As the Daily Dish wrote today, "The revolution will not be televised--it will be YouToubed."
Cable news is too busy presenting us with the viewpoint of every passenger on the Detroit flight who saw the would-be-terrorist to keep us adequately apprised of what has been going on in Iran in the past few days.
For the past decade, the 24-hour news channels have continued to whittle away at their foreign bureaus, arguably leaving them without the manpower or resources to cover the important events occurring all over the globe. It is ironic that as globalization increases, our media becomes increasingly insular.
It is no surprise that Fox "News" has the smallest number of foreign bureaus of the three cable news networks. As we all know, Fox has no interest in "News" and is devoted 24/7 to propping up the Republican party, Teabaggers, and other conservatives; and to attacking Obama.
This explains why Fox had no foreign bureau in Africa or Latin America as of 2008; the only time Fox wants to send someone to those countries is when Obama is there and Ailes hopes to catch him bowing to someone or seeming to apologize for something. The only foreign bureau Fox has in the Middle East is in Jerusalem; and in Asia, Fox has a bureau only in Hong Kong. Who cares about Japan and Taiwan? It's not like there's anything going on in Korea these days, either.
MSNBC is not much better, with 12 foreign bureaus to Fox's 6. CNN has 33 foreign bureaus; while it is not the BBC (which had 41 in 2009--down from 45 in 2000), it is respectable.
Looking for Network coverage of Iran? Finding good coverage may be difficult. As the Nation explained in September that "The BBC's forty-one permanent foreign bureaus are more than twice the number maintained by ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS each."
U.S. news agencies simply cannot afford it. PBS receives less funding each year than it cost to make the movie Avatar:
Total federal support for American public broadcast media in 2007 was about $480 million...the BBC, which serves a nation with one-fifth the US Population...received the equivalent of $5.6 billion in government money in 2007.
When it comes to public media, the United States is decisively outspent by the governments of most other major democracies. Japan, whose population is less than half the size of the United States', spent the equivalent of $6.8 billion for public broadcasting in 2007; Germany, with one-third the size, spent about $11 billion; and Canada, a tenth the size, spent $898 million. Even Denmark and Ireland, with populations smaller than New York City, far outspent the United States per capita, with respective budgets equivalent to $673 million and $296 million.
Despite all these numbers and the lack of foreign bureaus, that is not the real reason the US media is not talking about Iran today. Consider, Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog has far superior coverage of what has occurred in Iran over the past few days than the public or cable news stations despite having a significantly smaller budget:
It's seasonally quiet in the West, but in Iran, this weekend could be the most important since the June Revolution began. It's Ashura, the mourning festival that begins today and culminates tomorrow. Ashura symbolizes resistance to oppression to the last drop, and because Shia Islam identifies with the oppressed in that story, any government brutality in these days could be a p.r. disaster for the coup regime.
Already there are reports of intense street fights as the Baseej try to prevent any attempt to begin the momentum for demonstrations. Tomorrow, there will be massive crowds on the streets which the legitimate government of Mousavi, Karroubi and their followers will attempt to coopt...The Dish will be following tomorrow's critical events very closely. Ayatollah Khomeini cited Ashura as the real spark for the revolution that brought down the Shah.
Sullivan provides yet another example of why traditional journalism is dying and being replaced by citizen journalism, upon which the "professionals" heap such scorn.
The Iranians are using cell phones and cameras to document what is going on in their country and sharing it with the world through social media sites like Twitter and YouTube. Sullivan and his team are combing these sites, as well as the national media and Iranian blogs, to bring as comprehensive a picture as possible of what is taking place in Iran.
The actions of a failed terrorist attempt (eg, the shoe bomber Richard Reid) are about as significant as Hurricane Mindy compared with Hurricane Katrina. Surprisingly, a Kos diarist today equated Obama's response to the failed terrorist attempt to Bush's weak response to Hurricane Katrina.
Why? Because the media has made it seem like this attempted terrorist attempt is that newsworthy. They've put it on par with Tiger Woods' sexual indiscretions, Carrie Prejean's sex tapes, and Michael Jackson's death--or the safe landing of a plane in the Hudson River.
Our media's priorities and, consequently, the public's priorities and expectations, are out of whack with the reality of what is important in the grand scheme of history.
An attempted terrorist attack is obviously serious and something wirth investigating--how did it happen and how do we prevent it from happening again?--but nobody died. The plane was not damaged. The greatest 'victim' was the would-be terrorist.
Meanwhile, Iran may be on the verge of a revolution, and the ripple effect from a regime change in Iran would be huge. It could lead to further destablilization in the Middle East, with war spreading outside its borders; or it could lead to a positive turn in relations between the US and Iran or even Israel and Iran. That just might be something worth canceling one's vacation for, and it is far more interesting than what Sarah Palin said on Facebook the other day.
From Iran, Sullivan has reports of police refusing to fire on protesters as ordered; protesters are no longer cowering from the Baseej but instead the Bassej are cowering from protesters. Protests have gone from peaceful to increasingly violent, with attacks against the Baseej and security forces, including setting fire to Baseej buildings and possibly obtaining arms. As the Daily Dish points out, it was gaining access to munitions that contributed to the success of the 1979 Iranian revolutionaries.
More than 10 protesters have been killed in the streets in the past 24 hours, including Mousavi's nephew. Protesters have spread beyond Tehran, with hundreds of thousands apparently taking to the streets.
We may be witnessing true history or we may be witnessing something destined to fizzle out into nothing more than a permanent example of courage in the face of oppression, much like Tiannamen Square.
The other thing we are witnessing is another example of why blogs--particularly progressive blogs--are becoming far more reliable sources of news and information for the intellectually curious than the journalebrities on cable news.
As Daily Dish is proving, it does not take millions of dollars to present the news from abroad; if the major news agencies wanted to talk about the events in Iran, they have access to everything Sullivan has access to and more. Instead they choose to pursue what they think will generate ratings:
Another appeal to "American exceptionalism," with American passengers subduing a would-be-terrourist;
An appeal to fear--"There was a failed terrorist attack! Is it 9/11 all over again? Aren't you afraid?"
An appeal to political anger--"Did Obama fail to protect us?"
An appeal to anger--"We should be attacking Yemen" (courtesy Joe Lieberman).
No wonder large segments of the American population seem to be becoming increasingly stupid. Our movies have been dumbed down (Transformers, GI Joe, and Bride Wars, anyone?); our music is being dumbed down with largely talentless performers using electronic voice enhancers; our television has been dumbed down with a plethora of reality shows on people who have lots of babies (Octomom, Jon & Kate, the Duggars), for example; and you're more likely to get a novel published if you know someone (Going Rogue) than if you write one that is actually good.