This morning, Newsweek posted a story by Joan Juliet Buck which tells the backstory to her Vogue profile of Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad. Titled “A Rose in the Desert,” the profile ran in the March 2011 issue, hitting newsstands right as the Syrian government began killing its own citizens, a borderline civil war that continues there.
Vogue eventually pulled the story from its website and, Buck writes in the Newsweek piece, prohibited her from discussing the debacle publicly. But when her contract wasn’t renewed—“There was no way of knowing that this piece would cost me my livelihood and end the association I had had with Vogue since I was 23,” she writes—she decided to tell all, depicting her former employer as deaf to the rumblings of the Arab Spring.
But she also inadvertently revealed her own views to be rather naive, a writer who gave positive press to a cruel regime because she wanted to see Syria:
I had written four cover stories that year, three about young actresses and one about a supermodel who had just become a mother. This assignment was more exciting, and when else would I get to see the ruins of Palmyra?
I looked up Asma al-Assad. Born Asma Akhras in London in 1975 to a Syrian cardiologist, Fawaz Akhras, and his diplomat wife, Sahar Otri. Straightforward trajectory. School: Queen’s College. University: King’s College. Husband: president of Syria.
Syria. The name itself sounded sinister, like syringe, or hiss.
Twitter users have gleefully pounced upon that last sentence, using the hashtag #countriesbyvoguewriters to make fun of Buck’s description.
Here are a few:
Kashmir…it sounded warm and lovely, like a big, woollen scarf #countriesbyVoguewriters— Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) July 30, 2012
I wondered if a hard landing would shatter China like an expensive porcelain tea set. #countriesbyvoguewriters— Iain Manley (@iainmanley) July 30, 2012
Chad. Jordan. The names reminded me of “Dancing with the Stars” & “Idol,” so I felt safe. #countriesbyvoguewriters— Mary Beth Williams (@embeedub) July 30, 2012
Kira Goldenberg was an associate editor at CJR from 2012-2015. Follow her on Twitter at @kiragoldenberg. Tags: newsweek, Syria, vogue
Chad. The name itself sounded like my Lehman Bothers ex-boyfriend. #countriesbyvoguewriters— Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) July 30, 2012