Black PSY OPS against Iran: Fake stories about Nazi style badges planted in Canadian paper, propagated in right-wing media echo

This is the second time,

we will not fall in line,

No you can’t stop this exodus

No you won’t stop this exodus.

--Anti-Flag, Emigre (For Blood and Empire, 2006)

Yellow star storyBadge-Psyops-1Canada's National Post newspaper published a story last Friday, A colour code for Iran's 'infidels', by Amir Taheri, which described a law passed by the Iranian Majlis (Parliament) requiring religious minorities such as Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians to wear colored clothing to signify them in public:

That sector [not headed for recession] 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).

The new law, drafted during the presidency of Muhammad Khatami in 2004, had been blocked within the Majlis. That blockage, however, has been removed under pressure from Khatami's successor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This, of course, echoes the Nazi policy of marking Jews and others, part of the psychological preparation to cleave them from German society, and subsequently exterminate them. The story resonates with the emerging storyline that "Ahmedinejad == Hitler!!", because as we all know, everyone from Daniel Ortega to Vladimir Putin to Hugo Chavez is in fact the reincarnation of that weird fey Austrian guy.

(The National Post is the Fox News of Canadian papers: as Wikipedia notes, discredited corrupt media mogul Conrad Black started it to counteract "over-liberalizing" Canadian papers)

The problem with Taheri's story is that it's fucking fake, a fabrication. For example, this quote appears to have materialized from nowhere, as its speaker does not exist:

"Iranians have always worn trousers," says Mostafa Pourhardani, Minister of Islamic Orientation. "Even when the ancient Greeks wore woman-style dresses with skirts, the Persians had trousers. We are not going to force Iranian men to do away with trousers although they predate Islam."

Nypost-IranThe story was quickly propagated in the right-wing media. I first heard of it from my roommate, who said there was a headline on Drudge when he was at work on Friday, yet when he tried to find it around 6 PM, it was already gone. To my credit, I immediately suggested it sounded cartoonishly evil and too good to be true. And of course, it bounced through the right wing blogosphere quite thoroughly.

The story was in turn picked up by that bastion of accuracy, the Murdoch-owned New York Post. So in keeping with our mission to comment on "information operations," and with a touch of dark irony, I have developed badges that will be attached to news stories determined to be fabrications designed to manipulate the public's perceptions of foreign devils and others. Henceforth a blue PSY OPS starburst will be affixed to such things so no one's brains are contaminated by lies!

How do we know that this is a fabrication? Wikipedia already has a major page for the event: 2006 Iranian sumptuary law controversy with many details and links. A blog called Lenin's Tomb summarized the situation and Taheri's spot in the neo-con media heirarchy quite effectively:

Amir Taheri, of course, is a dubious figure. He is a sublunary of the Benador Associates, a right-wing PR firm that supplies conservative speakers for all sorts of occasions. He specialises in producing bilge about Iran, interpreting Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush as an attempt to provoke a clash of civilizations so that the Hidden Imam will return, while asserting not only that Iran wants a nuclear bomb, but that it wants one to - well, hasten a clash of civilizations so that the Hidden Imam will return. He has claimed that attacks on London and New York were inspired by a desire by some Muslims to exert total dictatorial control over what you eat for breakfast (which is cartoonish nonsense), referred to Tariq Ramadan as a Muslim Brotherhood militant (which is flatly false), smeared antiwar protesters as defenders of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and asserted that Israel must claim victory over Palestine. As an "Iranian-born analyst" (they never forget to mention this), he is the neoconservative's favourite 'native informant' about Islam, the Middle East and how well various imperialist adventures are going. Commentary Magazine loves him, the Wall Street Journal loves him, the Telegraph loves him, the National Review loves him - to put it mildly, his brand of 'insight' is very popular with that baroque sodality of reactionary imperialists. Noteworthy that, after the story has already been rebutted, Amir Tehari has gone and retold the story to the New York Post with the headline 'Iran OKs "Nazi" Social Fabric'.

But what is more interesting than Tehari's corroborative role is that this utterly false and utterly implausible story was first published by the National Post and then taken up by newspapers and television stations across America and the West, and even a supposedly leftish site called Truthdig. The report cited no solid sources, merely adducing unnamed "human rights groups" were were "raising alarms" and unnamed "Iranian expatriates" who "confirmed reports". Well, I say 'unnamed' - one Iranian expatriate is named, some geezer called 'Ali Behroozian'. Quite how he was able to 'confirm' this claim, what qualified him in other words, is a mystery. Googling yields nothing about him, so either he's a private citizen, in which case the question about his qualifications to confirm anything for the National Post is repeated, or the name is all made up, in which case other questions come to mind. Possibly, these human rights groups and expatriates are of the same character as the Iraqi exiles who obligingly told Bush what he wanted to hear - or what he wanted others to hear - so that he could invade Iraq. Or one could equally suspect the hand of such PR groups as Hill & Knowlton, who famously manufactured a story about Iraqi soldiers ripping babies from incubators and leaving them to die on the floor. But what is clear, abundantly clear, is that any news reporter worth his or her salt would have spotted that this set of claims had fuck all to it. Hardly any sources, obtuse style, vagueness of details, nothing but colourful, arresting and emotionally involving claims and expostulations that divert one from analysis. As Alexandra Kitty explains in her useful book on lies becoming news, those are the absolutely standard tell-tale signs of a hoax. CBS boasts that it did not publish the story because "there were too many red flags" and not enough concrete information. Yet Fox News, MSNBC the New York Post, the New York Sun, the Washington Times, the American Jewish Congress, the Jerusalem Post and any number of wingnut sites and of course our progressive friend Truthdig all repeated these outrageous, obvious lies as if they were fact. Most, including our progressive friend Truthdig, followed the National Post's lead by illustrating their coverage with artefacts or photos from Nazi Germany.

I'll also note Juan Cole's thorough debunking of the matter: Another Fraud on Iran: No Legislation on Dress of Religious Minorities:

The National Post was founded by Conrad Black and has been owned by CanWest since 2003,* is not a repository of expertise about Iran. It is typical of black psychological operations campaigns that they begin with a plant in an out of the way* newspaper that is then picked up by the mainstream press. Once the Jerusalem Post picks it up, then reporters can source it there, even though the Post has done no original reporting and has just depended on the National Post article, which is extremely vague in its own sourcing (to "human rights groups").

The actual legislation passed by the Iranian parliament regulates women's fashion, and urges the establishment of a national fashion house that would make Islamically appropriate clothing. There is a vogue for "Islamic chic" among many middle class Iranian women that involves, for instance, wearing expensive boots that cover the legs and so, it is argued, are permitted under Iranian law. The scruffy, puritanical Ahmadinejad and his backers among the hardliners in parliament are waging a new and probably doomed struggle against the young Iranian fashionistas. (The Khomeinists give the phrase "fashion police" a whole new meaning).

There is nothing in this legislation that prescribes a dress code or badges for Iranian religious minorities, and Maurice Motamed was present during its drafting and says nothing like that was even discussed.

The whole thing is a steaming crock.

In fact, Iranian Jewish expatriates themselves have come out against a bombing campaign by the US or Israel against Iran. There are still tens of thousands of Jews in Iran, and expatriate Iranian Jews most often identify as Iranians and express Iranian patriotism. I was in Los Angeles when tens of thousands of Iranians immigrated, fleeing the Khomeini regime. I still remember Jewish Iranian families who suffered a year or two in what they thought of as the sterile social atmosphere of LA, and who shrugged and moved right back to Iran, where they said they felt more comfortable.

This affair is similar to the attribution to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the statement that "Israel must be wiped off the map." No such idiom exists in Persian, and Ahmadinejad actually just quoted an old speech of Khomeini in which he said "The occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Of course Ahamdinejad does wish Israel would disappear, but he is not commander of the armed forces and could not attack it even if he wanted to, which he denies.

The Palestinian advocacy website Electronic Intifada notes that an editor of a CanWest paper said "We do not run in our newspaper Op Ed pieces that express criticism of Israel".

Here is background from SourceWatch on Benador Associates - basically a PR firm for neo-con hawks. And a Kos writer adds:

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.

In other words, practically the whole gang! There's plenty of commentary around this flap, such as this columnist in the Toronto Star, Canadian Cynic, Taylor Marsh, Unqualified Offerings, and plenty more if you care to search.

Besides all that, um, check out Thomas Lippman and Juan Cole's basic explanation of why Iran is not really a military threat to Israel.

Get ready for more of these. They are definitely coming, but it would appear that lots of people are already wary of the Persian version of Aluminum Tubes©®.

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