With tiresome predictability, the Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is again in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. And again, he is performing to type. Rambling, inchoate speeches about the decline of capitalism, facile equations of the Iran's judicial system with that of the United States, ranting about Israel -- of course! -- and a televised sit down with Charlie Rose. And Larry King.
As my colleague Kenneth Bandler argued in a recent op-ed, "no broadcast media outlet is obligated to give Ahmadinejad a platform. Some may argue about the need to protect free speech, but that's definitely not the issue. It's about the Iranian leader taking advantage of our open society to propagandize."
It's hard to believe that producers and anchors don't know that already, nor that they haven't watched their colleagues wrestle with Ahmadinejad's elasticity in the past. Really, why bother any more?
I am not suggesting that Ahmadinejad be ignored. But to indulge him in this way serves no purpose other than reinforcing his sense of immunity, at just the time that his clerical rivals are once more scheming to bring him down.
Far better to remind Ahmadinejad that the world is watching. For those in New York, there are protests - like this one outside the UN, or this one, outside the Hilton hotel where he is staying, and doubtless more besides. After all, there are plenty of reasons to protest -- most immediately the sentencing of human rights defender Shiva Nazar Ahari to six years of incarceration, just days after the regime extorted $500,000 from her family to bail her out of prison.
To protest is to recognize the futility of dialogue with Ahmadinejad, a man who, when it comes to lying, enviably blends classical totalitarianism with postmodern spin. As an interview subject, he should be left to the sort of useful idiot who thinks that a show on Ahmadinejad's mouthpiece, Press TV, is a mark of celebrity -- serious journalists need not, and should not, follow there. They would be better off investigating why a regime media outlet like Press TV is widely, and preposterously, regarded as a legitimate broadcaster.
They might find that part of the answer lies in the marketing. Press TV has quite snazzy graphics and music inflected with soul and jazz. It even waged an advertising campaign on the red double-decker buses of London -- which is its main international operating base -- using the frankly Orwellian slogan, "24/7. News. Truth."
Truth, in this case, means alternately demonizing and marginalizing the protests of the democracy movement in Iran. It means ignoring the power struggles plaguing the Iranian regime, like that between Ahmadinejad and parliament speaker Ali Larijani -- a rivalry so bitter that not even their shared enthusiasm for Holocaust denial can heal it. Above all, it means fabricating stories. Here's the JHate blog with a venerable example:
Press TV has repeated its allegation that Israelis kidnap non-Jews and harvest their organs for use as "spare parts." In a story about real allegations that some Israelis purchase kidneys on the black market in South Africa, Press TV adds that "another report" describes an Israeli plot to "kidnap children and harvest their organs." Press TV continues: "According to the report, some 25,000 Ukrainian children had been brought into Israel over the past two years to be used by Israeli medical centers for their 'spare parts.' The Israeli military is also accused of stealing the organs of Palestinian prisoners." Press TV has made this heinous allegation at least three other times.
Of course they have. This same allegation of blood libel has been around for hundreds of years -- and as Ahmadinejad himself might tell you, the old tunes are the best.
But my patience has run out. I don't want to know what Ahmadinejad had for breakfast this morning. I want to know why governments which have banned terror broadcasters like Al Manar and Al Aqsa continue to tolerate the presence of Press TV on the airwaves. And I want to know when they are going to shut it down.