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And, yes, I DO take it personally: The American hikers detained in Iran - a "no-context" triumph for an NYT op-ed
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

The American hikers detained in Iran - a "no-context" triumph for an NYT op-ed

ya gotta love our so-called news media... they never hesitate to step forward with stories and opinions unequivocally stating facts and taking strong positions... yes, they want to appear like they're doing their job and, to all appearances, they are... what isn't apparent, principally because it's almost never there, is the context so vitally necessary to truly understanding anything presented as "news" or "opinion"...

take today's nyt op-ed, calling on iran to follow its own rule of law and to release the three detained american hikers apprehended while hiking along the iran-iraq border (see my previous post here)... now that the hikers have finally been charged, after a year in confinement, with "illegal border crossing," the piece very reasonably lays out a strong argument that iran should observe its own law, a law which states that such an offense is punishable with a fine but not jail time... the piece goes on to lament that iran seems to be treating the three as pawns in its ceaseless game of taunting the united states...

never once in the piece nor in any other mainstream news media reports i've read on the detainees is the broader context mentioned, context that would point out that unlawful detention, detention without charges, and detention under potentially damaging physical and emotional conditions is precisely what the united states itself has been doing and continues to do, all under the justification of our superior moral authority: u.s. = good; iran = bad...

perhaps an even bigger piece of unmentioned context is how united states behavior is mirrored, emulated and even aspired to by other countries... the united states is always pushing its status as a role model in the world of nations and, while there are some who would snicker at such a boast (and i'm frequently one of them), the truth is that the united states does indeed set the bar for nation-state behavior in the foreign policy arena and, to a lesser extent, the internal domestic policy arena as well... i've heard officials of other countries, first-hand and in so many words, say, "well, what's the problem...? YOU do it, why shouldn't we...?"

lack of context in news and opinion reporting, reporting we should be able to rely on as not only factual but textured, complete and fully informative, is a very slippery slope... we need look no further than andrew breitbart's recent deliberate omission of a key part of shirley sherrod's speech to see just how dangerous and manipulative the absence of full context can be, but what we fail to realize is that the breitbart scam is only the tip of a very large iceberg...

why are we given so little context...? i don't think anyone with half a brain could miss the answer to that one... if we did have the full context or even half of it, we might arrive at very different conclusions about the meaning and implication of news events than we do currently... people are not stupid and, in fact, far from it... we are fully capable of rational thought and forming our own conclusions based on information and evidence at hand... when deprived of that information and evidence, we will form conclusions based on the information and evidence we're given... and that, my friends, is the whole idea...

Since their detention, the Americans have been denied access to their lawyer and allowed only one telephone call to their families and one visit from their mothers. There is particular worry now about Ms. Shourd, who spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement — the reason is unclear — and has a precancerous condition on her cervix and a breast abnormality, both of which require monitoring. The Iranians are withholding results of her medical tests.

It’s hard not to compare the hikers’ experience with that of Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist who recently returned to Tehran. He claimed that the Central Intelligence Agency had abducted him in Saudi Arabia. American officials said he was an informant who defected and then got cold feet.

Given the shady world of espionage, we may never know the truth. What we do know is that he was allowed to leave this country and was last seen embracing his family in Tehran. It’s long past time for the three Americans to have the same opportunity.

what about the host of detainees the united states has kept sequestered in places like bagram and guantánamo for years without charges and without any family visits at all...? don't they deserve the same opportunity...? don't they deserve the same empathetic treatment from the nyt...? isn't it important that we see the similarities between the our treatment of detainees and that of iran...?

yes, the circumstances of the hikers and the detainees in guantánamo are different but what isn't different is that we're dealing with real, live human beings... you can't call for decent treatment and following the rule of law for one set of human beings and not recognize that all human beings deserve that same treatment... yet it is the position of organs like the nyt, faithfully mirroring the position of our government, that OUR detainees are somehow in a lesser category, somewhere between wild animal and human... and yet we can still ask with perfectly straight faces, "why do 'they' hate us?"...

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