Voluntary Amnesia in America

by NORMAN SOLOMON

Forget it!

That seems to be an unstated motto for American media coverage of the Iranian presidential election. The axiom comes down to: “Don’t let history get in the way of spin.”

Evasion smooths the way to the next war.

For maximum propaganda effect, the agenda-setting must be decoupled as much as possible from clear truths — about the current president’s mendacity in connection with Iraq, and about the record of U.S. government actions toward Iran.

While a seriously discredited President Bush strains to do damage control about his past lies and present machinations on Iraq, the U.S. media coverage typically presents his statements about Iran without so much as a whiff of suspicion. A proven liar is treated like a presumptive truth-teller.

The ambient noise of American media evokes history — distant or recent — as an option we may choose to decline, like mustard on a burger. We’re encouraged to mentally disconnect from relevant historic events. Double standards prevail.

Red-white-and-blue journalists don’t doubt that the past sins of Washington’s present-day foes are quite relevant today. So, it’s assumed to be incisive when reporters keep reminding news consumers that Saddam Hussein committed huge crimes such as mass killing of Kurds. But what about the fact that most of the worst of those crimes occurred while the United States was supportive of Hussein’s regime? That question gets short shrift.

Likewise — while American viewers, listeners and readers are apt to be aware that in 1979 some radical Iranians took American diplomats hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held them for more than a year — other historical facts tend to be hazy or entirely absent. That suits the White House just fine. From a Machiavellian standpoint, the best remedy for unpleasant historical facts — distant or recent — is silence about them.

For instance: Under diplomatic cover, U.S. intelligence operatives engineered a coup that brought down the democratically elected prime minister Muhammad Mussadiq in 1953 and installed the tyrannical Shah, who ruled with an iron and torturing hand until an Islamic revolution triumphed in early 1979. Iranians have ample reasons to be extremely wary of the U.S. government. Yet major American news media scarcely acknowledge that the CIA-organized 1953 coup was a pivotal and destructive event in Iranian history.

From afar, history is optional. But there’s a direct line from the 1953 coup to the predicament that Iranians find themselves in today. Washington installed a dictatorship that gave rise to a revolution that founded the repressive Islamic Republic of Iran. Now, under that regime, advocates for theocracy and democracy are in the midst of an intense struggle.

A week ago, on June 17, during Iran’s first round of voting for president, I visited a few polling stations in neighborhoods of southern Tehran. One of the people who agreed to be interviewed was a 27-year-old woman who gave her name as Leilah. She stood in line with other Iranian women (men had a separate line) waiting to get inside the school to cast their ballots. When I asked who she intended to vote for, Leilah said that she still might choose not to cast a ballot for any of the presidential candidates. “I don’t believe in any of them,” she said.

Her evident despair was rooted in history that cannot be understood without reference to the 1953 coup that jolted Iran off its democratic course.

While routinely omitting even a mere mention of such matters as U.S. support for the overthrow of a duly elected Iranian leader 52 years ago, American journalists — with few exceptions — have kept news coverage of Iran in a zone where history is always pliable. Now you see it, now you don’t. Under such conditions of skewed reporting, the deep suspicion that infuses Iranians’ views of the U.S. government is apt to seem inexplicable.

In contrast to claims from the Bush administration (and from avowedly liberal media sources like editorial writers at the New York Times), the Iranian presidential elections this month have included important elements of democratic participation. In recent weeks, Iranians have publicly and intensively debated Iran’s domestic policies, with very significant differences between the presidential contenders. While American journalists often seem to be suffering from selective amnesia in their reporting, many Iranians are acutely mindful of the need to understand their country’s real history and begin a more hopeful chapter.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the Bush administration is ramping up preparations for some kind of military attack on Iran. The assault could include a sustained series of missile strikes — but even a single day of bombing would have a wide range of grim effects, including severe damage to Iran’s fledgling human rights movement. Activists in the United States should work to avert such a catastrophe.

NORMAN SOLOMON’s new book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” became available this week. The book’s first chapter is posted at: www.WarMadeEasy.com



 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future