Andrew Sullivan posts this e-mail today under the headline “Confirming the Basij Murder of Neda .” The video, for those who haven’t seen it, is graphic and disturbing. The e-mail Sullivan points to, however, confirms nothing. It claims to be from a doctor who treated her on the scene. He says he clearly saw a “basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house.” He also says “he had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her.” It’s hardly believable that in the chaos of the crowd, this doctor could have been looking at the rooftop the moment before the shot. He then says, in what is obvious rhetorical flourish: “He aimed straight at her heart.”
I do not begrudge this “doctor” his narrative. But it should not be reported by respectable American news sites as confirmation of a fact. It is an artifact in the construction of a martyr story, just like everything else in the story of Neda: Her name, which means “voice” in Farsi (now silenced), her age, first reported as 16, but actually 27, the final close-up of her face, blood streaming from her mouth, one eye opened.
In their excitement over the role of technology in building democracy, American sites have been gullibly reporting every Twitter and post in support of Mir Hussein Moussavi, conveniently forgetting Moussavi’s own bloody past . Even in the age of Twitter, confirming a murder is not something we do by e-mail.
Photograph of Iranian-American protesters by David McNew/Getty Images.