What's going on here?

I've made a commitment: to do one good deed per day. Large or small, it doesn't matter. Self-sacrificing or not, extraordinary or mundane, it doesn't matter. Just one thing every day, that's all.

The more I do good, the better I feel about myself. Truly, to benefit others is to benefit yourself. I hope this journal may inspire others who also yearn to do good. So join me on this journey, if you will, and think about the difference you can make in your own life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A plea to those following the Iran election controversy

This is a plea for open hearts and level heads.

Like many I am following the Iran election controversy. I don't doubt that the election could have been rigged, and my heart goes out to the protesters suffering and in some cases dying for what they believe in.

At the same time, I am noticing an extreme bias in certain US reporting. For example, the NY Times has been giving the story massive coverage. It has headlined multiple stories almost every day since the election results were reported (ten days!). This is far out of proportion to coverage we normally see of similar events in countries that are not so strategically critical to our foreign policy. It doesn't take a professional analyst to realize that there is a connection to America's current delicate, potentially explosive, stance toward nuclear Iran. Nor is it arcane that Iran is a key player in the theater of our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. And perhaps most importantly, it's no secret that the idea of democracy in a Muslim nation tugs at American heartstrings, and can be used to push our buttons.

It's natural that the media should prefer stories that interest the public, so some disproportion in coverage is to be expected. But what's going on right now is disproportionate enough to raise the question of agenda. It was not long ago that we were fed the "Saddam is genociding the Kurds" story, followed by the "our military isn't ready" story, and the "weapons of mass destruction" hoax. And let's not forget that during that same period our very own nation saw an election which was every bit as questionable as the current one in Iran.

Please note that just because the headlines hide an agenda, it doesn't mean they aren't true. Saddam was a bad guy, a really bad guy, and the Kurds did suffer. But those true facts were falsely used to pump us up for wars, actions with motivations other than "good vs. evil." In the same way, Ahmadinejad may be worth questioning. The election results may be worth questioning. And our moral outrage may be required. But we do not have to be dupes about it. If we keep our collective cool and look at this rationally, we'll be much more likely to make wise decisions in the future.

Please also note that the presence of agenda does not necessarily validate conspiracy theories! The public is quite capable of hypnotizing itself, through nothing more than "herd culture" behavior, without anyone directing the panic from behind a curtain. Presidents and other leaders may bear particular responsibility, but ultimately we can only point fingers at ourselves. It's up to us, the public, to grant or withhold assent.

It is particularly difficult to keep our cool when outrage is or appears to be justified. But even when such is justified, uncritical reactions never lead to a happy ending.

So, please, as you follow this story, don't let the headlines hypnotize you. We are only effective when we keep both our hearts and our heads in the game!

P.S. One way to take the brainwashing machine off spin cycle is to compare headlines with foreign newspapers. Check out BBC News, Moscow Times, China Daily, and the like. Look specifically for newspapers with different foreign policy agendas and views contrary to your own. Don't trust any one newspaper over another, but observe overall trends that emerge.

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