongruous thing happens: he draws precisely the opposite conclusion flatly contradicting his own analysis. Immediately after admitting that “it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel,” Bronner’s final paragraph is outrageously illogical and cowardly. Check it out:

“So did Iran's president call for Israel to be wiped off the map? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question.”

What the fuck? He didn’t say “Israel,” he didn’t say “map,” but it “certainly seems” he did? And frankly, drawing solely from the evidence presented in Bronner’s own damn piece, whether the statement was “a call for war” is decidedly not an open question. The reality here is that there was only one possible conclusion to this article from the minute that the Times decided to address the subject, and that, at a loss for a reasonable way to support that conclusion, Bronner simply banged it in at the end, regardless of the fact that it doesn’t make the least bit of sense at all.

Why bother even writing that nonsense? Because now, in every news source and every individual online or verbal argument on the matter, people can say that the New York Times looked into the issue and concluded that the quote is legit. It’s piss-poor sophistry, but, apparently, it’ll do in a pinch.

Science of AsencYou can see the same pattern at work in a recent article in Newsweek about the raging faith-based shit storm over a new documentary produced by James Cameron, The Jesus Family Tomb, directed by Simcha Jacobovici. As you’ve no doubt heard, the film tells of a tomb unearthed in Israel in 1980 containing remains which bear names alarmingly reminiscent of the Christ clan, including Mary Magdalene and a son of the Son.

Like the deplorable Times piece, this one (“Raiders of the Lost Tomb,” 3/5/07) has a necessary, predetermined conclusion— Jacobovici is wrong, Jesus flew up to heaven, and Newsweek’s predominantly Christian readership are not gullible suckers devoting their lives to an ancient, ludicrous hoax. Again, most of the article is a simple rundown of the evidence and the controversy. And again, this time three paragraphs from the end, there is a 180-degree switch in tone, from reasonably objective to downright illogical dismissal. After finally coughing up perhaps the most compelling bit of evidence, that a University of Toronto statistician estimated the likelihood of all of the names in the tomb coming from a different family at 600 to 1, the authors (Lisa Miller and Joan Chen) appear to suffer a dramatic drop in IQ:

“Good sense, and the Bible, still the best existing historical record of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, argue against Jacobovici's claims. All four Gospels say that Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Sabbath; all four say that the tomb was empty when the disciples woke on Sunday morning…. For Jacobovici's scenario to work, someone would have had to whisk the body away, on the Sabbath, and secretly inter it in a brand-new, paid-for family tomb—all before dawn on Sunday.”

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