Stockholm syndrome at the Washington Post

Stockholm syndrome occurs when hostages express empathy, sympathy, and/or positive feelings about their captors, even to the point of identifying with and/or defending them. The Washington Post, whose reporter Jason Rezaian has been imprisoned in Tehran for more than five months, appears to be experiencing something resembling Stockholm syndrome.

Consider this article by Carol Morello. She reports that Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has expressed concern about what he calls “extremely dangerous” anti-Muslim protests taking place in Europe.

Which protests does Zarif deem extremely dangerous and anti-Muslim, and what is his evidence? Morello doesn’t say. Instead, she simply serves up the Iranian propaganda.

Not only that, Morello pronounces Zarif “reasonable”:

He adopted a reasonable tone when discussing a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad published Wednesday in the Parisian satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, musing that the world would be a nicer place if everyone respected everyone else’s opinion.

“We believe that sanctities need to be respected,” Zarif said. “And unless we learn to respect one another, it will be very difficult in a world of different views and different cultures and civilizations. We won’t be able to engage in a serious dialogue if we start disrespecting each other’s values and sanctities.”

Read these words again. Zarif is saying that “sanctities” must be respected, otherwise “difficulties” will ensue. He blames the victims at Charlie Hebdo for their assassinations.

There is no condemnation of the murders, even those at the grocery where the only disrespect of “sanctities” consisted of an association with Judaism. Instead, Zarif is saying that the murders were the natural consequence of disrespect for Muhammad.

Zarif may have delivered this view in “an affable manner” (to quote Morello), but there is nothing “reasonable” about it.

Morello’s reporting on the plight of her Post colleague imprisoned in Tehran also takes Iranian propaganda at face value, although given the sensitivity of the matter it would be unfair to characterize this as the product of Stockholm syndrome.

Morello quotes Zarif as saying that the Iranian government is doing its best to provide “humanitarian assistance” while the case is before a court, but adds that Zarif made clear that there was little he could do about the situation. A separate Post story, by Morello and Brian Murphy, reports:

This is a judicial matter, so we will have to wait for the judiciary to move forward. But we will try to provide all the humanitarian assistance that we could,” [Zarif] said.

By “humanitarian assistance,” Zarif probably means food. After visiting Rezaian, his mother expressed alarm over his weight loss and overall deteriorating health.

Morello’s report takes at face value the Iranian talking point that the Razaian matter is out of the government’s hands and under the control of an independent judicial body, namely the “Revolutionary Court.” No intelligent, knowledgeable person can believe that both the Revolutionary Court and Zarif’s foreign ministry aren’t both controlled by the same ruling clerics.

Deep into the Morello-Murphy story, the Post acknowledges that the Revolutionary Court is, in fact, “directly overseen” by the government. But the reader who looks only at Morello’s story, or who doesn’t read the Morello-Murphy piece carefully until the end, comes away with a different impression.

I understand why the Post treads delicately when it comes to reporting on the plight of its captive reporter. But the Post shouldn’t peddle Iranian propaganda on unrelated matters. Nor should it praise Iran’s foreign minister as “reasonable” when he “affably” excuses Islamist terrorism.

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