living in another universe


This is what I kept thinking this weekend: if I wasn’t online, an avid blogger and reader of blogs, and if I didn’t frequent the New York Times, I wouldn’t know a damn thing about the phenomenon in Iran.  It would feel like just any other story from the “crazy Middle East.”  I wouldn’t have seen images of the streets of green-clad protestors.  I wouldn’t have seen the beatings or the fires or read the twitter feeds or the first hand accounts.  I wouldn’t have seen the youtube videos.  And lest it be forgotten, the news most people receive if they receive any at all is from their televisions.

I don’t have television, but I was at the gym this weekend and flipped through all the channels and literally there was almost nothing to be found.  There were talking-heads opining.  There was Bill Kristol on Fox, doing the whole Kristol song and dance. The only place I could find it was at the Dish where Andrew et al have been doing what can only be described as brilliant coverage, and at some other blogs and sites like Juan Cole or Michael Totten (including the NYTs).

Here’s what irks me to no end, though.  I “watch” this all go down via the blogs and youtube and it is gripping.  It’s emotional – or at least I feel emotional watching it.  It’s surprising and dramatic and frightening and hopeful.  It’s, as they say, great  TV, only it’s not on TV.  You can find it only in soundbites and under the veil of talk-shows, or confined to the small segments the networks were able to devote to it.  But this is the sort of news that should be on all day.

I mean, we’ve toyed with the idea of going to war with these people.  Don’t we at least owe it to them to watch what may very well be a democratic revolution there?  And if we, as a society, can’t turn off the other noise and actually take the time to learn about these historic events across the world, then maybe we aren’t in a responsible position to go to war in the first place.  If we are that apathetic, not just individually, but as a culture, then we sure as hell aren’t ready to even begin considering an invasion, or discussing the potentiality of aiding an Israeli strike.

We are witnessing two revolutions here – one, the “green revolution” in Iran which may or may not be a success, and the other the technology and news information revolution.  We are witnessing the unwitting suicide and slow death of the news media as we know it, as they cave to ratings and apathy rather than getting out there and covering a real story, as they aid and abbet the numbing and dumbing down of the American people.

If you were reading the Dish this weekend you were living in a different universe from someone watching Fox or MSNBC.  There is very little difference between no information and misinformation.  That is what the American people are getting – a starvation diet of no news and lots of empty carbs.  Fatty, salty food with no nutritional value.  And we’re too damn apathetic to demand better.  There is a great divide in the decisions we make as an informed populace vs the decisions we make as an uninformed or misinformed one.  The people I know who rely on the MSM for their news consistently know less about what actually happened than my blogger friends do, and have less nuanced opinions about these events.  That’s a damn shame if you ask me.  It leads to the support of bad policy.

And seriously, even if you’re not a fan of Sullivan, you should be reading his blog right now.  Those guys are all over this.

Update.  Apparently the Dish is being “digitally attacked.”  Weird world we live in.  Read their “tweeting the revolution” here.

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12 thoughts on “living in another universe

  1. My basic assumption is that the US is far, far more likely to screw stuff up spectacularly than it is to make stuff better.

    Doing precious little is, once again, the best that we could possibly hope for.

    Insofar as doing precious little is the best we can hope for, I find myself somewhat thankful that we are not being inundated with news on the Iranian elections… because, I deeply suspect, such would result in The American People shouting that Something Must Be Done… which would result in The Politicians saying “This Is Something” which would result in other politicians screaming that the other politicians don’t really care, they’re just trying to use this to their own political advantage when everyone knows that we should be doing This Particular Something which would start a huge fight that would, at the end of the day, have nothing at all to do with the Persians… which would be exceptionally transparent to the Persian People themselves which might result in a whole “screw those busybodies, they’re likely to screw us up as bad as they did Iraq” situation which would result in people embracing the corrupt regime because, hey, at least they aren’t Americans.

    Which strikes me as something that would be worse.

    So… I’m sort of ambivalent on the lack of coverage.


    • I disagree entirely. The American People are not typically hyper-interventionist unless they are first hoodwinked by the political elite, which is far easier to do if we have no honest information on this or that subject. Perspective, insight, news, information – these are much more likely to predispose us to stop and think. The lack of these things leaves us vulnerable to propaganda and war-mongering.

      Ignorance is not strength.


      • I am not arguing that ignorance is strength.

        I am arguing that what is happening in Iran is far, far more likely to be broken by our interference than it is likely to be helped to flourish.

        Historically, our arrogance in shoving our noses into the business of others has resulted in far more things broken than in things being made better.

        I find it exceptionally unlikely that the attitude that, dude, we should totally do something would have a different result this time.

        (Though, certainly, we’d be able to say that we didn’t *INTEND* for the outcome that we got with as much earnestness as the last hundred times… In the meantime, however, I suspect that we should just comfort ourselves with the thought that those who don’t think we should interfere are really authoritarian sympathizers.)


      • I’ll split the difference with you. Ostensibly, Americans are more likely to choose isolationism over interventionism any day of the week. Americans also don’t “react” to elections beyond the statement of applause or condemnation.

        However, widespread awareness of Iran will lead to opinions, polling, etc… which will have a narrowing effect on the options that national leaders can and will have to respond to the Iranian election. Also, IIRC, studies generally show that misinformation leads to bias in decision making that isn’t present when given less information.


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  4. Not necessarily. Why does everyone in the country have to be completely informed for the country to go to war? We trust our leaders to make those decisions for us so we can live our lives.


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  8. I agree. A lot of the reporting and wording by the TV media is terrible. One instance is simple omission of details. Over and over the TV media’s wording in their short sound bytes would lead a casual observer to think that Iran’s elections are comparable to the US. I think it’d be more helpful if more people realized the true structure of Iranian elections so Joe Six Pack might realize that the Iranian people as a whole may not be represented by the Government. I frankly find it encouraging that a whole 30% of Iranians have a positive view of the US given the past history, with the playing both sides in the Iran/Iraq war, accidentally shooting down one of their civilian aircraft, ect… and if more people are more aware of this then it helps more US citizens see that not all Iranians are demanding Israel be wiped off the map or call the US the Great Satan.


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