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It’s the Media! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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What made the Iranian public blow up all of a sudden? The presidential elections have always been a farce, and Iranian democracy is just like the democracies of other developing nations where no one can win elections except the ruling party and the candidate that it has picked out.

In my opinion, it is because of the flame of the revolution burning out; the dominance of the new generation that wants to open up to the world and wants change; the deepening internal rift within the leadership and the deteriorating economic situation that the government dealt with by feeding people slogans and stories of foreign acts of heroism. In addition, there is a new, important factor, namely the birth of an opposing media that conveyed to Iranian citizens things that were forbidden before. Therefore, communication was made easier and this pushed it to explode.

Until very recently, Iran was untouched. Iran was one of the very few countries in the world that lived in a state of isolation with the exception of its official media that would repeat news of success and loyalty over a span of three decades whilst concealing other stories. So the regime lived within a fortified climate. There were a few radio stations that were anti-regime but they had no impact whatsoever. There were no anti-government television channels or websites. Unlike Iran, Arab countries are used to media wars. Over many decades, Arab regimes became accustomed to waking up every morning to find some media body urging people to rise up against the government.

The secret to the purity of Iranian society lies in its Persian language. No other regime shares this language, only a few foreign minorities that are not involved in any kind of disputes. This is in complete contrast to the Arabs who are divided into 20 regimes and who cast accusations and provoke one another through their Arabic language.

The particularity of the Persian language facilitated the regime’s hegemony. Satellite dishes did not enter Iranian homes on a large scale until very recently, after a wide range of satellite television stations emerged. So the gates of Tehran were finally opened, and the ghoul of opposing ideologies managed to sneak in and to break some taboos, the latest of which is criticism of the regime. With this collapse, means of modern communication rushed in including the internet and SMS. These forms of communication connected hundreds of thousands of angry Iranian youngsters whilst the regime stood angry and helpless, unable to reinvent itself.

The paradox here is that the Iranian regime – that claims that there is a media campaign against it – is the biggest instigator on the Arab front. It actually gained its glory in the Arab world by creating political propaganda that is hostile to its enemies. Furthermore, it allocated a lot of money and concentrated a lot of effort to support the media that champions the Iranian regime politically in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. It also launched official media institutions a long time ago, broadcasting and printing in Arabic.

One might wonder why Iranian media that addressed the Arabs years ago failed to achieve its goal, whilst the media against it in the Persian language was far more successful. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the means of communication but rather is related to our ideologically-divided region. Accordingly, no matter what the Iranian media does, it will never get the response it wants from the other camp. As for the Iranians themselves, they are now experiencing an exciting, new situation with satellite television channels and websites, both of which played a pivotal role in triggering the Iranian public during and after the elections.

The media did not fabricate the events. In fact, it reflected the open dispute within the official institution and the divisions within the Iranian public. Today, after nearly two months, the ground is still shaky in Iran. The Iranian government is in a state of denial because it cannot understand the phenomenon in which it finds itself, believing there to be a conspiracy against it. If it opened its eyes and looked around, it would realize that it is the media.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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