Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Destabilisation 2.0

Media monitoring groups reveal how global – particularly western-media outlets have deliberately twisted facts, misled and lied about recent events in Iran. Saurabh Kumar Shahi investigates.

Witness this. An election is held in a nation that refuses to toe Washington’s line of approach. Western media projects a “wave” blowing in favour of a certain candidate who is seen as pro-Washington. On the day of counting, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube releases “results” hours before the actual announcement and declare their candidate victorious. The more time it takes to declare the actual result the more is it projected as “efforts to sabotage” results. The western news agencies report it and the same report is re-published in millions of newspapers around the world. Welcome to Destabilisation 2.0.

It is no secret that the western powers have been operating destabilisation programs for decades in order to oust far-off, democratically chosen regimes that don't capitulate to their whims. Iran too had its share of such onslaughts. However, with the advent of new media, things have changed for worse. “Although there is a perception that western media is independent, it is not so. The difference is, in the East there is government censorship and in the West there is corporate censorship,” says Mark Mazzetti, a senior analyst with The Times, while talking to TSI. For example, in the entire stretch of 20th century, BBC and CNN have not opposed actions by their respective governments that are considered illegitimate by International community – Nuking Japan, Vietnam War, Falklands war, Coup in Iran and South America to name a few. In the same light, it is ironical how state run media in other countries are called “non-independent” and BBC as independent when BBC is funded by the British government.

It was no different in Iran. Startling revelations about conduct of media and its dependence on social networking sites have appeared as dust has settled. Let’s discuss it one by one. The first one is about BBC. During the entire unrest BBC failed to show pro-Ahmadinejad and pro-Khamenai rallies prominently. The pro-Mousavi rallies got all the coverage. But on 17th June, it did the unspeakable. It published a Getty Image of pro-Ahmadinejad rally with the caption saying “Pro-Mousavi rally”. It conveniently cropped the part that showed Ahmadinejad addressing the supporters. The actual image was published in LA Times. When caught, BBC tendered apology and changed the caption to “Both sides held rally”. Ahmadinejad’s name was conspicuously still missing.

Similarly, relying on the Twitter feed, in a separate story, it also claimed that “Nearly three million Mousavi supporters participated in the rally.” Independent sources put the number at few hundred thousand.

It is interesting how Twitter mislead mainstream media that otherwise feel proud of their professionalism. CNN, for example, broadcast an interview with a so-called anonymous “bystander” of June 24th protests in Tehran’s Baharestan Square, with the aim of portraying Iranian security forces as rogues. CNN claimed that its “regular Twitter informer” said there has been a “massacre” at Baharestan Square. CNN tried to confirm it by the subsequent interview. It was broadcasted promptly. As it happened, other media organisations released video of that day’s protest including Press TV. The video showed no baton attack leave alone firing and “massacre”. It was later revealed that the woman “bystander” actually called from Paris with the call routed via Tehran! CNN tendered apology shortly. On the other hand, a Saudi owned satellite TV actually showed how to make a Molotov Cocktail.

In fact, a cursory view on the Twitter accounts that were spreading “news” about Iran protests signals possible involvement of Israeli and CIA operatives. Thousands of Tweets and retweets claiming that the vote was a fraud, calling for dissent in Iran, and even urging supporters to hack different Iranian news websites, filled the cyberspace. Most of them were retweets that carried the Tweets by three major participants – StopAhmadi@twitter.com, IranRiggedElect@twitter.com, Change_for_Iran@twitter.com. The search for the address gave a link to, surprise surprise, The Jerusalem Post, an Israeli pro-Zionist newspaper. In fact, Jerusalem Post actually ran the story about 3 people "who joined the social network mere hours ago have already amassed thousands of followers." Why would a mainstream newspaper post a story about 3 people who “Just Joined Twitter” hours earlier? Is that newsworthy? In fact, Post was the first and the only news source that talked about these 3 spammers. And mind you, it was three days before Iran stopped foreigners to report from streets. Why would you need Twitter before that?

Now take a cursory look on these spammers. All of them have very few “friends” but lots of “followers”. They all created their Twitter accounts on Saturday, June 13th, on the eve of results. With extremely few exceptions, each was posting in English and approximately half of them had the same profile photographs. “It is not hard to see that these were fakes and originated from Israel rather than Iran. It is hilarious how all these posts are in English when extremely few people know the language in Iran,” says Alexander McNabb, an analyst with Media Monitoring Group while talking to TSI.

When exposed, The Jerusalem Post quickly edited the story and removed the names. However, screenshot of the previous story was saved.

There is ample proof that most of these so called Iran feeds on Twitter were generated outside Iran. During the outrage, as many as 3000 Twitter members changed their location and time-zone to Tehran and GMT +3:30 respectively. Twitter admitted the sabotage. Twitter CEO Evan Williams says, “People did change their locations.”

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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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