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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/26/09

"The propaganda war against Iran" by Bill Van Auken; submitted

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Message Michael Green

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

The propaganda war against Iran

By Bill Van Auken
24 June 2009

The US media, led by the New York Times , is continuing its concerted propaganda campaign against Iran over charges that the government stole the June 12 presidential election. There is not even a semblance of objectivity in the media coverage, which parrots the charges of the opposition headed by defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi as fact and dismisses the government's claims as lies.

The opposition is lauded as democratic and reformist, while incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters are portrayed as virtual fascists. One would scarcely imagine that the two men represent rival factions within the same ruling establishment.

Responsibility for the violence in the streets of Tehran is attributed entirely to the government and its security forces.

No connection is drawn between these events and the broader situation in the region, where the US is waging two wars, on Iran's eastern and western borders, both aimed at establishing American hegemony over the oil-rich territory.

Suggestions that the US and its intelligence agencies are involved in the turmoil in Iran are dismissed as ludicrous, fabrications by an Iranian government trying to divert public opinion. This, in a country where Washington overthrew a democratically elected government in 1953, propped up a brutal dictator, the Shah, for more than a quarter of a century, and has carried out covert CIA operations in the recent period involving the use of special operations troops on Iranian soil.

The New York Times and Venezuela

If all of this sounds familiar, it should. Little more than seven years ago, a very similar media campaign, once again spearheaded by the New York Times, was carried out against the government of President Hugo Cha'vez in Venezuela.

Then, as now, standards of journalistic objectivity were thrown out the window. Cha'vez was vilified and his opponents, drawn largely from Venezuela's oligarchy and privileged layers of the middle class, were portrayed as crusaders for democracy. Statements by the opposition were reported as fact or treated with the utmost respect, while the government's contentions were subjected to derision.

A few quotations from the New York Times of March and April 2002 give the flavor of this campaign. On March 26, the newspaper published a story entitled "Venezuela's President vs. Military: Is Breach Widening?" The content of the piece made it clear that the answer was, hopefully, yes.

"The rebellious officers helped energize a disjointed but growing opposition movement that is using regular street protests to try to weaken Mr. Cha'vez, whose autocratic style and left-wing policies have alienated a growing number of people."

It continued, "Although he promised a 'revolution' to improve the lives of the poor, Mr. Cha'vez has instead managed to rankle nearly every sector-from the church to the press to the middle class-with his combative style, populist speeches and dalliances with Fidel Castro..."

In the Times' coverage of Venezuela-as in Iran-the phrase "nearly every sector" was used to exclude the overwhelming majority of the population, the urban and rural poor, which had twice given Cha'vez the widest electoral victories in the country's history.

Subsequent articles described Cha'vez as a "left-wing autocrat" and "a mercurial left-leaning leader whose policies had antagonized much of Venezuelan society."

The newspaper favorably presented a speech by a former energy minister to a group of "striking" managers at the state-run oil company, who declared, "This can only end with the president resigning... This is about him or us. It is a choice between democracy and dictatorship."

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