Wednesday, June 24, 2009

East Versus West: the Media Wars

"No one has the right to insult the president, and they did it. And this is a crime. The person who insulted the president should be punished, and the punishment is jail. ... Such insults and accusations against the government are a return to Hitler's methods, to repeat lies and accusations ... until everyone believes those lies."

Reuters quotes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking to supporters outside Tehran's Sharif University.

I think this is interesting, and not just because the Holocaust-denier Ahmadinejad is using Hitler as an example of wrong. I think it's interesting because Ahmadinejad makes certain inescapable points about the Western media's coverage of the riots in Iran. And that is, they are biased. They are biased towards our Western ideals of basic universal human rights such as the freedom of expression.

It is a fact that journalists from the West, including CNN and all the cable news media, have made it a habit now to broadcast unconfirmed rumors and opinions from blogs that may or may not be located in Tehran. I mean, you can't trust Twitter users at all, and yet the media (having no other choice than to report from their outposts in foreign countries) has reported unconfirmed reports straight off the internet as fact, simply because they fit in with our Western perception of Iran. The Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad always make this diatribe about the biased coverage of the Western media, but they're completely right. I mean, the western media is going to sniff out anything that seems revolutionary. They interview so-called experts who talk about the people's desire for reform of the system even though these experts often are Iranian ex-pats teaching at American Universities, which is a demographic that obviously favors reform. The media always emphasizes the oppressed over the oppressors in Iran, especially women, but of course we base our definition of oppression as curtailing freedom of expression (speech, dress), which is an individual freedom that we in the West recognize instantly when it is taken away by the government.

Okay, having said that, of course no nation in the West is going to kick out all foreign journalists, imprison peaceable dissidents, and use the chant "DEATH TO IRAN" as an official state policy. Iran is run by oppressors who mask their tyranny of human rights behind a shroud of oppressive religious dogma. But you know, for having two weeks of riots in a country whose leaders are reportedly without scrupules, there have been shockingly few deaths, as in, maybe only in the dozens. A couple of orders of magnitude less than the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. So far.