powerful impact of the media in stereotyping Iranians
June 11, 2004
There is no greater power in the world
today, than the power of the media to manipulate public opinion
favor of a political action or statement. The media
manipulators are no one but the leaders of our
societies who control the mass media. They shape and
mold the minds of every citizen, young or old, rich or
poor, simple or sophisticated. The political figures
use the media such as, television, radio, newspapers,
magazines, books, motion pictures to convey their
views of the world and they then tell us how and what
to think about those views.
Essentially everything we
know, or think we know about events outside our own
neighborhood or circle of acquaintances comes to us
via our daily newspaper, our weekly news magazine, our
radio, or our television. It is not just the
heavy-handed suppression of certain news stories from
our newspapers or the blatant propagandizing of
history-distorting TV documentaries that characterizes
the opinion-manipulating techniques of the media
They exploit the way in which the news is
covered. They chose the items that should be
emphasized and the ones that should be played down.
Media controllers direct reporter's choice of words,
tone of voice, facial expressions, the wording of
headlines and the choice of illustrations which all of
these things subliminally and yet profoundly affect
the way in which we interpret what we see or hear.
The control of the opinion-molding media is nearly
monolithic. Their techniques have been used all
through history to form political statements in order
to win public opinion during war and elections
achieved by censoring 'unnecessary' details and
propagandizing information, causing clichÈ and
stereotyped views about a nation, in this case Iran.
All of the controlled media speak with a single voice,
each reinforcing the other. Despite the appearance of
variety, there is no real dissent, no alternative
source of facts or ideas accessible to the great mass
of people that might allow them to form opinions at
odds with their governments. Most people will then
have the same equal knowledge of the Iranian
revolution, the Persian Gulf War and the American
With all the presented evidence, Iran
is therefore the 'Axis of Evil' despite the fact that
only 20 years ago it was the most important influence
for the American government in the region.
Media creates and prepares the war context, so what
would happen if they held a war that nobody watched?
Television is a strong medium in sending messages
across. It is simply a medium that its images can't be
ignored, people believe what they see, and therefore
censorship played a major factor in submitting to the
will of the American politics.
Researchers found that
heavy TV watchers were more likely to support the war.
Due to the fact that the more TV people watched, the
less they knew. On the surface, it was about the '
Persian Gulf War' however behind the closed curtains
it was about the stifling of alternative views
resulting from limited or unbalanced media coverage by
war critics for governmental use to win public trust
about dehumanizing and demonizing of a stereotyped
Negative images fabricating a distorted
view of an enemy makes belligerence possible. For
decades, the development of propaganda has turned the
job of creating enemies over to the media. But this
process isn't limited to war.
To many, the Persian Gulf War was a tragedy, to others
a successful crusade. It all depended on the way the
media portrayed it. The media killed the Iranian image
with their weapons of mass distraction, before the war
killed, with weapons of mass destruction.
This is what
the media displayed, Whatever the conflict, the enemy
is always the one who disagrees the US, we are on
God's side, and Iranians are just barbaric Arabs, we
are good, they are evil. It is evident that the press
coverage at the time was war-sided and biased, since
it was in full control of the Government.
interview Mr. Reagan agreed 'If you were going to hire
a public relations firm to do the media relations for
an international event, it couldn't be done any better
than this is being done'. Of course, because
journalists had to sign papers agreeing to abide by
press regulations before they received a visa for
fleeing to the Persian Gulf. All photographs, video
and battlefield dispatches had to be cleared by
Reporters were constantly watched,
and were removed from sensitive areas. Feisty reports
were frequently excluded. According to a project of
Human Rights Watch "the administration appears to have
favored those journalists whose coverage is likely to
be favorable to the war effort". Isn't this enough
evidence that the media was simply interested in
making a war story similar to the movie 'True Lies'
simply stereotyping middle-easterners as savagely and
Regarding all this censorship, control and political
influence it is probably why the Americans never saw
the bombings on the Iranian passenger plane flying
over the Persian Gulf taking passenger to the Iranian
holiday destination, Kish. Censored news accounts
hyped the success of U.S. weaponry, of course this is
not surprising, the Pentagon released footage that
showed only hits, not misses, and U.S. journalists who
were reduced to spectators along with the TV audience
filed their TV talk shows accordingly.
scud missiles were "terrorist weapons", according to
New York Times, American bombers undertook "surgical
strikes" that resulted merely in 'collateral damage'.
TV experts praised President Reagan's costly arms
build. They reassured American citizens that "It's
gratifying to know all this money was well spent",
well spent on destroying Tehran primary schools,
killing innocent children, and providing Saddam with
more chemical bombs to poison indigent Kurds and other
villagers who had little to do with American
The American Government had created a hard
shell around itself so that the only way the people
could communicate with the world outside would be via
the American news media. In this way the people would
be protected from any true details about the war that
would create disbelief in the American technology and
Long before Americans tuned in for hour-to-hour
updates on who their next president might be, they
watched day to day updates about American held
hostages in Tehran on a program named 'America held
hostage'. Their exaggeration simply increased the
already inflated self-image of the hostage-takers,
which were simply Iranian student revolutionaries. It
was an incredible story for the mass media that soon
was turned into an American obsession, because it had
a flashy name and America was of course the victim. TV
took advantage of the situation and made a daily
nighttime 'insuperable human drama' that 'endowed
a beginning, a middle, and an end'.
The end was in
favor of the media as well as the government,
portraying an incident as a crisis, then feeding it to
the public, then again the media selected its heroes
and demons, and ended the story in favor of every one
except the Iranian people. As much as the hostage
affair affected the media, the media in turn had a
major impact on the incident itself or at least the
public perception of it. According to the news
coverage the 'Iranians are bad guys, the Iranians are
weird, wild-eyed radicals and the American Government
have no idea what they are up to'.
The fact is, the
American government knew enough about the Iranian
government interests to be able to put an end to the
incident much earlier than 444 days.
Furthermore the government couldn't care any less,
but their own interests to score points for the coming
elections. Therefore defacing the Iranians was their
only way out to distract the American citizens. By
setting the camera focus in a different direction the
media automatically bought time for Carter to come up
with strategic plans to negotiate with the hostage
takers behind the eyes of the media to win back public
trust and votes for the upcoming elections.
powerful impact of the media's reporting directly
reflected the underlying story and worked indirectly
on the public's consciousness. Gerald Rafshoon, a
media adviser to PM Carter, stated that, "To the
public, Iran became a metaphor for everything. The
press hardly made any efforts to go beyond stimulating
people's sense of anger towards Iranians. The fight
was simply one sided and Carter's win of the elections
was simply an act of the media empowering the
What the pictures focused on was
the militants, the militants came to understand the
power of television and they played for the cameras.
It ended costing the Iranians their dignity because
the image media reflected of Iranians at the time was
too stereotyped which the effects are still present in
today's reactions towards the Iranian nation.
In conclusions here is an arbitrary but necessary
choice. You can either sell yourself to the media
frenzy and let them guide you, or you could challenge
the 'exposed' and really decide.
The media are
extremely powerful in setting, forming and changing
people's ideas and opinions, and most often they use
it in terms of propaganda. Television may seem to
portray the everyday world. In fact it does not. The
news and current affairs are as true as
advertisements, dramas and other entertainment
programs. It has political implications. Politics has
to do with the broad structures of power, and not just
the narrow world of voting and elections.
affects in terms of the cumulative effect of news coverage upon the gatekeeper's
understanding of which issues are important. The agenda setting
not be successful in telling people what to think, but
it is stunningly successful in telling its readers
what to think about. This would then allow little gap
for individual thinking, leading towards issues such
as stereotyping, generalizing and miss leading
information. Thus the media is not always a true
representation of what is really happening in the
world but just a foggy image that is captured on a
camera lens or on paper.
goodbye to spam!