Many thanks to Matt Yglesias for filling in for me while I was away. If you've become an addict, you can find Matt's regular blog at TPMCafe.
Now, when I was away, I kept a bit abreast of the news. And the story that really caught my attention was the quickly-debunked story claiming that Iran was about to institute a mandatory dress code for Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. As you probably already know, the story was false. And the origin of it, from what I can tell, all stems from Amir Taheri, NY Post columnist and member of the Benador Associates stable.
Reading over the various dissections of what happened, I'm still unclear about the relationship between Taheri's column in the Post and the article in Canada's National Post which fronted the story. This article in Jewish Week explaining the hoax, calls that Benador Associates, the PR firm-cum-speakers bureau which reps Taheri and most of the rest of the name neocons, "the public relations agency that placed the story with The National Post." But I'm not clear whether that is supposed to mean that Benador attempted to place Taheri's column with the Post or that they pitched the story to them. The National Post's news story, since retracted, appeared on May 19th while Taheri's Post column appeared on the 20th.
Another question, which reporters floated the story in questions to the Canadian and Australian Prime Ministers?
In any case, murkiness about the origins of the canard is another tell-tale sign of what this very much appears to be: part of an orchestrated disinformation campaign, launched by persons or parties unknown but not too hard to guess.
You can see Taheri's game effort to sorta-kinda walk the story back here. It's really a study in mendacity. Taheri says news outlets that picked up his claim "jumped the gun." Presumably, jumped the gun in assuming there was any factual basis for what he alleged. Taheri then tries to suggest that his report of a Nazi-reminiscent dress code for Jews was just a secondary part of the story, not certain to come to pass, etc. And yet he "stands by" the story in as much as he has secret sources who say that people in Iran somewhere were thinking about it.
Then he adds this confection: "I raised the issue not as a news story, because news of the new law was already several days old, but as an opinion column to alert the outside world to this most disturbing development."
So he didn't really report it as news because it was already news even though he was the first to report it.
Let's face it. As we gear up for the mix of agitprop and disinformation aimed to lay the groundwork for war with Iran, few claims could be more incendiary than alleging that Iran was recapitulating one of Nazi Germany's steps as it built toward the Final Solution. For the war party, such a development would be so good that, as the phrase goes, if it hadn't existed it would have to have been invented. And since it didn't exist, it was.
There's a tale here that's yet to be told.