The UN General Assembly opened its annual session in New York recently, but the world did not pay much attention to its commencement.
The annual meeting, which brings together world leaders and sheds light on declining alliances whilst highlighting new ones, would have been overlooked had it not been for the media and political storm that accompanied Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s visit to the US.
The Iranian president visit was greeted with public outrage; headlines included, “The Advent of Evil”, “Iran’s Madman” and “Death to the Dictator”, while his presence became a primary preoccupation for politicians, journalists, diplomats, historians, and the world at large.
In the New York circles, Ahmadinejad is considered the chief leader of the ‘Axis of Evil’ following the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The press was unable to adopt an apathetic manner in dealing with a visit such as this one, and thus, reactions overrode the actual reporting of the event.
Columbia University was confronted by a public outcry for inviting, or perhaps even ‘luring’, President Ahmadinejad to deliver a speech in its campus auditorium. However, the event quickly transformed into a play in which the president of Columbia [Lee Bollinger] brutally attacked and insulted the Iranian president whose frozen smile did not save him from embarrassment; while his only words were that he has respect for academics.
Those who raised questions showed no mercy towards Ahmadinejad; while he, in turn, mostly delivered catastrophic answers.
Undoubtedly, the Iranian President is susceptible to criticism and ridicule and may even be deemed a cause for concern, however this does not justify the exaggerated media campaign launched against him, especially in the American media. Moreover, the attempts that were aimed at ridiculing and personally insulting him will not result in alienating him in his own country. In fact, experiences such as this encounter have shown that they only serve to strengthen the position of leaders like Ahmadinejad, because they magnify his local public’s fear that they are being targeted.
This is precisely what happened; the signs of which manifested in the Iranian press as reactions towards the campaign with which Ahmadinejad was received in New York and Columbia University.
It’s true that such newspapers exaggerated in lauding Ahmadinejad’s position, considering him to be a “hero in the lion’s den,” according to some of them. However, in the end, the fear felt by the Iranians in the aftermath of the attacks on Ahmadinejad was easily palpable.
Prior to his US visit, reports had cited a decline in Ahmadinejad’s popularity. It cannot be said that his visit to New York restored any luster to his image, which he originally lacks; however, it certainly accentuated Iranian sentiments of isolation and the sense of an imminent and grave threat of war.
As for the European Leftist Press; it heaped a great deal of criticism on the way in which the American press and media dealt with the Iranian president, recalling the position adopted by the US administration and media towards former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
It goes without saying that Ahmadinejad’s figure, attitudes and performance are replete with condescension, but the real disaster is that this derision has occupied the presidency in an important country such as Iran.
This reality is further complicated by comments such as those made in American newspapers or those that were delivered by Columbia University’s president. It is certain that comments such as these will not restore freedom back to the Iranians.