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Iran and Honduras in the Propaganda System


When a young Iranian woman was shot dead by the security forces of her own government (allegedly — she was shot by a sniper, after all), and digital images of her death were loaded onto the Internet and then YouTube, they "rocketed around the world," and the person who recorded her death at the scene, the person who emailed the digital imagery along to others with the message "Please let the world know," and the person who uploaded the imagery onto YouTube, each received journalism's George Polk Award in the States for videography. 

 
But when a young Honduran man was shot dead by the security forces of his own government, and digital images of his death were loaded onto YouTube and circulated further, these images did not rocket around the world.  In fact, they went almost nowhere.   (See Part 1, Table 1.)


   

Table 1. Differential media interest in two young victims murdered by the security forces of their own governments[1]

 

 

 

  Newspaper coverage TV, Radio, and other coverage TOTALS
Neda Agha-Soltan, aged 27, shot dead while participating in a peaceful street demonstration in Tehran on June 20 736 231 967
Isis Obed Murillo, aged 19, shot dead while participating in a peaceful demonstration at the Toncontín airport in Tegucigalpa on July 5 8 1 9


When Iranians became victims of human rights abuses by their own government in the immediate aftermath of Iran's June 12, 2009 presidential election, the U.S. and Western media paid attention, and these Iranians were "worthy." 

But when Hondurans became victims of human rights abuses by their own government, whether in the immediate aftermath of the June 28, 2009 coup d'etat in Honduras, or around the time of the national elections on November 29, the U.S. and Western media did not pay attention, and these Hondurans were "unworthy."  (See Part 2, Table 1.)

Table 1.  Differential media usage of the phrases 'human rights abuses' and 'human rights violations' in two countries where dissidents were repressed by their own governments [2]

 

  Newspaper coverage
Iran's presidential election, June 13 – July 12, 2009 (first 30 days after) 89
The Honduras coup d'état, June 29 – July 28, 2009 (first 30 days after)  0[3]
The Honduras elections, October 31 – November 29 (last 30 days through the date of the election) 1
The Honduras elections, November 30 – December 29, 2009 (first 30 days after) 1


When allegations of fraud (and the like) accompanied Iran's June 12, 2009 presidential election, the U.S. and Western media reported these allegations, and initiated them as well. 

But when allegations of fraud (and the like) accompanied Honduras' November 29, 2009 elections, and when more than one-in-two Honduran voters declined to participate in these elections, the U.S. and Western media did not report these allegations of fraud, or initiate similar charges.  (See Part 2, Table 2.)

Table 2.  Differential attributions of "fraud" (etc.) to two presidential elections in 2009: Iran and Honduras [4]

 

 

  'phony' 'rigged' 'stolen' 'fake' 'farce' 'sham' 'fraud' Totals
Iran presi-dential election, June 12, 2009 0 1,005 182 19 9 40 875 2,130
Honduras presi-dential election,
Nov. 28, 2009
0 1 0 0 10 1 16 28

 
When Iranians used some of the newer electronic communications technology and software applications to organize demonstrations against their government, to challenge its legitimacy, and to monitor its human rights abuses and then report these abuses to the outside world, the U.S. and Western media reported these Iranians' use of the technology, and lauded them for their novel democratic opposition to a repressive regime. 

But when Honduran citizens used the same electronic communications technology and the same software applications to organize demonstrations against their government, to challenge its legitimacy, and to monitor its human rights abuses and then report these abuses to the outside world, the U.S. and Western media did not report this use of the technology, or laud Hondurans for it.  In fact, they collectively ignored it.  (See Part 2, Table 3.)

 


Table 3.  Differential media interest in the role of some newer electronic communications technologies in two countries where political unrest was met by government repression: Iran and Honduras [5]

 

  Newspaper coverage
Iran: The first 30 days of protests following the June 12, 2009 presidential election (June 13 – July 12) Approx. 2,000
Honduras: The first 30 days of protests following the June 28, 2009 coup d'état (June 29 – July 28) 11

 


Needless to say, the most important question is, Why?  What accounts for this solidly consistent pattern of differential interest in and treatment of protestors against and victims of the repressive actions of the governments in these two countries — Iran and Honduras?

In a two-part analysis now published by MRZine, Edward S. Herman and I answer this question.

 

Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Iran and Honduras in the Propaganda System, Part 1:  Neda Agha-Soltan Versus Isis Obed Murillo," MRZine, October 5, 2010

 

Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Iran and Honduras in the Propaganda System, Part 2: The 2009 Iranian and Honduran Elections," MRZine, October 24, 2010

 

Clearly, the explanation for this dichotomous treatment of Iran and Honduras 2009-2010 lies in the perennial triumph of power and ideology in the United States and in the metropolitan centers of the fabled "West," as well as the Westernized parts of the rest of the world, where a hegemonic system of practices and beliefs reigns supreme, and encompass the Internet, Facebook, YouTube, text-messaging and Twitter (and whichever successor technologies and software applications soon follow) as much the U.S. Department of State and the New York Times. 

In other words, it is the various "applications" (to use the popular term) that human individuals carry around with them in their heads and that run and largely discipline and control their what they think that we are analyzing hereand that any critical analysis must prioritize over the strictly derivative applications (i.e., epi-apps or apps-of-apps) that, like the one I happen to be using at this very moment, most assuredly will not expand and deepen the realm of deep human freedom.

 


– David Peterson
    Chicago, USA

 

 

—- Notes —-

 

  [1] Factiva database searches carried out under the "Newspapers: All" and "Transcripts" categories on August 25, 2010.  The exact search parameters were as follows: For Iran: rst=(tnwp or ttpt) and Iran and (neda or agha-soltan) for the 29 day period June 20 – July 18, 2009; and for Honduras: rst=(tnwp or ttpt) and Honduras and (isis murill* or obed murill*) for the 29 day period from July 5 – August 2, 2009.  The time-periods searched for each individual murder victim began on the day they were murdered and continued for four-weeks-to-the-day (or 28 days more).  We selected the murders of both Neda Agha-Soltan and Isis Obed Murillo for study based on several factors, one of which is that both murders were highlighted in Amnesty International's The State of the World's Human Rights (London: Amnesty International Publications, 2010), p. 173 and p. 163, respectively. 

  [2] Factiva database searches carried out under the "Newspapers: All" category on October 7, 2010.  The exact search parameters were as follows: For Iran: rst=tnwp and atleast2 Iran* and (human rights abuse* or human rights violation*) for the two time periods specified; and for Honduras: rst=tnwp and atleast2 Hondur* and (human rights abuse* or human rights violation*) for the three time periods specified.

  [3] About the zero in the third row for the first 30 days after coup d'état in Honduras (June 29 – July 28, 2009): In fact, Factiva produced 8 matches.  But upon checking each of them, we determined that all mentions of human rights abuses in articles also mentioning Honduras referred to human rights abuses that either had occurred in the past in Honduras or that had occurred elsewhere in Latin America.  For this reason, we've excluded these from our total, leaving us with zero.  Thus, for example, Simon Romero wrote in the New York Times about "countries like Chile, Argentina and Brazil, where bitter memories linger over human rights abuses by military officials that toppled civilian rulers in the 1960s and 1970s" ("Rare Hemisphere Unity In Assailing Honduran Coup," June 29, 2009).  Similarly, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that "The coup in Honduras brings back bitter memories in Latin America, where for years military officials toppled civilian rulers at will, unleashing horrific human-rights abuses" (Marina Jimenez, "Honduras coup at odds with new politics in Americas," July 1, 2009).  In London's Independent, Hugh O'Shaughnessy reported that in 2001, "Democratic Senator Chris Dodd attacked Mr. [John] Negroponte…for drawing a veil over atrocities committed in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, by military forces trained by the US. Mr. Dodd claimed that the forces had been 'linked to death squad activities such as killings, disappearances and other human rights abuses'" ("Democracy hangs by a thread in Honduras," July 19, 2009).  Richard Collie wrote in the Korean Times that "since World War II, the School of the Americas (SOA), founded in Panama but now based in Fort Benning, Ga., under the new guise of 'Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation'…has its grubby finger prints all over a long list of political assassinations, coups and human rights abuses in the region" ("Iron Fist, Velvet Glove: Obama and Honduras," July 20, 2009).

  [4] Factiva database searches carried out under the "Newspapers: All" category on August 25, 2010.  The time-periods searched began four-weeks-to-the-day (or 28 days) prior to each election, and continued through four weeks (or 28 days) after the election, for a combined search period of 57 days each.  The exact search parameters were as follows: For Iran: rst=tnwp and Iran and (election* or vote*) w/10 ((phony or phony) or (rig or rigg*) or stole* or fake* or farc* or sham or fraud*) not (Afghanistan or Honduras)) for the period May 15-July 10, 2009; and for Honduras: rst=tnwp and Honduras and (election* or vote*) w/10 ((phony or phoney) or (rig or rigg*) or stole* or fake* or farc* or sham or fraud*) not (Afghanistan or Iran)) for the period November 2-December 28, 2009.

  [5] Factiva database searches carried out under the "Newspapers: All" category on October 7, 2010.  The exact search parameters were as follows: For Iran: rst=tnwp and atleast2 Iran* and (internet or facebook or youtube or twitter or sms or text-messaging or mobile communication*) not Hondur* for the 30-day period specified; and for Honduras: rst=tnwp and atleast2 Hondur* and (internet or facebook or youtube or twitter or sms or text-messaging or mobile communication*) not Iran* for the 30-day period specified.  Note that in row 1, column 2, we report the total as "approximately 2,000."

 

 

 

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