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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Duped? What could go wrong?

On Tuesday, I reported on a claim by Joan Juliet Buck, the woman who wrote the infamous profile of Asma al-Assad in Vogue shortly before the Syrian people revolted, that Buck had been duped.

Claudia Rosett seems to have very little trust in Buck at all.
If Buck was unhappy, as she says she was, with Vogue’s plans to run the piece, or with the headline Vogue gave it, she had options other than compliance and silence. She could have pulled the piece before it ran, or publicly recanted and apologized as soon as it came out. Instead, more than a year later, she now explains: “I didn’t want to write this piece. But I always finished what I started.”

By these lights, she was the victim. Faithful to Vogue, faithful to her own work ethic (and her desire to see the ruins of Palmyra). They made her do it!

And having produced that gusher of propaganda, having been outed and humiliated by subsequent events in Syria, she now presents a much revised tale that is first of all a defense of herself as a culture-loving dupe.

The truth was there to see all along. Plenty of it was right under her nose, though she chose to not share details of that with her readers until now — including in her apologia a raft of disturbing incidents and signs she witnessed in Syria, but omitted from her Vogue story last year. Beyond that, there has been abundant documentation available for years on the horrors of the Assad regime’s assassinations, surveillance, torture, and terror techniques. Even before the violence that erupted into public view in the streets of Syria last year, there were reports on offer everywhere from Amnesty International to the State Department web site, to the testimony of Syrian defectors, the bomb craters in Lebanon, etc.

Credit Joan Juliet Buck that she has shed her infatuation with the “fun” first lady of Syria. But her current confessions, coming this late in the day, dwelling as they do on how she was “duped,” seem less about setting the record straight on Syria than about distancing herself from responsibility for one of the most mortally embarrassing pieces of journalism produced in recent times.

In her own convoluted defense, Buck describes the rationale with which she took on the Syria assignment. “I was curious…Syria gave off a toxic aura. But what was the worst that could happen? I would write a piece for Vogue that missed the deeper truth about its subject.” She then delivers to her readers the bizarre journalistic creed: “I had learned long ago that the only person I could ever be truthful about was myself.”

Read it all.

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