Vogue is typically more focused on ruching and Ralph Lauren than regime changes, but this month, the aloof fashion magazine has inadvertently — and controversially — associated itself with the revolts sweeping the Arab world. In the March issue of the magazine, a "fawning" profile of the Syrian first lady, Asma al-Assad glorifies the wife of dictator Bashar al-Assad, who refused U.N. nuclear inspectors and rebuffed U.S. attempts at diplomatic engagement last year, as "glamorous, young, and very chic," calling her "the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies." With protests raging throughout the Middle East, including Syria, the piece's sympathetic portrayal of the Assad family has been lambasted as "tone-deaf" and "ridiculous." Is it really so ugly?
It's enlightening, if anything: "We felt that a personal interview with Syria's first lady would hold strong interest for our readers," says Vogue senior editor Chris Knutsen, as quoted in The Atlantic, where he defended the piece. The article's aim was to simply profile the first lady and bring our readers into a "very closed world." It was in no way meant to be "a referendum on the al-Assad regime."
"Vogue defends profile of Syrian first lady"
It's questionable, at best: While "no one expects Vogue to cover an international story the same way as, say, Foreign Policy or The Economist," it should have some sort of moral compass, says Michael Calderone at Yahoo! News. "Vogue is still a hugely influential global brand and it's fair to question why the magazine would shine such a positive light on the first family of a brutal regime that recently arrested and beat peaceful protesters."
"Vogue defends 'fawning' Syria article"
This is downright outrageous: Even if the article had come out at a time when protesters weren't in the streets, it would still be in "poor taste," says Alana Goodman at Commentary. But the fact that "its publication coincided with al-Assad's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters" makes it "tone-deaf and insulting." And the magazine's "unfazed" response is distressing, and just shows that "Vogue clearly doesn't grasp the problem."
"Vogue defends glowing profile of Asma al-Assad"
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