In the wake of the Jamil Hussein cockup, I should have known better than to take a story pushed forward by the insaneosphere at face value. But for some reason, a link from the Insta-Cracker to this story had me thinking for a moment - just a moment.
A source close to Pajamas Media has learned that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has apparently succumbed to the cancer that hospitalized him last month, as exclusively reported by Pajamas Media, at age 67. He has been Iran’s most powerful figure since replacing Ayatollah Khomeini in the role of Supreme Leader in 1989.
The Supreme Leader of Iran dying would be a big story, one you would expect to get major coverage around the globe. Yet only Pajamas Media was reporting this last night. Could they have received the scoop of the century?
See, the entire article is based on "a source" - namely Michael Ledeen, who's been alone pushing this story for a while now. A story that is so thin on the facts, even JPod was mocking it. From the indispensable James Wolcott:
It was only a month earlier that Ledeen posted on NRO's Corner the following non-Lindsay Lohan-related inside poop:
The Case of the Dying Ayatollah [Michael Ledeen]
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is lying in a 'royal suite' in the spiffy Vanak hospital (that's its old name, which most Tehranis use) in Tehran. He wanted to leave today but the doctors would not permit it. I guess doctors have the last word, even in a dispute with the Supreme Leader. Heh. He arrived there late yesterday afternoon local time, after feeling cold, breaking out in a cold sweat, and losing feeling in his feet. The initial examination found low blood pressure and a slow pulse rate. They originally feared internal bleeding, but have tentatively concluded that he 'only' suffers from a weakened heart. On top of his cancer, that is.
More tomorrow, I hope. But note that this coronary crisis coincides with a very intense power struggle within the regime itself, leading up to the elections of the Guardian Council. In recent days, there was a very suspicious airplane crash that killed several top Revolutionary Guards officers, and the recent draft law in Parliament that would effectively reduce Ahmadinezhad's term by a full year.
Exciting times, eh what?
Posted at 5:10 PM
To his journalistic credit, fellow Cornerite John Podhoretz found something fishy in this item's medical precision given the murky circumstances.
A Cautionary Note [John Podhoretz]
The specificity of your account of Khamenei's condition, Michael, makes me wonder at its accuracy. How on earth would such specific details leak out so quickly when his illness is a state secret? One must always be cautious about such rumors.
Posted at 5:14 PM
A concerto of cautionary notes are necessary when dealing with Ledeen's disinformationalist tendencies and his oozy air of intimate acquaintance of knowledge ("I am told that this information has reached the president, and that it is part of the body of information he is digesting in order to formulate his strategy for Iraq") denied the rest of the peon press corps. But Pajamas Media went with the ayatollah cancer story anyway, went with it big, and as the hours ticked by even a few members of the dunciad that makes up most of PJM's commentariat began to notice that none of the other news agencies had picked up and confirmed Khamenei's death, not Fox, not the wire services, nope, not even Drudge.
I like that it took JPod FOUR MINUTES to call bullshit on Ledeen's rantings. Of course, Pajamas Media doesn't have such a detector. So they ran their story yesterday. And today Reuters reports there's no truth to the rumor.
Iran's U.N. ambassador denied on Friday reports circulating on the Internet that Tehran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had died.
"We checked last night and there is no truth to it," Javad Zarif, Iran's chief envoy to the United Nations, told Reuters about the reports, which first appeared on Web sites on Thursday.
This is my favorite line:
The Internet rumors were circulating among traders in energy and other financial markets, but had not moved prices.
Maybe those energy traders considered the source. And moved on with their day.
(UPDATE: UPI has joined Reuters in denying the PJ report.)
Pajamas is now furiously engaging in a backpedal, having changed their story this morning to reflect the fact that, you know, it isn't true.
UPDATE: Some sources, evidently including a family member, are reporting that Khamenei, in grave condition, was alive as recently as yesterday. Our source reported that he died today. More to come. It is the middle of the night in Iran.
MORE: Farideh Vafai - spokeswoman for Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah of Iran - made the following comment to PJM Washington Editor Richard Miniter: “We cannot confirm this news. We have heard rumors but so far have no confirmation.” Ms. Vafai was reached at Pahlavi’s Secretariat in Falls Church, VA. [...]
UPDATE FROM MICHAEL LEDEEN (Fri. Jan 5):
The source still insists Khamenei is dead, but I cannot find any direct or indirect confirmation. To my knowledge only one person says Khamenei is dead. That said, the regime would have every reason to keep the fact secret, and Khamenei’s physical condition has certainly been grave. In addition to the reports of his emergency hospitalization, his message to the Islamic Community on the Eid festival was released, not publicly read, as he had always done in the past. He has made no public appearances for several days, and Persian web sites have declared—several days ago now—that he cannot carry out his responsibilities and will have to be replaced. The struggle for succession is well under way.
This is hilarious. Ledeen had one person to feed him some juicy information, contradicted by everybody else, and he's trying desperately to keep his reputation intact by stammering and stuttering. Pajamas Media, supposedly the savior of journalism, went to print with a major story based on hearsay from a single source.
Thanks for given citizen journalism such a good name.
In fact, they can't even get known fabricator Amir Taheri - the guy who made up the "Iran is forcing Jews to wear yellow stars" story - to go on the record supporting Ledeen.
“It is a rumor circulating in Tehran,” Amir Taheri told Richard Miniter, PJM Washington editor. “There is no way to know if it is true.”
Taheri was responding to a Pajamas Media post yesterday of a report … as yet unconfirmed… that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dead [...]
On balance, Taheri was confident that Khamenei was suffering from cancer but skeptical that he had died.
More on Taheri from TBogg.
The reasons Ledeen would want to stir up a story about the Supreme Leader of Iran dying are likely to be manifold. He certainly wishes for regime change, and any excuse to whip up unrest in the country. By taking Ledeen's self-serving report as gospel and going live with it, Pajamas Media is committing all the sins they see in the so-called MSM: biased reporting, a lack of fact-checking, an inability to admit mistakes.
But then, why should we be surprised?