Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why Them?

I'm really starting to hate the color green.

It's been ubiquitous in the recent news coverage of the protests in Iran. Green scarfs, shirts, posters and more seem to be popping up all over that country. Don't you just love color-coded revolutions?

As I listened to a loop of CNN the other day all I heard was people talking about Iran and the oppression the people there are railing against. Let me be clear, it's obvious that things in Iran aren't hunky-dory. Clearly, folks are being denied rights in that country.

But, I'm starting to wonder why we care so much about what's going on there. Why is it so important to us to document their elections and protests of those elections? Is the U.S. media actually driving these protests by paying so much attention to what's happening?

I mean, where the hell are the Chinese people?

"Big Man, why are you asking about Chinese people? What do Chinese people have to do with human suffering in Iran?"

Let's see. Everybody is all pissy cause folks in Iran want better treatment and the Iranian government is like "Later for that losers." We're covering these protests non-stop because a democratic and free Iran is crucial to the world, right?

Well when was the last time they had free elections in China? Hell, the people in China can't even use regular Google. They have to use some modified Google that doesn't allow certain topics to pop up. Yet, we buy all our goods from China, we borrow money from them, and we just had the Olympics in CHINA.

China recently refused to allow protests and marches to commemorate the anniversary of the incident in Tiananmen Square. Officials there just arrested people on sight if they even seemed like they were considering a protest that day. In fact, officials were rounding up people beforehand who might possibly protest. And in Iran, we're killing them for their response to what most folks agree are protests that have taken a turn towards armed resistance in some cases.

Hypocritical much?

It seems like China can regulary abuse the human rights of it's citizens and we pretend like it's not our concern. We might make some comments about how that's not going to fly, but then we keep on chilling with them and allowing them full inclusion into the world community. Yet, we expect Iran to make immediate changes, or face our wrath.

Why are people so invested in what's going on Iran, but so laissez-faire about what's going on in China? Why is it such a big deal that Iran's secret police are killing dissenters, when we know for a fact that the Chinese secret police make people disappear like it ain't nothing?

See, that's the type of BS that works my nerve. I hate when the public is duped into viewing issues in simplistic, black and white terms. Yes, Iran has issues, but their situation is complicated and pretending it's cut and dry and easy to understand is damn near criminal. It's not simply the good protesters versus the evil government. It's not just the media showing us what's happening in the world.

Mainstream media sources sucketh at digging into foreign affairs and providing the public with a nuances view of what's happening. All too quickly coverage devolves into a recap of the same talking points. The media is a sucker for clashes with the police and brash shows of defiance, but when it comes to documenting the "quiet injustices" that dominate true totalitarian regimes, well they fall woefully short.

Things are presented in certain ways for a reason. America does not eff with Iran. So, when something cracks over there, we are all over it. None of the American media was covering protests in Pakistan when Musharraf was president with the same fervor. We saw the same sort of coverage when Hugo Chavez was having some trouble with his election. It's why we're fed a steady stream of stories about people who hate Fidel.

The media is invested in certain storylines and they feed those memes to the public with the hope of swaying public opinion. It pisses me off to no end that some folks just swallow this crap without any thought for why it might not be reality. I was out eating with some family members and they started talking about Iran and I had to bite my tongue to keep from lambasting them for regurgitating the media spiel.

The question we need to ask is why are certain injustices important and other ones no big deal? Why do we care that some leaders are corrupt, insensitive dictators, while we don't really care about others? What are the ulterior motives of this country and what are the ulterior motives of the media covering events?

Think about it.



Lisa J said...

You hit the nail on the head. This whole thing has been bugging me and I wasn't sure why and you articulated it perfectly. Plus the fact that I'd heard this other dude has been PM before and hadn't done much in the way of reform so that made me a wee skeptical. It is interesting as you say, how certain dictatorships and human rights abuses we jump all over and the ones we ignore, or help to cause covertly. Like how Saddam was our buddy back in the day, and how when the Iranians picked someone who they wanted democratically we overthrew them and put the Shah in place, or even how in Chile we helped Pinochet overthrow Allende and put a brutal regime in place. We are very hypocritical as a nation, or at least our governement is, when it comes to true democracy in other countries.

Big Man said...



Deacon Blue said...

We care insofar as it impacts our pocketbooks. Challenging China would impact our pocketbooks negatively in a huge way. But with oil concerns riding higher than ever, the U.S. wants to keep its foot in the Middle East and not have anyone there who will cause us troubles. Chinese people being held back is OK, because it's a kind of social slavery that benefits us. The media, sadly, buys into the same communal mindset that most of us do, which is "don't mess with our financial security." So, they follow many times the path our government wants them to, not because of coercion but because of simple human greed and laziness.

And yes, I'm guilty of that laziness too. Lord knows I've bought plenty of items made in China. Not that ceasing to buy them would likely improve the lot of the Chinese people either, I suspect.

Of course, folks care even less about Africa. Stability or instability there matters very little, because the U.S. doesn't want what anybody has there, and doesn't have anything to try to hold onto there...

Imhotep said...

Well Big Man we can't say chit to China. They are our line of credit, and they finance our very existence, so we need to control our rhetoric about their human rights violation. Do they even have elections in China? No! Almost as important as them fronting us some dough, they have a billion people, to us, that an untapped market for our goods.

Also notice we don't say crap about the Israelis and their atrocities against the People of Palestine. And we never bother them about nuclear inspections, and they have the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the region.

Iran is different. We don't owe them any money, we're not dependent on their oil. And we need to make them the bad guys, so that down the road we can justify the Israelis air force flying in and taking out an Iranian nuclear facility.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying what I have been thinking for the last week. Lets be real bad stuff happens in China, but they own us fair and square so we say squat.

I only wish the average American's memory was longer than a 24 hour news cycle, but most folks minds don't go back to our history with Iran.

Mr. Noface said...

"The question we need to ask is why are certain injustices important and other ones no big deal? Why do we care that some leaders are corrupt, insensitive dictators, while we don't really care about others? What are the ulterior motives of this country and what are the ulterior motives of the media covering events?"

The answer to your questions is Self Interest, plain and simple. All nations engage with the rest of the world (to varying degrees) based from the perspective of Self Interest (national interests). It has been that way since the dawn of civilizations and the often changing landscape of International Relations, will not change that. This is why no one messes with China, Darfur goes unnoticed, Saudi Arabia gets a free pass with us, etc. The only reason that we are so focused on Iran and North Korea is the nuclear problem. We fear that the former wants to make nukes and we know the latter has nukes. Nukes have an affect on our Self Interest, thus we care. So protests in Iran in regards to the presidential elections get major coverage, while the fraudulent elections in say….Zimbabwe register hardly a blip on our radar. Self Interest!

Lisa J said...

I'll agree that it is self-interest, but the galling part is that we always couch our intervention in certain situtations as being so noble and high-minded. We like to say we are spreading democracy, and freeing people from their horrible leaders. The President, and the Congress know that is true but the scary thing is that some of our fellow countrymen and women buy these lies hook line and sinker. So of course, America and certain other Western powers always come off smelling like a rose when we do our share of ish in the world. It is the hypocracy that bothers me and the meta-narratives it allows us to tell ourselves about our nation and how "good" we are always no matter the situation.

older_not_wiser said...

I think you're reading too much conspiracy into the coverage of Iran's political turmoil. Like our news media have any real agenda beyond grabbing eyeballs or selling papers.... Some of you may be too young to remember the coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and their bloody suppression, but it was, if anything, more ubiquitous and breathless than that for Iran. 10 years on, no one cares about repression in China because the Chinese themselves don't.

Another thing that gins up the excitement/newsworthiness of the protests in Iran is that it truly marks a watershed in the triumph of technology over authoritarianism. The traditional media have been quite effectively muzzled by the Iranian government, but cell phone cameras, texting and Twitter have proved harder to control.

Raving Black Lunatic