Archive for the ‘Iran’ tag

Our media pantomime

without comments

I’m no expert on pantomime but this ‘hostage crisis’ seems to be getting closer to Aladdin or Babes in the Wood every day. I entirely expect to read next week that ‘Ahmadinejad and the 15 Sailors’ will be opening at Wimbledon Theatre this Christmas.
But in one respect at least this pantomime is quite different. The cast of characters is being played almost entirely by the media. Early on we had the media as Principal Boy, demur, reasonably restrained, refraining from being too vocal so as to let the grown ups get on with their argument. Then enter media as panto horse – the front half braying for more action (see Times Leader), while the back half complains that it’s our fault and we’ve only got ourselves to blame (see Patrick Cockburn and Shipman/Chamberlain). Of course it wouldn’t be panto without a pantomime dame, and we’ve had the occasional appearance of Widow Twanky throughout the saga (see Melanie Phillips). Meanwhile we, the audience, are told that there’s some evil villain behind the scenes pulling the strings, presumably to cause us all to yell ‘he’s behind you!’ or ‘Oh no he isn’t’ at our TV screens.
Equally pantomime-like has been the predictability of the media’s reaction to much of the crisis. Most news organisations have been Pavlovian in their willingness to bite at any bone presented to them – whether it’s footage of the hostages released by Iran or the opportunity to interview the freshly released sailors. What’s been missing is any reflection about the impact of their actions or recognition that the media are themselves actors in this story.

Written by Martin Moore

April 10th, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Weird lack of attention about Iranian abduction

with 2 comments

The remarkable thing about today’s Leader in the Times (‘Britain’s Hostage Crisis‘) is how isolated it is. ‘In earlier times it [the abduction of 15 British sailors and marines by Iran] would have been an immediate casus belli’ the Leader intones.
Perhaps, but in earlier times it would also have been a clarion call to the media to start poring over maps of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, to begin trying to work out the motivations of Ahmadinejad and to launch into endless predictions about possible outcomes. Instead, we get a fly-on-the-wall description of the lead up to the incident from a journalist on board the HMS Cornwall in the Observer, some decent speculation by Marie Colvin, Tony Allen-Mills and Michael Smith in the Sunday Times, and occasional reports and updates.
On the plus side, this means there has not been the usual ramping up of tension by the media, leaving the government free to negotiate behind the scenes. But, on the other hand, it also means we are deprived of information and analysis about a major international incident which could have significant diplomatic and political repercussions.
Perhaps news organisations think we’re tired of Iraq / Iran coverage. Or maybe they’d rather concentrate on other things (like Northern Ireland). Whatever the reason, ‘The relative inattention’, as Andrew O’Hagan writes in today’s Telegraph, ‘is weird’ (‘Iran? Remember the Falklands Mr Blair’).

Written by Martin Moore

March 27th, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , , ,

The media's role in US vs Iran

with 3 comments

Is the media a pliant cipher in Bush’s Iran strategy? That is a suggestion forwarded by Andrew Stephen in his piece for the New Statesman (‘This, Mr President, is how wars start‘). Stephen cites a Washington source who believes the aggressive rhetoric of the Bush camp is designed to ‘to intimidate Iran into scaling back its operations inside Iraq’, and that this is being helpfully conveyed by the world’s media. But even if this is true it is, as Stephen’s notes, a high risk strategy. Given the situation in Iraq there is a significant chance of an accidental confrontation which, in the context of Bush’s rhetoric, could easily escalate. This is particularly true in the Straits of Hormuz where the US will soon have two carrier battle groups. Harpers magazine has four fascinating pieces by former CIA officials assessing the situation and outlining how such such an accident could happen.
Anyway, if the media is fixating on the Bush administration’s rhetoric about Iran it is entirely understandable. Not only is armed conflict with Iran a terrifying prospect, the media (particularly in the US) has to recover its reputation. Its attention to detail is much greater as a result – thank goodness – and so is its level of scepticism about government statements (e.g. see reports earlier this week in the New York Times). Long may it continue.

Written by Martin Moore

February 16th, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

The media, Bush and Iran

without comments

How will the media cover growing tension between the US and Iran? The Independent’s front page has the Iranian capital in military green gun sights with the provocative headline ‘Target: Tehran’. This week’s Economist has a similar, if more questioning, leader titled ‘Next Stop Iran?’. We’ve been here before of course, only this time it’s different. This time we have the awful cataclysm in Iraq as evidence of what happens when there is little thought given to the aftermath of military invasion. Equally, the US media, so supportive of the 2003 Iraq war, is still smarting from its failure to expose the false rhetoric of the Bush administration and cannot be expected to be so supine again.
So should we expect absolute consensus against any further military action? Not necessarily. The situation with Iran is materially different than Iraq. Iran does have a reactionary leader who likes to make provocative and aggressive international threats (such as wiping Israel off the map). Iran is almost certainly developing nuclear weapons. And Iran’s actions now have to be seen against the backdrop of an increasingly unstable Middle East.
Though the media are currently at one in advising against any aggressive action they are likely to become less consensual if Ahmadinejad continues to block EU efforts to provide civil-nuclear assistance, and continues to enrich uranium.
We should not expect many to back the Bush administration, especially since, as Patrick Cockburn writes, it seems to be ratcheting up tension with Iran unnecessarily and once again misleading the public.
But Iran is a much more ambiguous issue for the world to deal with than Iraq, and if we don’t want a rerun of failures leading up to and following the 2003 conflict then the media have to think carefully about how to represent it.

Written by Martin Moore

February 12th, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,