A Biased Media – Us vs Them?

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The tragic attack in Nice on Thursday 14th of June, Bastille Day, is one of utter heartbreak. Currently, 84 citizens are dead including 10 children, with 202 more civilians injured. Already the Western world is provoked and sympathetic towards the situation in France, with landmarks such as the Palace of Westminster to be lit up in the French colours to show the British people’s solidarity with the French, and the growing rise of Facebook’s “flagtivism’. This notion of solidarity is something which should be praised, as it highlights humanitarian support.

However, it must be noted that there was a considerable lack of solidarity, flagtivism and landmarks draped in national colours when just as horrendous bomb attacks occurred in places such as Turkey and Iraq. The most recent terrorist attacks in Iraq similarly happened on a national holiday, Eid, and during the holy month of Ramadan. Yet where was the media coverage? The bombings in the capital of Iraq killed over 200 people two weeks ago, but on the media it seemed to be less important than the terrorist attacks that happen here in the West. When media coverage has a greater focus and emphasis on what happens in the West it almost seems to suggest that the deaths of Westerners are far more significant than the deaths of those in Middle Eastern countries.

This is not to say that the tragic deaths of those in Nice are less important than those in the Middle East — they were equally as shocking and devastating. The media now needs to combat such acts of cowardly terror through pushing aside ancient orientalist notions of Us vs Them, and truly take up the belief of “#AllLivesMatter” by reporting with equal concern of those closer to home as well as further away. The only way we can fight such attacks is we support each other in solidarity — ethnicities aside.

Wall Street Journal Opinion Piece Misrepresents Iran

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The Wall Street Journal (September 25-27, 2015)

Headline Reads: A Road Map to Regime Change in Tehran

In his Wall Street Journal début, Peter Kohanloo pushes for a neoconservative, hawkish policy towards Iran. In justifying his position, he misrepresents the history of Iranian relations with the US and the political system in Iran.

Kohanloo argues that there is ‘nothing in the Islamic Republic’s 36-year history’ which suggests that Iran will ‘moderate its behaviour’. One assumes that Kohanloo is referring to the taking of Western hostages and the attack on the American embassy in 1979. However, Iran under Khamanei is, and has been, very different from the immediate post-revolutionary period.

For example, in the 1990s, then-president Khatami appeared US news channel CNN to discuss the ‘new Iran’ and invited the US into dialogue. Immediately after the September 11th attacks, Iran offered assistance to the US in Afghanistan. The US and Iran have been linked conceptually in Iranian foreign policy, and since the death of Khomenei, there have been plenty of examples of Iran ‘moderating’ its behaviour. The crude assertion that Iran is some sort of rogue state ignores this Iranian outreach.

Kohanloo then argues that the US should base its intervention in Iran on upholding women’s rights. However, we should be wary of the lures of the “feminist weapon” which was originally used to justify intervention in Afghanistan. Western feminism often takes this approach in reference to countries whose own gender equality does not match its own. Of course, this is not to say that Iranian laws which prohibit the basic needs of women are not abhorrent. However,  recognisably-Western feminism is not be the only pillar of gender equality. Women’s rights derive from on-the-ground organisations and Kohanloo’s argument seems to disregard the efforts of the Iranian and Islamic feminist movements of today.

Finally, Kohanloo argues that the US can bring ‘true democracy’ to Iran. The 2009 ‘Green Revolution’ surely showed that Iranian civil society is lively and organic. The unrest was itself framed in democratic principles – neither Ahmadinejad nor Mousavi called for coups but rather fought battles of the ballot-box. There may well be some institutional corruption (the Green Movement started due to concerns of vote-rigging in the presidential election of the same year) but Iranians are active members of civil society. Moreover, the Green Movement situated itself in a long history of civil unrest stretching back to 1891 and the Tobacco Revolt. Kohanloo’s argument that Iran needs US assistance to ‘prepare a transition to true democracy’ ignores the millions of ordinary Iranians already fighting for it.

In conclusion, this article crudely puts forward a neo-conservative, hawkish view of Iran which shows remarkably little reference to Iranian history or politics.

Wall Street Journal’s Claim of Russian/Iranian/Syrian Coordination

The Wall Street Journal (September 22, 2015)

Headline reads: ‘Syria’s Allies Seen Coordinating’

In a wide-ranging article, Jay Solomon and Sam Dagher have charted behind-closed-doors meetings between senior members of the Russian, Syrian and Iranian governments. In particular, they claim that General Soleimani (of the Iranian Qods Force) flew to Moscow to meet with Russian officials earlier this year. This claim is directly rejected by the Russian government. Solomon and Dagher only justify their claim through reference to ‘U.S. and Europeans officials’. These anonymous officials do not constitute credible sources, and publishing an unverified claim does not clarify the complicated situation on the ground in Syria.

Wall Street Journal’s article on a new migrant rush

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Wall Street Journal (September 9, 2015)

Headline reads: “Migrant Wave Inspires Followers”

This front-page article on an impending fresh migrant wave by Nour Malas and Joe Parkinson centres on an unsourced claim. The article claims that “stories and images of migrants pouring into Europe are inspiring thousands more from Iraq to Nigeria, to rush out on their own risky journeys…” This claim is never backed by credible evidence throughout the article. Instead, the authors cite one Iraqi 27-year old in Baghdad International Airport heading off for Greece via Turkey with five friends as an example of the new wave of migrants from Iraq attempting to reach Europe.

Moreover, the alleged surge in migration from Nigeria to Europe is also only backed up by the quotes of one individual, in this case a Nigerian in a camp in northern Nigeria, wanting to make his way to Europe.

Of course, it could very well be true that there is a second rush of migrants coming to Europe from countries such as Iraq and Nigeria, but the claim so far is unsubstantiated. Quotes from single individuals on the ground, whilst valuable, are not credible enough for claims of a new migration surge.