Monday, January 30, 2012

Alma al-Assad, Vogue's Favorite Dictator's Wife [Update: Original Article Discovered]

This morning I ran across this item from the Jerusalem Post that reports that the family of Bashar al-Assad, including his fashionable wife Alma, tried to escape from Damascus in a dash to the airport, but the entourage was turned back when fired upon by rebel soldiers of the Free Syrian Army.  The several cars were able to return to the presidential palace, with no reports of casualties.

This comes on the heels of a variety of reports of escalating fighting in the year-long Syrian civil war and a further deterioration of al-Assad’s position.  Accurate reporting, at least as accurate as can be expected with a ban on reporters (whose reports can be suspect even then), is even further constrained by the withdrawal of the monitors of the Arab League last Saturday.  At last count, before the UN announced that it had given up on trying to accurately assess the carnage, the number of mortal casualties in the fighting is more than 5400 killed.  [Update: now at the end of March conservatively estimated to be in excess of 8000]

The Syrian situation, you may recall, was starting to boil over last year at about the time that NATO was stumbling into some sort of support for Libyan fighters in their revolt against Qaddafi, citing the potential for as many as a thousand casualties if Bizerte was attacked.  Despite the obvious similarities between the two in what has been called the ‘Arab Spring’, the Obama administration seriously downplayed Syria as having a reason for our concern.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured us that al-Assad was a “reformer”, and was barely able to stifle a guffaw when a reporter sought to draw a comparison between Syria and Libya.

But what caught my attention was that Bashar’s glamorous wife Alma seemed to be caught in the cross-fire today.  Even back as far as February, it was keenly apparent to anyone who really cared that al-Assad’s Syria is a murderous regime of pro-Iranian thugs.  This put into clear perspective the ridiculous puff-piece in Vogue about how Alma is the “rose in the desert”, and how she is so “glamorous, young, and very chic – the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies”.  Someone eventually tipped off Vogue about how incredibly tasteless (to use a term they would understand) it was to gush about the wife of a bloody dictator (no matter how attuned to Chanel), evidenced by the fact that the article has been replaced by an elegant 404 message, but not before references to the article had been preserved elsewhere.  A couple of the comments amuse me no end:

I’ll say that having met a few fashion magazine editors, I find it entirely plausible that a roomful of them might have entirely missed the news out of Egypt and Tunisia or else failed completely to connect those events to the optics around puff-piecing the First Lady of Syria, unless some extraordinarily assertive (i.e. former) intern mentioned it explicitly.
Having worked for Cosmo once . . . color me unsurprised.  These women could walk into a room with the blood of opposition parties literally caked to the soles of their D&G pumps, and the only question from this lot would be ‘is that the new collection?’
The gentleman in me (call me old-fashioned) wishes that Alma makes it out alive, as I am unsure to what degree she has blood on her hands, though I am not so particular when it comes to fate of her husband.  But the unfolding of this story helps to point out the incandescent and morally corrupt stupidity of the Sophisticati, the fools whose opinions are expected to be taken seriously.  This helps to confirm A J Liebling's quip: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

Perhaps Vogue could do a spread on the wives of Robert Mugabe or Hugo Chavez.

Update: The Atlantic has done yeoman's work tracking down the original Vogue article, preserved on the web site of a Syrian government publicist of all people.  The Atlantic also graciously attaches an exposé spelling out how Vogue at first tried to defend the puff piece.

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