Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Missing Space Tourist

What is missing from daily news coverage in the United States is often more important than what is in it, especially since the big news media are designed to be more opinion-forming than informative.

That is largely what this blog will be about: What is being omitted from the U.S. news reports that logically should be there? When you look at the jigsaw puzzle assembled for you by the TV news editors, why is there a piece conspicuously missing from the middle of the picture? What was the motive for leaving a hole in the picture? Who benefits from the omission? Who would have been displeased if the information had not been left out?

Here’s what might seem a harmless recent example, but I don’t think it’s trivial: The first female space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, is a very attractive and photogenic woman, a charming speaker, an American citizen, an inspiring example of a successful and wealthy entrepreneur. She provides all the ingredients of the ideal television personality: Beauty, brains, bravery, outer space, endearing chatter . . . what else would be needed to give her a prominent place on our glowing screens for days?

Oops. I forgot to mention one thing: She was born in Iran and is outspokenly proud of her Iranian heritage. Result: Almost no television appearances in the U.S. as far as I know; almost no mention of her in prime time. I was able to see some video of her while she was in Russia before and after her stay at the International Space Station, and the NASA Channel was some help, but there was certainly no television equivalent of a ticker tape parade when she got back home. Almost total blackout.

Add the fact that before her space trip she was forced by unnamed Americans to remove the Iranian flag from her space suit and leave only the American flag, and the pattern is painfully clear. (Someone asked, “Would that have happened if that had been an Israeli flag?”) Anousheh Ansari was an embarrassment to persons who were powerful enough to exercise censorship in the U.S.. President Bush had placed her birth country on his “Axis of Evil” list and was trying to prevent Iran from developing civilian nuclear power plants such as exist in other countries around the world. Israeli leaders growled frequent threats to commit aggression against Iran by bombing her nuclear development centers, thus tacitly explaining why Bush put Iran on his hit list in the first place.

You could almost feel the fear emanating from the Israel Lobby and the Bush mis-administration: “She’s cute, and she’s putting an appealing human face on a country we’re trying to demonize.” “God only knows what she might say.” “What if the people love her?” “Sweep her under the rug and keep her there.” Of course the “mainstream” media, which is where most Americans get most of their news, obediently complied.

I managed to Google up some news about Ms. Ansari today . . . in the “Malaysia Star”. It seems that she and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, among many others, are going to appear in a CNN television discussion being filmed in Singapore. The “Malaysia Star” says the show is called “CNN Future Summit: World in Motion”, “which airs tomorrow [Nov. 23] at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.” Not exactly prime time (assuming that’s U.S. and not Malay time), and it will be interesting to see how our news managers make sure Ms. Ansari is otherwise safely contained.

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