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November 18, 2007

"Why Not Just Make Stuff Up?": The Amir Taheri Story

Amir Taheri, the Iranian royalist who brought us the tale of Tehran's plan to make Jewish Iranians wear special yellow badges, turns out to have made up other things too...things which Norman Podhoretz and Michael Ledeen repeat as real. I've stuck the details over at Mother Jones.

It's this kind of bald-faced lying that makes me respect Taheri. Even the most egregious propagandists usually can't bring themselves to fabricate things out of whole cloth. Instead, they'll misrepresent what people actually did say, or cite facts selectively. It's just how our monkey brains work.

This often leads monkey-brained hacks to behave in preposterous ways, as they go to incredible lengths to consciously mislead people while not exactly "lying" (see a funny recent example here). I always look at their exertions and want to ask: since you clearly have no moral scruples, why not just make things up?

But clearly this is something we will never have to wonder about Taheri. And he is the bigger man for it.

Posted at November 18, 2007 06:25 PM | TrackBack

Didn't seem to have hurt Marc Schneier.

Posted by: Ed Marshall at November 19, 2007 08:47 AM

That blog headline made me laugh my ass off. Thanks!

Posted by: Dan Coyle at November 19, 2007 11:01 AM

1-202-225-0100 DEMAND IMPEACHMENT.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at November 19, 2007 11:52 AM

Boy, you picked the right recent example of "monkey brained hacks." Apparently Bozell and Harris think Margaret Carlson is a liberal propagandist because they think that in 1992, she knew that Hillary Clinton would be a leading presidential candidate 15 years later, and sneakily wrote a relative puff piece about her, as if she were merely a potential First Lady. Oh, those crafty leftists!

Similarly, I am sure that Hillary Rodham's high school newspaper was part of the liberal media cabal because they fawningly wrote of her accomplishments. And the editor of the local Girl Scout newsletter was in on the plot, too, when noted the many badges young H. Rodham earned. Is there no end to the liberal treachery?

Posted by: Whistler Blue at November 20, 2007 04:13 PM

Perhaps you're just being sardonic, but the reason they don't out-and-out lie is not because their funders or even they think they're persuading anyone, but because they're providing ready arguments that are difficult to counter. These are immensely useful to persuaders on the ground for use in the quick and simple arguments that shape most peoples' opinions.

That's not to say simple lies don't work, but they're easier to notice and deflect. A misinterpretation can be harder to uncover, and can even be re-enforced just by relaying the facts.

Posted by: me at November 21, 2007 09:36 AM