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May 18, 2005

Killer Issue

Newsweekpakistan1

Now that we know Newsweek Magazine is the source of anti-American feeling in the Arab world, the visual evidence is starting to come in.  Here, courtesy of AFP, we see how the trouble got started.  Obviously, upon hearing that Newsweek documented U.S. desecration of the Quran, Pakastani men rushed to the newsstand to catch the latest issue.  From that point, the readers were so incensed, they threw down the magazines (perhaps even taking the opportunity to crumple them up and deposit them down a toilet), and proceeded to riot. 

My initial sense was to see this image as reinforcement for the knee-jerk conservative view of events.  On second thought, however, maybe this photo helps put the hysteria on a more rational footing.  Looking at this man reading the magazine, how easy is it to draw a precise inference about his reaction?  Just as it’s impossible to get into his head, it becomes that much more problematic to draw a one-to-one connection between the act of reading of an article and the incitement to violence. 

Whereas the Administration would draw such an oversimplistic explanation, human nature argues these reactions are not only multi-determined but also highly nuanced.  From a motivational standpoint, for instance, there is plenty of evidence emerging that the Guantanamo Quran story was nothing new.  Also, with Iraq in such dire straights, who is to say the ignition of anti-American protest wasn’t fueled just as much by Administration policy?

The back cover of the magazine shows an ad for an electric screwdriver, with separate panels comparing the manual task with the automatic one.  Excuse my liberty, but if anyone is getting screwed here, it’s the American public for the Administration’s scapegoating.  And, if anybody is getting drilled, it’s Newsweek.  Of course, they should have been smarter than to get themselves into this mess.  For the trouble, however, they are now the target of the political world’s more formidable power tool — the right wing PR machine.

(image: AFP/Farooq Naeem in YahooNews)

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