The XX Factor

Vogue Is Now Embarrassed by Its Asma al-Assad profile

Back in February, in the early days of the Arab Spring, Vogue went to press with an unbelievably tone-deaf profile of the Syrian dictator’s wife, Asma al-Assad, that touted her chic freshness alongside wide-eyed factoids about the “startling” 97 percent of the vote her husband had grabbed. The piece’s timing couldn’t have been worse, and it was roundly pilloried (i ncluding by me ).

It seemed, since they’d given the go-ahead on the piece and then defended it amidst the media storm , as if Vogue was operating in an alternate universe where world events took a backseat to glamour. But now it appears the magazine has changed its stance: Per Gawker , they’ve pulled the article from their online archives. What changed? Well maybe, as John Cook notes, they’ve noticed that since February, “her husband has presided over the murder of more than 300 demonstrators and jailed more than 10,000 political prisoners in a bloody crackdown,” and it’s been harder to ignore than his previous human-rights violations. Asma, meanwhile, has fled to London. Vogue might be correct to be ashamed of itself, but it’s hard not to notice that just disappearing something inconvenient to its image and trying to stanch the free-flow of information allowed by the Internet is a rather, well, dictatorial move.