Having failed to successfully prosecute its totally bogus ‘nuclear malfeasance’ case against Iran, Washington has now launched round two in its propaganda blitzkrieg of the beleaguered nation.
And, as per usual, the Western corporate media have signed on to the new project with all the enthusiasm and passion that accords so perfectly with their total and abject abasement before, and prostitution of, the ostensible principles of their craft, i.e. the ferreting out of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
In fact, it is a mistake to posit any essential differentiation between state and media propaganda. They are merely facets of one hegemonic whole. It is also a mistake to think that such propaganda has anything at all to do with the spirit of democracy. As Jacques Elull long ago pointed out in his classic work on the subject, propaganda is always totalitarian both in its means and its ends.
Astute observers of international electoral politics will have already deduced the one overriding dictum governing Washington’s adjudication of foreign elections. To wit, if the results support pro-US candidates they are deemed ‘democratic’, otherwise they are automatically demonized as ‘fraudulent’. Examples abound.
In Mexico in July of 2006, for instance, the right-wing candidate for president, Philipe Calderon, purportedly beat his leftist opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez, by less than six tenths of one percent of the national vote. Allegations of widespread vote tampering and fraud ignited mass protests – none of which elicited more than a yawn from the ‘free press’, let alone the sort of orchestrated mass media campaign now being directed at Iran. In addition, the 2006, seven month mass rebellion in the Mexican state of Oaxaca against the ruling oligarchy and its brutal provincial tyrant was similarly ignored by the Western mass media – as was the brutal, murderous final ‘solution’ to the crisis.
Indeed, amongst the Western ‘democracies’ class interests are yet another prime determinant of foreign electoral ‘legitimacy’. (We’ll see this factor highlighted in a moment when we come to the recent vote in Iran).
On the other side of the coin are those elections which, though entirely legitimate, are won by the ‘wrong’ side and so, according to the usual Western standards of fairness and democracy, are judged to be ‘terrorist’ states. A text book case of the latter is Hamas’ election in Palestine in January of 2006. The ensuing media propaganda blitz against Hamas was followed up, successively, by a vicious campaign of economic destabilization and military subversion, punctuated by the 2008 / 09 Israeli attack and slaughter in Gaza.
The popular elections of Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia and Correa in Ecuador represent further examples of overwhelmingly popularly elected figures who are then demonized by the West as being ‘dictators’ and ‘tyrants’, and whose ‘regimes’ then become, ipso facto, part of Washington’s list of states ‘sponsoring terrorism’. A standard formula, so to speak.
Then there are the cases where the poor and dispossessed – i.e. the vast majority of the global population – win an election, only to have their government (if it is too weak to resist) deposed at the barrel of a foreign gun. So was the fledgling democracy in Haiti under Jean-Bertrand Aristide snuffed out by US, French, and Canadian-backed comprador forces in Feb. of 2004.
Still, and in keeping with the technological advances of modernity, many recent coups in the ‘New World Order’ are waged not just by the CIA and the Pentagon alone, but are abetted to boot by a whole host of ostensibly civil society organizations including Western NGOs, elite business groups, ‘news’ services, private ‘philanthropists’ (like George Soros), IMF and World Bank flaks, CIA and Pentagon-backed ‘foundations’ (e.g. the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the Agency for International Development), etc.
These descend upon the target countries like so many Trojan viruses entering the national body politic. Doling out money, ‘colour’ arm-bands, the latest in spiffy new electronic devices (especially communication devices designed to link them to the Western propaganda network) – and, most importantly, fairy-tales about what they can expect from Western-style capitalism – these fifth column agents then set about winning the hearts and minds of the secularized, westernized, upper class business and professional elites who, as always, are ever ready to sell out their own (majority) poor population for a few silver shekels thrown them by the Empire.
Examples of the latter include Nicaragua and El Salvador (in the 1980s), Bulgaria and Albania (in the ’90s), Yugoslavia (in 2000), Georgia (the 2003 ‘Rose’ revolution), Ukraine (the 2004 ‘Orange’ revolution) and Kyrgyzstan’s 2005 ‘Tulip’ revolution.
In each and every case foreign fifth column elements united with naïve (if largely privileged) domestic groups to foster the overthrow of ostensibly ‘authoritarian’ regimes. The countries in question were then handed over lock, stock and barrel to Western capitalists and kleptocratic domestic elites. The results (as in Eastern Europe and Russia) have, as often as not, led to the immiseration and deaths of millions.
With this brief contextual survey, let us now turn to the case at hand.
Iran: The ‘Stolen Election’*
What is immediately noteworthy about the West’s condemnation of the electoral results of the June 12 election is just how flimsy are the critiques. Thus, not a shred of evidence has been proffered either inside or outside the country to substantiate widespread electoral fraud. Indeed, up until the results were announced, no one, either in the West or within Iran itself, saw fit to point to any problems or even potential problems with the electoral process. Moreover, several polls conducted by Western experts just prior to the 12th clearly indicated that President Mahmood Ahmadinejad was leading his opponent, Hossein Mousavi, by a 2 to 1 margin.
In addition, and despite the wish-fulfillment fantasies of the Western media, there was no reason to suspect that either the polls or the results themselves were reflective of anything other than the facts on the ground of present-day Iranian politics. And the facts are that while Mousavi enjoyed widespread support from Iran’s middle and upper class university-student population, and from Iran’s business and professional classes, these groups make up only about a third of the nation. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, drew support from the much more numerous rural and urban poor, and public sector workers. It is the former (especially the students) who, due to their concentrations in the urban centers – and their freedom from the necessities of daily work – have composed the majority of those demonstrating against the election results. The split in the vote, 63% for Ahmadinejad and 34% for Mousavi, merely represents, then, the well-documented and readily comprehensible relative backing that each candidate enjoyed with respect to the total electoral population.
Furthermore, to claim, as the opposition has (without, however, providing any substantive evidence) that widespread electoral fraud was committed is to fly in the face of what we know of the Iranian political establishment. Thus, the latter is heavily fractionated and multi-polar. Indeed, Ahmadinejad, by his repeated criticisms of the corruption amongst Iran’s ruling elites, has caused considerable discomfort amongst these groups, many of whom adamantly oppose him. To suggest, then, that vote tampering occurred at the higher, vote-tabulating levels (the only levels capable of hypothetically rigging the approximately 10 million vote differential) is to posit that Ahmadinejad, on the eve of the election, had somehow managed to magically commandeer all key sectors of the Iranian state apparatus. There is, of course, no evidence of this at all.
This is not to rule out the possibility of fraud on a lower level, but what little Mousavi & Co. have proffered as evidence of even this has amounted to such things as, the running out of ballots in some precincts, or the ‘fact’ that voting booths failed to stay open long enough (even though many voting stations stayed open a full three hours later than the officially sanctioned closing time). Even these ‘irregularities’ were in large part due to the extremely high voter turnout of over 80%, a figure, it is worth noting, that puts to shame similar elections in Western so-called democracies (where the issues are so pre-determined by the same small elite that routinely less than half the population feels it worth exercising their ‘franchise’).
In fact, the high voter turnout reflected the hotly contested nature of the election and the importance of the issues being decided. Mousavi represented a call for more privatization and more purely Westernized, free-market, capitalist social relations, whilst Ahmadinejad’s social welfare and redistributive policies spoke to the concerns of the nation’s working, rural and lower classes. These class differences can be seen at work in areas where Mousavi was ‘expected’ to win (on account of their being Azeri speaking – Mousavi’s native tongue). Thus, Mousavi won the upper class urban vote in these regions whilst Ahmadinejad won the rural and working class suburban vote. Moreover, it was Ahmadinejad who came out a clear winner in the nationally televised debates, a fact conveniently ignored by the Western media.
If, indeed, there can be said to be some sort of fraud or electoral coup transpiring, such a charge can be more properly laid at the door of Mousavi and his supporters who, by refusing to abide by the wishes of the majority, have simply taken to the streets in hopes of overturning (with the help of the Western media) an electoral vote not to their liking.
In truth, evidence that such a real coup was in the works came when, even before the results were announced, Mousavi presumptively declared himself the winner. One only sports this sort of arrogance if one has no intention of abiding by what the majority is likely to say. In fact, in crowning himself winner before the results were even in, Mousavi was merely riding on the coat-tails of Western propaganda which had also already ‘cast its vote’.
The game is clear: since the West has already chosen the winner, any other result must be ‘fraud’. Once again, the standard formula.
The Many Uses of Hypocrisy
None of the foregoing is to argue that Iran is some perfect democracy or is not overdue for some significant cultural and religious liberalization. But to then argue that those who lost the election have the right – just because they represent a relatively privileged sector of the population – to ignore the wishes of the majority in a fair contest is simply disingenuous.
Moreover, there is something disturbingly naïve about the Iranian protestors. Do those who are now angling so breathlessly for the support of the Western media realize that only a few short weeks ago it was this same media and its state pundits who were calling for nuclear strikes on Iran!? Strikes which would have killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of these same protestors? Do they not realize that this plan is still sitting on the Pentagon shelf or that Washington’s one and only concern is to overthrow the 1979 revolution and take control of the country again?
Finally – and quite apart from the total hypocrisy issuing from a ‘free press’ that uttered barely a murmur when the 2000 US Presidential election was patently stolen, or when the Battle in Seattle protestors were beaten and terrorized into submission – the expression by Western ‘opinion makers’ of such faux concern for the Iranian people is merely one side of a two sided propaganda coin. For the other side, the other target and, of course, the principal victim, is always us.
*See James Petras’ Iranian Elections: The ‘Stolen Election’s Hoax’ for a full analysis.