Vogue is stupid. Doubly so.

It’s dumb enough profiling the sartorial tastes of a butcher’s wife, one Asma Assad, an English girl on the make who decided a clothing budget and a palace beat any sense of moral compass. And profile her Vogue did, in its February 2011 issue of the famous fashion magazine, the repository of all that is best in fashion photography. The piece, captioned “Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert” profiles the wife of the Syrian dictator who, like his father before him, has been torturing and butchering his people for many years now, albeit with renewed zeal recently as the threat of democracy has raised its ugly head.

The piece is made worse by the fact that somehow Vogue suckered in ace war photographer James Nachtwey to take the snaps. Hopefully Nachtwey stayed on to capture some of the carnage wrought by Assad, as that is the photographer’s specialty. As a minimum he would have saved his employer a round trip air fare.

It’s impossible to excuse Vogue’s judgment and even harder to understand how a seasoned war photographer, who surely has a decent grasp of international situations, could be suckered into this train wreck. Excuse me, Mr. Nachtwey, but do you even read the papers in which your work is published?

But it gets worse. Denying the realities of the Internet, Vogue has now compounded interest in its poor judgment by deleting the article from its database. And while no one except its editorial staff would think that Vogue is a current affairs publication, the act of censorship can only be said have its foul goals exceeded by its stunning stupidity. Tens of thousands of Chinese censors will tell you it can’t be done, Vogue. Just admit your error, take the high road, and leave it out there with an editorial message saying ‘Sorry. We screwed up badly and as contrition our Editor is donating her salary this year to help the oppressed people of Syria’.

Search the Internet for the piece and this is what you get at Vogue:

Click the picture to download the article.

Click the picture above and the article will download and you can open it in Safari.

In ordinary circumstances, even as great a stranger to ethics as Rupert Murdoch would have fired Vogue’s Editor, Anna Wintour, on grounds of shockingly bad judgment, not to mention a total absence of taste, the magazine’s raison d’être. But Ms. Wintour is sacred, the Dirty Digger does not own the magazine, and Condé Nast – which does own Vogue – took the coward’s way out and tried to censor the piece.

Thus, Condé Nast, Anna Wintour, Vogue and James Nachtwey are dishonorable inductees to this journal’s Hall of Shame.

Meanwhile, you can look forward to these future thrilling profiles in Vogue; grab them before they get erased:

  • “Svetlana Stalin: What my father taught me about humanity and dressing well”
  • “My life and sartorial times with Slobodan Milošević – a wife’s tale”
  • Discovered: Previously unpublished pictures of Eva Braun’s wardrobe, with love notes from her future spouse.

4 thoughts on “AsmaGate



    “Although the Vogue piece didn’t mention it, the photos that accompanied the article — of Asmara, her husband and two of their children at home in Damascus — were facilitated by an American public-relations firm working for the Syrian government. The firm, Brown Lloyd James, was paid $25,000 to set up a photo session with James Nachtwey, the famed war photographer who shot the pictures for Vogue.”

    ““Our firm’s role was limited to liaising between the two sides to schedule logistics for the piece in November 2010,” the company said in a statement this week. It said it began working for the Syrian government “during a thaw” in relations with the U.S. and during a period when “the international community was encouraging increased engagement with Syria.”

    End quote.

  2. The use of an agent in lieu of the principal to retain the photographer in no way relieves the latter of his ethical obligations.

    Wholeheartedly agree. Just wanted to point out that there is a whole network of “respectable” but ethically challenged people out there. Nachtwey is probably just a symptom.

    I recall reading similar puff pieces about the Shah of Iran, for instance, in the Reader’s Digest. And on Empress Farah. Then the Shah was overthrown. Then, in my undergrad dorm, there was someone whose father had worked in Iran as a civil engineer during the Shah’s time, and he told me the tales of people terrorized by the Iranian secret police, the Savaak, under the Shah. You wouldn’t hear that in the media, though. The Shah and his wife were similarly portrayed as wonderful people. Not to say those who replaced him are any better. But maybe the truth would have served us better.

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