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Whodunnit, WaPo?

Friday, March 21st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a small matter -- of some concern to journos and scholars perhaps -- of truth in attribution ]
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My twitter feed this morning included this:

Now Stéphane Lacroix is a scholar of salafism and politics at Sciences Po whose little book with Thomas Hegghammer, The Meccan Rebellion, marks him as someone the mere mention of whose name generates a click-through, a download and — time permitting — a careful reading.

I clicked, I saw, I printed to .pdf.

And that’s where things got just a little strange.

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In the upper panel below, you’ll see what I saw when I clicked through to the WaPo site as suggested by McCants:

— while in the lower panel above, you’ll see what I saw when I hit their “print” button.

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I’ve “enlarged” the credits in those two screencaps, and I do understand that the WaPo “Monkey Cage” blog-post in question was likely posted by Marc Lynch, fow which I’m grateful, and that even the “for print” version gives Lacroix credit at the very end of the piece, noting in italics:

Stéphane Lacroix is an associate professor of political science at Sciences Po in Paris, France.

Today, I notice all this. In a year or three, though, if for some reason I want to quote the piece after finding it by a quick search for MB-related file-titles on my laptop, I’m liable to attribute it to Lynch rather than Lacroix. Because the downloaded .pdf copy I now have stored away tells me the piece was “By Marc Lynch”.

Whose opinions I also respect. But who didn’t in fact write it.

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From my POV the world is perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing — not even my inclination to change things I notice and find unhelpful.

Like failing to distinguish “written by” from “translated by” and “posted by” — or “date posted” and “date last updated” from “date downloaded” for that matter…

Because — forget truth in advertising, it’s a lost oxymoron — we could really use something as basic as truth in attribution, okay?

Thanks.

And now I’ll go read the article.

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200 lashes for a Saudi rape victim???

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- how a half-baked, re-raked tale from 2007, now showing on my local Facebook, gets things all wrong ]
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Let’s set the record straight.

It seems that Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times did the amplification in this case. He tweeted, and Mia Farrow retweeted him, so we know what he said:

I can’t find Kristof’s original tweet, I guess he’s deleted it. About the same time Mia Farrow was RTing it, though, and thus saving it for the record, he tweeted:

And if you go to JM Hall‘s twitter stream, you’ll see that he was schooling Kristof on this one, and pointed him to an NYT piece from 2007. Funny, that — being an NYT piece and all…

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Anyway, the word got out on Facebook and went at least a little viral. And that’s sad. Because while the story does illustrate the state of jurisprudence in Saudi in 2007, the raped girl never actually received those 200 lashes — she was personally pardoned by the King.

Which should be a reason for rejoicing, not condemnation.

But here’s how it was presented on my FB page —

That does somewhat encourage the reader to think she did in fact receive those lashes, doesn’t it?

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I understand, Nick Kristof tweeted it — and he’s the good guy who helps a whole heap of socially beneficial causes around the world that deserve all the support and encouragement he can bring them. I’m not disputing that, in fact I’ll gladly stipulate it.

But the story was wrong, and wrong in a damaging way. And forwarding or endorsing this sort of thing makes me very sad. Let me explain why.

The Examiner.com is an outfits that “operates a network of local news websites, allowing ‘pro–am contributors’” — nothing wrong with that, you just need to be careful when you read them, in other words.

The Examiner article in question quotes the Clarion Project, calling it “the women’s rights-centered news portal” when it’s far better known as the source of a whole lot of anti-Islamic propaganda — the Muslim organization CAIR lists Clarion among the “Islamophobia Network’s inner core” groups, while Clarion views CAIR with similar distaste. Okay, maybe they cancel each other out, let’s stipulate that, too.

But the article then states that the Clarion piece was posted “on Sept. 22, 2013″ — whereas if you click through, you’ll find it’s actually dated Thu, November 15, 2007 — it’s 5 going on 6 years old. So why drag it up again now?

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Retired US diplomat John Burgess who blogs about Saudi Arabia quotes to us, in a blog post from December 2007 and titled ‘Qatif Girl’ Receives Saudi Royal Pardon, an article from Agence France Presse in Riyadh, also dated December 2007, which can tells us what actually happened — how this unhappy story ended:

RIYADH (AFP) — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has pardoned a teenage girl sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes after being gang raped, Al Jazirah newspaper reported on Monday.

The ruling against the 19-year-old girl in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom had attracted widespread international condemnation, including from human rights groups and the White House.

The Arabic language daily said it had been informed of the royal pardon from its own, unidentified, sources.
But in the same article, the kingdom’s Justice Minister Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Ibrahim Al Shaikh told the paper the king had the “right to overrule court judgements if he considered it benefiting the greater good.”
The minister added that the king, who is viewed by many as a cautious reformer, was concerned with “the needs of the people and the court judgments that are made against them.”

Got that? Pardoned. By the King. Who is viewed as a cautious reformer.

I hope Kristof and Farrow have let their friends know…

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So the Examiner writer whose work Kristof and others are quoting has:

  • picked up a nasty story from Saudia Arabia almost six years ago,
  • that actually didn’t end in a girl being given 200 lashes for being raped
  • but resulted in the King personally pardoning her,
  • thus moving Saudi jurisprudence in a very welcome new direction
  • — and posted it without any of the redeeming parts, with attribution to a group that’s not exactly friendly to the House of Saud, and getting the date wrong by almost six years in the process… And then well-meaning, generous people — Nick Kristoff and some of my friends among them — circulate this ugly and incomplete story, without first checking to see what truth there is to it.

    I quoted a source without checking its veracity only the other day [1, 2, 3], so I’m in no position to go around blaming people who don’t check their sources. But seeing this particular story of the 200 lashes go viral makes me sad — because repeating it only stirs up righteous anger, disgust and hatred.

    Rape is terrible. A penal code that sentences people to 200 lashes is way, way beyond my sense of justice. But I don’t believe stirring up hatred between nations or against religions is the path we want to choose…

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    Serpent logics: simple incongruities

    Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- religious law enforcement, therapy incarcerated, and a quick blast of Johnny Cash ]
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    As you know, I collect instances of various patterns I see recurring in my twitterstream and elsewhere — here, I’d like to introduce a new pattern that I’ll simply call “simple incongruities”.

    My first example, which I ran across several days ago, was this one from Saudi Arabia:

    From the [Lebanese] Daily Star news report:

    A Saudi motorist died and a passenger was injured on Tuesday when a religious police vehicle crashed into their car during a hot pursuit in Riyadh, a newspaper reported. A patrol of the notorious police, known unofficially as Mutawaa, chased two young men travelling in a sedan before crashing into their vehicle, forcing it off an overpass and onto a lower-level road, Al-Hayat daily said. The patrol vehicle fled the scene instantly, the daily said. “We pray to Allah to forgive the dead,” said Mohammed al-Shraimi, assistant spokesman of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the official name of the Mutawaa.

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    It’s my second example — from nearer home — which I only ran across today that inspired me to make a separate post about these incongruities. The image of caged prisoners in a group therapy session at San Quentin (see above) was just too remarkable for me to pass over. The tweet that brought it to my attention is below:

    Here’s a comment from Johnny Cash — to give you added San Quentin context:

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    Hezbollah facing towards Mecca?

    Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- it is, when all is said and done, the qibla of their prayers ]
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    Whether this is an individual or group obligation, I don’t know. Since I have no access to SITE, I’ll just leave you with their tweet.

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    Aside:

    CS Lewis, in his Allegory of Love, writes:

    It must always be remembered…that the various senses we take out of an ancient word by analysis existed in it as a unity.

    Something very similar applies to concepts cross-culturally. We in the secular west tend to differentiate religion from politics in a sort of conceptual separation of church and state — but such a separation may not always be appropriate in evaluating such things as the Hezbollah statement above.

    We have that saying about war as the continuation of politics — perhaps in this case (and many like it) war is the continuation of politics is the continuation of religion? Always remembering that these things are not as easily separated as the layers of a coaxial cable…

    I first ran across “doctrine” as a theological term, but the DOD defines it thus:

    Fundamental principles by which the military forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of national objectives.

    The echoes and eddies in language get dizzying when religious, political and military considerations are all in play.

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    I suppose I’m looking for a word that means distinct though inseparable, or even better, distinct though complexly and untidily interwoven.

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    He must have a long spoon that must eat with the devil

    Sunday, September 1st, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- borrowing my title from Shakespeare, though Chaucer and Erasmus said it first ]
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    You may or may not like John Kerry. You may or may not like Assad. You may or may not like Mother Teresa, or Michèle Duvalier and Papa Doc. Rumsfeld and or Saddam. GW Bush or Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud. But paired photos of someone you dislike with someone many of us loathe is a neat visual tactic in which the not-so-bad party of the first part is tarred by association with the way-more-evil party of the second.

    Does it ever work the other way around, though? is the party of the second part ever redeemed through contact with the party of the first? or even relieved of a few tens or hundreds of thousand dollars for authentic, charitable purposes?

    What would I know?

    The simplest way in which the two images above can be seen as similar to one another is that each one features someone named Teresa. But that’s not the point.

    And I do have to say, that restaurant in Damascus looks pleasant enough.

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