Western Media’s Flawed Coverage of the Iran Protests

Personally, I’m not one to write willy-nilly.  Few are the things that would give me the needed drive for writing, and upon seeing the goings-on of Iran in the past few days, and how Western mainstream media has dealt with it, I felt a sudden urge to pick up a pen – as it were – to set the record straight.

Yes, Iran is suffering from inflation, and life is getting more expensive. It would be futile and self-discrediting to launch into an Ad Hominem rant here. To make things short and to the point, the reasons behind these economic issues have little to do with the “collapse of the Islamic Republic”; yes, I realize this is the bedtime wish of many a liberal and opportunist, but wishing hard for it doesn’t make it true. The reason is actually more down-to-earth: bad economic and internal policies.

Many people want answers and are expecting them, but that is because they expect that some officials will be held accountable as a result. That is to say, completely unlike many of Iran’s neighboring countries (many of which curiously support Iran’s protests in taking a violent turn), whose peoples have been so demoralized as to perceive any attempt at demonstration to be futile (or deadly, depending on the country), officials are expected to be put on trial by the end of this mess.

It seems very curious to me that most social media activity calling for protests, violence, destruction of public property, and attacks on military institutions come from abroad, and from Arab countries (Persian Gulf countries specifically). That is not to say that the protests against the economic situation are unwarranted, lest I be misunderstood; they are perfectly legitimate, and are in fact encouraged. To be more to the point, it is at these protests that calls against the instigators of violence and murder are repeated, at which they are called anarchists by both principlists and reformists.

The problem is not so much about the protests, as Western mainstream media attempts to frame it, but is in fact about the actions of the protestors. It would be good to note that the 2009 protests were different: the protestors were mainly upper middle class citizens, the rich, university students…This time however the protestors are mostly from lower middle class and poor families. These people are in no way organized; however, one person infiltrating a group of twenty can make them follow in his footsteps by taking the initiative, committing arson, destroying public property, and injuring bystanders, with coordination taking place through social media platforms such as Telegram.

The non-compliance of social media platforms with requests by the Iranian government to shut down some channels calling for violence is yet another problem.

Ah, yes. The evil Iranian regime yet again deprives its citizens of freedom, putting its villainous black cowl on, laughing ominously as it backs away into the dark of night.

It never ceases to amaze me how Orientalism is so deeply rooted in the mind of so many. When the Iranian government does the aforementioned, it’s blocking social media, and apparently causing deep unrest within the White House, causing Trump deep concern as he keeps a close eye on developments, awaiting for the slightest piece of good news that would serve to put him at ease. Also, in case it slips your minds, tens of millions of people in the US meanwhile live below the poverty line, and Occupy Wall Street protestors were dragged to jail not a few years ago.

When other governments (Yes, Western governments) block social media platforms or seek to control them, it is their God-given right, it is censorship, and apparently it is also humane; has it been that long since the London riots? Telegram, as of yet, has closed down one of these channels, the infamous Amadnews, known for operating from abroad, for inciting violence, teaching protestors how to make Molotov cocktails, and inciting them to attack military and police facilities. Amadnews has since then popped up as Sedaiemardom, and continuing the same activities uninhibited. The Iranian government made the decision to temporarily filter Telegram and other similar platforms after they proved to be non-compliant with requests to block the channels calling for violent protests.

Of course, one more intriguing piece of information, is the list of the main supporters of the violent protests that have taken place over the past few days: The United States and Israel, who have always been clear in their animosity towards the Islamic Republic, Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince (and de facto king) Mohammad bin Salman, had threatened to take “the battle” inside Iran, and the Mujahedin-e Khalq, who have openly admitted to murdering thousands of Iranians whom they call regime sympathizers. That’s not to say that they directly have a hand in the violence, but wasn’t the Islamic Republic chided time and time again by these same people, saying that they do not represent the people of Iran whenever they held elections? But now, five people taking to the streets to light a dumpster on fire is this great awakening they have been waiting for?

Western media itself, is of course, not inciting violence. That is not their MO. But any well-informed person can feel free to follow BBC Persia, VOA, and you can even follow any English-speaking mainstream media outlet and you’ll see that coverage of these demonstrations only helps fuel tension. There is much to say on the origin of the economic problems the country is dealing with, but the media’s coverage only helps aggravate the situation, and innocent people will naturally suffer for it.

Karim Sharara

Karim Sharara is a freelance writer.