Tuesday, September 25, 2007

U.S. media in a tizzy about Ahmadinejad

Yesterday morning in The New York Times, I read U.S. Focus on Ahmadinejad Puzzles Iranians. When I went online in the evening, I was stunned by the number of articles and posts about the Iranian president’s appearance in the US and speech at Columbia University.

The mainstream media: The Washington Post article, Ahmadinejad Met with Protests, Criticism at Columbia University, where Ahmadinejad defended his human rights record in the face of withering questions and a jeering audience. “Pressed about the Holocaust, he said at one point, ‘I'm not saying that it didn't happen at all.’ Rather, he said, he is asking ‘what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?’”

The New York Times article, Facing Scorn, President of Iran is Defiant to His Critics, reported Ahmadinejad’s comment, “'If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and are testing them already, who are you to question other people who just want nuclear power....?'"

Both posts are well worth reading.

While the mainstream media is focusing on Ahmadinejad, where was the news about the climate change session going on now at the U.N? According to Sameer Lalwani, reporting from the UN on behalf of The Washington Note (TWN)* Ahmadinejad Steals The Show.

Lalwani laments, “This underscores the difficulties the climate change debate has encountered time and again -- how do we raise the spectre of global climate change to the level of imminence, and in turn, raise the political salience? ...[E]ven those who are willing to acknowledge the climate threat are not convinced it trumps more imminent threats like blowback from the Iraq war, the next terrorist attack on US soil, or possible Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. Hence the reason Ahmadinejad stole Ban Ki Moon's news cycle.

“When the job of the President and this Congress is increasingly driven by crises rather than long-term planning to meet emerging challenges -- especially the greatest collective action problem perhaps the world has ever known -- it would take someone fiercely determined like former Vice President Al Gore (who thundered away at the UN today in his call to arms against climate change) to manage crises without allowing the total usurpation of a long-term agenda.”

Back to the puzzled Iranians. According to The New York Times article, “Political analysts here say they are surprised at the degree to which the West focuses on their president, saying that it reflects a general misunderstanding of their system.

“Unlike in the United States, in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, whose role combines civil and religious authority. At the moment, this president’s power comes from two sources, they say: the unqualified support of the supreme leader, and the international condemnation he manages to generate when he speaks up….

“In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts.”

*[update: two TWN posts about Iran added last night]

(caricature of Ahmadinejad – Cox and Forkum)

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