Events of the last week in Iran have been widely reported by the world press. Not long before, the press also reported on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989. Were these two distinct events reported in a similar manner or were they treated as different and unique events? Let’s take a look at each and see what we can find.
1) Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?
Based on the coverage I’ve seen, both governments were cast as being in the wrong and both protest movements as in the right. In the case of China, the government sent in tanks and used live ammunition to break up a protest movement that was alleged to have turned violent. Most of the reporters in the world press were located in or near the same area, and their reports reflected what occurred in that vicinity. Analyzes of this event in most cases pointed to the government as the culprit and the demonstrators as being victims and responding in a suitable fashion. Is this an accurate assessment? The Chinese government attempted to confiscate film of the event from foreign sources but those attempts were successfully evaded in most instances.
In Iran, the government has sent most of the world press home but there were many first hand reports from the scene of the demonstrations. In this case, the reporters were scattered in several different areas. The government was portrayed in most media as having stolen the election and the protesters were seen as defending their candidate and trying to overthrow a tainted election. The government has recently tried to shut down Twitter in an attempt to limit coverage and communication by the protesters.
2) Was the violence committed by both governments labeled as violations of human rights while the violence committed by the protesters cast as legitimate or de-emphasized?
Based on what I’ve read, I think this is a fair assessment for both situations. If attacks were committed on both sides, then they should both be reported. If the attacks are overwhelmingly from one side, that should also be stated but not to the exclusion of attacks from the other side.
3) Were government limitations of world press freedom to report on these demonstrations seen as evidence of government weakness, moral inferiority, corruption, etc.?
I think most would agree that this is how those restrictions were cast in the world press. Some might believe this is a legitimate claim while others might that these governments have the right to limit reporter’s freedom during violent or anti-government demonstrations or uprisings. My personal opinion is that when governments restrict the press’ ability to cover a story, they will rightfully come under fire by that press for trying to hide something. I believe that limiting press freedom does indicate government weakness. This is true not only in China and Iran, but also during the Bush administration when they also attempted to limit press coverage in certain military zones. I believe the vast majority of people would and did take it in this way.
Let’s look at specific press coverage in Iran from major media sources. In this video, George Friedman of Stratfor gives his evaluation of the Iranian election. This was one of the more objective analyzes I could find.
Now let’s look at similar coverage from major media. Stories of the Iranian election and subsequent demonstrations were reported from the NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The London Times, The Times of India, Cape Argus (Cape Town, South Africa), Bangkok Post, and The Jakarta Post. I linked to these various websites to provide a broad example of world media coverage.
Was the election actually manipulated in Iran? Let’s hear from the Iranian National Guard: “Statistics provided by Mohsen Rezaei in which he claims more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 170 cities are not accurate – the incident has happened in only 50 cities.” Iran Guardian Council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, responding to complaints by a candidate defeated in the June 12 election.
Hmm… seems suspicious to me.
Do world press analyzes always take the side of the demonstrators, or do they present both sides accurately? Is it just a case of demonstrator abuses being “buried” deep within the story, or are these instances deliberately excluded?
Thanks to Allen for suggesting this topic and contributing to the post.
I do not know that much about Iran, but I doubt highly that the Media knows as much as it claims. (as usual)
Even last week’s weather report was quite wrong.
and frankly, the opposition in Iran are hardly peachy. Yelling “God is great” is not a good sign for a “democracy”, actually more like a sign of another kind of theocracy.
Afterall, Al-Qaeda are Sunnis, who have also vowed death to all Shiites. Iran is almost all Shiites.
I find it interesting that you say George Friedman’s comments were objective. Ignoring his wider comments on Iran and focusing on the election, I didn’t find them especially enlightening. Also he doesn’t substantiate the main issue of fraud, which is key to his whole situation. He merely says that Ahmadinejad had support and the election was mostly fair. Now, as you indicate, even the Iranian establishment admit that there was fraud in at least 50 cities – and it was highly unlikely they were going to find in favour of the opposition. In light of this I’m not sure how Friedman can call the election fair in any respect, and as a result his comments on the election lose credibility.
Ahmadinejad did have support, but anyone who has provided actual analysis of the results has shown that there was cronic fraud simply because the results were not believable. The Guardian Council’s argument seems to be one of “there was fraud but not enough to fix the result”. So it’s ok to cheat in an election provided you don’t affect the net result? Hmm, not the best way to keep these things clean.
and frankly, the opposition in Iran are hardly peachy. Yelling “God is great” is not a good sign for a “democracy”, actually more like a sign of another kind of theocracy.
Someone who actually understood the situation in Iran would know that shouting “God is great” is the best way to protest in that country, because no one will dare arrest you for it. They might arrest you for protesting, but at night when people are standing on their own roof-tops it’s a different matter.
It’s also a way to appeal to more conservative Iranians to show that the city-dwellers care about one thing that they find very important.
Raj ~ From what I can gather, and since I wasn’t there and have no access (or the time) to electoral data in Iran, it’s my “opinion” that Friedman’s analysis is relatively accurate. I think the opposition took too much from the Tehran polls and not enough from the rest of the country. Back in the original revolution, the reaction in Tehran was very different from that of the rest of the country. Tehran is the most radical city in the country and has been for decades. Crowd behavior in all capitol cities tends to be more radical than in other areas of the country, not just in Iran but all over the world.
Was there fraud? I believe so based on what I’ve read and the way the numbers lined up. I read an interesting article a few days ago (which I was unable to find again or I would have linked to it) that took the actual vote results per province and calculated that the odds on the numbers given were unlikely to have been naturally generated. When people make up numbers, it’s natural to create them in certain groupings and those number combinations showed up in the election results. The Ayatollah certified the election before the results were even finalized. It seems the leadership didn’t want to take any chances.
Having said that, even if the election results were relatively accurate, that doesn’t mean the government might not be overthrown. Many revolutions are based on other factors besides majority public support.
I never said the election was “clean”. I’m not that delusional. 😀
Update: Here is Friedman’s latest update to his initial analysis.
“Someone who actually understood the situation in Iran would know that shouting “God is great” is the best way to protest in that country, because no one will dare arrest you for it. They might arrest you for protesting, but at night when people are standing on their own roof-tops it’s a different matter.
It’s also a way to appeal to more conservative Iranians to show that the city-dwellers care about one thing that they find very important.”
So they are protesting by going along with the religious establishment slogans?
You can call that “appealing” to the Conservative Iranians, but some would call that lying.
Otto Kerner says
It’s like if Chinese reformist protesters took to the rooftops shouting “China is great!”
Oddly enough, all I ever hear from some of the Chinese “Human rights” protesters were “US is Great”, “Canada is great”, etc.
Based on what I’ve seen this has all been used to put pressure on Obama who seems to be playing it cool despite all the criticism from the right. In my brief pauses on the news channels I have heard a few comparisons to Tiananmen. The rhetoric is getting pretty strong, I’ve only been back home a week and I’m already sick of the news again.
I would agree that only one side of the story is being emphasized but I think this is due to politics in the US rather than anti-Iran propaganda. The Republicans are pummeling Obama with this story and right leaning media outlets are pumping out report after report of Obama’s weak response forcing the left-leaning outlets to counter. Rather than getting coverage of the whole affair, we are focusing on part of the story through the lens of an American political wrestling match.
I agree that shouting “God is great” doesn’t sound that great to us, but people do shout appropriate slogans in their own countries. Protesters in China didn’t shout “China is great” in the demonstrations that led up to 6.4, but said things like “爱国无罪”, “loving [your] country is not a crime” (it does sound more catchy in Chinese).
There are some other similarities to what happened in China 20 years ago:
1. A possible split in the leadership (Rafsanjani was apparently against Ahmaninejad)
2. The reform faction fighting with the conservative faction (not linked to 1)
3. More government support in the countryside, whereas the protests were mostly limited to the city
I don’t attach any high mark to George Friedman’s work. His background is conservative right-wing and a communism hater (related to his East European Jewish parent). Just a few weeks, he predicts that China could be split by two pieces because of the difference between coastal and inland regions.
Iran and China of 20 years ago are not a good comparison. There is no clear similarity on the cause as well as political mix. Two deciding factors make all clear: 1) there is no explicit opposition political campaign and no explicit split among the leadership in the public until the last moments. And 2) that most people supported the protesting actions of students because they thought the students were petitioning the government on something good for ordinary people.
Zhao was functioning and even met Soviet Union President during the time. It was Zhao who deliberately dragged the feet for a firm government response because he wanted to use the occasion as an opportunity to get rid of Deng once for all. Zhao was later removed not because of his political standing, but his explicit action on feet-dragging of a tough government response.
@Shane9219: I think it depends on whether you look at the similarities or the differences. Certainly there are a lot of differences (China is not ruled by a religious council, for example, doesn’t refer to itself as a “theocracy” and doesn’t talk about “protecting the revolution”), but I still do see these similarities.
Also, even if the cases were somehow fundamentally different, is there nothing that can be gleaned about press coverage and ideological battles in both cases?
As for Zhao, you might be right, but I would state your claims as a hypothesis.
It was not a hypothesis regarding to Zhao. Zhao did not mention a single word that inspire anyone politically at the time. Instead, he said things during the crisis that was very critical of the fact he still needed to report things to Deng . His intention was very clear back then to most the students and ordinary folks alike. There were even a few stone-throwing incidents at Deng’s residence immediate after Zhao’s complaint. So Zhao was clearly in there to use the opportunity to grab more power (Deng still held the military at the time)
George Friedman has been selling the same wares since the mid-90s, i.e.
1. The USA will forever be the top dog,
2. Euro will fail,
3. China will split up.
By extension, he keeps repeating some of the same themes regardless the ground realities:
* Any strength in gold is head fake
* Any strength in commodities especially oil is head fake
* Any weakness in dollar is head fake
* Any strength of countries other than the US is head fake
When EUR:USD was at above 1.55 if I recall correctly. Friedman finally somewhat broke down and penned a piece arguing the weakness of dollar wasn’t a sign of the decline of America. That was a sign of the topping of Euro in retrospect.
China is almost a decade late in Friedman’s first split-up prediction. If paid customers are finally turned off, worry not, there will be new paid customers.
Strafor is not totally useless though — at least it gives you some pointers most mainstream media wouldn’t even bother. You can skip their predictions just go straight to read the stuffs they refer to.
S.K. Cheung says
To R4000 #1:
the “media” have room for improvement. But to equate their inability to predict the future (ie. the weather) with their supposed shortcomings in reporting on the past and present seems, well, like apples and oranges again.
To WKL #8:
good points. Based on what I’ve heard/read, almost everything seems to be in Tehran; no idea what’s happening in other cities, let alone the countryside.
nice thread post. I especially like the part about the greater than 100% voter turn-out. And no, not nearly as obtuse as 170 cities showing such enthusiasm, when it was only 50. So everything is kosher for sure. I wonder if that’ll ever happen in Canada, or SD.
Well none of us were there – so what? If you can agree with Friedman you can disagree with him. I notice in the latest post you made he didn’t use the words “free” or “fair” in describing the election in any respect.
I don’t have time to look into it in depth, though I notice he goes on about “the same” people protesting. Did he visually identify all those people in the pictures? What I think he was saying they’re the same sort of people. Well, that’s his opinion. But is it surprising that a core of people would be protesting? He seems to think that because millions of people aren’t clogging the streets of Iranian cities then the vote wasn’t that fraudulent. The other view is that those who voted to get the incumbant out subsequently resigned themselves to the defeat because the State was clearly was not going to back down. It’s sad but some people have no hope.
So they are protesting by going along with the religious establishment slogans?
You can call that “appealing” to the Conservative Iranians, but some would call that lying.
You’re saying that the protesters are not Muslim? You may be astonished to know that some people who believe in having fair elections are not secular.
@ Shane #9: I collapsed your post because it was an ad hominum attack which violates admin’s site rules. None of what you said had anything to do with the actual video or subsequent update.
@ JXie #13: Same reason. None of your remarks had anything to do with what was said on the posted video or follow up article. I have no problem with criticism of the topic at hand, but none of this was about China. I have no problem with criticism of Friedman’s China views if that’s the topic. Raj criticized Friedman’s remarks on Iran, so those were relevant comments.
@ R4K, WKL, Raj: Shouting “Allahu akbar” reminds me of the Philippines where every political speech is couched in Catholic terms. Even the newspapers are constantly using Catholic slogans; it’s eerie. Did you see that recent video that shows a Chechen shooting down a Russian helicopter? After the helicopter is hit and is going down, the shooter keeps yelling “Allahu akbar” for the rest of the tape. I agree with Raj; it’s a way for the protesters to protect themselves from criticism from the conservatives, similar to monks putting posters of Mao on the sides of their temples during the Cultural Revolution to keep the buildings intact.
@ Raj # 15: I put in Friedman’s video and subsequent article because it was a western viewpoint that didn’t automatically assume Mousavi won the election. If you hold a differing view, you’d be in agreement with the various media reports who I linked to right after the video. Don’t those count? I’d also agree that he does a little “tap dancing” in the subsequent article but only a little.
Tracking the situation in Iran and the rest of the world is what his company does, so he wasn’t operating in a vacuum. You can disagree with his analysis but both sides should be able to base their analysis on known facts. However, I DO know that the Iranian diaspora is predominantly anti-revolution, and also forms the core of most opinion reported outside Iran. That needs to be taken into consideration when trying to figure out what’s going on over there.
If you notice, I didn’t use the words “western press” but used “world press”. After searching online newspapers from all over the world, I found the coverage to be similar no matter where I went. Does this mean the term “western press” is a misnomer and should be changed in subsequent articles and posts to “world press”? Even articles about China seemed consistent in non-Chinese media, regardless of where it was printed or published.
I don’t hold any personal grudge against George Friedman. I think fair mind people would agree with my comment anyway, because it is out of Mr. Friedman’s public statements and track record (BTW: he has been selling his service of geo-politics analysis). But I can understand you have some personal connection attached to him. How come you got 81 points of veto power by one simple click? 🙂
Hi Shane~ I have no personal connection to Friedman. It was just about the only analysis I could find that contradicted the prevailing pro-Mousavi viewpoint. Since this post was about the Iran/China press coverage, I just couldn’t see the relevance in what you wrote. Maybe you can bring this up again when we’re doing a post on China where that view would apply to the subject? I think it would make for an interesting discussion.
How did I get so many points? Sold my soul to the devil… 😉 (Actually, I have no idea)
Charles Liu says
Here’s an example of US media pulling a “China” on Iran.
Saw it on NBC couple days ago, where Brian Williams tells us protesters were shot by government militia. While the fact is the protesters tried to storm and set fire to a building housing volunteer militia, and people in the building shot back in self-defense:
This is like anti-war protesters attacking militiamen in Michigan backwoods and not expect to get shot.
Also, while the accusation of vote fraud fly in our airways, didn’t the Iranian government find irregularity, but not enough to invalidate the election result? Didn’t the same thing happen in US (Gore V Bush, Florida election fraud)?
I really wonder who’s not ready for democracy in Iran…
Charles Liu, once again proving why there is just no point commenting on this blog.
@ Charles: Your first example was about a young girl who got out of her car which was stuck in traffic and was shot dead. The second example is of a Supreme Court decision on a presidential election. Would you have rather had Billy Graham make the ruling? That’s sort of what happened in Iran; the Ayatollah decided the election was valid. Your argument makes no sense to me.
@ FOARP: That’s a cheap shot so I’ve gotta collapse the comment per the blog rules.
bai ding says
My only question is – what should the West do if the same thing happens in Iran? Should they engage Iran as the engaged China after the 1989 massacre? Both regimes ain’t going to change. 換湯不換藥. Democracy will be distorted even it will ever be talked about. Like the so called “Chinese style democracy”. A whole new generation of learned scholars will be born to defend their governments.
This is not an argument of what the protesters support – democracy or another theocracy, frauds or no frauds. We are talking about people are again being brutally crushed for demonstrating. It seemed to me that certain places in the world just would not tolerate such. We still have these authoritative states in the world. And those who keep on bashing the West and the US medias should just leave and live in China and Iran. Over there, you will have more than NBC, CNN and BBC to watch. CCTV itself has nine channels. You will be happy there.
But I am sadden by some of the comments by our learned friends here. I understand why people find it so easy to defend the actions of the establishment, the governing bodies. Because it is easy and smart. Any acts (violent or non violent) against officials, the people’s government, the people’s army, the police, the great leaders are wrong and should be put down. Regardless of whether these militias (volunteers or not) are goons who are fierce in defending their brutal, totalitarian masters? As long as they are in uniforms, then any attacks on them are illegal and (I remember someone said this before) any government machines will respond. Those who accept this concept will live a long time because they won’t try. In contrary to some claims, the PLA and the volunteer militiamen of Iran are more heavily armed and much better trained in using force than the students and Iran’s protesters. Oh yeah self defense.
So, the Qing was justified to kill all those at Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Yellow Flower Uprising because they were being stormed by the revolutionaries and had to shoot back in self defense?
Neda is dead. The Tank Man was perhaps tortured to death long time ago. Oh yeah, they should know better. Or perhaps they were all made up by the western press. One thing is sure, those learned ones who sit in front of a computer typing all kinds of sophisticated articles will never be them because they know they will be shot at. Better just post comments.
What tickled me most is the Kent State shooting. It kept coming up each time when we argued about Tiananmen Square Massacre (or may be as the Chinese Communist called it a “Disturbance”) and this time the protest in Iran. That’s too sad and lame. Anyone who try to compare the “brutality” between the 60’s US government and the Chinese Communist at the same time was out of their mind. A government that was found based on democracy, human rights and dignity, check and balance will eventually right itself from the dark period of time. A people with its government that plunged them into lawlessness, cannibalism, value distortion would have a longer way to go.
@Steve – Suit yourself, although it does prove my point, no?
Charles Liu says
Steve @ 21, I was talking about this AP report from 6/15 that predated the “TAM style” reporting you’ve noted:
“a group of demonstrators with fuel canisters set a small fire at a compound of a volunteer militia”
If America is a theocracy that’s constitutionally provisioned as such, then yes, Billy Garham can make this ruling from his grave.
The Iranian government investigated and found voting irregularity, but not enough to overturn the election result, who are we do question that? After all, Florida scandal, where the winner’s brother is the govenor, should have invalidated the election result IMHO.
If we can decide election fraud may not justify revote (scale, margin, effect, whatever), so can the Iranians.
@ FOARP: Not really, since you didn’t comment on the topic. I collapsed Shane and JXie for the same reason. I know you and Charles like to go at it but the rest of us would rather listen to what you think rather than how little you think of each other. Fair?
@ Charles: Your example is a fair one and setting off fuel canisters is certainly not a peaceful demonstration. I’m with you on that.
However, I don’t think the question right now is if the ruling was fair or not; the question is whether the protesters have enough public support on their side throughout the entire country to effect a change. Personally? I don’t think they do but I’m no expert.
A dictatorship can be constitutionally provisioned. It’s still a dictatorship. Let’s just call it what it is and not compare it to a completely different form of government.
There are plenty who would agree with you about the Florida vote, and plenty who would disagree. However, the constitutional process was followed. Your honest opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s.
Charles Liu says
Steve, with the kind of reporting coming from our military-industrial-media-complex, it’s unamerican to not support the innocent, peaceful, righteous (feel free to add more) protesters – beautiful flowers brutally cut short by an evil regime (gee sounds familiar.)
Or we can try to remember their current government came about as result of us topping their democratically elected government and subjecting them to the Shah’s dictatorship (so we can have free oil for another 20 years at the Iranian’s expense):
Iran’s Islamic Revolution had the same mandate from “the people” as our American Revolution, and theocracy was their choice, owing in no small part to us the enlightened West. Same thing can be said there are plenty of Iranian disagreeing and clashing, and their constitution process has been followed as well.
Still think we have the right to question whether the ruling from the Iranian government is fair?
@ Charles: You actually watch NBC? I’ve developed the habit of ignoring network (and cable) news. 😉
Actually, the conservatives have been trying to push Obama on this but he won’t bite (and I’m glad he’s staying on the sidelines). Didn’t you know that the UK is now the Great Satan? Yes, it’s official; the ayatollah has officially passed the mantle over to them. And please, let me enjoy my Tehran Spring…
Beautiful flowers? Like daisies? Let’s pluck the petals… five… four… three… two… one… uh oh, I’m having Barry Goldwater flashbacks!!
Was the British/American plot to depose Mossadeq a good idea? No, not at all but I’m sure you’ve read up on the subject and know the democratic elections under his rule were cut short and not so democratic. You see, he wasn’t very popular in the country either. His base was the major cities, similar to Mousavi. I’ve never met an Iranian that liked the Shah, though many have said he was better than what they have now.
However, that’s almost 60 years ago and 30 years since the revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini is dead and I’m not sure the current ayatollah has the same respect as he once did. And I don’t think you can compare the Iranian Revolution with the American Revolution. They were very different. The Iranian Revolution was basically a Tehran revolution. I had friends working in other cities back then (Brown & Root) and they had no problems getting out and didn’t encounter much hostility. They all thanked their lucky stars that they weren’t in Tehran, and all of them immediately went from there to Bangkok on company pay. 😛
Questioning whether a ruling is fair isn’t a “right” but anyone can question it if they want to, at least in countries which practice freedom of speech.
Even in Democratic countries, there is a distinction between legal and illegal protests.
Illegal protests serve no purpose other than continual agitation of more unlawful behavior, and disruption of public safety and normal lives.
If you have a protest of a few 1000 people, for a day or 2, perhaps that is legal, even in Iran.
2 days of demonstration is enough to communicate your dissatisfaction and resolve.
*(I note, most large US protests don’t last more than 1 day. even then, they require approval for the protest area. AND there are NO-protest zones.)
Continuance of an illegal protest voices nothing but mere intent to challenge the government, and a disturbance of public order.
(The other point is equally simple: If you can’t get the government to listen with 1 day of mass protest, then the government certainly won’t back down in face of more protest.)
Forcing the government into a corner won’t help anyone’s cause. and it may strengthen the Pro-government factions.
Qing government was already weakened when it cracked down on Dr. Sun’s people.
but do not think that China of 1989 was that weak, or Iran of today.
The supporter rally for the Iranian President was quite a large crowd.
Every country has problems, but Iran of today is not on the verge of “Revolution” or collapse.
there were some very interesting documentaries on the Shah and his rule.
Shah’s brother, in particular, may have caused most of Shah’s problems, by being an extremely brutal Head of the Secret Police.
By some accounts, Shah’s brother’s secret police was as brutal as Saddam’s.
Of course, Shah may have very well condoned these brutal tactics.
At the time, Ayatollah Khomeini was a little nobody in exile. He was put in charge, only because they needed someone to be the head cleric at the time. Of course, later, he became the Supreme ruler.
In that sense, the revolution was not so much for Ayatollah Khomeini, but Against the Shah.
Iran was not particularly ardently religious at that time. The Revolutionaries included many not so religious academic people.
But later on, when US supported Saddam to chemically bombard Iran, the Iranian religious groups were forced to indoctrinate their youths with extreme views, and then send them by the 1000’s to die on the front line as fodders.
Just enough to keep Saddam’s army at bay.
*So really, US had a lot to do with putting a lot of religious extremism into Iran.
In a secret 1981 memo summing up a trip to the Middle East, then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig wrote: “It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Prince Fahd” of Jordan.”
I mean, if it wasn’t for the support for Shah, and Saddam (which together costed Iran probably over 1 million deaths), Iran would probably not be as fanatical today. Iraq-Iran War alone costed estimated 980,000 deaths to Iran, 800,000 of them civilians.
It is interesting in this video that Iran is blaming on the BBC and the VOA for ‘inciting a riot.’ Reminds of many people who participated in the Tiananmen Square Incident blaming on BBC and VOA also. What a coincidence.
There is a good article about the Iranian candidates by Joe Klein in Time Magazine.
4 candidates for Presidency, and really not much difference in the candidates. 3 opposition candidates are all old guards from the Revolutionary Army. They make Ahmadinejad look like Barack Obama of Iran. The main opposition candidate Mousavi, was the Prime Minister of Iran during the Iraq-Iran War, and said to be the favorite of Ayatollah Khomeini.
The opposition candidates, who call themselves “moderate”, are hardly moderate. Pretty much all of them call on US to do more to apologize to Iran, before Iran should negotiate with US.
And their main complaint about Ahmadinejad?? Ahmadinejad spends too much on social welfare for old veterans and poor people.
Eh. You are kidding me.
found another article 2 years ago about CIA’s plan on Iran.
I just thought it was kind of funny that the POTUS Barack Obama acting like an idiot denying this whole incident when he should be smarter than that.
Helga Sommer says
I think it varies. Nothing is the same. Also, the people are different.
Barack Obama is not going to apologize openly to Iran.
Democracy means no one will ever accept responsibility, until everyone involved are long dead.
It’s the nature of “everyone rules, but no one is at fault”, or “the People cannot be wrong.”
I find it odd, that so many in Western Democracy harp the mantra of “Power corrupts absolutely.”
Did they all seem to forget that the corrupting influence of power does not change, when it is passed into the hands of the People/Common man??
Just because Power is passed to the hands of the “voters”, now the power is somehow benign??
That, my friends, is the fundamental error in the assumptions of the Western Democracies.
How that came to be? By calling a “vote” a “right”. One assumes that if it is a “right”, one cannot be corrupted by its exercise.
Clearly, many voters have learned to run away from their responsibilities.
I was watching Charlie Rose last night on PBS and the discussion was predictably on Iran. One of the points caught my attention. How can the government be toppled? Three ways were discussed:
1) The leading clerics organize to replace Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Supreme power does not rest with President Ahmadinejad, it rests with the major clerics. If former president and cleric Ali Rafsanjani can put together a coalition of clerics powerful enough to replace Khamenei, the government would radically change but in an undemocratic, though legal, fashion.
2) The military could throw their support to Moussavi. I guess you can call this “change the old fashioned way”.
3) A massive popular uprising makes the current government untenable and Khamenei dumps Ahmadinejad in order to insure his own survival as supreme leader of an Islamic government.
The view on the program was that #2 & 3 were highly unlikely, but that #1 was a possibility. Everyone felt that President Obama’s handling of the situation was correct and the Republicans were losing points on their more intrusive approach. My guess is that the American public is overwhelmingly behind Obama on this one.
By all accounts, Moussavi is an elitist, with support base in the educated wealthy city people. He retired from politics years back and worked as an artist.
But the country side people love Ahmadinejad, for his “folksy” way of talking, and his open rhetoric against US and Israel.
If the Iranian Revolution was a “Tehran revolution”, one can also say that the recent Iranian Protest was largely a “Tehran protest”.
Had the protest in Iran spread to the countryside, then perhaps we would have a scenario (3) as Steve suggests.
But the fact that the protest was isolated to Tehran, suggests that there is no underlying discontent with the government, nor massive popular support for Moussavi’s group.
*Parallel: The 1989 protest in Beijing may have had some support from some of the cities, it didn’t have much support in the countryside.
@ R4K: Why do you say Mousavi is an elitist? What in his background gives you that idea? How is he more elitist than any of the other major players?
The Western mainstream media coverage of the Iran election is as one-sided as their coverage of the 2008 Tibet unrest and Olympics. In the Iran election, the ballots in each voting stations were supposedly counted under the observation by monitors from both candidates. There were more than 45000 voting stations. It was not so easy to rig the election.
According to http://www.counterpunch.org/amin06222009.html, the Western media failed to ask some crucial questions:
1. There were more than 45000 voting stations in Iran, each one on averages had less than 900 ballots. How much time do you need to count 900 votes? The results in each voting station was transmitted to and tallied by the Ministry of the Interior in Tehran electronically. Why was it impossible for Iranians to count the votes and announce the result within hours?
2. “…there was only one poll carried out by a western news organization. It was jointly commissioned by the BBC and ABC News, and conducted by an independent entity called the Center for Public Opinion (CPO) of the New America Foundation. The CPO has a reputation of conducting accurate opinion polls, not only in Iran, but across the Muslim world since 2005. The poll, conducted a few weeks before the elections, predicted an 89 percent turnout rate. Further, it showed that Ahmadinejad had a nationwide advantage of two to one over Mousavi.”
Have any of you ever heard about the CPO poll mentioned in the U.S. mainstream media? I certainly have not.
@ scl #38: “Statistics provided by Mohsen Rezaei in which he claims more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 170 cities are not accurate – the incident has happened in only 50 cities.” – Iran Guardian Council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, responding to complaints by a candidate defeated in the June 12 election.
Ignoring the world press, how do you address this direct quote from the Iran Guardian Council?
His wife gave an interview to Time Magazine, talking about how Moussavi was taking a “social step down” to become a politician.
he comes from an educated relatively wealthy city family. The general populous impression of him, is that he is an able administrator, but has no touch with the common Iranian.
The debate between the candidates, Moussavi was not considered a winner by most of the common people.
Why? He was too reserved and soft spoken. Many interviewed by Time said they would not vote for him, because they wouldn’t want Moussavi represent Iran in negotiation with US or Israel. (he would not be able to stand up for Iran.)
@Steve: “Statistics provided by Mohsen Rezaei in which he claims more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 170 cities are not accurate – the incident has happened in only 50 cities.” – Iran Guardian Council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, responding to complaints by a candidate defeated in the June 12 election.
Ignoring the world press, how do you address this direct quote from the Iran Guardian Council?
The answer is: it does not matter, because we do not know whether the duplicate votes were for A or M. It is more likely that both sides cast some double votes. How can anyone be so sure that only pro-A voters voted more than once?
One explanation I heard was that Iranians were allowed to vote in different districts. So the fact that total votes exceed the number of eligible voters in some districts does not automatically mean fraud.
@ R4K #40: Mousavi’s father was a tea merchant. Is that really elite? He’s an architectural engineer. Ahmadinejad is a civil engineer with a PhD in transportation engineering. They both seem to have about the same social status so is Ahmadinejad also elite? Under such a broad definition, wouldn’t all the candidates be considered elite?
@ scl #41: What you say could be true, but it also could be true that the results were manipulated by the people in charge of the election results. If extra votes were added, wouldn’t it show up exactly like that?
@ admin #42: Possible, but I doubt it. For that to have happened would indicate that the percentage of citizenry who actually voted was over 90%, since the proportion of voters changing districts would not be a huge number. Unlike China and the States, the vast majority of Iranians are not that mobile and usually live in their native villages. That explanation seems like an attempt at validation from the ruling party using implication rather than revealing actual voting data. Remember, the government declared the winner after just 5% of the votes were counted, and the Ayatollah certified the election earlier than would have been expected. This is yet another example of a government hiding information rather than exposing the pertinent data, creating suspicions that they then deny. If there wasn’t any fraud, it’s sure a strange way to present their victory.
Mousavi declared winning the election before the government’s official statement . (allegedly he got the inside info from the government that he won but was told to not declare it yet ). To my understanding, the issue that there was not sufficient time to count all the votes was raised by his camp after Ahmadinejad had been declared the winner, not when he claimed winning the election.
@ admin: I’m no big fan of Mousavi and still feel that if the votes were fairly counted, Ahmadinejad would win, which I’m sure makes my opinion the minority one compared to the world press. But it still seems to me that there was some funny business going on. How much and to what degree? I have no idea. It’s just my opinion based on reading the reports and my gut feeling. 😛
I don’t know if the election was a gigantic fraud or not. What I found amusing is that the world (West) press is so united in their opinions given there is no convincing evidence one way or another.
What I found amusing is that the world (West) press is so united in their opinions given there is no convincing evidence one way or another.
Short of a letter signed by Ahmadinejad congratulating the interior ministry for fixing the election, there has been some pretty persuasive evidence that there was fraud. The facts as have been demonstrated are so laughable that it’s clear this is the case. You’re not going to get a smoking gun because the authorites are the ones supposed to have carried out the work, and they’re not going to investigate themselves.
When the establishment’s argument against annulling the result is that there was fraud (in 50 cities, no less!) but not widescale enough to change the result, you know the whole process was a joke.
By the way, Steve, I believe that Ahmadinejad could have won on a re-run. It’s hard to say what the end result would have been, but it seems that in their eagerness to be sure of the result after a late surge of support for Mousavi, the fraud was carried out too hastily. Had they planned it carefully from the start the result would have been more credible.
Ironically if they’d just allowed the votes cast to stand their man might have won and without all these protests!
Raj, you just gave an almost perfect description of Nixon and Watergate.
The linked article below on “Millionaire Mullahs” in Forbes profiles Rafsanjani, and it’s not pretty.
The story starts out about Rafsanjani’s Hezbollah-linked militias beating up on young protesters and students to keep the hardliners in control. And yet now Rafsanjani is seen as backing Mousavi as a reformer? Very confusing, and hard to keep track of who the “good guys” are.
My sense is that the U.S. has profound schizophrenia in its strategic approach to Iran. Should it:
(A) seek to engage with Iran and improve its relationship towards normalization (somewhat like US-China before the Nixon visit, leading up to the Carter recognition of PRC as China?), or
(B) continue to treat Iran as a pariah state, perhaps leading to a U.S. invasion, destruction of Iran’s capacity to wage war and control of its oil supply (like Iraq)
Obama appears to be seeking to do the former, while there are seem to be strong interests in the US (as the MIC and pro-Israel lobby) supporting the latter.
Given the foregoing, what is the best way for either side in the U.S. to pursue its objectives in the current Iranian power struggle? Should they:
(1) step back and let the Iranian domestic politics work itself out, then deal with the side that wins? or
(2) take a stand to support one side in order to tip the scales in favor of the side most favorable to one’s strategic position?
It seems that Obama should do (1), because no matter which side wins out, that is the side that Obama will want to engage in (as that side by definition has the stronger power in Iran, and he wants to negotiate with the side that holds the power, not some weak opposition).
On the other hand, for the MIC, it seems like it is in their interest to do (2). If the opposition wins, then there is a chance that a more U.S.-friendly regime comes into power, especially one that is more pro-business (Rafsanjani is Big Business after all). If the opposition loses, that is also good, because voicing support for the opposition and turning them into heroes supports the MIC’s position.
By building the American public’s sympathies towards the opposition, it then becomes easier to sell a war to Americans when they think are coming to the aid of heroic fighters for democracy. War becomes an act of love. This fits into concepts of “Just War”, that one is fighting not to kill enemies, but to protect innocents from harm.
Like Nurse Nayirah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nurse_Nayirah) or Private Jessica Lynch (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article1130926.ece), Neda puts a face and story to arouse sympathies towards the victims and hatred towards the evil perpetrators. Without being argumentative, it tells the story of “Why We Fight.” This appears to be the role of the American mainstream media reaching out to the masses – to whip up moral and righteous indignation to go out and fight the good fight for justice.
It worked for the Spanish American War in 1895 too: 19-year old political prisoner, Evangelina Cossío y Cisneros, a beautiful Cuban from imprisoned in Havana became the face and symbol against the cruel and barbaric Spanish, with cheerleading led by William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. “It claimed that Cisneros’ imprisonment was emblematic of Spain’s routine mistreatment of Cuban women, a theme that resonated powerfully in American public opinion.” (http://academic2.american.edu/~wjc/spanish.html)
The trouble with these kinds of propaganda campaigns is that in the internet age, people get weary of the same story repeated. A pretty face caught up in some world shaking events who becomes a symbol for the pure and good against the corrupted and evil powers that be. Again?
We’ve been misled so many times by this method that we become jaded. Films like “Wag the Dog” (Albanian girl with the cat) put this jaded cynicism on the silver screen as black humor entertainment.
This is why I find it hard to be aroused towards sympathy towards the martyred. (http://news.aol.com/article/neda-iconic-images/542973). I can’t help but ask myself, it it real or staged? I remember being so riveted by the news of Jessica Lynch’s rescue and the exciting video images. I later felt cheated when I found out there was pretty reliable evidence that it was staged. As was the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue, which I also felt pretty pumped about when I watched it live on TV, but then felt pretty deflated when I found out a year later that it was probably staged too (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Toppling_the_statue_of_Saddam_Hussein).
But why is Neda’s life any more deserving of attention than Emerson College student Victoria Snelgrove, who was shot and killed by police trying to put down a Boston riot after a Red Sox game?(http://media.www.dailygamecock.com/media/storage/paper247/news/2005/09/14/News/Prosecutors.Will.Not.Charge.Police.In.Red.Sox.Riot.Death-984306.shtml) Like Neda, Victoria was an innocent bystander walking to/from her car – why is Victoria’s death not a national symbol of out-of-control police violence, arousing similar outrage and calls for reform?
It’s so tough being an American consumer of news media — truly, I’m not being facetious here — trying to honestly figure out what is true when we’ve been lied to so many times. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Moussavi spent the last 20 years of his life as self-proclaimed “artist”. He has cultivated his image as a member of the Iranian Elite, to contrast to Ahmadinajad.
Informal polls suggest that his support base was primarily in the cities among the “elites”.
I don’t think a family of “tea merchants” is necessarily a humble beginning. Indeed, “tea merchants” often travel in “elite” circles in many countries.
If one’s rhetoric is couched in one’s most comfortable terms, ie. “Muslim” slogans, it’s still one’s most comfortable terms.
It only demonstrate the same mentality as the other parties who use the same slogans.
And from even Western reports, there is no genuine difference of policies between Moussavi and Ahmadinajad.
(God is great) is not a signal for some other meanings in the opposition party.
And would it make a difference to equally say that, Hu Jintao was just making public speeches “couched in old CCP rhetorics” to make people in mainland China to feel comfortable and to rally support from old Communists?
BBC Caught In Mass Public Deception With Iran Propaganda
Ah, silly BBC, better stick to the silly “Top Gear” show and “Mr. Beans”.