News / Politics

Please Stop Writing About Iran

So the New York Times is at it again. Telling us all about some exotic place, despite their terrible track record with covering foreign countries. Let’s point and laugh at their coverage of the Iranian election, shall we?


So the title itself refers to the “moderate” nature of the newly elected president of Iran, a cleric who can be seen above, praying with Ayatollah Khomeini, whose moderation is well known. Still though, perhaps it’s not fair to judge this man by his past. After all, Obama used to (at least pretend to) care about poor people, now he’s the guy who bails out bankers and bombs villagers. People change. Maybe the author is aware somehow of a deep desire for reform in Rouhani’s heart, one which is surely shared by many, many Iranians.

But it doesn’t just stop with a flashy title. Our hero (I will be referring to the article’s author, one Thomas Erdbrink, as “our hero” for the rest of this) then opens with:

In a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran, voters here overwhelmingly elected a mild-mannered cleric who advocates greater personal freedoms and a more conciliatory approach to the world.

How dramatic! Let’s all ignore that Iran’s candidates for the office of president are vetted by the “Guardian Council,” that is to say, the very elites who this election is supposed to be a “striking repudiation” of. If he’s so offensive to them, why didn’t they just veto his candidacy as they did with others? Is our hero, who supposedly speaks fluent Persian, aware how Iranian presidential candidates are selected, or does he just enjoy lying? And while I don’t like the Iranian government one bit (although that doesn’t mean that the correct way for a foreign state to deal with them is conflict), what really bothers our hero is that unlike most other countries on Earth, which are part and parcel of the vast US empire, the Iranian state is able to exercise its sovereignty against the US’s wishes. To our hero, this means that they are the ones who need to be “conciliatory.”

As long as we’re on the subject of US empire, don’t you think it’s cute that the US “respects” this election? They respect Saudi non-elections, so why shouldn’t they respect Iranian elections (which are deeply flawed, both when the US governments gives them their blessing and when it doesn’t)? And as As`ad Abu-Khalil pointed out, we “respect the results […] if [we] like the outcome.”

Anyway, let’s move on:

The hard-line conservatives aligned with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, finished at the back of the pack of six candidates, indicating that Iranians were looking to their next president to change the tone, if not the direction of the nation

What does that mean? “the tone, if not the direction”? Iranian people aren’t “looking” for a president who will change “the direction” of “the nation”? Most Iranian people I’ve met ask for pretty serious reforms of their government, which is understandable considering the ease with which one can find oneself in real danger thanks to the Iranian state (hence the recent creation of a large Iranian diaspora). But I suspect this line has nothing to do with what Iranian people are “looking for” at all. I suspect “the tone” that’s referred to has to do with the Iranian government’s relationship with the US government, which the author, like the US government, is hoping will improve under this new president.

The article then twice mentions Iran’s nuclear program (which becomes a theme as the article plods on). While I am for nuclear disarmament, I am for it everywhere, not just in Iran. Why is the New York Times so concerned about halting Iran’s nuclear program and not Israel’s, or India’s, or Pakistan’s, or Saudi Arabia’s (they’ve said they want some nukes now, but there was none of the fuss in the US media that there is over Iran, for some reason). Considering only one country on Earth has ever attacked another sovereign country with nuclear weapons, you’d think that’s the country who the New York Times would be most concerned with getting to halt their nuclear weapons program.

it also served the goals of the supreme leader, restoring at least a patina of legitimacy to the theocratic state, providing a safety valve for a public distressed by years of economic malaise and isolation

You know what bothers a lot of Iranians about their “isolation”? Yeah, something this article doesn’t mention.

Mr. Ahmadinejad was the first noncleric to hold the presidency, and often clashed with the religious order and its traditionalist allies.

But wasn’t our hero just telling us that replacing Ahmadinejad with a cleric was “a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran”? Our hero can’t make up his mind about what the clerical elite who run Iran (and accepted both Rouhani and Ahmadinejad as candidates) want!

But he still needs to build consensus within the narrow world of Iran’s political, security and business elite.

Unlike in the US, where popular sovereignty is a reality and we all have serious influence over US social, economic and foreign policy. But to be fair, US civil society is much, much freer than Iranian civil society, which in turn is freer than some of the US’s best friends in the region:

said Mr. Laylaz, who, in a sign of confidence, agreed to be quoted by name.

Would our hero or anyone else be allowed by the editorial staff at the New York Times to dedicate a three-page piece to anyone even remotely affiliated with reformist or protest movements in Saudi Arabia, a country which the US government is arming? Can you imagine we could quote an interview with someone thus affiliated in Saudi Arabia who had been arrested and then freed?

He’s still not free, but Iran is the most anti-democratic state in “the Middle East”, right? And while this article rightly mentions the desire for social freedoms by Iranian youth (“His appeal to the younger generation was crucial in a nation where there is an increasing divide between the millions of youths — two thirds of the 70 million population are under 35 — and the ruling hard-liners who use the morality police, Internet blocking and other harsh measures to try to mold those born after the 1979 revolution.”), the New York Times (like all other major Western news sources it would seem) doesn’t mention that this same sort of theocratic repression is also the norm in Saudi Arabia, a country which is covered sympathetically in western media and close with western governments (and the racist state of Israel, according to Netanyahu), although they haven’t caught up even to the modest level of political modernization enjoyed by those living under the repressive and backward Iranian government, which the US government regularly condemns, out of real concern for the rights of Iranians and not at all because they aren’t part of our empire, I’m sure.

To put political prisoners like Khaled in context, according to the Canadian government there are less than 3,000 political prisoners in Iran (more than is acceptable of course, since political imprisonment is never defensible), while it is claimed that there are 30,000 in Saudi Arabia (and the House of Saudi itself accepts that there are 10,000), and bear in mind that Iran’s population is more than twice that of Saudi Arabia’s (although to be fair, there is also the fact of the aforementioned large Iranian diaspora, many of whom left for political reasons, compared to a much smaller Saudi diaspora). Both regimes are indefensible (of course), but why is only one indefensible according to the US government and media (including the garbage New York Times and its idiot columnists, such as our hero), while the other is worthy of praise and support?

Let’s all keep pretending that Saudi Arabia isn’t at least as bad as Iran, and possibly significantly worse, because that’s what the New York Times wants, and they know best.

Random interviews with many Iranians who voted on Friday suggested they had felt conflicted about casting any vote among the carefully vetted field of six candidates.

So you admit that Rouhani needed the approval of the government who he’s supposed to be a “repudiation” of, according to your garbage article’s first page?

By page three we’ve returned again to the only important point about Iran:

For the West, Mr. Rowhani’s election means a possible new opportunity for at least a change in tone in the long stalled nuclear talks.

shut up about iran's nukes

For an article supposedly about the Iranian people and government and the election which supposedly just changed everything about the relationship between the two, this sure seems to focus a lot on the US’s ability to outgun Iran!

In a way, the elections were a referendum on the tactics of the talks.

Yes! In a way, everything Iranian people do while they suffer under US sanctions and everything the Iranian government does while it oppresses its own population is actually about whatever the US is thinking about! Not only does the whole world revolve around the US, but everyone on it lives their whole lives based entirely on whatever we are thinking about at all times!

And then just in case it wasn’t enough, our hero (yes, the same Thomas Erdbrink) writes a one-page follow-up, which in its title and general “tone” contradicts the three-page article I’ve been discussing. It basically admits that there’s nothing particularly significant about which of the vetted candidates wins. Compare his declaration that Rouhani is “a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran” (as quoted above) to this: “Mr. Rowhani, 64, is no renegade reformist, voted in while Iran’s leaders were not paying attention. Instead, his political life has been spent at the center of Iran’s conservative establishment, from well before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution in the 1970s.” Did you just learn that in between the publishing of the first article and the writing of this follow-up? As As`ad Abu-Khalil joked: “I went to sleep yesterday learning from the media that Rohani belongs to the Saudi-Israeli-US alliance.  But I woke up this morning learning that he after all belongs to the Iranian-Syrian-Russian alliance.”

But I thought our hero was some sort of Iran expert who speaks fluent Persian, not just some overpaid fucker at the New York Times with access to google and wikipedia in English! But in his defense, it’s difficult when you can only talk about one thing when it comes to Iran. Our hero concludes the second article with this line:

“The election result shows that people want a change in the nuclear policy,” Mr. Shakouri-Rad said.

Which confirms his stupid take-away from the three-page article, that Iranians vote over the security concerns of the US, Israel and/or the GCC! He’s basically written four pages just to tell us that Iranians are voting against arming their own state with nukes (too bad we in the US and Israel have never done that!), because everything else he’s said he contradicts somewhere else!

Just before it was time to publish, I learned that our hero had written a second follow-up, which of course only further undermines our hero’s sensationalist nonsense in his initial article about Rouhani’s victory (also, in it our hero renders the final consonant in “شیخ” as “k”, which if he does speak Persian, he ought to know that that is like, not the sound, man). In all of this is there any attempt at examining the hypocrisy of the US position or the real motives of the US government, elected by his target audience? Of course not! He brings up Saudi Arabia only to blame Ahmadinejad (not you know, the crazy Saudi government) for bad relations. And who can blame him? Our hero works for the New York Times, a paper which pretties up US imperialism for an uninformed audience of liberal Americans. This audience is most grateful to our hero for his uninsightful commentary, devoid of any frightening new thoughts or challenges to political orthodoxy.


3 thoughts on “Please Stop Writing About Iran

  1. I like you… at least for now. Might even check on this slime pit once I’m done with others to see what you’ll write next.

  2. Pingback: Why the New York Times is the Worst | Be Young & Shut Up

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