American News Media: A Dead Loss When it Comes to Iran?
(Update 1 Posted at Bottom )
Since Iranians began to demonstrate against the outcome of the election, an undercurrent has been running through the minds of many around the world that are gathering information on what is unfolding in Iran. This undercurrent has produced a widespread sentiment that the mainstream news media has failed tremendously.
Over at blogs like Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish and the Huffington Post, emails have been coming in that thank the sites for liveblogging the action in Iran as it occurs and also chide the MSM for how it has been covering Iran.
A few examples that the Dish has received since Friday include:
“Since yesterday afternoon, I've been riveted to both your site and the Huffington Post reading about what's been going on in Iran. It's incredible and exciting and heartbreaking and heroic-- something really historic that thanks to new media is happening in real time and I am rooting for the Iranian protesters and hard.Mixed with that, though, is my just downright anger at how the news is being treated here in the US.
The Cable News Networks have been a joke-- CNN has been awful as you've heard but at least they're talking about it. MSNBC has been showing their stupid documentaries all weekend and FOX has barely mentioned the story lest it get in the way of hours and hours of Obama-bashing (the only time I've seen it discussed was in terms of how badly Obama is handling it). But it's just not the news channels. The NY Times has been great but the Washington Post has been mainly AWOL.”
"All the lesser news sites are just running AP feeds and AP's reports are barely skimming the surface of what's going on. Everywhere else is pretty much silence-- it's like the entire news industry has taken the weekend off and just can't be bothered to work over the weekend. Let this be a lesson out there to all the dictators out there that if you're going to stage a coup, do it on weekends when nobody cares.
Why I'm so angry is because those brave protesters and brave students deserve better. They deserve the truth of what's going on out there to be known and they deserve to have their story to be told. They're trying to stage one of the biggest revolutions in history and they're doing it pretty much alone as the one's who are supposed to make sure they don't appear to be too busy to be bothered. Sadly, I think that if the protests are squashed and Ahmadinejad is victorious, some of the responsibility will fall on us for not making a big enough deal of it as it should.
Long story short-- thank you for doing all that you have on this. It's been incredible reading your site over the past few days and it's shown more than anything all of the promise of the new media."
“Reading your blog over the past 30 something hours makes me realize why the MSM is really finished. I mean, this point has finally hit home.You are blogging real time events, with descriptions, evaluation, analysis, and eye witness accounts. You are gathering information from a myriad of sources and putting it out there for a cohesive message.CNN, NY Times, et al are merely running an article about "thousands" of protesters. Its a canned message from just a few stale sources.The revolution is definitely on in Iran. And its on in American journalism too.” [The End Of The MSM?]
The lefty, progressive news media regularly includes critiques of corporate news in coverage of issues and events as they unfold and occur, but none could have expected the widespread criticism that occurred on Twitter in response to CNN’s coverage throughout the weekend.
A posting on CNet covers the “#CNNFail uprising”:
As the Iranian election aftermath unfolded in Tehran--thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their anger at perceived electoral irregularities--an unexpected hashtag began to explode through the Twitterverse: "CNNFail."
Even as Twitter became the best source for rapid-fire news developments from the front lines of the riots in Tehran, a growing number of users of the microblogging service were incredulous at the near total lack of coverage of the story on CNN, a network that cut its teeth with on-the-spot reporting from the Middle East.
The posting mentions how CNN has become a go-to source for breaking news on earthquakes and terrorist attacks (Mumbai) and how CNN regularly includes Twitter in its newscasts and includes a few samples of what people were saying about CNN:
“"CNN just loops the same stories endlessly, while ignoring the biggest story," posted Twitter user MediaButcher.
"CNN needs to talk about the important things like Ms. California and who Paris Hilton is (sleeping with)," wrote Twitter user ArchivalQuality.”
Iranians, no doubt, participated in this uprising, which CNN’s Rick Sanchez reacted to later.
Twitter has become invaluable to Iranians as it has become one of the only, if not the only, means of communicating to the outside world what is happening on the streets of Tehran.
Yesterday, at 5 pm ET, when sites liveblogging the demonstrations and violence in Iran noticed Twitter was planning maintenance for 9:45 PT, a campaign began that involved the inclusion of #TwitterStayUp and #NoMaintenance tags.
After a couple hours, the campaign was a success and Twitter rescheduled its maintenance for 2:30 PT (1:30 am ET in Iran).
There has been doubt that Twitter has actually helped the Iranians organize demonstrations, but one thing is certain---Twitter has made it possible for Iranians to fight back against the Iranian regime’s crackdown on the free flow of information in Iran.
Andrew Sullivan wrote in his posting, “Twitter vs. the Coup”:
"I have to say my skepticism about this new medium has now disappeared. Without it, one wonders if all this could have happened. A reader notes a few facts:
Ahmadinejad's and Khamenei's websites were taken down yesterday - I saw the latter go down within a couple of minutes because of a DDOS attack organised via Twitter. @StopAhmadi is a good source for tweets on this. The other important use of Twitter has been distribution of proxy addresses via Twitter. This would be how most video and pictures of today's rally have gotten out.
Technology has not just made the world more dangerous; it has also enabled freedom to keep one small step in front of tyranny and lies. One thing you can do is use Twitter to fight the regime yourself. Help bring these fascist bastards down at the end of your modem."
It really is much better that Twitter has become one of the most prominent ways Iranians are communicating to the world what they are experiencing in Iran. Contemplate the alternative.
Supporters of Mousavi who are out in the streets wearing green may think they want the American press to be reporting on Iran more, but they should be weary of what that coverage would consist of.
What good the MSM could have done for Iran is no longer possible. Foreign journalists are now banned from Iran and Iranian news organizations are being guarded by security forces who are watching to make sure they only cover state TV.
Plus, the MSM offers very little reporting from countries outside the U.S. when "reporting" on the news. So, the banning of journalists will impact the punditry of the MSM 24 hour cable news bonanza on Iran very little.
Granted, the masses of people coming out into the streets are impressive and rousing. I wish the democracy I lived in could count on its people to pour out into the streets like this when government was suspected of criminal misconduct (i.e. the 2000 Recount, Bush v Gore), but a news show can only spend so much time marveling at the masses before it then has to provide some type of analysis of what is happening.
So, the meat of coverage of Iran will be (as it has been) talk amongst guests and pundits and so-called experts. And the Iranians should cringe at some of the guests and experts that are allowed on or have been allowed on to provide their take on the clash in Iran.
Particularly, they should be leery of elected leaders who will toe the line and play along with a media who continuously insists or refuses to argue against the notion that Iran has a nuclear weapons program (Iran, of course, currently has no nuclear weapons program)
MR. WATSON: And Senator Menendez, do you think that this makes it tougher for President Obama to pursue some of the diplomatic efforts, particularly with Iran, at least in the short-term?
SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, look, I'm sure President Obama would have liked to have seen a different result. Having said that, I think he's going to continue on his parallel tracks, one that seeks diplomacy, but one that tries to move the rest of the world in a way that, hopefully, can come together to ensure that Iran doesn't achieve its nuclear capabilities that are a threat, not only to the region, but to our interests as well. [MSNBC INTERVIEW, 11:15 AM Monday, June 15, 2009]
That was a Democrat. It gets worse because I think in order to preserve the doctrine of media objectivity that the MSM holds sacred it invites more Republicans than Democrats to counter the Obama Administration.
MITT ROMNEY (FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE)
Well, first of all, the comments by the President last week that there was a robust debate going on in Iran was obviously entirely wrong-headed. What has occurred is that the election is a fraud. The results are, are inaccurate. And that you're seeing a brutal repression of the people as, as they protest. The President ought to come out and state exactly those words, indicate that this has been a terribly managed decision by the autocratic regime in Iran. It's very clear that the President's policies of going around the world and apologizing for America aren't working. North Korea is, is not just saber rattling. They've taken the, the saber out of the, the sheath. Iran is moving headlong towards nuclearization. Russia is on the same course they were on. And all of the apologies that he provided to the Europeans have not led any of the European nations to provide additional support for us in Afghanistan. Look, just, just sweet talk and criticizing America is not going to enhance freedom in the world.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)
(Off-camera) Others have argued, governor, that the President's speech and the President's outreach is one of the things that led to Hezbollah being defeated in the Lebanese elections last week. And one of the things that led to such an outpouring in the streets in opposition in Iran. You dispute that?
MITT ROMNEY (FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE)
You know, I can't tell you what led to the, the people running into the streets in Iran. I hope, in fact, that they're very anxious to see new leadership in that country. But I can tell you that the results are what I'm interested in. Is Iran still pursuing nuclear weaponry? And there's no question about that. And one aspect of what the President said may have been well received in Iran. But I think it was poorly received in Israel and around the world and that's when - well, actually, he made a 180-degree flip from what he'd said during the campaign. During the campaign, when he spoke to AIPAC, he said he would do everything in his power to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. And then he went to Cairo and said that no single nation should have the ability to deny another nation the right to have a nuclear weapon. That is a 180 degree flip of a dangerous nature. I'm sure it was welcomed in many streets in the Arab world and in the world that's most - including the Persian world and Iran as well. But, but that's not right for America. That's not right for, for world security.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS) (Off-camera) I believe the administration has said that they believe that Iran could have the right to nuclear power with appropriate safeguards but not a nuclear weapon. But what would you do now then? If you were president, you know, it's not just President Ahmadinejad in Iran who said that he believes that Iran should have the right to nuclear power. It's the supreme leader. It was every candidate in the race said that Iran should have a right to pursue nuclear power.
MITT ROMNEY (FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE)
We don't have any question about nuclear power. And that was not the, the statement that the President made that was most offensive. It was his statement that no single nation should have the ability to deny another nation the right to nuclear weaponry. Now, of course with regards to nuclear power, we have no problem under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for nations to pursue nuclear power. And in the case of Iran, it's pretty clear that's not what they're doing. When you sit on a lake of oil, you're not looking for a new source of energy. They're obviously developing this technology for, for military purposes. And, and offers were made, including by Russia, to provide the necessary nuclear material for nuclear power and the Iranians turned that down. So let's, let's not pretend or give into the Iranian way of thinking that somehow this is about nuclear power. It is very clearly about nuclear weaponry. And you also see, of course, the same kind of outrage coming from North Korea.
Exactly why would any one consider Mitt Romney a credible source for information or opinions on the Iran election?
Thankfully, Mitt Romney isn't in Congress. But, Susan Collins from Maine is and we should definitely worry about shows who invite Republicans in Congress on and don't challenge their position against Obama.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It certainly makes such a dialogue much more difficult.
But, frankly, I have always been skeptical about the success of any kind of dialogue with the hard-line leaders of Iran. We should certainly give diplomacy a chance. But I am skeptical that it will be successful. And these voting irregularities, the arrests of opposition clerics and opposition leaders, certainly makes it far more challenging for the president. [STATE OF THE UNION with John King, June 14th, 2009]
And then, there's Mike Pence, a Republican representative from Indiana, who also was on John King's State of the Union. Pence may be the worst Republican to invite on television to offer opinions on Iran:
PENCE: Well, I think, first and foremost, we need to take a half-step back from this administration's olive branch and apology approach to enemies and countries that have been hostile to the United States of America and our allies, particularly with regard to Iran.
I think it's important that we step back, that we -- I'm hoping, before the end of the day today, the president of the United States will speak a word of support for Mr. Mousavi and for the dissidents and the reformers within Iran.
You know, we always hear about that. I've been on the Foreign Affairs Committee for a while, John, and we hear about the difference between, you know, the -- the clerics who lead the theocracy, the -- the raging rhetoric of the anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying President Ahmadinejad.
We always hear that there's an enormous gulf between them and many of the good and decent people of Iran. I think now's a great moment for this administration and the United States to reach out, express support, look for ways that we can encourage that demonstration within Iran. And I'm -- I'm hoping the president will do that.
Pundits are beginning to discuss how Republicans are pushing Obama to intervene.
A recent MSNBC News segment on during the 5 pm ET show with David Shuster featuring David Ignatius and Robert Baer mentioned how Republicans are going to pressure Obama to really come out against what is happening. Thankfully, the guests injected some reality into the discussion. (*Will post video when I see it is up.)
Being vocal about the election would give Ahmadinejad's government a pretext to crackdown much more harder on demonstrations, Iranian news media, students--- In fact, it would greatly affect the lives of all Iranians who see this opportunity to further democratize and don't want America to come in and pull a Mossadegh.
Case in Point --- Pence has just introduced a resolution in Congress that has been described as the resolution Ahmadinejad has been waiting for.
Who has the MSM been inviting on to provide commentary on Iran? Republicans. And who will support Pence's resolution? Republicans.
And, if the MSM doesn't offer dialogue on what this resolution could really mean for the people of Iran, the people will have much more to be angry with than a press that gives little coverage of Iran.