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.