The Devil lives in the detail – Demonising Iran By William Bowles

10 February 2006

The latest dissection by Medialens of the corporate media’s devious and misleading coverage of Iran, is an excellent analysis of how the media distort and lie about events and, as the article points out, alleged intent on the part of the Iranians is almost always presented as a ‘slip of the pen’ when the media are caught out eg:

“I accept that it would have been better to have said ‘alleged nuclear threat’. I am sorry that my wording was not as precise as it could have been.” (Email to Media Lens from James Robbins, BBC correspondent, January 24, 2005)

“We should have said ‘nuclear activities’, not ‘nuclear weapons activities’.” (Corrections and clarifications, The Guardian, February 7, 2006)

But of course the damage has not only already been done, it continues to be done. Take for example, a ‘background’ piece on the Iran ‘crisis’ (though it’s a ‘crisis’ entirely of the West’s making) on the BBC’s Website where we read:

The best perhaps that diplomacy can do is delay. Indeed a senior British official with close knowledge of the process is now talking of all this going on for several years.

“Five years ago,” he said, “we said that Iran was five years away from being able to make a nuclear weapon. Now we still say that. That is progress.” – ‘Iran stand-off moves to new level’

Odd when all the experts are telling us that today, Iran is at least ten years away from the ability (let alone the reality) of being able to make a nuclear device. And note the choice of words, that the ‘crisis’ can at best be “delay[ed]”, by what? Five, ten, fifteen years? Using the word “delayed” implies that it is Iran’s intention to make a nuclear weapon, an implication that is further reinforced in the BBC ‘background’ piece when it ‘informs’ us that:

Up till now, Iran has been reluctant to go ahead too fast … It has held back from abandoning all restraint.

What, with it’s alleged nuclear weapons programme? Will we see yet another mea culpa from the BBC? So, five years ago did Iran also act with restraint? The devil lives in the detail, with every phrase minutely considered as to its effect on the reader, the net effect residing not in any single word or phrase but in the overall thrust, and one that is echoed in every news piece in every major media outlet.

An op-ed piece in the Guardian by Simon Jenkins on 20/1/06 puts the issue into some kind of perspective, and for once from the Iranian side:

Iran … sits between nuclear Pakistan and [nuclear] India to its east, a nuclear Russia to its north and a nuclear Israel to its west. Adjacent Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied at will by a nuclear America, which backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. How can we say such a country has “no right” to nuclear defence?

What is revealed from the alleged news we are constantly subjected to is the sheer hypocrisy of the West’s position, for nowhere do we see in the media’s presentation even an inkling of the idea that Iran has every right to build nuclear weapons. After all, the countries doing the threatening already have nuclear weapons. So which country poses the real threat to peace, Iran or the United States and its nuclear-armed allies?

The Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory (and Israel is not), and to which the BBC reluctantly concedes Iran is in compliance with, was as Simon Jenkins points out, pretty much set up by the then nuclear ‘club’, with the view to keeping everyone else out. Meanwhile, the US is adding to its nuclear arsenal as is the UK (even if the US keeps its finger on the Brits’ nuclear trigger). To add insult to injury, we read today (10/2/06) that France has been secretly upgrading its nuclear arsenal. The stench of hypocrisy rises, a menacing cloud, above these ‘guardians’ of ‘democracy’.

Everyone (in their right mind) agrees we should get rid of the damn things but by what right does the only country in the world that’s used them, decide who else should possess them and, threaten anyone who looks like they might develop them, with nuclear weapons?

If the BBC was reporting the issue properly, it would be informing its readers of the fact that theoretically, Iran is still at least ten years away from being able to produce enriched uranium in order for the reader to make their own assessment. And, that it is a nuclear-armed West that’s doing all the threatening, not Iran. Lies by omission, are still lies.

Meanwhile, the West has its own crazies wracking up the anté under pretence of informing readers:

A frisson of panic shudders around the globe: he [President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] has already threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. Do something, someone! But what and who? – Polly Toynbee, the Guardian, Tuesday February 7, 2006

I love it, “A frisson of panic shudders around the globe”? Who, exactly is panicking here, Polly Toynbee, the war-crazed inhabitants of the White House and Whitehall or perhaps it should be the Iranians who are being threatened by at least three nuclear-armed belligerants, the US, the UK and Israel.

“Do something” Ms Toynbee? Perhaps you could start by not talking such utter bilge and making such outrageous statements. And the threats, are surely the ones emanating from the White House, with its talk of “all options being open”, not Tehran.

So what does Ms. Toynbee in her wisdom have to say on this?

Meanwhile, the Americans are grinding out ritual bellicose statements, Donald Rumsfeld refusing to rule out air strikes.

So as far the US is concerned, Toynbee presents it merely as “ritual”, whereas coming from Iran it’s a real threat? This is hypocrisy writ large, revealing the built-in prejudice of writers like Toynbee, literally schooled in imperial newspeak.

There are two messages that are hidden within all the OTT rubbish of Ms. Toynbee and her cohorts:

  • A deliberate demonisation of Islam and its ‘crazed fundamentalists’, a view that is intrinsic to the imperial culture that Ms. Toynbee is so much a part of, and one that is absolutely necessary to justify the imperial ambitions of the Anglo-US war machine.

This view is borne out by Ms. Frisson’s view of Iran:

Even if no blood is spilt, the west may find itself in a cold jihad with a God-driven, nuclear-armed adversary, and no solution in sight. Nothing suggests that sanctions and fiery words will make the more moderate forces in Iran overthrow their mullahs and choose westernisation: under external pressure in this clash of civilisations, history suggests they will close ranks.

“God-driven, nuclear-armed adversary”? Ms. Toynbee’s choice of the term “adversary” is no idle, throwaway, it reveals exactly where she stands in the so-called clash of civilisations. Why should the Iranians ‘choose’ “westernisation” and do it under threat of nuclear attack no less? What makes Ms. Toynbee so sure about the superiority of Western ‘civilisation’, an especially galling view given the history of the Anglo-US involvement in Iran over the past century (and one that she also admits to in the same piece). Civilisation indeed!

  • Israel; where is Ms. Toynbee’s “frisson of panic” about the crazy God-driven Zionist fundamentalists of Israel who talk of exterminating the Palestinians, and who actually regard Palestinans as something less than human? Such outrageous statements made by individuals like Ariel Sharon are thick on the ground, yet draw no comparable ire from Ms. Frisson herself.

Ultimately, one has to ask the following question of Ms. Toynbee: what motivates her to become a mouthpiece for the imperial ambitions of the Anglo-US imperium? Is it her arrogant, racist views of anything that’s not white and European that drives her to make such virulent and poisonous statements?

One can understand the Cheneys and Rumsfelds of this benighted planet, they stand to gain directly from such war-mongering talk, but without the complicity of the Toynbees and her ilk as part of the state-sponsored media onslaught, the Cheneys and Rumsfelds are bereft of purportedly educated and ‘neutral’ mouthpieces. For whether Ms. Toynbee likes it or not, she is in actuality speaking directly on their behalf, peddling their poison to an ill-informed public under the guise of an outraged citizen, confronted by the ‘barbarians’.

The argument that it is merely a point-of-view and that counterviews are to be found avoids the fact that the central thrust of her ‘comment’ perpetuates a cynical mythology about such things as the ‘clash of civilisations’ and the all-pervading view found in the ‘news’ that ‘our’ way of life is under direct threat from the ‘jihadists’.

Thus Ms. Toynbee’s ‘comment’ is an integral component of a propaganda war being waged on an unsuspecting public by a specially trained elite. Ultimately the only difference between Ms. Toynbee and the British National Party is the choice of language and the intended target.

To argue that she is ‘merely’ an employee of the corporate media entirely misses point of the key role that she plays. Her piece is after all, presented as “comment” by the Guardian, comment that conveniently falls into line with the rest of the garbage rolled out by a compliant and complicit intelligentsia. Surely it’s time we stopped making excuses for the Ms. Toynbees of this world and called them out for what they are—the verbal rottweilers of the imperium.

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