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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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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