Saturday, December 2, 2006

Telling Us What to Think

This is a followup to my post, “Distorting Public Opinion”, November 30. I had written something else to post today, but when I saw this misleadingly named “Analysis” on the MSNBC website I couldn’t resist.


Updated: 7:13 p.m. ET Dec 1, 2006
“CAIRO, Egypt - The Iranian president’s letter to the American people this week was dismissed by Washington as a crazy propaganda stunt.
. . .
“President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter to the American people, released in New York on Wednesday, struck its intended audience as a bizarre political lecture rather than an attempt at dialogue."

[I’m amazed that the American people were able to get together a unanimous response so quickly. Come to think of it, I don’t remember being consulted.]

. . .

“In May, he sent a long letter to President Bush, a combination of religious sermon and political screed, trying to persuade him to change his policies. Soon after, he challenged Bush to a face-to-face debate. Both approaches were dismissed by the White House — and they fueled Ahmadinejad’s image in the United States as a crackpot, as did his declarations that Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’ and that the Holocaust was a myth.”

Well, if you weren’t sure what to think of President Ahmadinejad and his letters, you do now. Likewise, you know how to evaluate anyone who thinks the world would be better off without Israel or who doubts Holocaust dogma.

Actually, though, the “Analysis” does provide a few interesting insights, although AP had to go across a couple of continents to find them:

“He’s ignorant of the attitude of the American people” toward Iran, said Mustafa Alani, an Iran specialist with the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. “He believes that U.S. public opinion will be occupied with his letter and debate it. They (Iranian leaders) have a huge lack of understanding of American public opinion and what moves it.”

What does move it? One thing that moves it are propaganda pieces posing as “Analysis” -- like the one which quotes Mr. Alani.

“Culture also plays a role in Ahmadinejad’s manner: In Iran — where discussions of poetry and theology are popular obsessions — the abstract debate of ideas is a political tool not seen in the United States.”

I would add that ideas themselves are a political tool not lately seen in the United States. I worked for eight years in Washington, D.C. as a lawyer and writer, and I knew a few congressmen and occasionally mingled with senators, representatives, and staff at those boozy entertainments lobbyists use to buy favors, and never once did I hear an idea discussed. Never. I was really impressed by that. The talk was all politics, and the only debates were not about ideas but about what pose or statement would boost a politician’s rating. Conversation was almost solely about tactics for getting re-elected -- as if Washington was the setting for a great big popularity contest with rich prizes in jobs.

So, we now know -- thanks to a nameless "analyst" -- what the American people, and thus we ourselves, think about the president of Iran and his letters:

“A crazy propaganda stunt.”

“A bizarre political lecture rather than an attempt at dialogue.”

“A crackpot.”

Thanks, "Analysis”: That’s one less thing we need to think about.

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