Reality TV, Iraqi style

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What to make of this report in today’s Financial Times?

Say the word mujahid — or holy warrior — these days and many inhabitants of Baghdad are likely to [snicker].

An appellation once worn as a badge of pride by anti-American insurgents has now become street slang for homosexuals, after men claiming to be captured Islamist guerrillas confessed that they were holding gay orgies in the popular Iraqi TV program Terror in the Hands of Justice.

The revelation, says the FT in a bit of ridiculous hyperbole, has “broken the mystique” of the largely Sunni insurgency. (Note that to discredit these guys it’s not enough to point out that they routinely blow innocent civilians to bits; you have to throw in that they’re into gay sex — that should do it!) But it’s also ticked off quite a few Sunnis, who don’t like the implication that they, as Sunnis, are into that sort of thing. (Orgies are said to have taken place — “usually” — in mosques.)

Turns out the program has been “immensely effective” in getting Iraqis to come forward with information about “guerrillas.”

As far as anyone can tell, these guys are real detainees. But come on! Orgies in mosques! Might it be that the men were “pushed,” as the FT delicately puts it, to make their confessions?

[Sabah Khadim, spokesman for Iraq’s interior minister] denies that the confessions were extracted by torture but has his doubts as to whether those confessing are being truthful or simply saying whatever they think their captors want to hear. He also has reservations over whether the display of prisoners on television violates the Geneva Convention. …

“If this were not an emergency situation, we would not have run this,” he says. “But it is an emergency situation, and this produces results.”

Ah, so that’s how it is.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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