Egregiously Irresponsible Media: Iran Careers Toward Apocalyptic International Crisis While Michael Jackson Reported as Still Dead

“It happened during baseball season, so the [San Francisco] Chronicle didn’t cover it.” – Tom Lehrer on a perennial media shortcoming

It is the worst of times, and most major media – especially electronic media — think that the specter of international crisis is less important to report on because more people are interested in Michael Jackson. That about which the public thirsts for knowledge is more important to non-serious journalists than that which affects Western Civilization’s chances for survival (apologies to Arnold Toynbee).

President Barack Obama faces a tremendously consequential choice in presidential decision-making: whether to stay the course in Iran, hoping that the partially quashed revolutionary movement there can serve to stop, among other aspects of Iranian extremism, the move toward acquisition of nuclear weapons. Or – should he prepare to support Israeli military action to end or delay such a catastrophic political transformation?

In tomorrow’s Washington Post, Afshin Molavi, an expert on Iranian politics, asks, “Where are the labor unions, teachers unions, science academies, university students and ordinary Americans from all walks of life who took to U.S. streets last year to back an unlikely presidential candidate whose motto of hope and change is mirrored by Iranians half a world away? The key difference between them? Iranians are facing guns and violence as they wage their struggle for a democratic future.”

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One answer: they don’t think the Iranian situation is a crisis or even momentous. Why? Partly because, again, mainstream media are giving short shrift to their coverage.

Tonight’s NBC Nightly News led off with coverage of Sarah Palin’s announcement that she will resign as Governor of Alaska, a major event which finally broke the daily stream of coverage of the death and investigation of said death of Michael Jackson, which was the second story. There was no mention – no mention – of Iran at all, including reports that Iran may try several British Embassy employees for, as the Associated Press puts it, “fomenting postelection turmoil.” There also was no mention of North Korea, which today fired 2 more missiles off its eastern coast in the latest in its series of dangerously escalating nuclear provocations.

The world may end in fire or the world may end in ice. But if it should end in the former, some media coverage would be nice.

Professor Vatz teaches an advanced course in Media Criticism at Towson University

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