The media war on Iran

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Tahir Mahmoud

Jumada' al-Akhirah 08, 1430 2009-06-01

Main Stories

by Tahir Mahmoud (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 38, No. 4, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1430)

On July 20, 1988 when Iran accepted a ceasefire in the Iraqi-imposed war that was backed and financed by the US and Arab regimes, most people assumed that the war had ended. The shooting may have stopped but the war against the Islamic State has continued in other ways: political, economic and particularly in the media. Ample evidence of this is available from the days both preceding and following the June 12 presidential elections in Iran in which the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad won a convincing victory. As soon as the first results were announced, a full-scale war was unleashed against Iran, led by the BBC, but soon joined by others. Even the Arab media, representing such leading lights of democracy as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, started complaining about lack of democracy in Iran. The Saudi-owned al-Arabiya, was the most vocal in its condemnation.

The line of attack was familiar: how could Ahmedinejad win by such a huge margin and how could the results be announced so soon? The one notable difference in this election’s reporting by the Western media was that few outlets questioned the massive turnout—at 85 percent — that had been their standard criticism of past elections. If Iran said the turnout was 65 percent, the Western media would immediately dismiss it because voter turnout in the West has seldom surpassed the 50-55 percent mark. In their arrogance, they assumed that other people must behave exactly the same way as people in the West. But the absence of questioning the high turnout in Iran’s recent election was due to the fact that the media assumed it would benefit their preferred candidate: Mir Hussain Mousavi. When it did not turn out the way they had hoped, they immediately cried foul.

As for the question, how Iranian election officials could count ballots so quickly, it smacks of arrogance. Let us examine the data. There were a total of 45,713 ballot boxes throughout the cities, towns and villages in Iran. The total number of votes cast was 39.2 million. This works out at less than 860 ballots per box. Further, voters cast their ballot for a single candidate—their preferred choice—from a field of four. Why is it so difficult to imagine that Iranian officials would be able to count 860 ballots in one or two hours? Besides, there were 14 officials in each polling station, 12 of whom were locally elected. After the vote count, the results were reported electronically to the Ministry of the Interior in Tehran.

Within a few hours, officials started to announce results from polling stations where votes had been counted although the Western media repeatedly peddled disinformation creating the impression that they had announced all election results. Only one example would suffice. “The Current”, a radio program broadcast each morning on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) discussing the aftermath of Iranian elections on June 15, twice questioned how officials could give out results so quickly, implying that there must have been fraud. Even when an email was sent to the program host, Anna Marie Tremonti, she refused to acknowledge the message or rectify her erroneous reporting. Besides, one only has to reflect on the election results of Barack Obama last November. As soon as the polls closed in California, CNN immediately an-nounced that Obama had won. Every other television station in the US did the same. How could they make such a bold pronouncement when not a single ballot had been counted in California or anywhere on the West coast? Are people in the West the only ones capable of counting ballots quickly?

It is widely known and accepted that both in 2000 and in 2004, George Bush’s election was the result of massive electoral fraud. There was not only the unresolved issue of “pregnant” and “hanging chads”, there were also thousands of dead people that had turned out to “vote” for Bush! Similarly, tens of thousands of African-Americans were disenfranchised in Florida because they were believed to be supporters of Democrats. But it is not merely the electoral fraud that has been repeatedly perpetrated on the American public. In last November’s election, the media played its traditional role of ensuring that most people would only know of only two contestants in the presidential race: Barack Obama and John McCain. It is safe to assume that few Americans were allowed to know that there were two other candidates: Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney, also in the running but their names were never allowed to be mentioned in the mainstream media. True, neither could have won the election but their participation in presidential debates would have exposed Americans to other views and the election result may well have been different than what it turned out to be.

The West’s reaction to election results in other countries is based on its own interests, not on the will of the people. As Professor James Petras wrote on his blog, “Global Research” (June 18): “There is hardly any election, in which the White House has a significant stake, where the electoral defeat of the pro-US candidate is not denounced as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite. In the most recent period, the White House and its camp followers cried foul following the free (and monitored) elections in Venezuela and Gaza, while joyously fabricating an ‘electoral success’ in Lebanon despite the fact that the Hezbollah-led coalition received over 53% of the vote.”

Iran’s June 12 presidential election results and how they were reported reflect the West’s deep animosity toward Iran and Islam. Long before the elections were held, a campaign of demonization of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was underway. He has been accused of secretly making a nuclear bomb, threatening to “wipe out Israel” and ugly caricatures of him have been projected in the media, all in an attempt to paint him in the most negative light. Barring a few Internet websites, there has been uniform condemnation of Iran and the election result without giving any space for alternative points of view. This is a standard practice in the West: dominate all news discourse in the first few days to firmly plant in the minds of most people only one narrative. This is called “full-spectrum dominance”. Later, this may be modified but by then people may either have lost interest or lost sight of the lies that were initially told. To this day, at least 30 percent of Americans still believe that the now-dead Iraqi dictator, Saddam Husain was involved in the 9/11 attacks; an equal percentage of Americans believe he had weapons of mass destruction. One must give the Western media credit for fantastic brainwashing.

Let us consider specific examples. The BBC projects itself as balanced and fair yet it was not only first off the mark in the anti-Iran propaganda but it even resorted to outright fabrications. On June 19, the BBC website used a picture of a huge rally claiming that it was in support of the defeated opposition candidate, Mir Hussain Mousavi. The rally was actually addressed by Ahmedinejad but his picture was carefully cropped out by taking a close-up shot of rally participants. This proved the BBC’s undoing: those familiar with the style of the two candidates immediately realized whose rally it was; Ahmedinejad’s supporters carry Iranian flags while in Mousavi’s rallies, green flags are predominant. The picture the BBC showed had hundreds of Iranian flags and no green flags. The BBC was caught in a lie and forced to replace the picture 24 hours later after many bloggers pointed out the falsehood. That, however, did not deter it from peddling other lies. Even when opposition rallies had only a few dozen participants, as seen in the visual footage on June 20 for instance, the BBC claimed there were “thousands”.

The North American media — especially CNN and Fox News — were even worse. On June 20, CNN constantly played pictures of the few dozen demonstrators under the bold caption: “Blood in the streets of Tehran” while Fox News repeatedly carried the same news under the banner: “Uprising in Iran”. Americans could be forgiven if they are unaware of the reality in Iran because their media deliberately distort the truth. Not one Western reporter had the integrity to point out that opposition rallies were confined to north Tehran where the affluent Iranians live. These people and their children have been opposed to the revolution from the first day. Besides, North Tehran is not Iran; indeed, it is not even the whole of Tehran. The people of southern Tehran, generally poor, are solidly with Ahmedinejad. The contempt with which the taghuti northerners hold those in the south can be judged from one of their campaign slogans; it said that Ahmed-inejad had not taken a shower in two weeks! The spoiled Gucci crowd wearing western clothes and their girls with heavy make-ups are the exact opposed of the millions of oppressed that have and will continue to offer their lives in defence of the revolution.

The Western print media has been little better. Almost all their reporting and commentaries have constantly repeated the allegation of massive electoral “fraud” and alleged that people do not support the Islamic government. Almost all dailies and weeklies have projected a uniform message without allowing alternative views. They have stubbornly refused to accept the possibility that Ahmedinejad may have won the election and that there was no large scale fraud to affect the result. This was confirmed by Iran’ Guardian Council on June 22 when it announced that they had found irregularities in 50 of the 366 polling stations but this would not affect the overall result. The sole exception to wild allegations was a single article in the Washington Post on June 15 by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty. They represent respectively the “Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, and the American Strategy Program at the New America Found-ation”. Their survey of Iranians across all 30 provinces showed Ahmedinejad ahead by 2 to 1 margin over Mousavi. Since this view did not fit the established line, it was not allowed to affect reporting or commentary in any other daily or given air time on television.

So much for the “free” media of the West; it operates in a fact-free environment.

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