Thursday, March 22, 2007

CNN Characterizes Iran's Population as Being Anti-Semitic

Political bias in news reports can often go by quite unnoticed, yet the subtle (and at times, not so subtle) messages contribute to how the audience forms opinions about the subject material.

Take this CNN report by Aneesh Raman on Thursday about the use of political cartoons during Iranian news broadcasts:

CNN's Aneesh Raman is in Tehran -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is a new campaign against an old enemy.


RAMAN (voice-over): It's often with anger that Iran's leaders speak about the U.S. But on state-run TV, the state has been trying a different tactic. Mixed into the main news channel are political cartoons, often starting with a slate like this one, which reads: "no explanation needed."

This one pokes fun at U.S. policy in Iraq -- Uncle Sam running between bombs, looking for an exit. And when he finds three doors, no such luck.

President Bush also often gets a grilling. Here, he's talking to the world about Iran's nuclear program, alleging Iran wants nuclear weapons, all while his nose grows longer like Pinocchio in front of a laughing globe.

The cartoons -- and there are many -- have even made their way onto YouTube, varying from anti-American riffs to others about Israel that outside of Iran would be defined as anti-Semitic.

As for those on the U.S. the intent is clear, at least to moderates like this professor at the University of Tehran.

With those three words, "outside of Iran", Raman implied that no one in Iran would see such cartoons as being anti-semitic.

That's a powerful media message against an entire country's citizenship that the US is now fiercely embroiled in a conflict with over its aspirations to develop, depending on who you choose to believe, either a nuclear energy program or nuclear weapons. It also obviously serves to elevate western concern for the fate of Israel if all Iranians are characterized as being "anti-semitic".

I suspect it might come as a surprise to Jews living in Iran that they are seen by Mr Raman as being "anti-semitic" under this blanket condemnation. "Iran's Jewish community is the largest in the Middle East outside Israel." There is no doubt that Jews face continual persecution in Iran. Hoewever, one can't then conclude that all Muslims are anti-semitic. They're not.

The media's tendency to apply monolothic characteristics to, in this case, the citizens of Iran whose speech is oppressed by its radical leaders to the point where all we in the west are allowed to see on our television screens if what we're being fed by big news organizations which may or may not have a political agenda of their own, is an unfair portrait of a country of over 68 million people who, despite their repression, have many varied opinions about the world and its people.

Furthermore, such generalizations diminish the very serious human rights abuses that many Iranians currently face at the hands of a crushingly oppressive regime. They certainly do not deserve to be made out as some sort of cohesive, groupthinking, hateful bloc so they can be promoted as being the enemy by the American media.

Demonizing an entire country's citizen population is what xenophobes and terrorists do. You'd think a major US cable news network would do everything possible to avoid that trap.

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