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Hearts, Minds And Penises
The way to a sex-starved Islamist's heart is through his hard-on? (Islamist hard-ons courtesy of the Israelis.) From the LAT op-ed page from Saturday:

According to a recent report in Daily Variety, when executives at Ratuv installed software that could track where their users were logging in, they found that the site was getting thousands of hits a week from such countries as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, even though some of these governments block the ".il" domain address on Israeli websites. So Ratuv responded by translating the entire site into Arabic, and traffic quickly skyrocketed.

What makes this more than a tale of clever entrepreneurs making a buck off Middle Eastern sexual repression is that Ratuv isn't an ordinary porn site. It's a clearinghouse of political parody porn, making fun of Israeli affairs such as sex scandals and often featuring Mossad agents or army soldiers getting out of uniform, thus providing a view of the Israeli military seldom seen in the Arab world. The next step, says Ratuv's manager, is to make movies with Israelis and Arabs performing together, in order to foster more intimate relations between the two peoples.

This may not be as wacky as it sounds. Author Salman Rushdie, in his 2004 essay "The East is Blue," pointed out that even though pornography is ruthlessly suppressed in many Muslim countries, it is still ubiquitous. What's more, it can have political ramifications. "Pornography exists everywhere, of course, but when it comes into societies in which it's difficult for young men and women to get together and do what young men and women often like doing, it satisfies a more general need; and, while doing so, it sometimes becomes a kind of standard-bearer for freedom, even for civilization," Rushdie wrote.

Expecting Arab men to be swayed by Ratuv's political content might be a little like expecting American men to read the articles in Playboy, but the site can't be any less effective in changing public opinion than U.S. media efforts to date. After pouring millions into the Al Iraqiya TV station to create an unbiased news outlet in Iraq, the U.S. handed the channel to the Iraqi government, and it soon became a Shiite propaganda arm for blasting Sunnis and coalition forces. Our Arabic-language satellite TV network, Al Hurra, is thought to attract only a fraction of the viewers of Al Jazeera.

The LAT piece is typically link-free (Matt Welch seems to be the single person at the paper who understands how to write for the web), so here's the Daily Variety piece, by Ali Jaafar:

The most popular movie on the site is "Code Name: Deep Investigation," an X-rated parody of the arrest of dissident Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu, who spilled the beans on Israel's secret nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. He was eventually caught by Mossad agents, who sent a beautiful female agent to trap him.

"Arab people usually see female Israeli soldiers in a bad situation, so there's a lot of curiosity to see what Israeli girls look like without any uniforms," says Shahar. "We don’t make regular porn films. Our films parody the situation in Israel, so we look at issues like the elections here and Mossad. There is a lot of relevance to the Arab-Israeli situation."

Given that Israeli law precludes Shahar from accepting credit card payment from some Arab countries, he plans to set up a site registered in either Europe or the U.S.

"We are also interested in making films with Arabs and Israelis in them," Shahar says. "It's something we can do to speak about the connection between the two people, but its not going to be easy."

Posted by aalkon at September 2, 2007 10:10 AM

Comments

In defense of my colleagues, the problem isn't lack of knowledge, it's lack of 21st century publishing software, and the organizational will to acquire it. Believe it or not (and I choose not to, in order to maintain sanity), in the NEWLY UPDATED -- as in, updated in the last couple of months -- editing system that the newspaper uses, it is impossible to perform this magical task known as "inserting a hyperlink." The only possibility is to go in there *after* it is published, and hand-install a hyperlink into the publishing software. Since that is about as fun as putting a condom on after sex, it is rarely done, though you've just given me an idea about how we might be able to do more....

(Also, Tim Cavanaugh, to name one of many, is pretty fluent at writing on that interweb deal.)

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 2, 2007 12:04 PM

This may just work, growing up in a mormon household I had meglominiacal dreams of world domination, until I discovered porn and masterbation

Posted by: lujlp at September 2, 2007 12:58 PM

Oops, I forgot Tim. And Richard Rushfield, too, knows the Internets pretty well.

It's AMAZING that they don't have software that allows for hyperlinking, just as dailies are collectively squealing about losing readers to the web.

you've just given me an idea about how we might be able to do more....

Glad to hear it.

P.S. They still have yet to correct the diamond dildo bit in this story:

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-beckham8jul08,1,7829971,full.story?ctrack=2&cset=true

Kaus/Luke Ford debunked it in late July. Perhaps if there were less disdain at the paper for reading/publishing those of us who write from the surrounding area...!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 2, 2007 1:24 PM

> if there were less
> disdain


Stop it! Nobody hires a scold. Besides, even if the LAT isn't doing everything it can to be web-friendly for it's own benefit (and it's at least possible that it is), that doesn't mean that the web needs anything from the LAT.

That's kinda the problem, right? Who needs 'em?

So after reading this post I went and read the LAObserved for the first time in many months, probably since Seipp's death, and they're making fun of TMZ.com, which seems very silly.

Posted by: Crid at September 2, 2007 4:20 PM

Kevin Roderick's away (from LAO).

Posted by: Amy Alkon Author Profile Page at September 2, 2007 4:40 PM

All the porn in the world wouldn't be enough.

The 7/7 bombers in London all nightclubbed, screwed, drank, drugged--and then atoned for it by blowing themselves up and killing dozens of infidels.

Several of the 9/11 hijackers were strip-club afficionados, and the Saudi Vice and Virtue Police are known to drink and whore around on their vacations, before they go back to the Magic Kingdom and arrest people for doing the same.

My ex-girlfriend went out with a cosmopolitan Tunisian who loved booze and sex for most of the year. Every now and then, however, he'd get all pious and put his butt in the air five times a day and call her a slut for corrupting him. Eventually he beat her up.

Muslims are going to attempt another mass-casualty attack in the U.S., but they don't seem to have noticed that we just modified the B-2 Stealth Bomber to carry 80 JDAMs. That means each aircraft can now level an entire city.

I wish porn would do the job, but I think we'll be forced to show the Muslims that we've been restraining ourselves. They're going to have to see that they really can't hold a candle to us in terms of the damage we can inflict.

Posted by: Tom W. at September 3, 2007 2:12 AM

Tom, have you met our friend Brian? You guys could hang out.

"Muslims" just aren't that monolithic. Deciding to kill some doesn't do much for your cause.

Posted by: Crid at September 3, 2007 7:46 AM

Nobody hires a scold.

There's actually some evidence to the contrary. Cough.

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 3, 2007 11:28 AM

Awww. You're persistent in the best way.

P.S. I got yet another e-mail from somebody requesting my column in the LAT this week:

I have the LA Times delivered daily and read as much as my time allows me. But I'm missing one column - and that is Amy Alkon. If you do feature her, where and on what day would I be able to find Amy Alkon. It has been just recently that I have switched back from our local newspaper because they were just not giving as much national and international information.

The editor's reply (as usual, when she gets these requests for my column):

No, we do not run Amy Alkon. Our advice columns are Ask Amy and Tell Me About It. Hope you'll give them a try.


Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 3, 2007 12:00 PM

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