The funniest news item last week was also, if you think about it, the scariest: FARS, Iran’s quasi-official news agency, ran the headline: “Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama.”
The story, datelined Tehran, cited no source, but a little digging established that it had been lifted word for word from the Onion, which FARS’s cracker-jack government reporters failed to recognize as a satirical publication. Yes indeed, the 21st century will be so much more exciting if these guys get nukes.
What also should have inspired both levity and fear last week: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the United Nations. “Thousands of years have passed since the children of Adam (peace be upon him) started to settle down in various parts of Earth,” the Iranian president instructed the General Assembly. “The current abysmal situation of the world and the bitter incidents of history are due mainly to the wrong management of the world and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the Devil.”
If that sounds to you like the ramblings of a deranged cult member with ambitions to “manage the world,” you’re obviously not a member of the mainstream media. Most reporters put a respectful and even positive spin on Ahmadinejad’s remarks.
Time magazine, for example, reported that Ahmadinejad “preached an airy, utopian egalitarianism,” employing “the messianic rhetoric that animates political discourse in the Islamic Republic.” Political discourse in the Islamic Republic? Does Time not know that Iran is a police state?
According to the New York Times, Ahmadinejad “stuck largely to spiritual and moral themes,” delivering a “lecture about the need for a fairer world order.” Oh yeah: Old Mahmoud is a very spiritual and moral guy with a keen sense of fairness.
Reuters said Ahmadinejad painted a “gloomy picture of a world driven by greed rather than moral values.” Does Reuters have any idea how much oil money Iran’s rulers have stuffed into their own pockets, and how much of the Iranian economy is controlled by the Gestapo-like Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps? If so, should that not have been mentioned?
At one point — a point any clear-eyed reporter would have seen as newsworthy — Ahmadinejad cast himself in the role of biblical prophet: “God Almighty has promised us a man of kindness, a man who loves people and loves absolute justice, a man who is a perfect human being and is named Imam Al-Mahdi, a man who will come in the company of Jesus Christ and the righteous. . . . He will bless humanity with a spring that puts an end to our winter of ignorance, poverty, and war with the tidings of a season of blooming. . . . Long live this spring, long live this spring, and long live this spring.”
The New York Times interpreted that as Ahmajdinejad “forecasting at length about the peace that will prevail with the appearance of the religious savior awaited by many faiths.” Really? How many faiths await the “Imam Al-Mahdi”? How many faiths believe, as Ahmadinijad does, that this messiah has been hiding since the tenth century and will reappear in the midst of an apocalyptic holy war, with Jesus at his side, to establish an Islamic world order? Might Times readers not find Ahmadinejad’s religious beliefs relevant?
Scant attention was paid to Ahmadinejad’s repeated denunciations of “capitalists” and “Zionists.” The Guardian, a British newspaper, headlined: “Ahmadinejad avoids controversy in low-key speech.” CNN reported, “European delegates got an unusual reprieve at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday when the Iranian President offered them no reason to get up and walk out.” Right, because it wouldn’t occur to European delegates to object to venomous attacks on capitalists and Zionists; nor did it occur, evidently, to those in the thoroughly modern major media.
It should not go without saying — but did in much of the reporting last week — that Ahmadinejad represents a regime that tortures and kills pro-democracy dissidents, hangs homosexuals and those it accuses of apostasy and blasphemy, incites and threatens genocide of a fellow U.N. member nation, and has for decades sponsored terrorism from Beirut to Argentina to Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria to Bulgaria. Almost exactly a year ago, it was revealed that Washington, D.C., was spared a terrorist attack when an Iranian plot targeting the Saudi ambassador in a Georgetown restaurant was foiled by American law-enforcement agents.
Once upon a time, Iran may have been, as Ahmadinejad declared, “the land of glory and beauty; the land of knowledge, culture, wisdom, and morality; the cradle of philosophy and mysticism; the land of compassion and light; the land of scientists, scholars, philosophers, masters of literature, and writers.” But since seizing power in 1979, has the Islamic revolutionary regime produced anything other than oil and death? And why are there so few in the media willing to ask such questions, let alone provide truthful answers? It seems FARS is not the only media outlet incapable of distinguishing between fact and fiction.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.