Thursday, May 14, 2009

Doing Anything to Fool the Media: Badran Throws the Book at Hizballah's Lies

If you don't know Tony Badran's work you should. His blog "Across the Bay" gives great behind-the-scenes looks at Lebanese and Syrian politics. Tony has charted out the lines of the Syrian propaganda apparatus in those two countries and also the United States with dead-on--and often amusing accuracy. One of his techniques is to show how the line is laid down in Damascus and echoed by its followers to the letter within days.

But now he has a priceless anecdote which shows how radical movements operate and pull wool over the eyes of journalists all the time. In this case, the perpetrator is Ibrahim Musawi, Hizballah's media relations' guy, though he picked the wrong journalist to try to scam.

 David Samuels of The New Republic, one of the better writers on the region, was in Musawi's office. He asked Musawi if  one proof of the group's subsurvience to Iran was that its number-two leader admitted  Hizballah formed a political party only when Ayatollah Khameini, Iran's leader, gave it permission to do so.

Musawi tossed him a copy of the Hizballah man's book and challenged Samuels to find such a statement. Of course, Samuels didn't have time to look through the book, though he is no patsy by any means. (His writing is often at its best seeing through such ploys.)

Badran points out that the precise quotation can be found on page 283 of the 2008 edition.

Over the years, I've seen a lot of tricks like this employed and they more often work than not. In fact, one sees evidence of this every day both in the region itself and in the coverage that appears about it. Often it appears in the form of concealing material from non-Arabic speakers or using cute but transparent formulae that set off the journalists' wishful thinking as I showed here on Hamas and here on Iran and here on Syria.

 Are you beginning to see the pattern?

But if you understand Musawi's brazen dishonesty you'll likely be too wary to fool in future.

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