Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Iran: Information Asymmetry for Media Audiences

It has been mentioned before in Hyperborea that the US plan to bomb several thousand targets in Iran was real, and so is the intention to provoke an amphibious invasion through the Strait of Hormuz. And every time Bush or Cheney visit the region, some confrontation happens between the US and Iran.

The Pentagon recently released a video describing what happened between US and Iranian naval vessels on Sunday. Five small Iranian boats sped towards the American vessels, and so the US Navy took a "base of action", they said. All the news reports on this, such as CBS's, shows American and Iranian vessels firing into the air. But no shots were actually fired during this incident. (Our tolerance for viewing American and Iranian forces interacting violently at least on the television screen is stepping up.) According to an AP summary of the radio transcript, someone had said that the American warship would "explode", implying some sort of suicide naval operation.

An AP report says that Iranian officials consider whatever happened not out of the ordinary. "This is an ordinary occurrence which happens every now and then for both sides," a foreign ministry spokesman said. The Pentagon says the US vessels were operating within international waters, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard says they had entered regional waters. A portion of the Strait is within Iranian borders, as was quoted by Iran's Fars News Agency. And it has been reported before that the US presence there looks much more like a blockade. That has most likely contributed to rising world oil prices ($100 a barrel this week), but that is less important for the US since Iranian oil is boycotted. A real conflict would cripple world oil supplies and perhaps raise the price to $200 a barrel.

President Bush is using what he calls a "provocative act" on Iran's behalf to step up propagandistic language regarding Iran. The Fars News Agency said that the Americans are spinning the incident against Iran, quoting an unidentified parliamentary speaker as saying,

"We have always demanded establishment of peace and security and the hue and cry made by the US media in this regard is a part of the same psychological warfare they have always launched against Iran."

Meanwhile media audiences on both sides have no reason to accept either account, other than some sense of allegiance to one's own nation state and its news agencies. With Iran, as with Iraq, there have been incredible information assymetries, since Western media outlets gather nearly all the information from these incidents from public officials (and usually unnamed "public" officials at that). Identities are secret and information is supposed to be credible. The strong case against is Iran has been building up ever since Rice and Bush discussed last year (see the first link) how they could convince Congress that Iran is a real threat. Even if what senior members of whichever department are saying is false, the slow buildup of impressions like that does create a sense of looming threat. It is most likely that both sides are doing this, and we therefore have no reason to accept the accounts of either.

The mainstream Western media is failing here since they fail to include their own shortcomings when reporting these incidents. Iranian media is much more directly a mouthpiece for the state, and yet it is clear to see how Western media can serve the exact same function.


Acumensch said...

The radio message may not have even been from Iranians, Pentagon now says:

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