One of the comic characters of the day is Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent of the Independent, a London daily. There’s a good deal of fun to be had from his carry-on. His latest hit is to have put into the mouth of Bibi Netanyahu the words “an anti-Semite,” purporting to apply this unwelcome put-down to the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. The Independent has admitted that Fisk made up this nice little slander, and has removed it from its webpage.
The Independent has a habit of this kind. Not so long ago, one Johann Hari was fired for inventing quotes. Interviewing people, he pretended that what they’d said to others had been said to him. Far more inventive, Fisk shapes reality to fit his overriding fantasy that the United States is wicked, responsible for the ills of the Middle East with wicked little Israel yapping along behind it. Here are the Great and the Little Satan in an anglicized version. Naturally anticipating the worst of these evil-doers, he lately took it for granted that President Obama would attack Syria, and this would be “the stupidest Western war in the history of the modern world.” Like any mullah in Tehran, he accuses Israel of war-mongering and manipulation: “U.S. cowardice will let Israel’s isolated right off the hook.” Dire as the forecasts are, they have a way of never coming true.
The critics who spotted the false Netanyahu quote have also described how Fisk and the Independent “create stories and sell them as factual reports; they suppress evidence; they invent records to fit their world view; they turn statistics on their head; they pedal plots; they bitterly resent the military prowess of Israel; they portray its leaders as Nazis.” Fisk has wondered whether al-Qaeda really did destroy the twin towers. The verb “fisk” and its present participle “fisking” have entered everyday vocabulary as terms for routine absurdity, much as the Duke of Wellington gave his name to a type of boot, or Mr. Macintosh to his raincoat. You really can’t help laughing.