Thursday, May 26, 2011

The teen idol demise of Moqtada al-Sadr (though the press keeps the home fires burning)

I'm not really one for a press agent but have, at times in my career, had to retain a firm. And I wonder if Moqtada al-Sadr's press groupies realize that they are short changing themselves by not charging Moqtada for all the free, fawning and inflated press they give him?

This is ridiculous. If you read this report by Tim Craig (Washington Post) or this one by Mohammed Tawfeeq and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) (and, no, I didn't realize Carter had left AP either), you may walk away with the impression that "tens of thousands" turned out to protest. Tens of thousands in Baghdad would have been nothing -- we'll get to that in a moment. But tens of thousands did not turn out to protest.

The protest was a march by Moqtada's goon squad, the Mahdi militia. Why does the press insist upon calling it an "army"? Resistance fighters are called "insurgents" by the same press but a goon squad that killed people, that ethnically cleansed and that stole property (homes and land) as well as raped and targeted gay males and males they thought were gay with kidnapping and murder is called an "army"? Have you no shame, truly, have you no shame?

And what does that say about the US army if it and Moqtada's goons are both armies? What a slap in the face from outlets that love to fly the yellow ribbons. What complete and utter nonsense.

What does the protest tell us?

The protest tells us that the US intelligence community, the British and the French (as well as two Arab states) were correct when they concluded that Moqtada al-Sadr's power in Iraq was slipping. At some point, Moqtada realized he wouldn't be able to turn out the necessary numbers to continue to fool his lovers and fans among the press corps so instead he sent his militia marching through Baghdad.

"Tens of thousands" did not participate. They watched. Tim Craig serves up, "The Associated Press estimated at least 70,000 marchers and well-wishers crammed Sadr City, a predominately Shiite slum that was once a hotbed of violence against U.S troops." What a load of crap. I have a friend who will hate my telling this story but I'll obscure the details for her. She was home with her then-young child one day and, down her street, a parade was taking place. She grabbed her child and rushed out so they could see the parade, something a kid would enjoy. She was watching it for about two minutes before she realized it was a hate parade (I'll avoid the specifics because she really will be embarrassed I've included this much) and immediately went inside. Point, someone marches past your home and you step outside to see what's going on, you're not a supporter.

And note that the march, to gather these onlookers, had to stay confined to the slum of Sadr City. And all people had to do to be considered (by the press) participants was step outside their homes. A hell of a lot didn't bother to since the estimated population of Sadr City is 2.5 million. We're being kind and I'm ignoring the New York Times this morning. I'll check them later today and hopefully they showed more maturity than other outlets. However, the paper's the only one to ever seriously question the 2.5 million number. Other outlets have just repeated it. So if you're an outlet like, for example, CNN and the Washington Post that has regularly repeated Sadr City has 2.5 million resisdents, you should be explaining why you're making a big to do that a parade there managed to bring 'tens of thousands' out of their homes to their front yards to watch. Where are the millions?

AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports that approximately 70,000 people came out of their homes to shout some form of "No to America!" Wow. That would be impressive if that was even half of the Sadr City population. 250,000 would be 10% of 2.5 million. 70,000 (a generous estimate and AP isn't qualified to estimate that crowd size, just FYI -- in Iraq, they're capable of estimating up to 3,000 fairly accurately -- after that it's just guessing or supplied to them by some official) is unimpressive. Again, the parade went right past their homes. All they had to do was step out on the front yard.

About a third of the residents chose to step outside.

About a third.

What does that say?

It says Moqtada has become the biggest joke in Iraq. (Well . . . the biggest joke after the US press. Sorry, guys and gals, you bring it on yourself when you play huckster and fan as opposed to skeptic.)

He had a dismal showing last go round. April 23rd, he attempted to stage a protest. Do you remember what happened? "Hundreds" turned out in Baghdad. Sadr City, a slum in Baghdad, has a population of 2.5 million. And only "hundreds" turned out for the protest.

So this go round, as the prospective numbers became clear to him, he decided to turn it into a march by his goon squad. And to ramp up the numbers, they wouldn't go to Tahrir Square -- he'd already learned that anything requiring even a little mobility would reduce numbers -- they'd just parade around Sadr City so curious onlookers could be counted as "participants."


Staged event. Not since two managers created rock stars in Europe by having a couple repeatedly turned away by hotels has an event been so successfully stage managed. If you're doubting it, AP quotes Mohammed Moyad stating . . . Well basically what the press quoted Haider al-Bahadili stating at one of Moqtada's other staged events. The AP tries to blur it and forgets to tell you that Moyad is Mehdi militia -- just like al-Bahadili was. Is that part of the training? Does the militia go through mock drills on how to schmooze the press?

I look forward to the AP, CNN and Washington Post reporting this Sunday and the huge increase of Jehovah Witnesses in the United States. Increase? If they used the same 'reporting technique' here that they used there, everyone who opens their door on Saturday to a Jehovah Witness -- whether they send them immediately away, listen politely or just glare -- would be counted as either a Jehovah Witness or a supporter of Jehovah Witnesses.

2.5 million residents, the 'turnout' was approximately a third of the residents stepped out onto their front yard.

Yes, Moqtada's influence has waned. For a change the intelligence communities appear to have gotten it right about Iraq.

Moqtada was always a press-created figure. Now? The press makes an idiot of themselves. It's as though Vanity Fair just put Bobby Sherman on the cover and, as people gathered to snicker, kept asking, "What? What? Isn't he still popular?"

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