Forever Under Construction

What does the coverage tell?

Posted in Iran, Media by homeyra on June 22, 2009

I am not a TV fan and frankly I didn’t have a clear idea on how the recent events in Iran are represented in the international MSM.

It was quite an experience for me to spend the most part of yesterday at a friend’s in front of the TV. We watched mainly CNN where the Iran coverage constituted almost 70% of the program.


Various far-from-interesting-guests-and-experts would explain in length their difficulties to get information out of the country and what were the limitations imposed recently on foreign journalists. Footage of Iran consisted mainly of whatever they found on the net and guests would explain that they weren’t sure of the date and location. You had those who thought that President Obama was doing the “right thing” etc. My friend and I laughed at the “art” of talking and talking and not having much to say.

The only thing we learned about this lengthy Iran program with not much substance was the following: For some reason CNN was willing to invest a lot of its valuable air time to Iran despite the lack of facts, figures or in depth analysis.
No need to say that all my sympathies are toward the brave Iranian youth. Still this program was sort of ridiculous if you think that the Afghan, Iraqi or Palestinian people are systematically deprived of such an interest.

Now I understand As’ad AbuKhalil’s frustration when he speaks precisely of the CNN coverage:

“[…] But the hypocrisy is quite stunning. They are admiring the dare of the population when the Palestinian population shows more dare. They are outraged at the level of repressive crackdown by the regime when Israeli crackdowns on demonstrations are far more brutal and savage? They are admiring the participation of women in a national movement, when Palestinian women led the struggle from as far back as the 1930s (see the private papers of Akram Zu`aytir). They are outraged that the Iranian government is repressing media coverage, when the Israeli government is far more strict: when it was perpetrating slaughter in Gaza few months ago, the Western press was not allowed any freedom of movement except the hill of death where Michael Oren led reporters to watch Israeli brutal assault on the Palestinian civilian population from a distance. The media coverage in the US and UK prove beyond a doubt that increasingly the Western press has been serving as a tool for the various Western government. If the government cheers, the media cheer, if the government condemns, the media condemns, etc. […]

And here is Doug Darkworld’s take of the coverage where he distinguishes three types of reporting (1,2,3 are added):

“[…] Basically, there’s always people rioting and demonstrating about something somewhere. We can’t rely on the media to tell us what they are rioting about, but the coverage of such events is revealing. To wit:

  1. If foreign demonstrations get extensive media coverage and are portrayed as popular “pro-democracy” movements, this means the government in question has told the USA to fuck-off and they aren’t about to let the UN and the IMF run their countries to expedite western looting of their resources. This of course would be the case in Iran.
  2. If the demonstrators are opposing a US backed today government, they will get zero mainstream media coverage. This would be the case in Georgia or Thailand.
  3. And if the demonstrators are actually opposing the hyper concentration of wealth and power that epitomizes the modern era, such as the protesters at the recent G20 conference, they will be portrayed as radical anarchist thugs.

See, one can learn something from the mainstream media, one just as to know how to interpret it.[…]”

28 Responses

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  1. peoplesgeography said, on June 22, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Well noted, still a media truism worth reminding ourselves about!

  2. […] From Iranian blogger Homeyra (with some hyperlinks added by me, as I often do on this blog): What does the coverage tell? […]

  3. Bluebear2 said, on June 22, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Ah yes, isn’t our media great?

    There once was a time when they did their job, questioning authority and keeping the populace informed.

    Now they have become a mouthpiece for the government, a spitting image of Pravda during the Cold War.

  4. Pedestrian said, on June 22, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    That’s a video of an 8 year old American girl describing the situation in Iran and her support for the “demonstrators”.

    It’s pretty awful, but to her credit, not much worse than the grownup clowns on CNN.

  5. cyrula said, on June 22, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    I understand the criticism of CNN, but still, it is probably a good thing that we are getting coverage! It is good that the world sees the courage of people in Iran, rather than being brain washed by pictures of “death to america” rallies … True that there isn’t much substance, but then for someone likeme who feels helpless, watching the events from theoutside, even low content air time is support, feeling that many people feel my pain and anxiety …

  6. Manas said, on June 23, 2009 at 2:25 am

    See this-

    I suspect there’s some invisible hands behind all this mess.

  7. cyrula said, on June 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Not quite sure what this person is saying. Is he saying there were irregularities or does he support the officialy reported results ??
    Whatever the technicalities of fraud or other issues with the elections, I guess most people would agree that there has been growing unhappiness expressed (such as in every Taxi you took in Tehran!), that many thought there was hope,and that at some point this hope and disapointment needs to be adressed…

  8. homeyra said, on June 23, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Absolutely Cyrula. There is clear demand from people regarding a better rule of law and civil rights. I have no doubt about the legitimacy of these demands. The point of this post was the selective representation of events and how so many people are totally ignored.
    I am sure that protestators are glad that they are heard all over the world, and certainly many who don’t use alternative media sources learn something from CNN.
    But this sort of superficial approach leads to the example mentioned by Pedestrian.
    Thx PPGG 🙂
    BB2, I don’t even talk about our own media!
    I have read a series or articles on that theory Manas. Certainly those well placed with means are following events and do as much as they can to influence the outcome. Still this does not annul the sens of “unhappiness” – borrowing cyrula’s words, or exclusion from the public life.
    Check Pedestrian blog, she has many inside stories.

  9. Manas said, on June 23, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I agree, Homeyra. If people did not have grievances, they would not risk their lives. But the eagerness of the western media makes me very suspicious. Rafshanjani is not known as an honest man. Nor is Mousavi. They are using people’s genuine anger, and I am worried that they may have aligned with outside forces to save themselves from their past sins (As if that’s possible.)

  10. homeyra said, on June 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Moussavi, K and R were all screened, accepted and approved by official structure as candidates.
    As I wrote in a previous post all this turmoil would have been avoided if the elections were organized and controlled by a neutral body. Claims could also be addressed by a neutral body.
    I am not naive toward foreign interests, but I don’t know how the lack of a fair oversight could be blamed on them.

  11. cyrula said, on June 23, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    I am great beleiver in Judo: of course foreign news networks have their own agenda (their governments, their sponsors etc). That is OK, generaly known and accepted. But there is still opportunity for influencing them, finding areas where our interests meet, be it for a short period, and our forces can be united (hence the judo: use your adversary’s force to pull him down!). I guess the revolution was a good lesson how a small number of intelligent politicians could pull together totaly antagonistic ideologies and interests around what was seen as a common goal.

    Neutral body for supervising elections… it would have probably bought time …

  12. Sophia said, on June 23, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    It seems that those who are demonstrating in Iran did not learn the lesson of the true meaning of western intervention. I hope the Iranian people will not be robbed again of their will, the road to true democracy, like the road to true emancipation, should be traced by nobody else than the Iranian people and should not be decided by western powers and their media outlets.
    I am hoping that the present unrest will be resolved with wisdom…

  13. 99 said, on June 24, 2009 at 4:45 am

    In the United States it is local governments who control the vote counting, and send the results to the state governments, who, of course, laid down all the rules for it, including the federal government rules for it, in advance. All of the people involved in getting our vote counted and published are government employees, who tend almost unanimously to do whatever they think is popular with their bosses. The amount of irregularities nationwide is staggering, and the election fraud using electronic voting machines or counting machines is completely out of hand. Even worse, they make it IMPOSSIBLE to tell WHO rigged the vote, assuming it is possible even to tell THAT the vote was rigged… depending on the availability of source code.

    Though I think it’s changing now, in Canada, they all vote on paper, and the votes are tallied at the precincts and results, nationwide, are available in half an hour or so.

    I guess my point is that almost everywhere anyone votes, it is the government in power doing the counting, and everything hinges on trust… where it ought to hinge on verifiability… but THAT is why it is so optimal to cast doubt on the veracity of election returns. If you succeed in making the people think a vote was rigged, you succeed in destabilizing a government. That is why they spend a few weeks cranking up the buzz about their candidate, creating big rallies full of partying kids, and then have their candidates declare victory to their color-coded supporters before the official returns are out. Worked beautifully in the Ukraine and Georgia… and the “beauty” of this approach is that, even if they don’t succeed in grabbing the presidency, they succeed in making huge swaths of the local population HATE the guy they were trying to topple.

    An almost win/win situation for American fascists.

    Look how well it’s working out for the Georgians and Ukrainians. Both populations have ended up with corrupt presidents and huge losses in jobs and business opportunities for their people. Hell, in Georgia they even got to be cannon fodder for the US/Israeli attempt to make Putin look like a warmongering dictator instead of TIME’s man of the year…..

  14. Manas said, on June 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    “I am not naive toward foreign interests, but I don’t know how the lack of a fair oversight could be blamed on them.”

    The demand for an oversight was never raised, as far as I know. A recount may have given us some insight, but God knows what really is happening!

  15. cyrula said, on June 24, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Interesting viewpoints about possible outcome

  16. homeyra said, on June 24, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Exactly Sophia. “Wisdom” is what is lacking in the current approach.
    99, there is another aspect to the current crisis which I have not seen reported. There is a and powerful school of thought which does not beleive people fit to decide for themselves and would willingly drop the Republic word in “IRI”.
    In some way it is not that far from what Chomsky described in a speech posted at PULSE.
    Anyhow the election system has some flaws, admitted by many high ranking officials. And as long as they are not fixed anything could go.
    I also shall add that the average Iranian never trusts anything 🙂
    Manas there are many claims and argument to counter them. I will refer you to this post by Pedestrian, she has translated all claims. I should add that all three other candidates have criticized these elections and it isn’t something limited to Moussavi’s camp.
    Thanks for the link Cyrula.

  17. 99 said, on June 24, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Mulder and Scully on The X-Files! “Trust No One” 😛

  18. Manas said, on June 25, 2009 at 1:31 am

    Let’s hope that the government has realized the need to change some things.

  19. Montag said, on June 25, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I don’t believe there is a “real” situation that the media try to describe.
    They try to encompass the majority consensus – a large story, and maybe make a few waves to show how liberal or conservative – take your choice – they are.

    It is all a very long story. Sometimes the stories end within our lifetimes and we think we were deceived; sometimes they go on for generations and we think the stories are eternal truthes.
    But they are stories from the mind of a story-creating race of beings.
    That’s why it is so important that the stories we create are the best possible stories ever imagined.

  20. Randy B. Goode said, on June 26, 2009 at 5:46 am

    if CNN were *not* covering Iran right now, then you would complaining that they are missing the story.

    I don’t think these protests can be compared with Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. For some reason, Hamas cannot have a funeral or a wedding without people shooting their guns and shooting. Hopefully none of that is happening in Tehran right now.

  21. homeyra said, on June 26, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Montag, I hope I will be that wise when I reach … 95 🙂
    Randy: This post isn’t about reporting or not reporting. I think you could read the first paragraph again. As for “Palestinians shouting in a wedding”, I realize that we are all more or less inclined to see facts which confirms our own believes and dismiss whatever challenges our prior decision.

    • Mr. Reality said, on June 26, 2009 at 6:47 am

      Homeyra: i think what Randy was saying is it’s illogical to compare the Western media response to peaceful protests in Iran with the media’s response to Israel’s actions against Hamas. Apples and oranges. Or in this case, peaceful protests and suicide bombers.

  22. homeyra said, on June 26, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I am glad that the Iranians are represented in the news but I am concerned with the general representation of human suffering. We never see the point of view of the ordinary Afghan, Iraqi or Palestinian. They are faceless. Over 23.000 daily death from starvation are totally missing from media representation. see

    • Mr. Reality said, on June 26, 2009 at 7:11 am

      why is the world so intensely focused on Palestinian suffering? it is positively minor compared with hundreds of thousands (millions?) of deaths in The Sudan, Somalia and Sierra Leone. i think the media loves to point out the irony that Jews were once perfect victims and now they are imperfect.

  23. homeyra said, on June 26, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Read again Mr. Reality:)
    “We never see the point of view of the ordinary Afghan, Iraqi or Palestinian. They are faceless. Over 23.000 daily death from starvation are totally missing from media representation.”
    But I got your message, you would like to drop the Palestinian from that list. Fine.

  24. Mr. Reality said, on June 26, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Homeyra – i am happy to discuss Palestinians, but it’s wrong to say that media does not report on them. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the most covered dispute in worldwide media. In the USA, we see more articles and blogs on Palestinians than rest of Middle East combined. The populations of the Isrealis and Palestinians do not seem to warrant so much more coverage. My theory is that the reason is the media is fascinated with the Jewish angle.

    Curious to hear why you think Western media is not reporting on Palestinians.

  25. peoplesgeography said, on June 27, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Mr Reality, you have missed the point. Homeyra is quite right to point out that ordinary Palestinians are faceless and nameless in mainstream media. To cite but one example, Gilad Shilat is cited by name but not any of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners kept in administrative detention in israeli jails.

    “For some reason, Hamas cannot have a funeral or a wedding without people shooting their guns and shooting.”

    Randy, I don’t see what the point is here, it is not a feature of Hamas, it is a custom in many parts of the world to have celebratory gunfire. Do we take the British royal family to task for firing celebratory cannons?

  26. […] From Iranian blogger Homeyra (with some hyperlinks added by me, as I often do on this blog): What does the coverage tell? […]

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