Right-wing propagandist misrepresents photographs of police violence
By Joseph Cannon on 6/26/2007, 1:26am PT  

Guest Blogged by Joseph Cannon

Larisa Alexandrovna draws our attention to a piece by noted reactionary Michelle Malkin. In her blog, Malkin publishes some photos of Iranian police brutalizing four men, and adds these comments:

The innocent young men in the photos were beaten, humiliated, and arrested for wearing Western clothing and hairstyles. It is in the public interest to spread these photos far and wide. The images should be seared onto the global conscience
...
Question: Will these photos be blared across the front pages of the international media with as much disgust and condemnation as the photos of Abu Ghraib or the manufactured Gitmo Koran-flushing riots?

As we'll see in a moment, Malkin hasn't quite told the truth about those photos. But even if we were to take her assertions at face value, Malkin has ignored what we may call the "Matthew 7:4 factor."...

The atrocities at Abu Ghraib were paid for by American tax dollars. You (presuming you live in the United States) and I bear responsibility for those acts. The sins of the Iranian police cannot be laid to our account. But we do bear a great measure of the blame for the tortures inflicted by the Shah's brutal forces back in the 1960s and '70s, because our CIA placed the Shah in power after toppling Iran's elected leader.

Malkin's ability to ignore the lumber in her own eye socket reminds me of the arguments right-wingers routinely offered back when the USSR was still a going concern. "Why do you leftists always talk about human rights abuses in Guatemala or the Philippines? Why don't you talk about what's going on in Eastern Europe?" The answer, of course, was that our government supported the dictators in Guatemala and the Philippines. As for Eastern Europe: Our tax dollars paid for a nuclear arsenal pointed at the USSR, and any further expression of disapproval always struck me as superfluous.

It turns out that Malkin has, for propaganda purposes, misidentified the photos on her site. They do not depict Iranians who have violated any dress code:

But the man in the photograph, according to widespread Iranian news reports, was one of more than 100 people arrested recently on charges of being part of a gang that had committed rapes, robberies, forgeries and other crimes.

Malkin drew her misidentification from this New York Times story. Here's the NYT's apologia:

In this case, The Times relied on an interview with a researcher for a nongovernment agency that no longer operates within Iran who said the photograph was evidence of a more visible police role in public crackdowns on what the authorities consider immoral behavior. The reporter then wrongly interpreted what the researcher said as applying to a crackdown on dress, and incorporated the erroneous interpretation into the body of the article, without giving any indication of the source for it.

The "nongovernment agency" is obviously the MEK, which others, including our own State Department, have called a terrorist group allied with Saddam Hussein. In her update, Malkin makes clear that she considers the group credible.

My words should not be taken as an apologia for the Iranian government. Years ago, I knew an Armenian lady whose family had immigrated here from Iran, and she had plenty of stories about the draconian measures inflicted by the Iranian "justice" system. (As I recall, she reported that a woman guilty of a morals infraction might be made to wash the dead.) On the other hand, her family felt that Iran's problems all stemmed from the CIA's intervention in the 1950s. Although they felt grateful for the asylum provided by this country, they could not blind themselves to history.