Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran: Views in the Western Media

As it appears that the stand off around the disputed Iranian election result could take some time to play itself out, there is the chance to look at how this is being picked up in the Western media.

As Jason Wilson has noted, a dominant motif is that this is the social media or Twitter-driven revolution. Although some of the claims being made appear premature, this is not stopping some overblown claims being made, such as that of Jeff Jarvis that Twitter is "the keystone in the architecture of the new infrastructure of unstoppable freedom of speech and democracy".

And, hey, I thought it was so you could find out about Lindsay Lohan's breasts or where Ashton Kutcher is right now.

But we've been here before. From Rupert Murdoch's claims in the early 1990s that satellite TV could bring down the Chinese government to more recent absurd claims about Twitter triggering the "Moldovan revolution", the idea that media technologies force political regime change has had a run on many occasions and been found wanting. According to his blog, Jarvis is pronouncing the end of dictatorships on Al-Jazeera:

I recorded a Skype video interview for Al Jazeera English that will air at 20000 GMT today and looked at the camera and said, “Despots, beware.” Your days are numbered. This is more than a revolution. It is an evolution in the architecture of speech and freedom.

I am reminded here of this famous warning to sceptics, from the legendary Criswell in 1953:

But Jeff Jarvis is certainly open to the possibilities of people taking matters into their own hands, even if he overstates the global significance of You Tube and Twitter. Not so Seamus Milne in The Guardian, who seems to see the whole thing as an orchestrated campaign by the US and its Western allies against Mahmoud Ahmedinijad.

That is also reflected in the western media, whose cameras focus so lovingly on Tehran's gilded youth and for whom Ahmadinejad is nothing but a Holocaust-denying fanatic. The other Ahmadinejad, who is seen to stand up for the country's independence, expose elite corruption on TV and use Iran's oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority, is largely invisible abroad ... If Ahamdinejad was in fact the winner, then there is an attempted coup going on in Tehran right now, and it is being led by Mousavi and his western-backed supporters.

One consequence of the Bush administration's foreign policy was that it reignited a Cold War world-view on the left, where reflex anti-Americanism and the sense that the US was behind everything would lead to routine support for whoever was opposed to the US and to Western foreign policy. Ahmedinijad is a very unlikely figure for the Western left to align with - his quite vocal anti-Semitism would seem to present at least one obstacle - but "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" mindset can be a hard one to break with.

As I noted in an earlier post, we will never know the actual result of the Iranian election (Ahmedinijad could have actually won), but enough analysis can be done of the official dats to reveal that it is fraudulent, and that is what has been the trigger for the protests. Yes, Teheran is where the mobile phone owning, Internet accessing, Twittering urban middle classes are, but the line that such people are the stooges of U.S. foreign policy is predictable and vacuous. Iranians are quite capable of demanding democratic accountability from their leaders without help from the U.S. State Department.

1 comment:

Bahador said...

Yes Terry, it is hard to say whether Ahmadinejad is the real winner or not. Therefore we have two scenarios. First scenario is, if Ahmadinejad was the real winner and the fraud was about counting other candidates' ballot papers for him in order to increase his legitimacy for future foreign policies like nuclear issues etc to show him as the representative of vast majority of Iranians. Second scenario could be about the big fraud to make Ahmadinejad winner. This scenario makes the story complicated. It could be about long term plans that had been set by supreme leader, revolutionary guard and all the institutions that are under his command which they would think Ahmadinejad is capable to follow their ambitions.
In order to understand the situation we should have a clear understanding of complicated (and contradictory) structure of power in Iran. I draw your attention to Pepe Escobar’s analysis in an interview by Paul Jay.