Conspiranoids and freedom-haters of the left and right alike are rushing to betray the Iranian protest movement. On the supposed “left,” the retro-Stalinist Workers World and its International Action Center as well as (disappointingly) Monthly Review and the World Socialist Website have weighed in for Ahmadinejad and dissed the protesters as dupes or pawns of US imperialism. How interesting to see these supposed “leftists” making common cause with right-wing cheerleaders for authoritarian regimes…
It’s all too telling that many of these right-wing conspiranoids are being promoted by the ostensible “left”—such as Reagan admin veteran Paul Craig Roberts on Alex Cockburn‘s Counterpunch. Echoing a familiar theme, Roberts asks “Are the Iranian Protests Another US Orchestrated ‘Color Revolution?'” A typical sample of his incriminating evidence:
On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News.”
In addition to not knowing how to use quotation marks correctly, Roberts commits the classic conspiranoid error of only believing those media accounts that fit the conspiracy theory. An ABC clip from two years ago under another administration—and attributed only to unverifiable, anonymous sources—is taken as evidence the current protest movement is “US-orchestrated.” The overwhelming reality of hundreds of thousands taking to streets in defiance of the security forces in scenes reminiscent of the 1979 revolution is dismissed as a charade. As if a movement of this size and courage could be the product of a CIA op!
In an outer ring of conspiranoia, the populist xenophobe Alex Jones (another paradoxical darling of the conspiranoid “left”) rants on his InfoWars website, “BBC Caught In Mass Public Deception With Iran Propaganda.” His evidence:
The BBC has again been caught engaging in mass public deception by using photographs of pro-Ahmadinejad rallies in Iran and claiming they represent anti-government protests in favor of Hossein Mousavi.
An image used by the L.A. Times on the front page of its website Tuesday showed Iranian President Ahmadinejad waving to a crowd of supporters at a public event.
In a story covering the election protests yesterday, the BBC News website used a closer shot of the same scene, but with Ahmadinejad cut out of the frame. The caption under the photograph read, ‘Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi again defied a ban on protests’.
Even if Jones is correct (which we don’t concede), note that he doesn’t even consider the more prosaic possibility that it was an editorial error, or just plain laziness or corner-cutting on the part of Beeb. Nope, it’s gotta be a Conspiracy! This is actually the least likely hypothesis, by several miles. Given that many thousands have been taking to streets for a solid week, why would the BBC have to resort to this subterfuge? Or does Alex think the entire movement is an illusion created by the Western media? Maybe all those images of angry protests we’ve seen from Tehran in the past week are CGI creations?
In an inner ring of the conspiranoid orbit is a post by “Middle East expert” Djavad Salehi-Isfahani on the establishmentarian Brookings Institution website, who asks “What if Ahmadinejad Really Won?”:
So far, protests are confined to Tehran and a few large cities, and smaller towns and rural areas have been very quiet… [B]ehind the difference in reactions to Ahmadinejad’s election [sic] may lie real divisions among the young Iranians in large cities and in small towns and rural areas. Mr. Moussavi’s main appeal to them was on social, not economic, issues, which are more important to the more affluent youth in Tehran and large urban centers. Indeed, he confined his campaign to Tehran and a few large cities.
By contrast, Mr. Ahmadinejad spent the last four years traveling across the country courting the rural and small town votes. There is even evidence that his programs to distribute income and wealth more evenly have begun to bear fruit… Once these factors are taken into account, it is not so implausible that Mr. Ahmadinejad may have actually won a majority of the votes cast, though not those cast in Tehran.
“Though not those cast in Tehran.” Oops. If it is implausible that the “well-to-do urbanite Iranians” (in Salehi-Isfahani’s unflattering characterization) in Tehran voted for Ahmadinejad, this is evidence of fraud—whether the total of votes cast really amounted to a majority for Ahmadinejad or not. More telling (though Salehi-Isfahani doesn’t mention it) is Ahmadinejad’s claim to have taken Tabriz—heartland of Iran’s marginalized Azeri minority. As Juan Cole notes, this is utterly implausible—especially given that opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi is an Azeri! Sounds about as likely as McCain taking Bedford-Stuyvesant.
There is actually a continuity between the more vulgar conspiranoids like Alex Jones and genteel-wonkish types like Salehi-Isfahani. The latter represent the so-called “pragmatist” wing of the ruling elites, who favor accommodation of authoritarian regimes (as opposed to neocon “regime change” hubris). The former represent populist yahoo-ism that sees every development on the world stage as evidence of The Conspiracy. They are united by their hatred of the neocons—and their comfort with despots and repression (as long as they aren’t the ones being repressed). Paul Craig Roberts dances somewhere between these two poles.
What’s sickening is the how this line is shared by big chunks of what passes for “the left” in the United States—the sector that we call the idiot left. Note how the pseudo-logic of these right-wing entries is mirrored by supposed rad-lefty James Petras, who writes on Ziopedia a nearly identical screed entitled “The ‘Stolen Elections’ Hoax”:
The demography of voting reveals a real class polarization pitting high income, free market oriented, capitalist individualists against working class, low income, community based supporters of a ‘moral economy’ in which usury and profiteering are limited by religious precepts… The Opposition’s attack on the regime’s ‘intransigent’ foreign policy and positions ‘alienating’ the West only resonated with the liberal university students and import-export business groups. To many Iranians, the regime’s military buildup was seen as having prevented a US or Israeli attack.
Petras is dealt a little well-earned chastisement from Gabriel Ash, writing on the (strongly anti-Zionist) Jews sans frontieres blog. Even if Ash has engaged in conspiracy-mongering of his own on occasion, his words here are tonic for all the instant experts out there who would betray the Iranian protesters:
There is certainly a class split in Iran as there is everywhere else. But the…class content of the latest Iranian intifada is very difficult to discern, and the claim that all these oppositions, market vs. community, high income vs. low income, city vs. country side, align neatly behind two candidates from two factions of the same authoritarian ruling class is stretching credulity… Petras, as far as I know, does not read Farsi, and doesn’t have any special expertise of Iran. His knowledge is second hand, based on choosing sources from available translated material and English speaking informants. He may be smarter than the Western journalists he derides, but he is in the same position they are and I am with regards to information. That position calls for a certain humility in putting forward broad theories about what is happening in Iran. Instead, we get an airtight encompassing know-it-all theory.
See our last post on Iran.