Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lousy news


Three Iranian-Americans, including academic Haleh Esfandiari, were charged with endangering national security and espionage, Iran’s judiciary spokesman said yesterday.

This is very alarming. It’s also not at all a surprise, considering how easily they got off kidnapping British Royal Marines and sailors back in March.

Now, you’d think that Americans taken into captivity by Iran would touch a nerve, considering the history. You’d think this would be front page news. You’d think that a paper would bump a human interest story about middle schoolers campaigning for the Statue of Liberty to be named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. And then you’d find the human interest story front page, over the fold, in today’s Newark Star-Ledger, and a small blurb about Esfandiari directing you to page six. (That beats CNN, which didn't have the story anywhere on its front page OR it's World Page as of 12:18 pm.)

Lady Liberty, were she asked, might prefer a story about actual people yearning to breathe free rather than a puff piece on her directly, but leave that aside for just a moment. The first thing I noticed about the blurb was the wording:

“Three Iranian-Americans, including academic Haleh Esfandiari, were charged with endangering national security and espionage, another example of…”

OK, so far it’s pretty much rip and read. I decided to write my own ending.

“…another example of the hard-line government’s crackdown on academic and political freedoms.”
“…another example of the increasing campaign against freedom of information in Iran.”
“…another example of Iran’s strong-arm tactics to intimidate and provoke the West.”

The last is a little slanted, I think. But it at least has the virtue of being, you know, true and factual. The actual ending chosen by the Star-Ledger copy desk keeps the slant rather than the truth.

…another example of Iran’s accusations that America is trying to use internal critics to destabilize the government.

It's not on the AP story as quoted by CBS news in the link above, which makes me think that somebody noticed, complained, and got subsequent releases changed. The original demonstrated the Mirror Principle – a term I use to describe the tendency of some to accuse others of the precise thing they themselves do, or would do in the same circumstance. For example, the media make this accusation of America all the time – they have inculcated that much mistrust of our own country’s motives in everything. In the end, anything that happens – even the open kidnapping of our citizens abroad – sounds, to them, like nothing more than a rebuke to our nation, a rebuke they hear all day long in their heads.

(Occasionally that rebuke leaks out. From page seven, a AP story titled “Sheehan gives up her battle” – “In what she described as a ‘resignation letter,’ Sheehan wrote in her online diary on the Daily Kos blog: “Good-bye America … you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.’”

Awfully big of her to finally admit that she doesn’t love her country. I won’t question her patriotism, but I do feel the need to question what nation, exactly, she’s patriotic for.)

Chris Muir must get tired of being right sometimes.

So, this is how Iran accuses American citizens of being harsh criti uhm, "spies":

The 67-year old Esfandiari has for years brought prominent Iranians to Washington to talk about the political situation in Iran, some of whom have been subsequently detained and questioned at home … Esfandiari had been trapped in Iran since visiting her 93-year old mother in December, when three masked men with knives stole her luggage and passport as she headed to the airport to leave, the Wilson Center said. In the weeks before her arrest, she was called in for questioning daily.

Darn those destabilizing critics! (It is immaterial that they have valid criticism.)

This is old hat to the mullahs. I took a screen cap as well, in case the story goes away (it’s from 2004), but the latest act of war really shouldn't be surprising. And, in another wonderful example of the rebuke leaking out, the small “get video” blurb on the right side is captioned as follows: “Nearly half of the Iranian parliament is critical of general elections proceeding despite the belief that they will not be free or fair.”

[Update: as Joel said in the comments, I seem to have misplaced a comma. My fault. I'm letting the italicized stand but moving it over to the Syrians, where it more properly belongs. Apologies. -NF]

Meanwhile, next door in the paper and the Middle East: Assad got 97% of the vote just yesterday in Syria, running unopposed. It's illegal to form an opposition party to the Baath ruling party, unless they agree with the Baathists, a fine example of orderly democracy in action. Yeah, I know they’re rigged the way Allah intended, but somehow, Moqtada, I’m not sure about this. Are they still too free? What if we only get 96% of the vote? Will Jimmy Carter give his blessing?

Together, these fine folks have been destabilizing Lebanon (and now Iraq) for years, with something a little more pointed than criticism. They'd destabilize Israel permanently given the opportunity. And the stability of the tomb and the well-ordered prison isn't generally what most free people are hoping for.

Don't forget Ms. Esfandiari, or Kian Tajbakhsh, or Parnaz Azima.

No comments: