Dictatorships and the West’s Academic Corruption
So let’s say you’re a top official’s hot, 22-year-old daughter, with a preference for extreme décolletage and glittery silver-and-mauve clubbing gowns—and the two of you, powerful emissary and décolleté daughter, both work for a dictator responsible for the deaths of at least 9,000 people in your native country. Children massacred, villages wiped out, all so that Bashar al-Asaad of Syria could retain his position, despite nationwide revulsion with his reign.
Your job, as you saw it, was to get the best possible public relations outside Syria for the mass-murderer you refer to affectionately and often as “The Dude.” After all, as you point out, “the American psyche can be easily manipulated.”
However, things being what they are, excellent PR is hard to come by for mass murderers, and, also, the plasticity of the American psyche seems to have been misjudged. You need to move on, as the dissatisfied Dude informs you. Here’s the big question:
How do you get into Columbia University?
In the case of Sheherazad Jaafari, the daughter of Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, the quickest way into prestige academe is through the TV newswoman Barbara Walters, who—thanks to Jaafari—got an interview with Asaad. “Hugs, Barbara,” is how the journalist often signed off in her e-mails to the young woman she called “dear girl.” In these missives, Walters informed Jaafari that she contacted the talk show host Piers Morgan and his producer “to say how terrific you are and attached your resume.” Nor was Walters content with that lone career push.
Off went another Walters e-mail, this time to Richard Wald, a lecturer (on ethics, among other issues) at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. The school happens to be my alma mater, and I promise you I didn’t get in because some grateful TV interviewer wrote in swearing that Columbia’s latest applicant was “brilliant, beautiful, speaks five languages.”