Thursday, July 16, 2009


A useful skill to develop is to be able to spot the propaganda pieces that counterfit themselves as 'news' articles. Sometimes, its ridiculously easy. Just look for the pieces in major media outlets that would probably get an F in a freshman journalism class. In that regard, I call your attention to Supreme leader Khamenei diminished in Iranians' eyes by Borzou Daragahi in the LA Times.

The lead on the article is this.
For two decades he was considered to be above the petty political squabbles, a cautious elder contemplating questions of faith and Islam while guiding his nation into the future.

But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose title of supreme leader makes him Iran's ultimate authority, has gotten his hands dirty. His decision in recent weeks to so stridently support the nation's controversial president after a disputed election has dramatically changed his image among his people, setting in motion an unpredictable series of events that could fundamentally change the Islamic Republic.

Note that there are no sources for this information. This is just the 'reporter' talking expressing his own opinions. But, we do gets some supporting quotes in the next paragraph.
"Public respect for him has been significantly damaged," said one analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Opposing him is no longer the same as opposing God."

So, in the opening three paragraphs you get two of the strong signs of a pure propaganda piece. The 'reporter' expressing his own opinions instead of reporting on what the rest of the world is doing. Then you get 'anonymous' sources. Anytime you see anonymous sources, you have to ask why. In this case, its an 'anonymous' analyst. Why? Are analysts around the world being assassinated for analyzing?

Or is it just because it would discredit the story if you knew who said that. For instance, if you read "analysts working in the CIA's 'color revolution' section" as the attribution to the quote. Or maybe, "my cousin Vinnie says" wouldn't go over very strongly with the reader. So it gets changed to an anonymous analyst. When you see this as a reader, you should just make up the biased or worthless 'analyst' that you can think of and picture that quote coming from them. That's about how credible it is.

But then we get in the last paragraphs of the opening section an even better 'source'.

The venerated Khamenei has even become the target of public jokes and criticism.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "commits crimes, and the leader supports him," was a popular slogan during the riots of June 20, the day after Khamenei delivered a blistering Friday sermon in which he said that the election a week earlier had been won by Ahmadinejad.

At July 9 demonstrations, protesters mocked the ayatollah's son, Mojtaba, who many believe hopes to succeed his father.

Wow! Protesters have mocked this person. That's a 'source' for a article in a major media outlet like the LA Times? I wonder what other major stories and people they could report on with standards like that?

Ok, so in the whole opening section of this article, you get 1) the reporters opinion, 2) some anonymous 'analyst', and 3) what the protesters said in a protest as the sources of information about the assertion in the headline.

The rest of the article highlights a fourth sign of propaganda. It does have attributed quotes, but they all come from one side. You see 'reformist cleric' and 'reformist journalist' a lot in the rest of the piece.

And they wonder why newspapers are going broke? Who on earth would be dumb enough to pay money to buy this junk?

Of course, the interesting question to ask is 'why was this article ever printed?' Surely no competent editor looked at this as a submission and felt it was such wonderful journalism that it had to go out to the world. Any new writer who turned in such a piece would seem to be deserving of scorn and abuse from an experienced editor. So, why is the LA Times running this piece?

And by the way, I went and looked at the LA Times website. I was wondering if they clearly marked this as a 'op-ed' piece from a person on one side of the conflict. Nope. Its under the section 'World News'. The author appears to be a staff member of the LA Times. He has four separate pieces on this day alone. From one, it appears that he's their writer stationed in Beirut to cover the region. Thus, the question seems to change to why does a struggling paper like the LA Times hire an incompetent propagandist who churns out one-sided pieces to cover a key region of the world? One thing you can tell is that its apparently not their goal to provide their customers with factual and unbiased information about this region. And they wonder why they are going broke?

So, I pretty much now know to ignore pretty much anything that appears in the LA Times about this key region of the world. Well, I knew that already.

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