Tag Archives: Press

Iran: A Primer for CNN

IRAN ELECTIONcourtesy of Twitter. Thousands of users of the social networking site criticized CNN’s abysmal coverage of the protests in Iran on their Twitter feeds, so much so that the network was forced to respond.  Here’s an article about it from the NYT. CNN anchor Howard Kurtz defended the network by explaining that its coverage sucked less than the other networks.  +_+ Colour me unimpressed.

I don’t want to wax too euphoric about Twitter here, but it is certainly interesting that apparently neutral technologies can be deployed to register transnational protest.  Tweets are now coming in asking Twitter users to change the time and home listing on their accounts to Tehran in order to confuse the Iranian censors. Who says international solidarity is dead? It may only be episodic for now, but it makes one wonder what implications there are for a) modes of resistance and b) the configuration of the nation-state as younger generations learn to think of themselves as part of these networks which may themselves become more transnational.

Flash protests organized via Twitter are only the latest version of a common practice: using text messages to organize instantaneous protests. That method has been common in Iran, Pakistan, Palestine and well really, any place where cell phones have been cheaper and penetrated more deeply than the Internet. But CNN’s talking heads, with their usual astuteness, put it down to a copycat of the Obama campaign.

Right.  Our nationalisms are modular and now, even our potential revolutions are unoriginal. Dammit.

[Image: AP]

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Iran Roundup

FOLLOW IT:

Here are some sites for news and views from inside Iran:

Andrew Sullivan’s blog, Daily Dish over at the Atlantic has live updates with videos, Twitter feeds and SMS. There were attempts to hack the site earlier, but it appears to be working now. An anonymous Letter from Tehran at Salon. Also, see Juan Cole’s blogging here. TPM has a great photo slideshow of the protests. And read TomDispatch on the “Ir-Af-Pak War”.

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Chaos Theory: The Press on Pakistan

I’ve just published a media critique of Pakistan coverage by the American press:

Chaos Theory: How Pakistan was Cast as a Failed State Columbia Journalism Review 4.24.09

An excerpt:

Pakistan is on the clock. “A fast-expanding Islamic insurgency…threatens to devour the country,” wrote The New York Times this month. The 175 million-strong nation has been on deathwatch since at least February, when The Atlantic Council sounded the alarm that Pakistan was headed for turbulence within twelve months. Recently, General Petraeus’s advisor shortened the time frame to within six months. “We could see the collapse of the Pakistani state,” said David Kilcullen. “Al Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover—that would dwarf everything we’ve seen in the war on terror today.”

Tick tock. Boom.

It would be difficult to know from recent articles that Pakistanis scored a stunning mass-political victory only a few weeks ago. Instead, the press has been parroting Washington’s conventional wisdom on Pakistan as a country coming apart at the seams. There is no civil society here, only loons and goons that need to be bombed. The U.S. has based its actions on this decades-old story, and that has now helped produce the very realities Washington claims only to describe.

And shortly following my piece, it appears that other commentators have also noticed the breathless tone of the MSM with regard to Pakistan. Here are some:

  1. Commentary: Pakistan Isn’t Falling Peter Bergen, CNN 4.27.09
  2. Time Magazine’s “Reporting” on Pakistan Drone Attacks is Pentagon Propaganda Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports 4.29.09
  3. Pakistan Crisis and Social Statistics Juan Cole, Informed Comment 4.26.09


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Pakistan: A Primer for the New York Times

These are a couple of reminders for the paper of record:

  1. It’s the social forces, stupid.
  2. When writing editorials, making sense is a Good Thing.

Let’s start with the first. Here’s the lede to the NYT story announcing the reinstatement of the Chief Justice:

LAHORE, Pakistan — The Pakistani government agreed early on Monday to reinstate the independent-minded former chief justice of the Supreme Court, a stunning concession to the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who had been heading toward the capital in a convoy threatening to stage a mass protest over the issue after he broke free from house arrest at his residence near here.

This is just wrong. The concession was not to Nawaz Sharif; it was to the lawyers’ movement, you know, those thousands who have been marching in the streets defying government repression and getting their heads bashed in by the police.  Those people. The concession is to them. And while Nawaz Sharif and his party have been pushing for the reinstatement of the judiciary, the movement does not belong to them. They belong to the movement. The Sharif brothers know this. In fact, they’ve glommed on to the movement in a shrewd political manoeuvre to polish-up their tarnished image, and it’s a tenuous alliance.

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Policing the Press -Long March Day 2

Remember this? In a reprisal of Musharraf’s policies during Emergency Rule in 2007, Pres. Zardari has banned the largest news channel, GeoTV from major sections of Pakistan including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Multan. Following the ban, PPP Information Minister Sherry Rehman resigned from her government post.

Rehman had held a “a series of heated arguments” with other officials in the PPP, according to Dawn, but after failing to convince them against the ban, she resigned in protest.

A prominent member of the PPP, Rehman’s decision signals splits inside the PPP about how to tackle a vigorous press that has been openly critical of the government’s policies towards the Long March.

In fact, activists and politicians have relied on it during the recent crackdown. When police came to arrest lawyers’ leader Athar Minallah, he turned to the press for help. From Time:

“I locked myself in the car, and the police didn’t know how to get me,” he said. “So I called the television cameras who were only two minutes away. I began giving live interviews from the car, addressing the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, directly. After a while, Mr. Malik came down himself and shouted the police officers away.”

There may be institutional issues at several levels in Pakistan, but the press is working. “The media,” Open Society Institute’s Fawzia Naqvi told us, “has become the most trusted institution in Pakistan.” The statement was borne out in interviews with refugees from the NWFP and Fata who thanked the press for covering the dismal situation in their hometowns and exposing the damage caused by the US drone attacks, the Pakistani military and the Taliban.

Activists over at the popular listserve, Emergency List, have asked that people thank Rehman for her principled stance.  You can email her at:

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