Iranians read newspapers in Tehran 390.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Welcome all newshounds to the circus. Since October last year, the
Israeli media have been obsessed over reporting and often exaggerating seemingly
every single piece of information regarding the standoff with Iran over its
plans to develop nuclear weapons, possible military action, etc.
recent weeks, it’s gotten worse. International media outlets have jumped into
the fray making it a three-ring event with information coming from all
directions. The direct result is that every day we see a headline about Iran in
the news even though the stories themselves are often dangerous, undeserving of
publication and sometimes even ridiculous.
A good example of a risky item
would be a recent piece which originally came from the Associated
Press. In an otherwise long article summarizing the entire situation, the
AP threw in a couple of quotes from an unnamed European diplomat based in
Pakistan who basically said that if Israel attacked Iran, it would most likely
prompt a response from Islamabad. The story was picked up and the headlines soon
read that now Pakistan would attack Israel in the event of a strike.
despite the fact that the diplomat was not named.
The AP itself clearly
did not see this as the story’s lead, but with such a high demand for news on
the subject from all media outlets, it seems like anything goes – therefore the
story was blown out of proportion.
NBC certainly sees that as well; it
published a story last week which was entitled “Israel Teams with Terror Group
to Kill Iran’s Nuclear Scientists, US Officials tell NBC News.” In this
“exclusive” story and questionable piece of journalism, NBC said it had
confirmed these longtime claims of the Iranian government. The gist of the story
is that Tehran has accused Jerusalem of financing and training members of the
People’s Mujihadin of Iran (MEK) to assassinate the country’s nuclear
scientists. MEK is considered a terror organization in the US for several
reasons including its role in the overthrow of the Shah back in the late ‘70s
and subsequent killing of American citizens.
NBC interviewed Mohammad
Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He gave Tehran’s side of the story. MEK systematically denied it. Israel’s
Foreign Ministry declined to comment until it saw all of the evidence. The whole
story is long-winded and reads like a spy novel but it all boils down to the
identity of those who confirmed the story to the network.
says “US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity” and later on “Two senior
US officials confirmed for NBC News the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with
one senior official saying, ‘All your inclinations are correct.’” A third
official would not confirm or deny the relationship with Israel, saying only,
“It hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet.” So only one of the anonymous officials
pointed the finger at Israel, but that was enough for NBC to run the story.
Sounds like they gave the story a green light a bit prematurely, to say the
How about all of the public statements made by “experts”? Do they
deserve front page exposure? Here’s loose translation of a headline splashed
last week in one of Israel’s leading Hebrew newspapers: “Newsweek article: ‘It
is possible to attack Iran and succeed.’” The sub-headlines give away the story
had interviewed a well-known history professor at Harvard
University who had basically reviewed objections about an attack and refuted
them. While I have no opinion as to the professor’s views, I think it
would be more appropriate to put the item in the back pages, if at all,
considering the fact that it was a Newsweek
story and not exclusive to the
You know the frenzy is reaching fever pitch when even the most
sublime stories hit the international media circuit. I remember seeing the promo
for the cable company HOT which poked fun at the whole situation with Iran. It
portrays Mossad agents, disguised as women, deep within Iran and accidentally
blowing up a uranium enrichment facility using a Samsung tablet available
through a special deal at HOT.
I also remember thinking that someone was
going to get in trouble for the campaign. I hardly imagined that it would cause
a response from Tehran. Turns out the Iranian government is mulling a ban of
Samsung products as a result of the ad. And yes, the story made dozens of
newspapers and websites around the world.
How seriously are Israelis
taking a potential attack against Iran? Look no further than Facebook, where
there is a group asking Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to postpone any
potential attack until after music icon Madonna performs here at the end of
May. Sure, it’s a joke, but the page has garnered international media
When a news outlet goes out looking for news it’s
business as usual, but it’s a risky proposition when it must bring something
back. We, the news consumers, are in a difficult situation. On one hand, we want
and need to be informed about what’s going on. The problem arises when we are
exposed to overkill, a constant bombardment of stories which broadens the
subtext and exaggerates its prominence. This can keep us occupied with every
little detail, relevant or not, as we try to grapple with the uncertainty of the
This is going on now with the never-ending salvo of
Iran-related stories. Every item published is serving somebody’s purpose, be it
an editor or up to the levels of different governments. Readers need to realize
that the media is also an arena for battle. Sometimes the fight is just standard
business competition while at other times it can be a psychological warfare
between nations. It’s all playing out before our eyes, but we should not accept
everything we read.Jeremy Ruden is an independent media