25 May 2006

Yellow badges and the VRWC

A few days ago, I blogged about a story that had been going around about Iran passing a law requiring Jews to wear yellow badges—a story that turned out to be bogus.

I observed that the story was a good example of one of the tricks of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: some guy backed by a conservative think tank feeds a news outlet a story, it gets reported, other news outlets pick up the story, and it eventually gets debunked. But the point is that much of the public doesn't remember the final resolution, they remember—or better still for the VRWC, half-remember—the original story. Enough of this and drip, drip, drip, you have millions of people believing stuff like Iraq's involvement in 9/11.

I also observed that Right Blogistan had been good about correcting the yellow badges story, but often with an odd tone that it didn't matter that the story wasn't true because, gee, it's just the sort of things those Islamofascists would get up to, isn't it? I quoted Alexandra von Maltzan of All Things Beautiful as an example. Ms von Maltzan has been good enough to drop by and comment twice on my original post.

In her second comment, Ms von Maltzan asked me a good question, which leads me to outline further how the VRWC works.

Could you be precise and tell me which part of Taheri's article is “trumped up” and “false”, by quoting the article itself.
Nothing could be simpler, thought I, and I went back to Taheri's original article to pull a nice juicy quote. I come to this:
a law passed by the Islamic Majlis (parliament) on Monday [15 May 2006] ... envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct color schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to instantly recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis" (unclean).
... and later in the article, this ...
Religious minorities would have their own color schemes. They will also have to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-Islamic faiths. Jews would be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes, while Christians will be assigned the color red. Zoroastrians end up with Persian blue as the color of their zonnar.
And since Iran has not, in fact, passed a law requiring Jews to wear a yellow strip of cloth, the story is false. QED. Right?


Mr Taheri has written a follow-up to his article. He is shocked, shocked to learn that others picked up the story and reported that Iran has started requiring Jews to wear yellow badges.

Regarding the dress code story it seems that my column was used as the basis for a number of reports that somehow jumped the gun.

As far as my article is concerned I stand by it.

The law has been passed by the Islamic Majlis and will now be submitted to the Council of Guardians. A committee has been appointed to work out the modalities of implementation.

Many ideas are being discussed with regard to implementation, including special markers, known as zonnars, for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, the only faiths other than Islam that are recognized as such.

Aha. The law hasn't been ratified and implemented yet. The zonnars are just being considered.

Read my quotes from the original article carefully and, sure enough, Mr Taheri reports that the law has only been passed by the Majlis. Any fool knows that this means that it still has to be submitted to the Council of Guardians before it becomes enacted. He says that the law “envisages” the use of zonnar, not that it requires them. Ms von Maltzan underlined this distinction in her first comment to me, and I did not fully register its importance. Mr Taheri says that religious minorities “would” have special colour schemes, not that they will have them.

Mr Taheri has been very, very careful in phrasing his article, taking care to not overstep the truth. How could he have possibly guessed that his report would be so badly misread?

Ms von Maltzan is correct. Mr Taheri's article is neither false nor trumped-up. It is, instead, a cunning work of deliberate deceit.

I sincerely apologize for misrepresenting it before.


Alexandra said...


Since we have moved from the realms of "trumped up" and "false" to "deliberate deceit" I shall retire gracefully from this conversation.

I thank you for pointing out what Taheri had actually said in his article. The important point missing in your post however, is that most bloggers and memebers of the press actually ran with a much stronger and deliberate wording in the National Post article which the paper ran in tandem, and is now mixed in a bowl of venomous soup together with Taheri's. This is partly because the paper very quickly, in fact within a matter of hours, pulled their own article, which meant that the late comers (i.e later the same day) continued to refer to what was readily available, i.e Taheri's, but now in tandem with Chris Wattie's retraction. It is the National Post staff writer Chris Wattie's article which is referred to in your post dated 23rd May. He wrote the original, and he wrote the retraction:

"One thing, though. The story isn't true. Even the source where I first saw it is backing off."

Please note that neither the Canadian National Post who were the first to run it, nor the New York Post who ran it the following day have issued any such retractions regarding Taheri's article which still features in their respective publications.

Jonathan Korman said...

Aye, that's a good point of closure ... and yes, a fair and useful clarification of the trajectory of this story on my blog and at large.

Is that sequence of exaggerations of Taheri's original really the result of Taheri's cunning designs? I trust that our readers will draw their own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Hey there,
While I certainly appreciate your point, I'd be careful assuming intentional deceit where inadequate explanation would do.

So the guy doesn't deliver a nuanced breakdown of how legislation is formed in Iran, does that mean that he left it out on purpose? Particularly since "any fool knows" the details of Iranian law making? Possibly, but only possibly.

I would also like to add, that I think its enough for legitimate concern to demonstrate that the Iranian government at any level is considering this sort of thing. If for example, a simmilar addendum, or whatever, were percolating in American law making government, I am quite confident/would hope that it would be plastered in screaming 10 foot tall letters all over the 'vast left wing conspiracy blogosphere'( In a panapoly of accuracy and understanding). And it should be, because even its consideration is alarming.

That said, saying that the consideration of a law is the same as passing it, and the distinction doesn't matter is rediculous. Is the actual passing/abolishment of Row Vs. Wade irrelevant compared to its consideration? I would hope that people from other nations don't confuse our governments consideration of third trimester abortion with approval and passage.
Its particularly repugnant when the media justifies this sort of sloppiness with 'well, were close enough, you know they want to do it anyway'.
Supposedly the abstinance from this sort of "stretching" propaganda is what distinguishes us as a free country from the memes we claim to oppose. Supposedly.