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On Monday morning, Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick posted an article titled “This Is The Terrified Monkey That Iran Shot Into Space.” The article only amounted to a little over a hundred words – that’s including the short update posted hours later. Instead, it relied heavily on photos, from and Twitter user @MahirZeynalov, of a monkey strapped into a flight harness – the photos recalled the image of an injured person strapped to a gurney with a neck brace.

And that was it. With the exception of the aforementioned small update with another photo, this time provided by The Associated Press, and an allusion that the space flight was a sham to cover up nuclear missile testing, that was all the article consisted of.

It is not the story itself, which highlights the callous and cruel nature of animal testing in the field of science, that begs criticism but rather how the story was framed.

Using large, bolded font, the article highlighted words like "Iran," "Islamic Republic," "Rocket" and "Missile Test," seemingly done to deliberately rile up a fearful public – an American public who, generally, already harbors a deep-seated mistrust towards Iranians. The way the information was presented, it seemed more like unwarranted rabble rousing than anything else. Take for example how Gawker reported on the same story – using almost the same wording, but without the undercurrent of xenophobic rhetoric.

Buzzfeed’s sensationalist presentation seemed to work; take a quick glance through the article’s comment section and you’ll find incendiary remarks, like

"These shit heads torture their own people every day, is anyone really surprised that they do it to animals too?"
"When he landed he was stoned to death."
"Fuck you Iran, that monkey was the smartest thing in your country!"
Was this sort of reaction from the public the goal of the article?

Is there a reason why Buzzfeed insists on making this an Iranian thing? Lest we forget our own recent history, every single nation who has achieved space flight has done so first by using animals, including the United States, Japan, China, France, The former Soviet Union, and now Iran.

So what, are we to say that when America does something cruel and terrible to animals it's a great achievement in science, but when Iranians do it it's an egregious act of barbarianism?

The truth is this isn’t about animal cruelty at all. This isn’t about excusing one country for committing the same sin others have committed in the past. This is about a deliberate narrative being written, a narrative that paints Iranians as backward savages, as an imminent threat to our country and our livelihood. This isn’t a narrative that Buzzfeed has created, nor is it even one that Buzzfeed is alone in perpetuating; rather, in this instance Buzzfeed is just one lowly tile in a huge quilt. Here, Buzzfeed is doing nothing more than continuing the media's trend of villainizing Iran – seemingly, so it'll be that much easier for the public to swallow the pill of an eventual engagement. We are presented with this sort of image of Iran everywhere, from CNN to Newsweek to (of course) Fox News.

So, if this is a trend that most of the American media is participating in, and Buzzfeed’s article is just a tiny drop in a very large pond, why even mention it? Simple, because in the age that we live in, an age of constant information consumption, an age of corporatized media, we as consumers need to be diligent and aware of what we read, watch, and listen to. We need to be aware that not everyone is an objective voice, that sometimes what’s worse than an entity having a clear and overt political agenda is an entity who has a subtle one – or worse, an entity who has no political agenda of their own but propagates an already existing narrative, which may be the case here.

I don’t know Mr. Broderick from Adam. I don’t know his political leaning – or if he even has one – so I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that this article was written with absolutely no intentional malice. But even if someone is just going along with the general consensus, they are still helping push along a narrative.

Do not misunderstand this critique; it isn’t in any way advocating any form of censorship or editing. That should not be the take away from this. This is merely a call for vigilance, to be aware of what we read and the reactions they may be made to elicit from us. Information consumption should not be a passive act; we should remain engaged and aware – and inform our own opinions rather than have them shaped for us.

Originally posted to Fahad Arman on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 01:21 PM PST.

Also republished by Muslims at Daily Kos.

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