It's clear that here big media collectively doesn't give a flying rat fuck about the Iranian anti-theocracy movement. The only way for an American to hear about it is through the blogosphere, or through "conservative" media outlets such as The National Review. There are a number of factors at play here, all of them ugly and predictable, and recounting them only serves to make me depressed and discouraged. As the Don of the blogosphere astutely asks,
Why is this stuff getting so little big-media attention? Is it the Eason Jordan effect?
This is part of it. Ever since all journalism adopted the entertainment journalism model of trading favorable coverage for "access" the big media have been more than willing to cozy up to dictators and give them favorable notices, in exchange for the privilege of their company and their interviews. CNN gave about as much tough scrutiny to Saddam Hussein as People magazine gave to Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle, so why should we expect them and their ilk to do any better here?
But beyond the near universal adoption of the "access journalism" model, journalists in big media have long had a friendly relationship with tyranny, from Walter Duranty on through to Peter Arnett. It seems to be a constitutional, cultural phenomenon, one I can't really explain. Part of it may be the fact that most big media journalists range from center-left to loony-far-left and the left has a long and well-documented affinity for totalitarianism and brutality that continues unbroken to this day, with the left's willful ignorance of Castro's abuses. Along side the left's fixation with totalitarian forms of government, there is the general idea that for one who believes the American system is the worst sytem possible, and that US is the most evil nation in history, as Michael Moore and Jimmy Breslin do, just to randomly name a couple of well-known radical leftists, any entity that is an enemy of America, or especially one that has done violence to America, is at least partially right, hence the radical chic attached to groups and figures ranging from Che Guevara to the Viet Cong to Palestinian Terrorists. See how this stuff makes me end up sounding like Ann Coulter? That's why I didn't want to get into it, but, well here we are. I'll tough it out, I'll avoid being baited into total kookery, somehow, next paragraph . . .
I imagine it must be quite the conundrum for the left, after all this is a government that took scores of US citizens hostage and put them through a brutal, over a year long ordeal, so they must be doing something right. Its also a government that was brought about through one of the left's favorite types of movements, a "popular uprising" (see Riots, Rodney King) against a ruler that was a US puppet, a brutal monarch to be sure, and that we supported the Shah is further prove of our infinite perfidy. A bizarre subset of big media, libertarian media, has been especially provocative on the last point. To begin with, their coverage of the Iranian Student Movement itself has been . . . non-existent. Let's take a spin: Reason Magazine? Nothing. Matt Welch? Nothing. Julian Sanchez? Virginia Postrel? Jesse Walker? You get the idea. In fact, this entire little clique within the big media dipped their toes into these waters only once, when Reason published this piece, a bit of memoirish rambling totally atypical of the magazine, but which generally brought home the idea of how bad life under the Shah was. This piece was published on July 3rd, 2003, interesting timing to say the least.
Just as I wrote that I found that Matt Welch posted this on Hit and Run. I wrote a comment asking why there has been so little coverage thus far, and now only coverage after the fact. No response yet, hopefully something in the future. Keep in mind that these libertarian outlets operate some shadowland between big media and nano media, the overwhelming willful ignorance of the situation by the major networks, major newspapers, and CNN is what's truly appalling, and sadly predictable.
UPDATE: I did what any self-respecting crank would do and hit and ran over at Hit and Run regarding Reason's apparently ignoring the Iranian democracy movement. What's great about that site, despite the fact that I disagree with roughly 90% of what any of the writer's there think, is that they are willing to crawl down into the muck of the comment box and wrestle around with us cranks. The responsiveness, the democracy, the egalitarianism, this is what we love about the new media! Try that at the NYT and see the difference. "We get 40,000 letters to the editor a week and publish 4. Don't tell us were not accountable! And, you get this nice letter on Times letterhead. Oh wait, you don't even get that anymore. Sorry."
Help came, as it most often does, in the form of the always estimable Jesse Walker. As I hoped, the timing of the piece about the Shah was coincidental. It had been published in the paper edition of the magazine long before and accepted for publication long before that. As for Reason's coverage and libertarian coverage of the issue in general, it seems it really was a simple case of not having time to do everything you want to do, and he pointed me to some really nicely pieces on Iran written by him and by Charles Paul Freund. I suspect that their relatively minimal coverage of Iran was also a result of libertarians' isolationism.
The big media downplaying this story, and covering the conjoined twins or the IAEA’s visit instead is still truly disgraceful.