Ted Koppel is as far left as they get (on tv)

Last week I watched Ted Koppel's Discovery Channel special on Iran called "Iran: The Most Dangerous Nation". While the show was far better than what the American media usually manage on Iran, since it featured Iranis as humans rather than only as demons, it still managed to serve the US government agenda and present a deeply distorted picture of Iran. Of course we had to learn about the ancient Persian heritage of Iran - how else could we understand the essence of this proud people? We also learned that, being Shi'a, Iranis glorify martyrdom. For example, during the Iran-Iraq war, some Irani soldiers actually sacrificed their own lives in service to the nation. Combined with Hizbollah suicide bombers who attacked innocents like the Israeli soldiers occupying Lebanon and dark suggestions that Ahmadinejad believes in the apocalyptic Mahdi, it all sounds very sinister. Guess there's something unique about Shi'a that causes them to resist occupying forces or die in battle to save their fellow soldiers.

Simply by going out and talking with a wide range of Iranis, the program largely undermines these ridiculous generalizations about the Irani national character. Koppel et al make gestures toward examining key issues in Iran, like class, gender, and political authority (altho oddly they completely ignore minorities, which have been prominently featured in neocon plans to destroy the regime). The effort is superficial, but still better than the yawning black whole in the other media.

The presentation of Iran's relationship with the USA is a bigger problem. Unlike other media, the program does bring up the various crimes the USA has committed against Iran - most prominently the overthrow of the democratically-elected government in 1953, decades of support for the brutal dictator that the CIA put in power (including training the secret police in torture and murder, a detail the program didn't mention), and giving extensive support to Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, including coordinating intelligence and agreeing to Iraq's use of chemical weapons. But these crimes are positioned merely as part of the tit-for-tat relationship between Iran and the USA.

This is false moral equivalence - the destruction of an entire country's democracy and complicity in Iraq's aggression and killing of hundreds of thousands of Iranis is equated with Irani revolutionaries taking several hundred Americans hostage in the late 1970s or Lebanese Hizbullah (which is cast as continuous with Iran) killing several hundred Marines in Beirut in 1983. Koppel evinces no understanding that using massive violence to dominate a foreign region might in some way be different from shouting slogans of "Death to America". It's all just part of cycle of hostility.

In the end, after examining the likelihood that a military strike would fail, Koppel calls for dialogue and diplomacy. But he adds, "If that fails, there's still the military option." He doesn't explain why Iran is not allowed to have nuclear weapons but the USA - which is manifestly a more "dangerous nation" - gets to have as many as it wants (in violation of the NPT, also unmentioned). He doesn't explain why America has a right to unprovoked attack. And he doesn't even raise the real reason for Irani-American tension: the US obsession with crushing those few countries that resist its hegemony.


Christopher said...

Wait, so you didn't like this show?

Jake said...

the only things that made me keep watching were ted koppel's voice and the anticipation of writing a scathing critique of the show.

naureen said...

"the only things that made me keep watching were ted koppel's voice"

is ted koppel's voice hot or something?

Patrick said...

One word: gravitas.

Mischa said...

no, no, no! it's his tan. perpetual tans are hot. now, that's adding value.