Sunday, March 7, 2010

'Néjàd Vu, All Over Again:
The Media, 'Pretext,' Context, & 9/11

Despite a nearly endless barrage of reporting on Iran's nuclear energy program, the US government's push for a new round of sanctions, and on-going efforts to foment regime change in the Islamic Republic, all had been relatively quiet on the Ahmadinejad front in the Western press for some time.

Until now.

The mainstream media's favorite scapegoat, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, resurfaced on Saturday amidst reports that he called the attacks of September 11, 2001 "a big lie." According to the immediate and rabid response of virtually every Western news network around, this was simply the latest insane claim of the same raving madman who has previously threatened to wipe a foreign state off the map and denied the Holocaust.

Yet, as with those other mistranslated or misunderstood statements, this new claim hardly stands up to even the most cursory scrutiny, as it has been reported with little accompanying context and comparison. According to a translation by Reuters, Ahmadinejad, addressing the staff of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, stated that, "The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan." PressTV translated the President as saying that the circumstances of 9/11 were a "big lie intended to serve as a pretext for fighting terrorism and setting the grounds for sending troops to Afghanistan."

Most of the press, including CBS, Huffington Post, and Fox, ran with an Associated Press report by Ali Akbar Dareini entitled, "Iran's Ahmadinejad: Sept. 11 attacks a 'big lie'" while CNN and Ha'aretz reprinted the AP with some slight variations like using the headline "Ahmadinejad Calls 9/11 'A Big Fabrication'."

Robert Mackey, writing for The New York Times editorialized that Ahmadinejad told Iranian intelligence officials that the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City was "staged."

By reporting that he called 9/11 a "lie" or "fabrication," the press has completely subverted the meaning of Ahmadinejad's actual statement. Headlines and ledes like the ones printed by the mainstream media give the intentionally misleading interpretation that Ahmadinejad claimed that 9/11 didn't actually happen. But the full quote obviously reveals something quite different. The events of 9/11 - that hijacked airplanes were flown into buildings, killing tens of hundreds of people - is not questioned or denied by Ahmadinejad in these statements. The attacks, in and of themselves, are not debated or disputed. What Ahmadinejad says is that the event itself was the result of, as PressTV reports, a premeditated "scenario and a sophisticated intelligence measure," that was subsequently used as an excuse to justify the so-called "War on Terror" and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.