At Home With the Assads – Vogue Goes 1938

Not a stock photo.

Take a close look at that photo. At first I thought it was some stock photo from a catalog, the kind that populate the tops of commercial web sites showing generic multi-ethnic people smiling at work or, as in this case, at home with the kids. “National Continental Assurance Corp. keeps you safe at home in case of fecal fan attack!” You know the type.

But as you look closer you notice that’s Bashar Assad wearing that stylish sweater and having a nice time in the fancy house with his wife and kids. That’s Assad, the chinless dictator of one of the world’s most brutal terrorist states. And where is he? Appearing in a puff piece (beyond all puff pieces) profile of his wife on the pages of Vogue. No joke: Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert. The entire thing dwells in that region of obliviousness (we will be charitable and describe it thus) well into sickening:

…When Angelina Jolie came with Brad Pitt for the United Nations in 2009, she was impressed by the first lady’s efforts to encourage empowerment among Iraqi and Palestinian refugees but alarmed by the Assads’ idea of safety.

“My husband was driving us all to lunch,” says Asma al-Assad, “and out of the corner of my eye I could see Brad Pitt was fidgeting. I turned around and asked, ‘Is anything wrong?’ ”

“Where’s your security?” asked Pitt.

“So I started teasing him—‘See that old woman on the street? That’s one of them! And that old guy crossing the road?

That’s the other one!’ ” They both laugh.

The president joins in the punch line: “Brad Pitt wanted to send his security guards here to come and get some training!”…

Hurl. Say, and what about the…you know…Jews? In the midst of Asma’s description of a multi-ethnic Syria, we get:

…We live side by side, and have historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these lands—the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans—make up who I am.”

“Does that include the Jews?” I ask.

“And the Jews,” she answers. “There is a very big Jewish quarter in old Damascus.”

The Jewish quarter of Damascus spans a few abandoned blocks in the old city that emptied out in 1992, when most of the Syrian Jews left. Their houses are sealed up and have not been touched, because, as people like to tell you, Syrians don’t touch the property of others. The broken glass and sagging upper floors tell a story you don’t understand—are the owners coming back to claim them one day?…

No answer is explored, nor history given as to where all the Jews went, and why they would want to leave such a fashionable wonderland. It’s Jewish homes without actual Jews. Sure, sort of an “exotic museum of an extinct race”.

I am reminded of that classic hit from a 1938 edition of Homes and Gardens magazine, Hitler’s Mountain Home. A snip of description (sorry, it’s The Guardian):

…My discovery was an article headlined “Hitler’s Mountain Home” – a breathless, three-page Hello!-style tour around Haus Wachenfeld, Hitler’s chalet in the Bavarian Alps. In it, the author, the improbably named Ignatius Phayre, tells us that “it is over 12 years since Herr Hitler fixed on the site of his one and only home. It had to be close to the Austrian border”. It was originally little more than a shed, but he was able to develop it “as his famous book Mein Kampf became a bestseller of astonishing power”.

The great dictator, it seems, was quite the interiors wizard: “The colour scheme throughout this bright, airy chalet is light jade green. The Führer is his own decorator, designer and furnisher, as well as architect… [Hitler] has a passion about cut flowers in his home.”

And he is seldom alone in his mountain hideaway, as he “delights in the society of brilliant foreigners, especially painters, musicians and singers. As host, he is a droll raconteur… ”

Oh, and look who’s practising his archery in the garden: “It is strange to watch the burly Field-Marshal Göering, as chief of the most formidable airforce in Europe, taking a turn with the bow-and-arrow at straw targets of 25 yards range.”

And on it gushes…

By 1938 there was little excuse to treat Adolph Hitler as just another quirky world leader, as in 2011 there is no excuse for treating the wife of the Syrian butcher as just another wealthy dilettante with well-plucked eyebrows.

The caption reads: HITLER'S PINE-PANELLED STUDY - It was here, on the right, that the recent momentous interview between the Fuhrer and Mr. Chamberlain took place. (And that upholstery! Mahvelous dahling!)

[Via: Lee Smith: The Dictator Wears Prada: Anna Wintour and the Banality of Evil and Harry’s Place: Today: A Fawning Photo Spread in Vogue. Tomorrow: Swinging from a Lamp Post?.]

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