Bad news

by Ted on January 18, 2005

Jeff Jarvis has found a worthy target for his spleen- an appalling New York Times article by Sarah Boxer that repeatedly insinuates that the bloggers behind Iraq the Model are fakes, plants, or CIA operatives. Iraq the Model is a blog written by three Iraqi brothers; it’s especially popular among supporters of the war because of its generally pro-American, pro-invasion viewpoint.

The CIA really did covertly finance intellectual and cultural events and publications during the Cold War. On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. On the face of it, it’s not impossible that there could be something behind any generic pro-American Iraqi bloggers. Sarah Boxer could have looked into it, checked out the things that could be checked, talked to the people who had met the bloggers in question, and written about what she found.

That’s not what she did. Here’s the first paragraph:

When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet.

Sexy! I kind of wish someone would profile me, so I could see what secrets I might have. I might be on the Democratic payroll. I might be writing to attract young women to my gingerbread house. Boxer might have no business printing insinuations without some pretty good evidence to back them up. What she has are the wankings from some other bloggers.

A man posting as Gandhi reported that his “polite antiwar comments were always met with barrages of crude abuse” from Iraq the Model’s readers. His conclusion? The blog “is a refuge for people who do not want to know the truth about Iraq, and the brothers take care to provide them with a comfortable information cocoon.” He added, “I hope some serious attention will be brought to bear on these Fadhil brothers and reveal them as frauds.”

What kind of frauds? One reader suggested that the brothers were real Iraqis but were being coached on what to write. Another, in support of that theory, noted the brothers’ suspiciously fluent English. A third person observed that coaching wasn’t necessary. All the C.I.A. would need to do to influence American opinion was find one pro-war blog and get a paper like USA Today to write about it.

If I tried to tell my Mom that some people in a blog comment thread were mean to me and the writers are weird and… she’d be asleep before I finished the sentence. And my Mom loves me. This should not have been printed.

Islamic faith schools row

by Chris Bertram on January 18, 2005

In the UK the Inspector of Schools “has been criticizing Islamic schools for failing to prepare their pupils adequately for life in a modern society”:,13882,1392833,00.html . The message that has been foregrounded by the press has to do with “our coherence as a nation”, which I don’t think of as an appropriate educational goal, and to that extent some of his remarks are regrettable. But when he makes the point that such schools may be reducing the opportunities available to their charges, that’s a concern that all liberals ought to agree with. So there are real issues here, which those schools have to address if they are to be permitted to continue operating. How depressing, then, that various figures have popped up to accuse him of “Islamophobia”, which, in this context, is just a way of trying to wriggle out of answering some tough and legitimate questions about the education that they’re providing.