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    Middle East
     Sep 11, 2007
Page 1 of 2
Cartoons aid US lynch mob mentality
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Here is a clue why, despite billions spent by Washington on its global public relations campaign, the image of "ugly Americans" still persists in many part of the world, particularly the Muslim world. Just look at the vicious demonization of Iran and everything Iranian in Hollywood, the US media and, of course, the political rhetoric of American politicians.

A distasteful odor of hate ideology, repelling rational thought, is

discernible everywhere, with Iran-bashing in vogue and evincing the darker side of US political culture, ie, the imperialist, xenophobic, intolerant and repressive sentiment of politicians and media pundits toward Iran.

Thus, whereas the enlightened Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton takes her opponent, Barack Obama, to task for ruling out a tactical nuclear strike on Iran, insisting that all options must be "on the table", her Republican rival, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has penned an article in the "influential" Foreign Affairs suggesting that as president he would consider a tactical nuclear strike on Iran. He writes: "The theocrats ruling Iran need to understand that we can wield the stick as well as the carrot, by undermining popular support for their regime, damaging the Iranian economy, weakening Iran's military, and, should all else fail, destroying its nuclear infrastructure."

And that is exactly what the US military planners are cooking up, per a recent report in the London Sunday Times, namely the decimation of the "entire Iranian military" and the "select" targeting of some 1,200 sites.

Such incendiary rhetoric, infecting the discourse of right-wing European politicians as well, has been a good sell to the gullible US public, but not to the more sophisticated Europeans, who have expressed their opposition to any war on Iran in a recent opinion poll.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the tight interplay between government policy and what the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas refers to as "public opinion formation" simply means that a systematic media campaign to demonize and even to dehumanize the Iranians, as part and parcel of a brewing "politics of exterminism" vis-a-vis Iran, has been raging unabated, often led by pro-Israel Jewish pundits such as Michael Ledeen and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, both enthusiastic advocates of "bomb Iran".

But other than several Iran-bashing motion pictures by the Hollywood "culture industry", [1] perhaps the most flagrant, and ugliest, manifestation of this phenomenon in US politics and media has appeared in that vital compartment of opinion-making we call political cartoons. Notwithstanding the recent controversies swirling about European cartoons denigrating Islam's Prophet, or a German cartoon showing the Iranian soccer team dressed as suicide bombers, the right-wing American cartoonists have been making their own contribution - by depicting Iranians variously as dogs, beasts and, in the case of one published last week, by Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez as cockroaches. [2] (Ramirez' syndicated work has a subscription/distribution base of about 400 publications through Copley News Service.)

The latter recalls a similarly insensitive cartoon that appeared in a Tehran daily last year depicting an Azeri-speaking cockroach, which led to huge protests by Iran's Azeri minority. That cartoon was denounced by the government's cabinet ministers as "an offense to the Iranian people as a whole".

Sure, cartoons take a satirical look at news and gossip, and political cartoons add humor to an otherwise sterile topic, but they also serve as propaganda instruments, particularly in times of (and leading up to) war and (international) crisis. The editors of the Columbus Dispatch, which published the Ramirez cartoon, defended it as "freedom of expression" and dismissed a letter sent by the Council on American-Islamic Relations comparing it to Nazi cartoons.

In his reply, the newspaper's editor wondered aloud why the council was silent about Iran's cartoon contest on the Holocaust (which, as it turned out, was shunned by all of Iran's dailies). However, the council's record, available on the Internet, shows that it did denounce that cartoon contest and sent a letter to Iran stating: "Now it is the time for responsible people of all faiths to avoid inflammatory actions that are clearly designed to incite hatred." The letter also stated: "One cannot demand responsible behavior from others while at the same time acting irresponsibly."

Comparison to Nazi propaganda
Sadly, there are strong resemblances between the current anti-Iran propaganda in the US media and that of the Third Reich. As a case in point, the cartoon by Ramirez mentioned above is 

Continued 1 2 

Armed and ready for Iran (Aug 31, '07)

New steps in the war dance over Iran (Aug 30, '07)

US steps closer to war with Iran (Aug 18, '07)

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2. Iran spinning centrifuges - and half-truths

3. US exercising India's military muscle

4. No, it's the dog that wags the tail

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6. Monks vs military hike Myanmar tensions  

7. Bush's silence relieves Taiwan

8. If the North had won the war ...

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(Sep 7-9, 2007)


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