In 1931, the New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty wrote a series of stories about Stalin's Soviet Union which extolled the virtues of the young communist state. He neglected to mention the millions of Ukrainian citizens who died because of a state engineered famine or the litany of atrocities that Stalin has rightly become famous for in the eyes of history. Nonetheless, in a fitting tribute to the nation which gave us the Potemkin village, Duranty was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Several years ago the Times missed an opportunity to redress their perfidy and decided to stand by Duranty's "reporting" and keep the Pulitzer Prize.
In the spirit of Walter Duranty, our the Times appears to be laying the groundwork for a celebration of the state of governance in some unexpected places.
The Modern MSM. at least minimally cognizant of the army of fact checkers in the Blogosphere, and certainly more sophisticated that their forefathers, create their Potemkin Villages in a more nuanced manner.
Seth Sherwood penned a lyrical paean, a verbal postcard, to Syria in the Sunday Times:
As I discreetly tried to photograph a Damascus sidewalk stand of militant Islamic religious posters — including the Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and his Kalashnikov-toting guerrillas — I looked around and realized that the young, rough-shaven salesman had spotted my camera.
“Where you from?” he said, in English, as women in headscarves battled for plastic shoes from an adjacent sidewalk dealer.
“New York,” I answered, lowering my lens and awaiting a tirade against my country — or worse. Instead, he broke into a smile.
“New York, great city!” he said. “Ahlan wa sahlan bi Sham.”
Ahlan wa sahlan bi Sham: Welcome to Damascus.
How delightful; they like us, they really like us!
Please note, Syria is one of those countries that I would love to visit some day. I would also love to visit Iraq some day. I am fascinated by the deep history revealed in the ruins found in the Levant. Believe it or not, I would even like to visit Saudi Arabia one day; I suspect Mecca would be an extremely interesting place to see.
Seth Sherwood continues:
Though most Americans might be wary of sojourning in a country whose authoritarian government stands accused of some serious charges — financing Hezbollah, allowing foreign fighters into neighboring Iraq and assassinating the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri — a week among the regular citizens of Syria and its cultural riches is eye-opening.
I am one of those Americans who "might be wary of sojourning" in Syria. I would actually go further, however. I am an American who is loathe to spend my money supporting a country that is helping to kill Americans. I also do not like spending my money supporting a police state that is murdering their political opponents in their next door neighbor and supporting the worst spiritual offspring of the Nazis who actively desire and attempt to bring to fruition Hitler's final solution.
(Just for clarity, I abhor having to send my money to the despots of the Middle East when I fill up my car with gas; unfortunately, I have very little choice in the matter. Voluntarily choosing to visit an enemy and spend my money there is a different story.)
Sherwood extols how much the Syrians love Americans and how peaceful and happy the nation appears. Perhaps he can get Michael Moore to film young Syrians flying kites?
Totalitarian states tend to have little in the way of street crime. There is little need for street crime when the thugs are in charge and can steal "legally" with state sanction. More from Sherwood:
“Ahlan wa sahlan,” said Tony Stephan as he ushered me into his antiques and craft emporium along Souk al-Hamidiyeh, the most famous of Damascus’s venerable bazaars. Elderly and courtly, he gave me a tour of his store, which was stocked floor to ceiling with inlaid wooden boxes, elaborate backgammon sets, hammered urns, mosaics, Bedouin jewelry and rich textiles — many of them woven on a click-clacking loom in back.
“That’s Jimmy Carter, that’s Warren Christopher, and that’s Nancy Kissinger,” he said, pointing out photos of the famous figures who, in times of less fraught international relations — before the White House had declared the country a “rogue nation” and a member of the “junior varsity axis of evil” — had snapped up furnishings and fabrics in his shop. Much more recently, in April, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation had strode through the souk during an official visit — the first in recent memory by a top American official — prompting local talk of a possible rapprochement.
As long as Sherwood sees fit to bring politics into his story, it is fitting to point out that shortly after Nancy Pelosi's visit, a crack down on the small intrepid band of Syrian democracy advocates began, complete with arrests and abuses which rendered abu Graib part of the "junior varsity axis of torture." Furthermore, the ongoing campaign of assassination of anti-Syrian Lebanese Parliamentarians accelerated.
Stories in the New York Times always include a moral dimension. The MSM, less interested in news than in advocacy, represent themselves as the arbiters of morality and their litany is familiar:
Peace is always better than war.
Violence is always immoral unless in opposition to oppression.
Only America and its allies can be oppressors.
Freedom fighters who are driven to what some people call terror are less immoral than the occupiers who force them to such desperate straits and kill innocents themselves.
I wold love to visit Damascus some day. It sounds like a fascinating place. Perhaps when the Syrians decide to stop killing Lebanese politicians, stop facilitating the killing of Americans soldiers, and stop supporting genocidal anti-Semites, I will be able to visit.