Just back from Berlin, where I spoke at News Xchange -- the world's largest international broacast news industry event. Highlight of the event was the "Iran: Here we go again" discussion. Panelists included ABC newscaster Martha Radditch, documentary film polemicist Robert Greenwald, British broadcaster Jon Snow, Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan and Michael Ledeen from the neo-con American Enterprise Institute.
Here, indeed, we go again. Most of the panelists conformed to depressingly predictable stereotypes. Greenwald was suitably enraged by Bush's foreign policy and predictably spun Iran as Iraq 2.0. Ledeen's ahistorical outrage was reversed -- he seethed about Iran as version 2.0 of Nazi Germany. ABC's Raddatz reminded us how many times she'd been to Iraq, flicked her hair back and, surprise surprise, said nothing of any real significance about Iran. The Iranian blogger, meanwhile, had a long (and predictably selective) memory -- using the New York Times' antipathy to Mossadeq in 1953 as proof of all American media's bias against all things Iranian.
Fortunately, there was nothing stereotypical about what Jon Snow had to say. The British broadcaster made the argument that "one of the greatest responsibilities to humanity" is to report Iran accurately. That means Iran today -- not the Iran of Mossadeq nor the Shah nor Khamenei nor Khatami. Contemporary Iran, Snow reminded us, is frustratingly complex and opaque. He stressed that we are not doing a good enough job making sense of it. One reason is because our television networks aren't investing sufficient resources in the country. We need a lot of accountable, experienced television journalists like Snow covering Iran. We need to understand the country's structures of political and economic power, its youth, the nuclear issue, the relationship between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, and the real power of the Revolutionary Guards.
Exactly. Iran isn't like Iraq in any meaningful sense. The American invasion of Iraq was and continues to be both a tragedy and farce for the Iraqi people, but this war doesn't have the utterly catastrophic global consequences of an American invasion of Iran. Jon Snow's message is correct. One of the greatest responsibilities to humanity is to educate the western public about Iran. The country is neither Iraq nor Nazi Germany nor Syria nor the Lebanon. Iran is Iran. All the major tv networks should have full time correspondents in Tehran. We need to be educated on a nightly basis about Iran. That is media's moral responsibility. Can we deliver before its too late?