[Marxism] What US coverage omits about hikers released by Iran
ffeldman at verizon.net
Mon Sep 26 13:27:07 MDT 2011
MONDAY, SEP 26, 2011 10:27 ET
What media coverage omits about U.S. hikers released by Iran
By Glenn Greenwald
Two American hikers imprisoned for more than two years by Iran on
extremely dubious espionage charges and in highly oppressive conditions,
Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, were released last week and spoke
yesterday in Manhattan about their ordeal. Most establishment media
accounts in the U.S. have predictably exploited the emotions of the
drama as a means of bolstering the U.S.-is-Good/Iran-is-Evil narrative
which they reflexively spout. But far more revealing is what these
media accounts exclude, beginning with the important, insightful and
brave remarks from the released prisoners themselves (their full press
conference was broadcast this morning on Democracy Now).
Fattal began by recounting the horrible conditions of the prison in
which they were held, including being kept virtually all day in a tiny
cell alone and hearing other prisoners being beaten; he explained that,
of everything that was done to them, "solitary confinement was the worst
experience of all of our lives." Bauer then noted that they were
imprisoned due solely to what he called the "32 years of mutual
hostility between America and Iran," and said: "the irony is that [we]
oppose U.S. policies towards Iran which perpetuate this hostility."
After complaining that the two court sessions they attended were "total
shams" and that "we'd been held in almost total isolation - stripped of
our rights and freedoms," he explained:
In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards
would remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay; they'd
remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world; and conditions
that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S.
We do not believe that such human rights violation on the part of our
government justify what has been done to us: not for a moment. However,
we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an
excuse for other governments - including the government of Iran - to act
[Indeed, as harrowing and unjust as their imprisonment was, Bauer and
Fattal on some level are fortunate not to have ended up in the grips of
the American War on Terror detention system, where detainees remain for
many more years without even the pretense of due process -- still -- to
say nothing of the torture regime to which hundreds (at least) were
Fattal then expressed "great thanks to world leaders and individuals"
who worked for their release, including Hugo Chavez, the governments of
Turkey and Brazil, Sean Penn, Noam Chomsky, Mohammad Ali, Cindy Sheehan,
Desmond Tutu, as well as Muslims from around the world and "elements
within the Iranian government," as well as U.S. officials.
Unsurprisingly, one searches in vain for the inclusion of these facts
and remarks in American media accounts of their release and subsequent
press conference. Instead, typical is this ABC News story, which
featured tearful and celebratory reactions from their family, detailed
descriptions of their conditions and the pain and fear their family
endured, and melodramatic narratives about how their "long, grueling
imprisonment is over" after "781 days in Iran's most notorious prison."
This ABC News article on their press conference features many sentences
about Iran's oppressiveness -- "Hikers Return to the U.S.: 'We Were Held
Hostage'"; "we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten" --
with hardly any mention of the criticisms Fattal and Bauer voiced
regarding U.S. policy that provided the excuse for their mistreatment
and similar treatment which the U.S. doles out both in War on Terror
prisons around the world and even domestic prisons at home.
Their story deserves the attention it is getting, and Iran deserves the
criticism. But the first duty of the American "watchdog media" should
be highlighting the abuses of the U.S. Government, not those of other,
already-hated regimes on the other side of the world. Instead, the
abuses at home are routinely suppressed while those in the Hated Nations
are endlessly touted. There have been thousands of people released
after being held for years and years in U.S. detention despite having
done nothing wrong. Many were tortured, and many were kept imprisoned
despite U.S. government knowledge of their innocence. Have you ever
seen anything close to this level of media attention being devoted to
their plight, to hearing how America's lawless detention of them for
years -- often on a strange island, thousands of miles away from
everything they know -- and its systematic denial of any legal redress,
devastated their families and destroyed their lives?
This is a repeat of what happened with the obsessive American media
frenzy surrounding the arrest and imprisonment by Iran of
Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, convicted in a sham
proceeding of espionage, sentenced to eight years in prison, but then
ordered released by an Iranian appeals court after four months.
Saberi's case became a true cause célèbre among American journalists,
with large numbers of them flamboyantly denouncing Iran and demanding
But when their own government imprisoned numerous journalists for many
years without any charges of any kind -- Al Jazeera's Sami al-Haj in
Guantanamo, Associated Press' Bilal Hussein for more than two years in
Iraq, Reuters' photographer Ibrahim Jassan even after an Iraqi court
exonerated him, and literally dozens of other journalists without charge
-- it was very difficult to find any mention of their cases in American
What we find here yet again is that government-serving American
establish media outlets relish the opportunity to report negatively on
enemies and other adversaries of the U.S. government (that is the same
mindset that accounts for the predicable, trite condescension by the New
York Times toward the Wall Street protests, the same way they constantly
downplayed Iraq War protests). But to exactly the same extent that they
love depicting America's Enemies as Bad, they hate reporting facts that
make the U.S. Government look the same.
That's why Fattal and Bauer receive so much attention while victims of
America's ongoing lawless detention scheme are ignored. It's why media
stars bravely denounce the conditions of Iran's "notorious prison" while
ignoring America's own inhumane prison regime on both foreign and U.S.
soil. It's why imprisonment via sham trials in Iran stir such outrage
while due-process-free imprisonment (and assassinations) by the U.S.
stir so little. And it's why so many Americans know Roxana Saberi but
so few know Sami al-Haj.
An actual watchdog press is, first and foremost, eager to expose the
corruption and wrongdoing of their own government. By contrast, a
propaganda establishment press is eager to suppress that, and there is
no better way of doing so than by obsessing on the sins of nations on
the other side of the world while ignoring the ones at home. If only
establishment media outlets displayed a fraction of the bravery and
integrity of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who had a good excuse to focus
exclusively on Iran's sins but -- a mere few days after being released
from a horrible, unjust ordeal -- chose instead to present the full picture.
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