Thursday, December 31, 2009

Iran protests: covering the other side

Prior to receiving the letter from a critical reader, I of course, was planning to see how the Western media were going to cover the Iran protests. The New York Times has moved her Iran correspondent from...Toronto to...New York City, to get closer to the story. If Sarah Palin can see Russia from her window, Nazila Fathi can see Iran from her window in Toronto. But notice this: it was clear that the demonstrations in support of the regime yesterday were massive, and most Western media reported hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. The Washington Post said: " Hundreds of thousands of government supporters rallied in several Iranian cities against the country's political opposition Wednesday..." But Ms. Fathi saw a smaller crowd from her window in New York City: "Tens of thousands of pro-government demonstrators took to the streets of Tehran..." Notice that Ms. Fathi reported only "tens of thousands" and notice that she only noticed demonstrators in Tehran, but not in other Iranian cities. But also notice that the Washington Post, outraged, noted that the pro-government demonstrators called for death of the opposition leaders. But the anti-government demonstrators have also been calling for "the death of the dictator". Why is one call for death more condemnable than the other? We know why, of course. I learned from watching the US media coverage of the events of Lebanon how one-sided they can be, even in leftist media (like MERIP or Nation, among others). I knew before that demonstrators who chant slogans that are consistent with US/Israeli foreign policy objectives (regardless whether they demonstrators are aware of the consistency or not) are far more praiseworthy than those who disapprove of US/Israel foreign policy objectives. One thing is clear: the developments in Iran today are not comparable to the time before the downfall of the Shah. Back then, the country was united against the Shah. There were no two sides to speak of. If there were two sides, the US would have conveniently arranged for a coup. Today in Iran, there are two sides. It won't be a simple transition of power. More likely, it will be a messy and bloody conflict between the two sides, and both will resort to violent to push ahead. Like in Lebanon, the US media wanted you to believe that there was one side in Lebanon, only. We now know it was not the case.