Death-before-dishonor Dep’t: the “Egyptian post-mortem sex law” hoax

Al-Ahram is Egypt’s official newspaper, which at the moment means that it carries water for the military dictatorship that may or may not be succeeded by something like a democratically-elected government (which, of course, might or might not be “democratic” in the broader sense of being itself committed to democratic principles). Naturally, the military wants to discredit the Islamist forces that were the long-standing opponents of the Mubarak dictatorship, in which the generals were partners.

That objective is shared by the “democracy-is-too-good-for-ragheads” faction of the American right, which is close to identical  with the “bomb-Iran” faction and the “there’s-no-such-thing-as-a-Palestinian-so-keep- building-settlements” faction: the collection of racist, religiously bigoted warmongers who brought you the invasion, and catastrophic occupation, of Iraq.   (The nature and sources of the overlap between these factions and the allied faction trying to turn the United States into a plutocratic oligarchy deserve serious scientific investigation. Their overlap with the let’s-hate-blacks-immigrants-gays-and-educated-folks faction seems less puzzling; their overlap with the let’s-control-women’s-sexuality-and-obstruct-their-economic-progress faction is slightly more puzzling, but patriarchy is thicker than blood.)  Of course the fact that the Obama Administration wisely and courageously chose to embrace the Arab Spring rather than continuing the long-standing U.S. policy of supporting “our SOBs” throughout the Arab world gives the topic a heavy partisan spin.

In its latest sally, Al-Ahram published an op-ed claiming that the Egyptian parliament would soon pass a law allowing men to have sex with their deceased wives for up to six hours post mortem.

That story was picked up by Al-Arabiya, an organ of the Saudi tyranny – remember, they’re the wonderful folks who brought you 9-11 – then by the UK tabloid Daily Mail, and from there, via the Free Republic hate site,  by large swathes of the Right Blogosphere (plus Andrew Sullivan, whose current ideological valence is hard to determine).  No one seems to have bothered to ask whether the supposed legislative proposal had a name, a bill number, a sponsor, or an actual text. It appears to be entirely chimerical; after they got called out by the Christian Science Monitor, the Daily Mail (silently) inserted some weasel-words.

Although reported in local media, there are some suggestions from within Egypt that the plans do not exist and were merely seeded by journalists loyal to ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

(That’s 14 grafs down in a story still headlined “Outrage as Egypt plans ‘farewell intercourse law’ so husbands can have sex with DEAD wives up to six hours after their death.”)

But there’s been no update (at this writing)  from Gateway Pundit or Belmont Club or the misnamed American Thinker or Israel Matzav (which used the false story to take another swipe at the President) or Weasel Zippers or Small Dead Animals or The Daily Caller or Atlas Shrugs or I Own the World or the Weekly Standard or Q&O or Mark Steyn at National Review Online or The Other McCain or Sister Toldjah or the Volokh Conspiracy. Naturally, Clayton Cramer prefers to keep believing the story even after it’s been debunked, on the grounds that an official Saudi publication must be more reliable than the Christian Science Monitor. That’s not a complete census; those are just the blogs I found on Memeorandum, where the item was at the top of the page for most of yesterday.  But so far, not a single Right-Blogosphere outlet has updated, even though the Daily Mail itself has backed off. [Update Eugene Volokh updates: "Some commentators have expressed skepticism about whether such a proposal actually exists, and argue that the original Al Ahram and Al Arabiya reports on this may be incorrect." He follows up with a somewhat skeptical post that leaves the question open. For my part, I think the absence of a bill text is pretty decisive at this point, and that accusations that Egypt's political process is dominated by disgusting sexual perverts ought to be made only on fairly strong evidence. But your mileage may vary.]

On the other hand, Allahpundit at Hot Air was up early with a skeptical take. Kudos to him, though note that his commenters engage in exactly the same orgy of Arab- and Muslim-baiting as the commenters on other right-wing sites.

Yes, yes, I know that liberal principles require me to recognize the good sense in views other than my own. But  while many of the individuals involved may be personally decent and sensible, they have created a social and political web around themselves that leads them to act in a manner not distinguishable from clinical insanity. Worse yet, with the Murdoch empire on their side, they have the collective capacity to make virtually any piece of drivel a topic of media conversation.

It seems to me that the victims of this hoax who were not willing victims need to do some serious self-examination, and to follow the lead of the Huffington Post, which inserted an update at the top of its story warning that the whole thing might be false, and Think Progress, which also updated. Sullivan hasn’t updated his original post, put put up a new post thoroughly exploring the hoax. (If we count Sullivan as a progressive, that makes the score 3 out of 3 progressive hoax victims who have updated so far, as against zero out of 16 on the right, including one who chose to double down.) And the rest of us ought to be prepared to simply ignore anything said from now on by anyone who picked up on this false and disgusting story and did not promptly and abjectly retract.

Footnote Any reader who spots an update before I do, or who has seen another Red site that appropriately updated, will earn my gratitude by emailing markarkleiman [at] gmail [dot] com.

Update The Daily Mail has backpedaled all the way; the hed and lede grafs on the linked story now read:

Egypt’s ‘plans for farewell intercourse law so husbands can have sex with DEAD wives’
branded a ‘complete nonsense’

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
PUBLISHED: 04:28 EST, 26 April 2012 | UPDATED: 11:28 EST, 27 April 2012

Alleged proposals to allow Egyptian husbands to legally have sex with their dead wives for up to six hours after their death have been branded a ‘complete nonsense’.

The controversial new ‘farewell intercourse’ law was claimed, in Arab media, to be part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.

They reported it would also see the minimum age of marriage lowered to 14 and the ridding of women’s rights of getting education and employment.

Controversial: The ‘farewell intercourse’ law is ‘a complete nonsense’, according to sources
But sources inside the Egyptian Embassy in London have said the claims were ‘completely false’, ‘forbidden in Islam’ and ‘could never imagine it happening’.

The source said the proposal, if it even existed, had not reached the parliament – although it was also admitted it could be the work of an extremist politician.

Although not officially rebutted, the claims that someone inside Egypt could introduce such a law provoked widespread scepticism.

Comments

  1. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    This post is full of invective. Although I’ve criticized some of Mark’s invective the last few days, I think that this invective is perfectly appropriate, although unlikely to persuade fence-sitters. It uses strong language to affirm a central theme of this blog: that much of the contemporary American conservative movement is reality-impaired.

    I wouldn’t lump Volokh Conspiracy with the others, but that’s a niggle.

    • says

      I also wouldn’t lump Volokh in, or at least some of the posters there, but it’s depressing that Eugene Volokh hasn’t corrected his own mistake. I just checked it.

    • Clark says

      Why wouldn’t you dump Volokh in? Is it just that you are grading right wing blogs on a curve, and the VC looks good in comparison to, say, Malkin and Limbaugh?

  2. Paul Gottlieb says

    Andrew Sullivan is many things, but “progressive” isn’t one of them. Accept on issues that directly affect him, Sullivan is merely a dilettante, a poseur who takes positions and rejects positions based on some obscure “aesthetic” criteria. Truth, Falsehood, even the rules of elementary arithmetic, are of no concern to him. What’s important is how he looks to himself in the mirror.

    • Rob in CT says

      I have a soft spot for him, but he’s no progressive and would absolutely reject that label.

      • Swift Loris says

        What Rob said. And in my observation, Sullivan can be quite hard-nosed and evidence-based. He’s also conscientious about updating and correcting his own mistakes.

        • Warren Terra says

          There is a decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts that may well mount what amounts to a fifth column and that might disagree with your characterization of Sullivan as being conscientious about updating and correcting his mistakes.

  3. MikeM says

    Mark, your second paragraph literally cries out for a Venn diagram with a “follow-the-money” angle. Can one of your grad students do the heavy (well, not very heavy) lifting on this?

  4. Frank says

    Mark:

    I think you may earn a spot in Paradisio for scanning all of those right-wing blogs and “news” sites. My constitution is much more limited…

    Frank

    • NCG says

      You make a good point. I think the main responsibility should lie within conservatism though. Mark shouldn’t have to be the one to waste his time trying to keep right wingies honest. Where’s the foundation money for that, I wonder?

  5. marcel says

    On the basis of nothing but the name, I believe that Weasel Zippers has more than a passing interest in the asserted legislation.

    (I cannot (quickly) figure out a way to insert small dead animals in here, or I would have.)

  6. Michael says

    From Phineas on Sister Toldjah…

    UPDATE II: Dan Murphy at the Christian Science Monitor is scornful of the reports regarding the “Farewell Intercourse” law. For the record, if this is shown to be not true I’ll post a correction in a new post.

    The obvious difference is that, if this turns out to be a myth, the conservative blogs are more apt to assign a disclaimer or update than the leftists.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      “More likely”? “If this turns out to be a myth”? Story exploded. Where are the retractions?

      • says

        In front of you, perhaps? I’m not sure exactly when I posted UPDATE 3 on my blog posting about this (the time stamp does not include date, apparently), but it is pretty clear: “The April 26, 2012 Daily Mail quotes the Egyptian embassy in London as claiming that this is utter nonsense–that nothing of the sort was introduced in their Parliament. I’m glad to hear that. It is rather interesting that Arab news media were prepared to believe it.”

  7. says

    Idle question: is necrophilia in fact illegal in the USA? As opposed to merely disgusting, perverted… (add your own adjectives). Some of it is carried out by psycho killers on the bodies of their victims, but SFIK in court it’s swallowed up in the murder charges.

    • John Herbison says

      It may qualify as abuse of a corpse, depending on how the relevant statute is worded.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      If someone had printed as fact the statement that the Federalist Society had endorsed a return to chattel slavery, and then updated by saying that “Some commentators have expressed skepticism about whether such a proposal actually exists, and argue that the original report on this by Glenn Greenwald may be incorrect,” do you think Eugene would regard that as adequate? Neither do I.

      • SamChevre says

        On the other hand, if someone had reported as fact that “the NY Times said the Federalist Society had endorsed a return to chattel slavery” (and the NYT had done so) and then updated by saying “However, the WSJ says this is ridiculous” I would consider this a reasonable correction (assuming the NYT story hadn’t changed).

        Just for clarity, here’s the post, here’s the update

        • Mark Kleiman says

          Really? Without any exploration of whether it is, in fact, true? It seems to me that when an accusation is made, especially this sort of racially inflammatory accusation, there’s an obligation to back off quickly if evidence isn’t forthcoming.

      • Cranky Observer says

        The Federalist Society hasn’t endorsed a return to chattel slavery? Count me surprised.

        Cranky

        Which I guess is an example of confirmation bias.

        • Byomtov says

          In true federalist fashion, they want to leave it up to the states.

          After all, that worked out just fine last time.

  8. Altoid says

    Well, that explains Limbaugh’s lead-off screed today, which I turned on accidentally and listened to with utter fascination. It smelled so phony it was hard to keep from gaping.

    Insane right-wing talk radio today featured a somehow-related meme that Limbaugh managed to work into the same segment, which is the idea that Obama is somehow very close with the Muslim Brotherhood and, in Glenn Beck’s telling, has implanted them all over the federal bureaucracy and is bound to unleash them. There’s just no end to it.

    And when you’re tempted to think it might have something to do with Obama being so exotic (what with the dark skin, the Kenyan father, the time in Indonesia, blah, blah, blah), you remember the utter shit that was thrown around about Bill Clinton more than 15 years ago: they learned their chops doing the same thing to a lily-white son of the South.

    It has nothing to do with who the target is and what the target actually does. It has everything to do with the party label.

  9. says

    I have added an update pointing out that there is evidence that this was NOT the case. But to assert that an American newspaper account (the Christian Science Monitor) that merely expresses skepticism, and does not actually make a clear statement that the original account was false should immediately discredit a claim being made by news organizations that are Muslim and which have Arabic-speaking journalists, seems a bit much. The latest account, quoting the Egyptian embassy in London is a bit more authoritative. The Christian Science Monitor article was merely asserting that it was an outlandish story, and hard to believe.

    Yes, one should be skeptical of the Saudis, who are terrified of democracy. So are liberals in the U.S., who have worked very hard to overturn laws passed by democratically elected legislatures and passed by the voters themselves repeatedly: Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, Romer v. Evans, Griswold v. Connecticut, California’s Three Strikes law, California’s “one man, one woman” law. If you want to be upset about the antidemocratic leanings of the Saudis, it would help if you were upset about the antidemocratic sentiments of the American left.

    • John Beaty says

      I’m sure you have a cogent point in here somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t find it. Why would conflicting views on social issues, which result in laws being democratically enacted then democratically repealed, be evidence of anything but democracy in action? Unless you are of the Republican belief that, “We stole it Fair and Square” means we should never revisit badly drawn laws, never repeal laws which no longer reflect the majority or consensus opinions. In which case, please argue Plessy v Ferguson, or Brown v Board Of Ed, or yes, Roe.

      All the anti-democratic posturing of the last 30 years has been right-wing.

      • says

        Except that “laws being democratically enacted then democratically repealed” does NOT describe liberalism in the case that I pointed out. These were cases where laws passed by representative bodies, and in some cases, passed by the voters themselves, were struck down by judges as violating constitutional rights. We can argue about whether some of these are properly decided cases, but for a liberal to argue in favor of democracy when much of the liberal agenda involves DEFEATING democracy is silly.

        The claim of “All the anti-democratic posturing of the last 30 years has been right-wing” is utterly false. Roe v. Wade is a fundamentally anti-democratic action (and not just posturing). It prohibited 45 states from enforcing laws that were passed by elected representatives of the people. Lawrence v. Texas struck down a state law passed by the elected representatives of the people of Texas. Romer v. Evans struck down a constitutional amendment passed by a majority of the VOTERS of the state of Colorado. The current struggle over California’s one man, one woman law, again, is liberals striking down the decision of the majority of the voters of California.

        Conservatives do not worship democracy, or even pretend to worship it (as liberals often do, when they aren’t asking the courts to overrule the majority). We tend to trust the people a bit more than elites, but we are not wildly enthusiastic about either. Power is easily abused, whether by the jackasses or the jackals, because human nature is corrupt.

    • Byomtov says

      And conservatives have worked very hard to overturn PPACA, as well as DC’s gun ban, all very recently. I suppose there are more. You will argue that you think those laws infringed basic rights. OK, but liberals are equally entitled to make that argument about laws they think infringe basic rights.

      • says

        The difference is that conservatives don’t claim that democracy is always a wonderful thing. We are often quite skeptical of it, not just in the Middle East, but in the United States as well. Liberalism and unlimited democracy are fundamentally at odds with each other.

    • Clark says

      Clayton, given your avocations, I am surprised you didn’t mention the War of Northern Aggression.

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