Sunday, March 13, 2005

Establishing "truth"

by Mana Kia*

This is a story about the negotiations by the EU to halt Iran's nuclear energy program (and alleged nuclear weapons program). Amid the conflicting claims of the EU and Iran, the story has this nifty little picture that is suppose to, I guess, display Iran's "defiance" to EU and US proposals.

The ridiculous thing is that these women are not lined up with guns to defy the EU and US, they are female cadets graduating from police academy. The caption of the picture reads: "Iranian female police cadets stand during a graduation ceremony at Iran's police academy in Tehran March 12, 2005."

Leave it to the American press to create a collage of text and photograph to convey as monstrous a picture of Iran as possible, where EVEN the women, dressed like Islamicstorm troopers, are ready to defend their right to nuke the world at will. The uniformity of their clothing and arms, decontextualized from the fact that it is a municipal police uniform, conveys a sense of mindlessness and militancy. The repugnant power of thepicture depends on and reinforces gender stereotypes of women as passive and peace loving - thus the monstrosity of their "unnatural" behavior.

This collage is framed to established the "truth" of Iran's nuclear energy program as a cover for the development of nuclear weapons. There is no proof of this and Iran is completely within its rights (a la international conventions) to develop nuclear energy.

I am not saying that Iran has no aspirations toward nuclear weapons one way or another. I just wanted to call attention to the fact that media stories such as these persuade readers of a definitive truth, not by offering proof or analysis, but through this sort of manipulative, insidious and distorting persuasion.

Here is the story:
Iran Defiant in Face of United U.S., EU Approach

Sat Mar 12, 7:09 AM ET Top Stories - Reuters

By Paul Hughes

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran (news - web sites) defiantly insisted on Saturday it would never give up its nuclear fuel program despite a new united policy of incentives and threats from Washington and the European Union (news - web sites).

Mana Kia is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Harvard University.