Over the weekend, Wired reported that the Navy began launching a “huge Iran surge” in the Persian Gulf, doubling its minesweeper craft and preparing to get much closer to Iran’s shores. With the combination of this gunboat diplomacy and recent U.S. sanctions placed on Iran, tensions are high between Washington and Tehran. As the U.S. and Iran inch closer and closer to war, the mainstream media has unfortunately helped increase this conflict with how it has recently covered U.S.-Iran relations.
The most telling aspect of how the media has contributed to the war fever in the U.S. is in the difference between what it does and doesn’treport. When covering Iran, the media tends to report almost verbatim what Pentagon officials and analysts tell them to. The threat from Iran is always “imminent;” war is “likely” and even “inevitable.” Iran’s “nuclear weapons program” is an assumed starting point for analysis, with debate differing on when and how, not if, to strike. There tends to be a fixation on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his denial of the Holocaust, his desire to “wipe Israel off the map,” and the supposed irrationality and even suicidal nature of the Iranian regime. Why, you can’t negotiate and bargain with a madman who wants to bring on an Islamic rapture!
What is more interesting and revealing, however, is what the mainstream media either fails to report or gives very little attention to. Other than a couple glaring recent exceptions in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, the media doesn’t mention U.S. and Israeli intelligencereports that there is no evidence Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Iranian is often called a “state-sponsor of terror,” but the media has done virtually no reporting on the MEK — an opposition group inside Iran — that has committed acts of terrorism inside Iran and is financially backed by both the Israeli government and multiple, prominent U.S. politicians.
While implicitly labeling Iran a “threat,” the media fails to mention Iran’s military weakness or the fact that it is surrounded by dozens of U.S. military bases, the Navy’s Fifth fleet, and a nuclear-armed Israel. Why wouldn’t Iran want to acquire a nuclear bomb? Aren’t sanctions already an act of war? What would be the consequences of a U.S. strike? These are simple questions that an objective media should ask.
Current media coverage concerning Iran is becoming eerily similar to 2002-2003 before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The rhetoric is similar — comparisons to Hitler, WMDs, existential threats, etc. False accusations and outright lies that are made by politicians and ambassadors simply go unchallenged. The only pictures one comes across inside Iran are nuclear scientists in white coats, not of the cities, infrastructure, and people that would be destroyed in a war. Like Iraq, Iran is viewed through the lens of its leaders, not through its people, history, or culture. Iranians don’t want war. Neither do Americans or Israelis.
The media are not the only ones to blame, of course. U.S. policy has been extremely belligerent and aggressive against Iran for decades. The U.S., Israel, and Iran are all in election year as well, which increases the saber-rattling on all sides.
Given American frustration with the economy, multiple wars already on its plate, and a fiscal mess on its hands, a war with Iran is the last thing the U.S. needs. But if war is avoided, it will be thanks to cooler heads prevailing in Washington despite a dangerously compliant and propaganda parroting press.