Treating Its Readers Like a Herd of Cattle

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Treating Its Readers Like a Herd of Cattle

On Monday, the Washington Post published a Q & A column from an interview conducted by Lally Weymouth with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Post editorialized that Ahmadinejad “said little during [this] lengthy interview … to dispel the impression that he is a hard-liner who intends to take his country in a different direction.”

I guess The Post believes that one is a _______ until he/she dispels the newspaper’s “impression.” It’s so kind of The Post to tell its readers what conclusion they should reach from an interview before they begin reading the interview in question.

Ahmadinejad may well be a hard-liner or at least someone with deplorable views on several fronts. But, after reading this interview, I must confess that there isn’t much (other than perhaps the last response) that sounds remotely hard-line. This is the first series of questions:
Q: The Bush administration has actually called Iran part of the "axis of evil." … The U.S. would like to see some changes in Iran.
We would like to see some changes occur in America.
Q: What changes?
For example, the approach and the kind of language that the American government use in their relations with other countries.
To an objective observer, Bush is the one who comes off sounding hard-line from those excerpts.

And does this exchange make Ahmadinejad sound like a radical?
Q: Many fear if U.S. troops withdraw (from Iraq), the result will be a civil war.
It can be done either by replacing those troops with U.N. troops, international troops or there can be a specific time frame for the withdrawal. I think the American government and the American Army should take upon itself many more responsibilities for the security in Iraq. The explosions and terrorist acts create a distinct feeling of insecurity among the people.
The premier of Iran welcomes a UN or other multinational force right next door? Not what you’d expect from an anti-Western hard-liner.

And what about this exchange:

Q: Iran put under house arrest two very prominent al Qaeda members. What is their status?
Al Qaeda is for sure an enemy of Iran. They killed 11 Iranian diplomats. We have always wished to uproot and destroy them. These are the most dangerous enemies for us ...
Ahmadinejad calls al Qaeda “an enemy of Iran.” If anything, that’s reassuring, not scary.

Okay, so let’s get to the thorniest U.S.-Iran issue:

Q: How do you dispel the impression that is prevalent in the U.S. that Iran is making a nuclear weapon?
Our religion prohibits us from having nuclear arms. Our religious leader has prohibited it from the point of view of religious law. It's a closed road.
It's quite possible that Ahmadinejad is lying. He wouldn’t be the first world leader to be guilty of that. But there’s nothing in this answer per se — contrary to The Post’s prejudicial statement — that is hard-line.

When Weymouth asks Ahmadinejad if he was one of the 1979 Iran hostage-takers, he says he was not, explaining that “the root causes” of this hostage crisis were “in the behavior of the American government since 1953 …”

How many readers understand to what the Iranian premier is referring? Sadly, probably only a handful. The year 1953 wasn’t simply the year that the Shah came to power in Iran, but it was the year that a military coup — led by the British and aided by the U.S. government — ousted a democratically elected government and opened the door for the Shah’s rise to power.

Oh, wait .... but that couldn't have happened. We're America, the great shining star of freedom that only seeks to encourage democracy abroad. How could I have forgotten?

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