Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Say Anything 

Will the gullible in the media ever tire of being used? Do they even care anymore?

The world's spokesmen, especially those anti-Western among them, have learned that they can say anything to the media, absolutely anything. They can ramble on about death and destruction. They can proclaim their eternal commitment to the violent pursuit of this or that goal by any means necessary. It really doesn't matter what they actually say, so long as they are savvy enough to shallowly bury a veiled reference to a more headline-friendly alternative -- no matter how baldly that alternative is contradicted by the rest of what is said.

Case in point: Iran.

The Iranian regime has learned that its radicals and moderates alike can fulminate freely, their every press release and news conference eagerly sanitized and publicized in the guise of missives for peace to credulous Western audiences -- this despite repeated Iranian boasts promising the imminent wiping of Israel from the map and solemn vows never to compromise on the nuclear development necessary to to do so. Despite these threats, many in the Western media instead print headlines about Iran's unrequited, peace-minded calls for negotiations -- so long as there is a small, quotable-in-rough-translation sound-bite on the topic hidden somewhere deep inside the diatribe. They "want to believe," and will find evidence of peace-loving moderation in almost any anti-Western agent, no matter how much frothy rabid foam has to be wiped away to reveal it.

Just yesterday Iran announced it wants the West to spend more time negotiating over nothing while Iranian nuclear development races down the home-stretch towards its ominous finish-line:

Iran on Tuesday handed over its response to a nuclear package aimed at allaying Western fears that Tehran seeks to build atomic bombs, state-run Arabic-language Al-Alam television reported. It did not give details of the reply.

Sources in the United Nations described the Iranian response as "ambiguous and evasive." The sources said the Iranians are seeking to renew negotiations but nevertheless refuse to halt enriching uranium. They also said Iran failed to respond to several aspects of the nuclear package. [...]

A top Iranian nuclear official said the response will provide "an exceptional opportunity" for Europe to return to the negotiating table for a compromise.

'Iran's response to the package is a comprehensive reply that can open the way for resumption of talks for a final agreement,' Mohammed Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in comments published Tuesday.
It might seem ridiculous to most of us to hear tantalizing calls for talks coming from the same guys who swear they'll never stop doing the very thing under negotiation, no matter the price. When an item is not for sale at any price, what's the point of haggling except to distract the frustrated customer's attention long enough for an accomplice to pick his pocket? Put that way, maybe it's not so strange they'd try it, but that any Western media -- and like-minded diplomats -- would play along, encouraging such a dangerous play.

But that's the game. They can say anything they want. They can repeatedly rant all their most toxic talking points. They know they must simply follow protocol which requires only that they eventually mumble an afterthought like, "Iran longs for comprehensive and time-consuming negotiations," anywhere at all in the speech -- even if the trailing words "until Israel's destruction" have to be carefully snipped out. That little fig leaf will get picked up and waved around by an eager western media as if it were actually an olive branch so potent it still had the rest of the tree attached.

Am I pathologically cynical? Let's ask MSNBC what they think:

There is of course an accompanying story, but who's going to bother reading that? MSNBC's headline has already reassured us that thanks to the Iranians there will finally be "serious talks" -- unless "skeptical Western diplomats" spit on Iran's peaceful request -- so we can all stop worrying about the impending Iranian apocolypse (which is now a day late arriving anyway).

Whatever the accompanying story does say, it doesn't just come out with what is really going on:

(AbbaGav's version)

Iranian officials today called for negotiations while at the same time insisting there was nothing to negotiate over except the nature and scope of the tribute they expect from the West.

While Iran continues to promise the destruction of the State of Israel, spokesmen refused to set a firm date for when they expect to achieve that goal. Nevertheless, Iran's proposal for talks does include a firm date by which negotiations must be completed so as to allow enough time for all Iranian leadership and their families to depart for a long-planned off-site training exercise in an unspecified distant country on the subject "Surviving Nuclear Retaliation: Tips and Strategies."
Of course MSNBC is by no means alone in its myopia:
I'm practically without a reaction to this because I don't know how to type the sound of sputtering.

To be fair though, there are other media outlets that did use terms like "Iran defies" and "Iran won't give promise." In fact, in this instance even Al-Jazeera (World powers study Iran's reply) and Reuters (Big powers study Iran's reply to offer) were a little more circumspect than some of their more fawning Western counterparts in the promotion of Iran's PR agenda.

The way the coverage is going, if Iran's Uranium is ever disposed of in any way other than using it to create a smoking, radioactive Israeli crater, it will be mournfully reported as the result of international arm-twisting led by American and Zionist hard-liners. Frankly, if it comes to that, while I'll object to the tone, I'll accept the result.

In truth this bad media habit is not just exposed by Iranian and other anti-Western spokesmen. Anytime a flack can identify a storyline the media wants to sell -- whether because it conforms to preconceived beliefs, or just because more dramatic and salacious headlines sell more papers -- that knowledge illuminates the media's marrionette strings which can then be pulled at will to obtain the desired coverage. This problem won't go away until the media begins covering what is actually said rather than what is selectively heard. Or, even better, until the media spends less time covering what is said  about what is going on, and more time telling us simply what is  going on.

The free world deserves the details of the deals that have been rejected, and knowlege of what is really happening on the ground in Iran -- not just that the words "we" and "want" and "negotiations" appeared somewhere within the text of a single speech read by some Iranian shill.


More on gullible media reporting of the ambulance incident at Zombietime.

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