Thursday, January 11, 2018

Adam Johnson — Coverage of Iran Protests Illustrated With Protests Not in Iran––Organized by Fringe Cultists

When it comes to covering protests in other countries, it seems any vague picture of brown people protesting can stand in for those actually on the streets expressing their grievances. Since the outbreak of protests across Iran three weeks ago, several major outlets have used pictures of demonstrations in the United States, France, or United Kingdom—organized by a fringe, cult-like group, Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)—in place of images of the entirely unaffiliated protesters, 6,000 miles away, who are the topic of discussion.

Fox News, Scientific American, Vox, Salon, National Interest and Axios were among the outlets that used unidentified photos of protests not in Iran to illustrate stories about protests in Iran.

These are all images of rallies by the MEK (sometimes known as the People’s Mujahedin, or its benign-sounding front-group name, National Council of Resistance) being presented as protesters in Iran. Several other outlets used their images, but noted they were simply “solidarity” marches in the US or Europe. While this is technically accurate, it’s still wildly misleading, given that it’s safe to assume most people won’t know that the organizers of these rallies are part of a US- and Israeli-aligned fringe group, and not allies of the workers and young people taking to the streets in Iran.
In other words, this was fake news.

Characterizing MEK as a "fringe group" is overly generous. MEK had been designated a terrorist organization until the US reversed its position in 2012 under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some now consider MEK a representative and spokesperson for "the Iranian government in exile," similar to the US treatment of Ahmed Chabali and his pretensions in the lead up to the Iraq War.  To be fair, FAIR does mention this later in the post.
No intellectually honest person takes MEK seriously as a viable alternative to the current government in Iran. The idea that it is an actual “Iranian opposition” is a Western media fiction. But the group’s rallies outside Iranian embassies provide great visual fodder for indifferent or dishonest editors in need of high-quality “Iran protest” images—without the mess of actually paying Iranian photographers, or dissecting the on-the-ground political reality in Iran.
Coverage of Iran Protests Illustrated With Protests Not in Iran––Organized by Fringe Cultists
Adam Johnson

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