“Arabs Tend to Wear Red Shirts,” Said the Man in the Red Shirt

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You may have seen that National Review posted some glaringly false claims about Lebanon by a contributor, W. Thomas Smith, Jr. (If not, Thomas Edsall has written up the basics here.)

Now National Review is trying to explain what happened. Here’s their online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez:

A few additional words on what the situation with the Smith Lebanon reporting is and what it isn’t: It isn’t a case of fabrication, as some of Smith’s accusers have alleged. With regard to the two posts in question, it is my belief, based on an investigation in which NRO discussed the matter with three independent sources who live and work in Lebanon (as well as other experts in the area), that Smith was probably either spun by his sources or confused about what he saw…[His sources’] claims obviously should have been been treated with the same degree of skepticism as those of anyone with an agenda to advance.

As one of our sources put it: “The Arab tendency to lie and exaggerate about enemies is alive and well among pro-American Lebanese Christians as much as it is with the likes of Hamas.”

Yow. It’s not often these days you see this kind of raw, open prejudice in American publications. And certainly you can only get away with saying it about Arabs. You won’t be reading about the Asian or African or Jewish or Buddhist “tendency to lie” anytime soon.

And it’s especially enjoyable this appears in National Review, which has something of a track record lying and exaggerating about the Arab world. In fact, as you may have noticed, they helped start a war based on it.

Of course, National Review did this not because lying and exaggerating about enemies is an American tendency, but because it’s a human tendency. And one popular way humans lie and exaggerate about their enemies is by claiming their enemies have an unusual tendency toward lying and exaggeration.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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