Monday, January 15, 2007

Jan 15 Media Critique: "Iran: Threat to Israel and the World"

Today HonestReporting take whatever tiny shreds of credibility it has retained from posing as an organization campaigning for fairness and accuracy in the media, and flung them so far down the toilet as to be irretrievable.

HR, in its wisdom, has decided to play the role of propaganda organ in the march to war on Iran. It even calls this blatant pile of lies a “Media Critique”. Perhaps they think that audacity can hide their dishonesty.

Bertrand Russell's definition of propaganda is helpful in seeing HR for what it is,

Propaganda may be defined as any attempt by means of persuasion, to enlist human beings in the service of one party to any dispute. It is thus distinguished…from instructions by its motive, which is not the dissemination of knowledge but the generating of some kind of party feeling……it will consist of such information as tends in a given direction, to the exclusion of such information as has a contrary tendency.

So let’s see what specific techniques of propaganda the fanatics at HR adopt in their mission of dishonesty.

The world can longer ignore the threat posed by Iran
Nonetheless, everyone should be aware of the threat and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.
Unsupported assertion. What factual evidence is there that Iran is trying to develop “nuclear weapons”? None.

In 2005, much of the media reported his call for Israel (actually the "Zionist regime" since Iran refuses to use the word "Israel") to be "wiped off the face of the map"”
Juan Cole and others, who actually can read Persian, say that this is an incorrect translation, and that the phrase used by Ahmadinejad actually means this,
The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.
The issue of the correct translation raised a minor controversy, with the consensus coming down on the side of "time" rather than "map", as the correct translation.

At any rate, HR demonstrate their casualness with quotes, as while HR render the phrase as above ("wiped off the face of the map"), the translation they link to actually says this -“wiped off the face of the earth”. Translation from Persian is one thing, but HR can’t even copy from English correctly.

The same linked article throws up other problems for HR’s thesis. Ahmadinejad's speech is also translated as wishing for “the annihilation of the Zionist regime”. But he also quotes Khomeini on the Shah, approvingly, saying “the dear Imam [Ruhollah Khomeini] said this regime [the Shah] must be destroyed”. If HR were to be consistent in its interpretations, they must believe that Ahmadinejad's policy is 'no more Iran'.

I think we can safely assume HR don’t think this.

Finally HR indulge in some selective omission. In communication, as opposed to propaganda, we assume that our interlocutor will tell us all relevant and significant information. Failure to do so is a sure sign of bad faith. So, what important facts do HR leave out in their Ahmadinejad section? HR tells its readers that he is the President of Iran. Knowing that a great many of it’s readers are in the US the term “President” has a very clear meaning – it’s the pinnacle of political power, with the ability to commit the country to war and to control its armed forces. Iran’s President has no such powers. He does not control the Iranian army, the Supreme Leader , Khamenei does. Ahmadinejad could declare war on Israel tomorrow and nothing would happen.

Clearly HR know this, and try to evade the problem with this,
Moreover, he has done so with no significant domestic dissent. When the leader of a sovereign nation makes unequivocal statements without domestic opposition, those statements serve as the basis of national policy.
No they don’t. National policy remains under the control of the Iranian Parliament (Majles), with only the Supreme Leader having supra-parliamentary powers.

Years before the current controversy involving Iran's attempts to develop nuclear power and (according to almost all experts) nuclear weapons, Iran invested heavily in the acquisition of long range missile systems.

Iran’s current missiles are a threat to only its near neighbours. Western Europe and the US are outside their reach. So HR moves onto speculation – if Iran develops longer range missiles and nuclear weapons, then it will be a “threat to…… the world”.
This is called threat inflation.

Here’s the International Institute for Strategic Studies' somewhat less hysterical take on Iran’s weapons programs.

It’ s also worth considering the general military spending issue to get some perspective on Iran. Here are the defence spending figures as a percentage of GDP, for Iran and some of its neighbours.

  • Iran 2.7%
  • Turkey 3.3%
  • Israel 8.2%
  • Saudi 8.8%
  • UAE 2.8%

(Source IISS, “The Military Balance 2005-2006”)

Iran is one of the lowest per capita spenders in the region. Israel’s spending, in total, is double that of Iran’s. To put that in per capita perspective, Israel spends about 30 times as much as Iran, per person.

More perspective – Iran hasn’t initiated any wars against any of it’ neighbours in the last 100 years.

So, who’s the threat to peace here, Iran or big-spending, nuclear Israel with a history of repeated military aggression against it’s neighbours?

Iran's efforts are clearly aimed at the production of nuclear weapons. Iran's declarations that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes lacks any credibility.
The IAEA say differently and I think that 99.9% of people will rate the IAEA's credibility as vastly greater than HR's.

Another relevant matter would be that Iran has a history of pursing a civilian nuclear power capacity. This was under the Shah in the 1970's and was fully supported by the US at a time when, obviously, Iran had even more oil than it does today.

So there we have HRs attempt to "enlist human beings beings in the service of one party to any dispute" via "the exclusion of such information as has a contrary tendency".

What moral standing has a propagandist to demand fairness and impartiality from others? Absolutely none.

And that sums up HonestReporting - zero credibility.