Douter de tout ou tout croire, ce sont deux solutions également commodes, qui l’une et l’autre nous dispensent de réfléchir.
To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the need for thought.
– Jules Henri Poincaré, La Science et l’Hypothèse (1901)
By now, we all know the story:
Still high from Barack Obama’s Cairo speech and Lebanon’s recent elections that saw the pro-Western March 14 faction barely maintain its majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the mainstream media fully expected a clean sweep for “reformist” candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran’s June 12th presidential election. They reported surging poll numbers, an ever-growing Green Wave of support for the challenger, while taking every opportunity to get in their tired and juvenile epithets, their final chance to demonize and defame the incumbent Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom they were convinced had absolutely no chance of winning reelection.
The turnout was a massive 85% by most estimates, resulting in almost forty million ballots cast by the eligible Iranian voting public.
Before the polls even closed, Mousavi had already claimed victory. “In line with the information we have received, I am the winner of this election by a substantial margin,” he said. “We expect to celebrate with people soon.” However, according to the chairman of the Interior Ministry’s Electoral Commission, Kamran Daneshjoo, with the majority of votes counted, the incumbent president had taken a seemingly unassailable lead.
It didn’t take long before accusations started flying, knee-jerk reactions were reported as expert analysis, and rumor became fact. As Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei congratulated Ahmadinejad on his landslide victory, calling it a “divine assessment,” the opposition candidates all cried foul. Mousavi called the results “treason to the votes of the people” and the election a “dangerous charade.” Karroubi described Ahmadinejad’s reelection as “illegitimate and unacceptable.”
The Western media immediately jumped on board, calling the election a “fraud,” “theft,” and “a crime scene” in both news reports and editorial commentary. Even so-called progressive analysts, from Juan Cole to Stephen Zunes to Dave Zirin to Amy Goodman to Trita Parsi to the New Yorker‘s Laura Secor, opined on the illegitimacy of the results. They cited purported violations, dissident testimony from inside sources, leaked “real” results, and seeming inconsistencies, incongruities, and irregularities with Iran’s electoral history all with the intention of proving that the election was clumsily stolen from Mousavi by Ahmadinejad. These commentators all call the continuing groundswell of protest to the poll results an “unprecedented” show of courage, resistance, and people power, not seen in Iran since the 1979 revolution.
To me, the only thing unprecedented about what we’re seeing in Iran seems to be the constant media hysteria, righteous indignation, and hypocritical pseudo-solidarity of the West; a bogus, biased, and altogether presumptuous and uncritical reaction to hearsay and conjecture, almost totally decontextualized in order to promote sensational headlines and build international consensus for foreign intervention in Iran.
The foregone (and totally unsubstantiated) conclusions drawn by a rabid, clucking media have led to an ever-growing outrage over the elections results. Weak theories are tossed around like beads on Bourbon Street and assumed to be “expert analysis” and beyond reproach. By now, the accusations are well-known. However, with a little perspective and rational thought, the “evidence” that purportedly demonstrates proof of a fixed election winds up sounding pretty forced. With closer inspection and added context, the arguments crumble and are revealed not to be very compelling, let alone convincing.
We read that the reelection of Ahmadinejad was impossible, unbelievable. It was a sham, a hoax, and a coup d’etat. But, in fact, there is no alleged, let alone substantive, proof to suggest that the results were fixed beyond mere speculation, biased and baseless assumptions, and suspect hearsay. It appears quite clear that the pre-election predictions of a soaring Mousavi victory by the Western press were nothing more than the consequence of presumptuous wishful thinking. Analyst James Petras tells us,
“What is astonishing about the West’s universal condemnation of the electoral outcome as fraudulent is that not a single shred of evidence in either written or observational form has been presented either before or a week after the vote count. During the entire electoral campaign, no credible (or even dubious) charge of voter tampering was raised. As long as the Western media believed their own propaganda of an imminent victory for their candidate, the electoral process was described as highly competitive, with heated public debates and unprecedented levels of public activity and unhindered by public proselytizing. The belief in a free and open election was so strong that the Western leaders and mass media believed that their favored candidate would win.”
Most of these claims rest on the brash and offensive assumption that these “experts” know how Iranians would vote better than Iranians do. Clearly, they argue, Mousavi would win his hometown of Tabriz in the heart of East Azerbaijan, since he’s an ethnic Azeri with an “Azeri accent” and Iranians always vote along geographical and ethnic lines. And yet, Ahmadinejad won that province by almost 300,000 votes. Curious, no?
As Flynt Leverett points out,
Ahmadinejad himself speaks Azeri quite fluently as a consequence of his eight years serving as a popular and successful official in two Azeri-majority provinces; during the campaign, he artfully quoted Azeri and Turkish poetry – in the original – in messages designed to appeal to Iran’s Azeri community. (And, we should not forget that the Supreme Leader is Azeri.) The notion that Mousavi was somehow assured of victory in Azeri-majority provinces is simply not grounded in reality.
Furthermore, in a pre-election poll Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi. Furthermore, Petras notes, “The simplistic assumption [of the Western media] is that ethnic identity or belonging to a linguistic group is the only possible explanation of voting behavior rather than other social or class interests. A closer look at the voting pattern in the East-Azerbaijan region of Iran reveals that Mousavi won only in the city of Shabestar among the upper and the middle classes (and only by a small margin), whereas he was soundly defeated in the larger rural areas, where the re-distributive policies of the Ahmadinejad government had helped the ethnic Azeris write off debt, obtain cheap credits and easy loans for the farmers. Mousavi did win in the West-Azerbaijan region, using his ethnic ties to win over the urban voters.”