Vogue Defends Syrian Glow Job

Max Fisher fisks Vogue’s glow job profile of the Desert Rose Syrian first lady Asma Assad.

The article’s fawning treatment of the Assad family and its portrayal of the regime as tolerant and peaceful has generated surprise and outrage in much of the Washington foreign policy community, which for years has viewed Syria as one of the most dangerous and oppressive rogue states in a region full of them, with the Bush administration dubbing it the fourth member of its “axis of evil.” Bashar’s Syria has invaded Lebanon, allied itself with Iran, aided such groups as Hamas and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and, for years, ferried insurgents and terrorists into Iraq, where they kill U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. But the worst behavior may be inside Syria’s borders, where a half-century-old “emergency law” outlaws unofficial gatherings and abets the regular practice of beating, imprisoning, torturing, or killing political dissidents, human rights workers, and minorities . . .

Fisher discussed the article with the magazine’s senior editor, Chris Knutsen.

When I asked why they chose to dedicate so much space to praising the Assads without at least noting his brutal practices, he explained, “The piece was not meant in any way to be a referendum on the al-Assad regime. It was a profile of the first lady.”

But this next snippet goes to the core of the problem. Vogue humanizes a monster for no reason, yet Knutsen only sees Assad superficially:

Knutsen denied charges that the magazine is implicitly endorsing the Assads or positioning them as friendly and pro-Western. “For our readers it’s a way of opening a window into this world a little bit,” he said. When I asked why the magazine would praise a hereditary dictator whose security forces torture dissidents as “wildly democratic,” he answered of the Assads, “I think the way they portray themselves [in the story] is probably pretty accurate.”

Yes, on the face of it, Bashar and Asma Assad are a cool, Facebooking couple.

But other long-time Arab first wives are in the spotlight these days for negative reasons, include Suzanne Mubarak, Queen Rania, and Leila Trabelsi Ben Ali. All became focal points of discontent in their own right.

Vogue not only failed to scratch the surface, they put a fresh coat of whitewash on the Assads.