I got suckered

How not to buy a brick in a box off the back of a truck.
Posts: 2286
Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2004 9:28 am
Location: East of the Sun and West of the Moon

I got suckered

Post by Marian »

And I'm pissed, as I recommended this book to many people, which more than a few bought. :x

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp ... le_id=7113

The book "Honor Lost" by Norma Khouri has been exposed as a 'hoax' (though fraud is IMO a more accurate term).

Of course I didn't want to get suckered by a sucker claim, now my skeptic senses are on high alert! ;) ...but multiple organizations researched the information in the book. There were massive inaccuracies, and not one portion of the story could be confirmed as factual.

http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/revi ... view_x.htm

Of course fooled once, perhaps fooled twice. Currently there's a demand for evidence being made on the author by Random House. All books have been pulled until they can verify it. If they can verify it as factual.

I mention it in post here, because it was a popular book and perhaps other people here have also read it. I'm not so much pissed that I was fooled, but more the damage that gets done by crap like this. In my opinion it's just as bad as a woman falsely screaming "rape". It makes people less likely to believe in true claims.

And it's not only that the honor killing was a complete hoax, but it's full of inaccurate details of 'daily life in Jordan'. And that's a shame because the books goes quite indepth on it. (And it's not all bad, though most of it is negative, especially to women who enjoy western freedoms). So it also paints a false portrait of what life is like in Jordan, and for women in Jordan.

Hoaxes (again, I think fraud is much more accurate) like this have happened before, and undoubtly will happen again, but I think the question is...why didn't the publisher (Random House) catch this? It's not some fly-by-night publisher, this is a well respected one.

And I think perhaps that comes down to the fact that in the Western world we're full of myths (and bigotry) towards muslim countries. There's not only a language barrier in attempting to investigate it, but a cultural one. I believed the story, because to me it seemed believable. There was no moment in reading the book where I questioned the truth of what was presented. Perspective? Certainly. But truthfulness? No. It didn't set off any bullshit detectors at all.

And in a way that's also a little embarassing. What little I know of Jordan is starkly different than the picture presented in the book, and yet I bought into wholesale. It didn't seem at all unreasonable, or unbelievable that the things mentioned could be occurring, and commonplace in a Muslim country. I never questioned it.

And that's not only ignorance, but a bit of bigotry on my part. It merely confirmed what I was all too ready to believe. :oops:

I think I need a fresh baloney detection kit. :oops:
Blue Monk
Posts: 744
Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2004 11:00 pm

Post by Blue Monk »

I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself if I were you.

This book dealt with subject matter that would have been damn near impossible for you to verify on your own It’s not like is was dealing with science where one can at times double-check things or with events that were reported on widely.

None of us can research every damn thing we read and so most of us have learned to take everything with a grain of salt when it comes to details, but to be fair, usually it’s a matter of fudging on some details or leaving relevant stuff out. Out and out, totally fabricated frauds such as this are quite common in the paranormal genre but I think are pretty rare with this type of story.

The only other instances that come to mind was the Howard Hughes hoax (which still provided a lot of bizarre aspects to his life that did, in fact, later turn out to be true) and the reporter that was fired after it was discovered that his award wining series about a junkie was total fabrication.

I’m sure there are more but while I might always suspect some inconsistencies in the details of most any reporting, I don’t think one is gullible for not spending a year researching to verify every book they read.
Posts: 189
Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2004 2:18 pm

Post by Vitnir »

In Sweden it so very politicaly correct to go on and on about how horribly the fugitives from muslim countries treat their women and girls when they are here. A few cases get massive attention where young girls do get killed by brothers or fathers for not being submissive. Somehow the fact that native Swedish girls gets killed or women gets killed by their exhusbands doesn't get that attention when the bad guy is also born in Sweden. Go figure.
That there are parts of the world where women and girls gets killed when the men feels they have lost their honour is terrible, that writer may have an important message but she should have said it was fiction since she didn't experience it first hand.
Posts: 2286
Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2004 9:28 am
Location: East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Post by Marian »

Blue Monk wrote:I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself if I were you.

This book dealt with subject matter that would have been damn near impossible for you to verify on your own It’s not like is was dealing with science where one can at times double-check things or with events that were reported on widely.
I'm not so much hard on myself because I was fooled. Anyone can be fooled, this is hardly the first time for me, and I'm certain won't be the last. And part of being skeptical or critically thinking, is when alternative information is presented, you're open to that. The only interest being the truth, rather than being attached to a specific notion or 'belief'.

And I know that's true in this case. I'm not so attached to the story as to be closed to alternative information which reveals it to be most likely a hoax. Nor are the institutions involved. Random House has demanded evidence, and pulled the books. The author vanished for a bit, then presented some evidence through a lawyer, however apparently RH is asking for that evidence to be translated, and presented so they can evaluate it. Until then, they've pulled the books because the evidence that it is a hoax/fraud, is extremely compelling.

Where I am hard on myself is with the aspect of bigotry. And I mention that because I believe it's not just me. (Otherwise why mention it, if it's just me I could correct it, and I don't think people find ME that fascinating for it to be of any interest to discuss really :D)

And don't get me wrong, I'm not breaking out the whip or anything. ;) It's simply recognizing that a portion of why it was so believable without question is due to, in essense, my readiness to believe that these things are commonplace in Jordan. What makes that additionally unfortunate is that I'm not entirely ignorant of Jordan. I'm hardly an expert, but I've read various things on Jordan in the past, and have been interested in things that are in Jordan. The other information I knew prior to this book was very different than what was portrayed in this book. Yet, I didn't question it. It sounded very truthful to me, even though I knew Jordan was far more progressive than other primarily Muslim countries.

The problems really inherent in this book is it paints an unrealistic view of Jordan and 'oppression'. Even feminist groups in Jordan spoke out about it, because it was wrong. And apparently the evidence currently is indicating that the author did not even grow up in Jordan, but left Jordan with her family at the age of 3...and lived in Chicago prior to moving to Australia. Which if true, would certainly explain the massive inaccuracies portrayed in the book. Her impressions of Jordan (even assuming she's attempting to paint a 'realistic' picture...which who knows) would be based not on her experiences, but stories she heard from other people from Jordan...a Jordan from more than 30 years ago, and a Jordan as seen through only descriptions from other people.

And I certainly agree it's not reasonable...or even feasible to do our own investigation of everything. After all, I don't investigate EVERY news story I hear. However, I do keep in mind when reading news stories that they're potentially wrong. And on issues of importance to me, I look for multiple sources. When it's something extraordinary...then I also look for additional evidence (such as the recent SETI story, which of course ended up being nothing. I hoped it was true and accurate, but I wasn't uncorking the champaigne or anything ;) I also suspected it wouldn't pan out).

So again I'm back to, why did such a horrible story of oppression seem so absolutely believable. Partially due to the (true) reports of the lives of women in Afghanistan (as well as other muslim countries). Here was a Muslim country under fundemental rule. And a very specific brand of fundemental rule, which was extremely oppressive. Much of the teachings of Islam, when expressed in fundemental form are extremely oppressive to women. They hardly have a monopoly on this though, most forms of fundemental Christian belief are almost as oppressive towards women. Both certainly seem oriented towards women being submissive to men, whether male relatives, or their spouses.

And there are many things that I would consider oppresive in some muslim countries. In Saudi Arabia, women are not permitted to drive. That is something I consider extremely oppressive for a variety of reasons. And I could list many more.

However the oppression detailed in this book, in Jordan was exceptionally harsh. And apparently highly inaccurate. In the book she describes constantly the manipulations and lies that women must resort to, merely to have the tiniest outlets of freedom. She describes in detail, that she and her friend (who apparently never existed) did poorly in high school, so that their parents wouldn't push for higher education. Then they expressed an interest in going to beauty school, so they could open a salon. Their families agreed, and this salon became a small place of freedom for them, but not completely free, as a male relative had to escort them to and from work. And often stayed at the workplace. And they describe manipulating this male relative (a brother to one of the women) by encouraging him to gain interest in body building, then scraping the money together to present him with a gym membership. Then while he was at the gym, again they had their small freedom, which was simply some stolen time where they could be alone.

Then she describes her friend falling in love with a Catholic man. She was muslim, and this would not be permitted, and she goes into great detail about that. They manage to steal some time together and go out, though she goes with them. Finally they're caught, and though they've exchanged nothing more than a kiss, she's brutally murdered. And her own brother was the one who told the father about suspecting her. They had no proof even, merely suspicions. Then after the body was claimed, an exam was done and it was shown she was still a virgin. No matter, she was still dumped in an unmarked grave, and her father wasn't imprisoned for his crime. And it was expressed this was 'common' in Jordan and thousands of women each year meet this fate.

She is unable to be silent and goes nuts on the father of her friend. Her own father forces her to apologize for her outburst, to the man that murdered her life long friend. She makes a long speech, with a backhanded apology, which is apparently accepted. Her own mother basically admits the entire system is wrong, but they can do nothing so PLEASE be quiet or you will die too. Then she describes how Michael (the Catholic boyfriend) is also in danger, and how he helps her flee, because her family will probably kill her now too. Or Dalia's family will (Dalia being the friend).

There's much more than just that. It's a horrible story, and when you believe it's true, it's almost impossible to get through it without shedding a tear...as well as being extremely grateful for the freedoms we have that we so often take for granted.

Yet what is the message? That it's commonplace that this is a barbaric and cruel country. Where men can easily murder their daughters or sisters. Where restoring the 'honor' of a family is so important. And it happens thousands of time each year. It's directly said that the Royal Family (since they are a monarchy) opposes this, and is very westernized...but they are powerless to do anything because of the religious leaders. And it's a very public dirty little secret, publically done there, never talked about in the west.

It's a pretty horrible message (though in fairness the book was not *entirely* negative...but it was mostly negative), and yet one that is believable, not just to me, but to quite a few people. Yet to those who are familiar with Jordan, the book raised immediate questions. Apparently these questions were asked immediately both of the publisher, and publically after the book became popular outside of Australia. The author apparently responded to most of these claims, by stating she had recieved numerous death threats, and even her own family wanted to kill her because she spoke out. Yet she would no longer be afraid to speak, and these people merely wanted to silence her...etc.

Whether it's true for all those other sources or not, I have no idea, but in my case, part of my willingness to believe this story was due to bigotry. There's no question that oppression occurs. And there's no question that honor killings take place. They even still happen in Jordan, but not by the thousands, around 20-30 annually. Too many (one is too many) yet these killings primarily occur in rural areas, and there is a huge amount of public awareness about them. It is something that does not have public support in Jordan.

In the United States we have hate crimes too. We have people who can attach a man to the back of a pickup truck and drag him to his death...only because he's black. We have people who can crucify a man to a fence, leaving him beaten and battered to die alone, because he was gay. These crimes are viewed by the majority of people as abhorant. The people responsible are punished.

The same appears true for these types of killings in Jordan. They are not accepted by the populace, and the people responsible are punished.

The picture painted is a lie. How much a lie? Obviously I'm not sure, or I wouldn't have thought it could be true in the first place. There may even be things that are commonplace that I would consider oppressive if I had to live under it. And that perhaps women there also find oppressive.

If Norma Khouri's interest was in garnering attention towards the treatment of women, certainly the truth would serve. Even as a fictional account, her information is hugely flawed (according to multiple sources who are educated about these situations). It's not merely the large picture that's horribly inaccurate, but also many of the small details as well. Apparently when one looks at the facts...it isn't even a good fictional account, because of those flaws.

But she didn't present it as fiction, she presented it as factual. And there will, I am sure, be consequences for that fraud. And Random House has apparently stated that it took investigators 18 months to discredit the novel, so clearly THEY don't have the resources to expend investigating every book that comes their way. And certainly on the level of a reader...most of us don't have the resources, and certainly don't expect to expend the time. We assume that what we are reading is either factual, or truthful from the perspective given. And if not...well then it would be exposed, as this has been.

So the only area on which I'm hard on myself is again why such a house of horrors was so easily believable to me. And part of that answer (though not the only answer) comes down to bigotry. However beating up myself serves no purpose. ;) I recognize it because it's true. And in recognizing it, and recognizing it as something I personally consider a flaw, I can work on changing it.

Whether or not that aspect of bigotry is also true for the many people who read and also believed this book, I don't know. I'd suspect that it also played a role for them, and hopefully the positive aspect is that they can recognize that aspect, and root it out. It may have also played a role in Random House as well. But that's all supposition.

Ignorance also plays a large role. And when it comes to other cultures, other than our own, there will always be a degree of ignorance. We always view other cultures with the bias of our own. And/or with our own personal biases. Again, I only recognize it not to belabor the point or to beat up on myself (or others) but because it's true.

And the other reason I point it out publically is that I doubt I'm alone in that respect. And perhaps if someone else read the book, and felt the same way, it may give them something to evaluate personally, to see if that is potentially true for them as well...or not.

My only embarassment is because I consider those things to be negative aspects of character, and one I wouldn't have recognized perhaps otherwise. The only shame though lies in refusing to recognize it (if it's there) or failing to correct it when you notice it.

And I'm equally sure that I have additional biases and ignorances. It's not like this makes me go 'Aaaaah.' then magically I don't have them. I wonder if it's even possible to root them all out, or to have absolutely no bias. Probably not. But at least I recognize the flaw. And recognize it specifically in this area.

But now it sounds a little more 'confessional' than I intended. Which isn't my point. My point isn't to lay out my faults publically to 'cleanse' them or any such nonsense. :) I merely say it because it's true, and say it to also illustrate that I think perhaps it's also true for many others who immediately believed in this story, without question. If I thought it was only true for me, well there's not much point in discussing that. :lol:
Eos of the Eons
Posts: 1530
Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2004 6:06 am
Location: Hundred some Km North of Calgary

Post by Eos of the Eons »

There is a true story out of B.C., Canada. It did involve a daughter and a boy the family didn't want her to marry. She was killed in the home country after she left Canada. The boy was almost killed.

This was for India though. It was a horrifyingly fascinating story. http://www.boston.com/news/world/articl ... olice_say/
Eleven people have been accused. Punjab police said the suspects told police that Jassi's mother personally gave the order. Police also said that Jassi's uncle, a leader in British Columbia's Sikh community, paid 500,000 rupees, about $10,800, for the killing.
Too bad the Author in Australia didn't say "based on a true story". Details changed to protect identies. I'm sure there are examples similar.
Posts: 189
Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2004 2:18 pm

Post by Vitnir »

There has been two or three high profile cases in Sweden where daughters have been killed by fathers or brothers.
One who were shot during a visit in the old home country by her father or uncle can't remember, later convicted in Sweden on the testimony of her sister.
One who were shot in Sweden by her father, she had left the family to live by her own but he stalked her.
One girl who was strangled by her brother for going to a party.
The theory I have heard is that in the home countries the goverment is so weak people have taken law enforcement in their own hands. So if anyone break the rules of their society they have to be punished. This includes the rule that a womans purity must never come into question. When I say home countries this is only valid in remote parts of a country, like a small town deep in kurd territory. In the capitols of these counties they are just as horrified as we are of these stories. What I have heard from women from Iran and Iraq, some of who are kurds, there are good reasons why women has to have escorts and cover themselves with veils. Men are simply not honoring womens rights. One girl used to put sewing needles on her veil so she could go by bus, men used to grope her and this was her way of getting back.
Funny thing is when girls and women that are Swedish gets killed by Swedish men its not because the men are neanderthals, then its mental disease and alcohol that is the blame.