Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Remember Iran Flashback: "How Not to Cover Iran's Elections --- The Awards Ceremony" (12 June 2009)

Although EA WorldView has tested Live Coverage in December 2008/January 2009 for news and analysis of Israel's invasion of Gaza, we had not yet established it as a feature of the website, still centred --- as "Enduring America" --- on evaluation of US foreign policy.

So, while we had noted the growing excitement in Iran about the Presidential contest in a series of articles, our feature on Election Day was a light-hearted profile of how the "Western" media were presenting the campaign:

On Tuesday, we profiled our first entry in the competition to write the worst story about Iran's Presidential election: Colin Freeman's effort, for The Daily Telegraph of London to turn the campaign into a "a rock gig moshpit" and "a World Wrestling Federation grudge match" and to make over President Ahmadinejad as a member of The Sex Pistols.

We could not have anticipated the flood of entries that would follow. Each time, we thought the bottom had been reached, an intrepid reporter or commentator would take the bar lower. So, without further ado, the ultimate in Bad Election Journalism:

 THE OPENING ENTRY

The Daily Telegraph: It's All About the Sex Pistols

A jaw-droppingly awful "atmosphere" piece by Colin Freeman, a reporter for The Daily Telegraph of London who attended an Ahmadinejad rally.

There is no analysis of worth here --- Freeman doesn't even mention any of the other candidates --- merely a series of cultural "translations" to make these wacky Iranians and their wackier President accessible to British and "Western" readers:

"The jostling crowds of a rock gig moshpit, and the carefully choreographed build-up of a World Wrestling Federation grudge match....Rather like promoters for the Rolling Stones or the late James Brown, the president's aides like to keep his fans waiting....One speaker yelled with razzmatazz worthy of TV darts presenter Sid Waddell"

My personal favourite? "Rather like the punk rock group the Sex Pistols, or the singer Pete Doherty, it is not unusual, apparently, for the president to plan a gig but then fail to show."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Sid Vicious. I'm not sure it does much for political analysis, but it's an image that burns on the mind.

HONOURABLE MENTION

The Washington Post: Any Label Will Do

Friday's piece by Thomas Erdbrink is OK in its profile of the campaigns of President Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi. That is, until he and his headline writers try to put the voters and their candidates into easy-to-open boxes: "[This] is a confrontation not just between Iran's haves and have-nots, but between the old revolutionaries who seized power from the shah and a new cadre of radicals seeking to dislodge them."

All right, who are "the old revolutionaries" here? Mousavi, who was Prime Minister in the 1980s? Former President Rafsanjani? And who is the "new radical"? Ahmadinejad? But wait --- Ahmadinejad is already in power. So is he seeking to dislodge himself?

And the people on the streets? If they support Ahmadin ejad, are they automatically "have-nots"? A student wearing green for Mousavi becomes a "have"?

Hours later, we can't decide if this entry is Zen-like or just Lost in Confusion.

BRONZE MEDAL

Assorted Newspapers: Iran's Michelle Obama

Apparently it's not enough to put Tehran under the spell of "The Obama Effect". You have to carry out a metaphormosis into the Great Man, or at least his nearest and dearest.

So in the last 72 hours Zahra Rahnavard suddenly became, in The Boston GlobeDer SpiegelThe Huffington Post,  "a no-nonsense university dean who has been compared to Michelle Obama".

So who in Iran had anointed Professor Rahnavard as the American First Lady of the country? Well, no one actually. That is, apart from CNN, who topped Reza Sayah's profile of Rahnavard with "Iran's Michelle Obama".

Unfortunately for "the Obama effect/transformation", Rahnavard refused to play along at a press conference on Sunday: ""I am not Iran's Michelle Obama...I am a follower of Zahra (the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad)."

Which makes us wonder: if Mousavi becomes President of Iran, will someone be bold enough to call Michelle Obama's "America's Zahra Rahnavard"?

SILVER MEDAL

The New York Times: Release the Bush Hounds

It is one thing for the editors of The Wall Street Journal, seeking the Mother of all Counter-Revolutions, to feature John Bolton's call for the Israeli bomb to replace the ballot. It's another for the flagship of US newspapers to wheel out Elliott Abrams, years after he tried and failed as a George W. Bush Administration official to knock off the Iranian Government:

The Lebanese had a chance to vote against Hezbollah, and took the opportunity. Iranians, unfortunately, are being given no similar chance to decide who they really want to govern them.


GOLD MEDAL

The Daily Telegraph's Colin Freeman: It's All Rubbish Anyway

Still, at the end of the day, you can't keep a bad journalist down, or rather raise him up. The World's Worst Tehran Correspondent followed his initial entry with this content-free "profile" of the campaign:

Instead of being seen as a respected statesman and upholder of the Islamic regime, the man rubbing shoulders with the Supreme Leader may be known popularly as either "Ahmadinejad the Liar", "Karoubi the Corrupt", or "Mousavi the Illiterate US Stooge" – epithets endorsed by their own colleagues. Those, surely, are not the kind of people a regime that brooks no real opposition would ideally want as figureheads.

Which I guess means that, at least, we won't be calling the eventual winner of this contest --- be he "old revolutionary" or "new radical" --- "Iran's Barack Obama".

 


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