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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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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