There have been numerous reports in the U.S. media about how the press in Iran aggressively challenged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his recent address in which he challenged President Bush to a debate over Iran’s nuclear program. For example, the New York Times ran a lauditory piece on August 30, entitled, "Iranian reporters challenge president — He talks of defying U.S., sanctions; they ask about economy." This piece describes a "marathon question-and-answer session" in which the reporters challenged the President to answer questions about rising inflation, about the government’s subsidizing of the rich through gas subsidies, their President’s failed economic policies and even about Iran’s suppression of a free press. Apparently, this questioning became unruly, with some reporters, "jumping from their seats demanding that their questions be taken." The Times and other news outlets rightly praised these reporters for taking on their President even as he was giving a speech intended to rally national unity and regional support for his government.
Of course, the U.S. media’s praise of the Iranian press for such actions only highlights the very failure of our own press to challenge the U.S. President on such issues. I can’t remember the last time our press subjected President Bush to a "marathon question-and-answer session" over anything. And, just as the Iranian President is being appropriately challenged for ignoring the economic plight of his people as he trumpets Iran’s nuclear program, so should Bush be challenged for focusing his energies, attention and the U.S.’s resources (hundreds of billions of dollars and counting) on a failed war in Iraq. Indeed, at the very time the U.S. press was gleefully writing about the bravery of journalists in Iran who dared attack their own president, the U.S. Census Bureau released its bleak economic statistics, showing that 1 in 8 Americans, and 1 in 4 African Americans, lives in poverty in this, the world’s richest nation. Yet, this fact was given barely a mention in the U.S. press, and certainly did not become the cause of a press assault on President Bush, as he focuses the media’s attention on his alleged successes in Iraq and his desire to take on Iran next.
Indeed, the press in this country, far from taking on President Bush, continues to pave the way for future wars in the Middle East, just as it aided and abetted Bush in his rush to war in Iraq by repeating, with little or no challenge, his wild claims of weapons of mass destruction. Thus, not a day goes by without major press stories about the "defiance" of Iran which dares to continue its nuclear program (which it claims is for peaceful purposes) and the claims of the Administration — which the media leaves unquestioned and unchallenged — that this program must be stopped by any means necessary, including targeted air strikes. Meanwhile, stories about the increasing economic misery of people in this country, caused largely by this government’s disproprotionate allocation of our resources to military rather than to societal purposes, go underreported if they are reported at all.
The juxtaposition of this situation with the bravery of the press in Iran, which risks much more direct repression from the government for its independence than the press in this country, only highlights the cowardice and obsequiousness of our own press. Yet, irony apparently being a lost sense in this country, the U.S. press blathers on about the heroic Iranian press while failing to see its own feebleness and banality.
Dan Kovalik is a labor and human rights lawyer living in Pittsburgh, and blogs at www.dankovalik.com <http://www.dankovalik.com>