There was a circus
June 12th, 2009 Iranian
presidential elections and its immediate aftermath. The episode makes for a
fascinating case study of the pandemic of disinformation gripping the West.
The Iranian governments handling of the situation was like the dufus
organizing a food fight.
Analysts Take The Bronze
Any serious analysis of Iran's political evolution would
have taken note of the electoral invulnerability of the incumbent in a
presidential race. Voters tend to have personal fidelity, not party
allegiance, to the extent that parties even exist in Iranian politics. In
Ahmadinejad's case in particular, opinion polls taken
in early 2008 showed his approval rating at
66%. A later survey in May 2009  forecasted Ahmadinejad besting his
2 to 1. Numbers revealed in these surveys (conducted by Emmy award
winning American pollsters) are unsurprising if you consider Ahmadinejad had spent
the previous four years in a perpetual re-election campaign, visiting the length
and breadth of the country, doling out
large sums of money
on projects to benefit his base, and had engaged in plenty of nationalistic grandstanding with
nuclear technology advances, and launch of a satellite into orbit. The
media's wishful projections of massive support for Mousavi spurred the
directors of the above surveys and
serious Iran watchers to try and inject some reality into the discourse, but for their
futile attempts they
Iran's system of vetting candidates ensures that those
who are allowed to run are 'acceptable'. Furthermore, any radical policy
change by a new president can be (and often has been) thwarted by the veto
power of the Guardian Council. In such a system, massive election fraud is
utterly pointless. Granting over 500 visas to foreign journalists to cover
the election does not suggest premeditated election fraud. But, despite the lack of any evidence,
motive, or opportunity MSM uniformly dubbed the allegations of
"election fraud" as a certainty. Vice President Joe Biden
openly expressed "real
doubts", and Mousavi supporters -- already misled into thinking they
represented a landslide majority -- became incensed.
www.Stratfor.com: ... The global media, obsessively focused
on the initial demonstrators ó who were supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejadís opponents ó failed to notice that while large, the
demonstrations primarily consisted of the same type of people demonstrating.
Amid the breathless reporting on the demonstrations, reporters failed to
notice that the uprising was not spreading to other classes and to other
areas. In constantly interviewing English-speaking demonstrators, they
failed to note just how many of the demonstrators spoke English and had
... But critically, the protesters were not joined by any of
the millions whose votes the protesters alleged were stolen. In a complete
hijacking of the election by some 13 million votes by an extremely unpopular
candidate, we would have expected to see the core of Mousaviís supporters
joined by others who had been disenfranchised. On last Monday, Tuesday and
Wednesday, when the
demonstrations were at their height, the millions of Mousavi voters
should have made their appearance.
They didnít. We might assume that the security apparatus intimidated
some, but surely more than just the Tehran professional and student classes
possess civic courage. While appearing large, the demonstrations actually
comprised a small fraction of society.
The Iranian Election
& the Revolution Test
Recently, the 'analysts' have been peddling the
manifestly obvious as their proof of insight. It is a trick to mask the
self-interested prejudicial nonsense which they then imply or advocate.
Roger Cohen, in his characteristic flairmanship with pen, suddenly
has discovered Iranians' struggle/joy of the burden/pride of a 3000
year civilization. He then regards himself above the nuisance of
providing proof when he alleges a rigged election.
The same folks who continue to sell us the preposterous notion that
Ahmadinejad in 2005 publicly goaded Israel to nuke Iran, or else he would
nuke Israel by
Iran's first bomb ("wipe off the map") are now engaged
in an elaborate
reverse engineering scheme to show how the 2009 election was stolen. The
sheer impracticability of stealing an election in front of some 150,000 ballot
box opposition candidates' monitors notwithstanding. O.K. Roger
Cohen, a pretzel is the very definition of a straight line just so long as
immense pressure is applied to both temples.
Mainstream Media Takes The Silver
There is a pattern here that precedes the June 12th
election. It is because, not in spite of the
public support for President Obama's engagement initiative that there is
a feverish effort to discredit that initiative. The anti-Iran media campaign
could not even wait until the newborn outreach policy gave its first cry:
Happy Nowruz! Huffington
Post was not alone in publishing all manner of laughable falsehoods about Iran:
Hiding Bin Ladin,
Iran is evil, etc.
The persistence with which western media misdiagnoses
Iran is rooted in the shallow assessment that Iran's long monarchical
history, Islam, and republicanism are all mutually exclusive. Ever since
1979, folks have given a
to the Islamic revolution. The uniquely Persian experiment of an Islamic
Republic which has combined the ancient concept of far (fair
and Islam's emphasis on justice/charity, and the consequent vast welfare state is
alone in the region in giving voice to and being accountable to the
underclass majority. Western commentators continue to imagine the system is
unviable except through brutal repression. However, the Islamic Republic has
survived 30 years marked by invasion, sanctions, constant threats and
vilification. Though, throwing the plague at Iran has not been tried yet,
President Obama is not altogether naive to base his Iran policy on the
Islamic Republic's resilience, rather than it's fragility. It was the media
that spread the simplistic notion that Moslems, Iranians, and the Iranian
government are some kind of evil monolithic entity. We now all understand
that simplistic portrayal as an insult to our collective intelligence.
... The clerics are divided among themselves, but many
wanted to see Ahmadinejad lose to protect their own interests. Khamenei, the
supreme leader, faced a difficult choice last Friday. He could demand a
major recount or even new elections, or he could validate what happened.
Khamenei speaks for a sizable chunk of the ruling elite, but also has
had to rule by consensus among both clerical and non-clerical forces. Many
powerful clerics like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani wanted Khamenei to
reverse the election, and we suspect Khamenei wished he could have found a
way to do it. But as the defender of the regime, he was afraid to. Mousavi
supportersí demonstrations would have been nothing compared to the firestorm
among Ahmadinejad supporters ó both voters and the security forces ó had
their candidate been denied. Khamenei wasnít going to flirt with disaster,
so he endorsed the outcome.
Western media misunderstood this because they didnít understand that
Ahmadinejad does not speak for the clerics but against them, that many
of the clerics were working for his defeat, and that Ahmadinejad has
enormous pull in the countryís security apparatus. The reason Western media
missed this is because they bought into the concept of the stolen election,
therefore failing to see Ahmadinejadís support and the widespread
dissatisfaction with the old clerical elite. The Western media simply didnít
understand that the most traditional and pious segments of Iranian society
support Ahmadinejad because he opposes the old ruling elite. Instead, they
assumed this was like Prague or Budapest in 1989, with a broad-based
uprising in favor of liberalism against an unpopular regime.
The Iranian Election
& the Revolution Test
Circling back to the few weeks before the polling, the pace of Iran-bashing picked up markedly when Iran's presidential
election started to look like a genuine contest. The specter of Iran
subjecting significant aspects of its
domestic and foreign policy to
public view and a
popular vote was
too much republicanism to bear, it had to be
as superfluous in case this much transparency debunked the mantle of "the
only democracy in the Middle East" coveted by special-relationship mongers.
Not a moment was wasted to label Ahmadinjead's
re-election a "fraud". Believe it or not, on June 13th the person
who had to justify his mass electoral appeal was the
Azeri speaking son of a blacksmith, whose wardrobe exudes working
class pedigree. Ahmadinejad, a war veteran, considering the contestation of
his obvious victory moot, left
his subcompact home in an affordable (poor) neighborhood of Tehran and went
to Moscow to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit
rather than submit to a kangaroo court of opinion in Western press.
Western media should be held accountable for their
coverage of post-election saga.
The "twittering" irresponsibility of inciting
riotous confrontation with security forces is a stain on western
journalistic professionalism. The well-hidden refrains of
"unconfirmed", "cannot be verified", etc. did not stop the
CBS, and countless other
news outlets from
publishing "unconfirmed" graphic
tweets, "unverifiable" bloody pictures, and
video clips. The
un-moderated minute-by-minute snippets of mashed-up fact and fiction
fueled a rumor mill in a tragic and fluid situation. MSM remains careful to avoid
any mention of examples of police restraint, even though the numbers (100s
of thousands of demonstrators over 6 days versus low casualty figures) do
not add up to a "brutal put down of an uprising". There must be
hours of video footage on MSM's cutting room floors showing peaceful
demonstrators filing past forbearing security forces, but such footage would
not portray the desired negative image.
The Iranian government responded to the post-June 12
protests in a manner consistent with its own constitutional procedures ó and
with far less bloodshed than when the Chinese government suppressed the
Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989. (Will
Iran be President Obama's Iraq?)
The media has done the opposite of
warning its Iranian audience of the predictability of violence, they
encouraged it. On which planet would security forces be expected to cede
control of streets to demonstrators? Planet MSM thus fulfilled their own
prophecy, they helped instigate the very violence they now breathlessly
report on. The mainstream media scarcely could have aroused more destructive
passion if they actually had planned an
all out coordinated propaganda campaign. It is the Western media which
has helped turn what could have been a peaceful show of people power into
meaningless anarchical street violence. What could have been the coalescing
of a much needed reform movement has been left strewn in heaps of shapeless
incoherence. MSM did this in the guise of sympathy for Iranian people!
Is it naive to ask why the same editorial
sensitivities shown to other trouble spots are not accorded to Iran's
delicate situation in this hour of need for calm? How does the media justify
repeatedly showing gruesome video clips shot at an unknown date, unknown
location, uploaded by unknown persons? Does the media discount the effect of
such videos -- yesterday, content to be marching peacefully, and the next
day hurling stones at police, setting garbage on fire, vandalizing cars, and
beating up police officers.
There is no doubt that a series of large, sustained, multi-city, disciplined
and peaceful demonstrations would have done much to alter Iran's political
trajectory. Whose agenda was the media serving in inciting the
demonstrators, and thus, degenerating a promising movement into mayhem? Paul
pounced on the media gift. Indeed
Iran contingent's newfound concern for the Iranian people was quite
The Iranian Authorities Take the Gold
The astonishingly incompetent handling of the difficult situation in
post-election Iran has changed the sour grapes over vote counts to a
serious question of leadership. Do the current leaders of either camp have the capacity
to manage a complex society such as Iran? Calling people "mohareb"
shows a level of simplicity associated with neocons. By blaming Western
intelligence services -- which like air, are always there -- the
leadership highlight their own incompetence.
Here are a set of questions for the Iranian authorities:
Who ordered the Basij to storm Tehran
university and beat up students?
Who decided to throw out foreign journalists?
Did it not occur to you MSM can and does make up
Why are leaders calling
How does name-calling achieve consensus among the children of the
Islamic Revolution? What prestige is there in sounding like Britain's
home secretary, Mr. Blunkette, who in 2003 called people "whiners"
defending "maniacs" for protesting their children being jailed for up to
8 years for throwing stones
The riots last summer
caused damage estimated at tens of millions of pounds and sparked what
became Britain's biggest criminal investigation. Judges at Bradford Crown
Court have handed down dozens of lengthy sentences in a series of court
cases, with some convicted rioters being jailed for up to eight and a half
years. Some have received sentences of five years for stone-throwing.
lambasts 'whining maniacs' in Bradford riots)
For a thoughtful piece see Arshin
Iran: this is not a revolution.
Iran: A Parallel Universe
The Terror Free Tomorrow and New America
Foundation poll has come under skepticism by Juan Cole who
Here's the important
point: 60% of the 27% who said they were undecided favored political
reform. As Ballen wrote at that time:
' A close examination of
our survey results reveals that the race may actually be closer than a
first look at the numbers would indicate. More than 60 percent of those
who state they donít know who they will vote for in the Presidential
elections reflect individuals who favor political reform and change in
the current system.'
That is, supporters of the
challenger's principles may not quite have committed to him at that point
but were likely leaning to him on the basis of his platform. They were 16%
of the sample. This finding suggests that in mid-May, Mousavi may have
actually had 30% support.
If Ahmadinejad got all of the other 11% among undecideds, the race would
have stood at 45% to 30%.
However, Prof. Cole is
injecting his own bias into the meaning of "political reform". If political
reform means a stronger office of presidency, a curb on the influence of
mega-rich clerics in the political affairs of the country and their outsize
share of the economic pie, then some of the 60% reform seekers may well have
seen the populist and bombastic Ahmadinejad as their better advocate.
There is also the
question of 'who would you rather have a beer with'. Doubtless, Prof. Cole
would choose the Architect, Mr Mousavi and University Chancellor, and
feminist Mrs. Mousavi. But, a majority of the 60% reform seekers could have
found more affinity with Ahmadinejad's working-class background, even if
they have no time for socializing due to having to hold down several jobs
just to pay the bills.
Part of the calculation
for some of the 60% reform seekers may have been the memory of Mr Khatami's
less than stellar accomplishments from 1997 to 2005. On the surface, like
Mr. Mousavi, he also was well spoken, mild-mannered, and progressive.
In conclusion, we have
the survey's facts: Ahmadinejad (34%), and Mousavi (14%). Then we have any
amount of speculation as one is willing to listen to about the inner intents
of the undecided (27%), non-answers (22%).