Sunday, June 21, 2009

How The West Changed On Iran

Abstract: I am concerned about the fact our western media has changed its position in an apparent effort to perpetaute a politically motivated attack on Iran's government. Though such an attack may be by itself justified, I do not think it's our media that should be waging it.


In all of the news coverage, in the TV programs, newspapers, and blogs, all speak of the terrible injustice that resulted from the June 12 election in Iran. With protesters claiming election fraud, it is reported that Mahmoud Ahmadejinad's victory is a blow to Iranian democracy. With this point constantly being stressed by our media, it occurred to me, when did Iran become a democracy?

Prior to this growing resentment in Iran, I never saw any western news outlet refer to Iran as a democracy. Though I haven't read and watched every single media account concerning Iran, I have reviewed more than my fair share, and I cannot remember one time Iran was referred to as a democracy before June 12.

Even weeks before this most recent election, though Iran was considered newsworthy for its nuclear ambitions, our western news agencies never even spoke about the Iranian election race; a race that was filled with numerous televised debates, rallies, and policy discussions.

No, prior to these recent events that have caused internal unrest, the West was content with seeing Iran as a theocracy plotting evil. Now as protests escalate, the West is emphasizing how democratic Iran used to be, and how it is repressed by an authoritarian elite.

Below is one clip I found in a few seconds, though posted by a group that is pro-Iran, it shows at least one instance as recent as August 2007 where one news agency CNN suggested Iran was anything but a democracy. This only serves to contrast the same news station, and others like it, now stating Iran is a democracy.

I cannot explain definitively why the West is now defending Iranian democracy where before they not only didn't mention it, they denied it; but I can say I believe western media, either intentionally or unintentionally, has constantly made the government of Iran appear evil.

The debate whether the Iranian government is evil can be left to another day, what I am concerned about is the fact our western media appears to have changed its position in an effort to perpetaute a politically motivated attack on Iran's government. Though such an attack may be by itself justified, I do not think it's our media that should be waging it.


West End Bob said...

Good post.

The Western media definitely has some 'splainin' to do in regards to reporting on Iran.

"Weak," "spotty" and "uninformed" come to mind in most instances . . . .

BCLiberal said...

I don't think anyone has ever said that Iran "used" to be a democracy. They are simply saying this is a further-- and very blatant -- erosion of the limited democracy they once had.

Though Khameini was Supreme Leader during Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad, there are discernible differences in Iranian policy under each. Iranians were more liberal socially under Khatami, for example, than previously or currently (I base this on my many Iranian friends). I saw one Iranian quoted who I think said it best: "Our country has gone from 80% dictatorship and 20% democracy, to 100% dictatorship".

Also, it isn't true when you say that Western media didn't cover the Iranian election in the run-up. I saw numerous articles about it in the Globe and Mail, and plenty of articles in The Economist. I think foreign coverage in most Western media (particularly less international papers like the Globe or the Vancouver Sun) is usually pretty scant.

I think you're pointing out a logical contradiction in the media that doesn't exist. said...

BCLiberal, what is a "limited democracy"? Canada doesn't elect our head of state, are we a limited democracy? We don't even directly elect our prime minister. Whether you say limited democracy or I say democracy, my post is valid.

You can't have it both ways. Iran either had a democracy before, whether limited or full fledged, or it didn't. No western media reported on Iran's democratic achievements before June 12, in fact they reported the opposite.

Now, I stated as far as I know there wasn't western media coverage of the run-up to the election, I made no claim of absolutism. And considering there were hundreds of stories on Iran's nuclear ambitions but one or two on their election, I believe my point still stands.

I can't imagine being as thorough in a few paragraphs to establish a logical contradiction that applies internationally.

My argument that western media had made the Iranian government look bad before the election based on one pretext and now after the election based on another pretext still stands.

Western media very rarely reported on the democratic tradition of Iran, such as its debates, policy discussions, rallies, etc. They did report in hundreds of stories a month about how threatening the country is.

Now the media and others are suggesting these recent crackdowns on protests are an abuse on democracy.

I believe my argument remains valid.

ken said...

The conflict in Iran has little to do with democracy. The US constantly uses the concept of democracy to try to create regimes more favorable to its interests. Long before the elections as your article rightly notes Iran was regarded not as a democracy but an evil theocracy of the mullahs with Ahmadinejad the chief bad guy--when it should be the Supreme Leader Khameni.
Another important member of the ruling elites is Rafsanjani. He is probably the richest person in Iraq and he hates Ahmadinejad. He also owns many of the educational institutions from which student protesters come. Rafsanjani's family is accused of corruption by Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad takes a very hard line against the west whereas Rafsanjani is much more accomodating, especially as it would no doubt even make him richer and more powerful. It is not surprising that the US should do everything possible to change the regime. Rafsanjani also stands for a more liberal economic regime.
See my post and others at:

SteelCityGrit said...

So before the election, Iran was criticized for not being a democracy. And now after the election, Iran is criticized for being undemocratic. The about-turn is quite remarkable. Good catch, the Scott Ross.

I'm trying to imagine what your preferred alternative is. What does consistency dictate? Should Iran's critics celebrate this fresh batch of oppression, because it proves them right? Or perhaps we should espouse no emotion at all, because hey - the Iranian theocrats are doing what Iranian theocrats do. I'm afraid I simply can't affect such detachment from the human suffering which is being meted out. And I'm glad that I'm not alone.