By Barry Rubin
In 2003, I and the publication I edit, the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, became the world’s biggest story for two or three days. Last week I became a “story” without knowing it until later.
First, the 2003 experience. An Iraqi-American author submitted a good article that explained how Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime’s intelligence agencies worked. As I edited the article I said to myself–this is absolutely true–that this was one of the most uncontroversial articles I’d ever publish because it was so bland, though useful as a database inventory of Iraqi institutions
Without my knowing it, the British prime minister’s office plagiarized the article as part of its campaign to justify launching the attack on Iraq to overthrow Saddam. A MERIA Journal reader who opposed the war noticed this plagiarism and brought it to public attention. The reader in no way criticized the journal but only the British government. I should stress that the article said nothing to support (or oppose) going to war with Iraq. I think it was used mainly to make it appear as if the British prime minister’s office had done some research on Iraq.
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The story was front-page news around the world. I walked into a room as a famous television personality was discussing the matter with total inaccuracy on the television. Prestigious newspapers got our journal’s name wrong. Only one reporter ever called to interview me. Left-wing sources speculated that the plagiarism involved some kind of Israeli conspiracy to begin the war, though again nothing in the article suggested attacking Saddam.
I was amazed and disgusted. But that’s nothing compared to what has just happened to me.
Before you read the rest of this note, understand that none of those involved have consulted me nor have they used my name. I heard about this by accident after it happened. Other than those directly involved I’m presumably the only one who knows that this was my article. Here we go.
A well-known television program took an article of mine that appeared on my blog and quoted it on the air. The extract was put up on the screen though the author’s name wasn’t mentioned. It was about the Muslim Brotherhood. The article quoted a Brotherhood leader as talking about his hostility toward Israel, etc. At this point, I was saying to myself: There goes a million dollars in free publicity!
The program’s critics submitted the article to one of these mainstream prestigious “fact-checking” sites. The site called up an “expert” who I’ve never heard of at an American institution and asked him about it. He said that he had never heard of the Egyptian Brotherhood leader. The site then pronounced, on the basis of that one conversation, that the article was inaccurate and criticized the program for using it. Note that my article was sourced and if anyone had asked me I could have shown them the original and many similar statements,as well as proof of the importance of the Brotherhood leader making the statement.
I only know about this because I was listening to the program and they cited the article (without my name) and of course I recognized the quote. Nobody consulted me at any point on this matter.
So to quote a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood based on a reliable (and available) translation as saying that the Brotherhood wants an Islamist state and wants to wipe out Israel is considered to be not credible on the basis of a statement by one American who, to my knowledge, has never done any research on the Brotherhood. Yet there are scores of such Brotherhood statements, including those from both the leader and deputy leader of the Brotherhood as well as many recognized leaders and in Brotherhood publications.
This is the closest thing I’ve ever seen and experienced to a Soviet-style or 1984-type denial of reality. We have reached the point of being able to quote the motto of George Orwel”s totalitarian state in 1984:
WAR IS PEACE [The revolutionary Islamist war on the West doesn’t actually exist.]
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY [Free speech is Islamophobic, racist, etc., and thus a form of “hate crime.” Censorship makes us freer.]
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH [Mass media editing out of reality makes us stronger by eliminating potential “thought crime” and nudging the masses toward more “correct” behavior.]
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are teased and other articles are available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.