Thursday, May 25, 2006

Canadian Rumor Bomb


Framing is what is selected as newsworthy and how it is emphasized in news reports. Take a look at how the Canadian paperThe National Post happily picked up the rumor that Iran was implementing religion-based dress codes, where Jews would be forced to wear yellow badges. Some bloggers immediately saw this for the neo-con propaganda that it was. But other papers also took up the story, even if they cited the Post as the source of the story (without, of course, calling it a rumor), and proceeded to quote partisan voices who said it wouldn't surprise them if it were true.
“Unfortunately we’ve seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action,” said Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister. The selected quotation continued: “It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the earth would want to do anything that would remind people of Nazi Germany.”
What kind of sources and what kind of quotes did they select to shape this story/narrative and with what likely emotional effects for many readers? Well, they did provide space to the spokesperson from the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, who claimed this was a smear campaign against Iran. But hey, this is an Iranian's word against a prime minister's and other influential Canadian and American voices. Take this rabbi they chose to quote:
"Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, acknowledged that he did not have independent confirmation of the requirement for Jews to wear badges, but said he still believes it was passed."
Is this an explosive rumor bomb? If the text wasn't explosive enough, hey, why not give it some visual symbolic power. The same story by The Post in which they were supposedly qualifying the rumor but choosing to use all these sources that said they thought Iran was doing it anyway, would soon, or have practically been doing it all along--attached the photo above (left) with the anchor: "A yellow badge worn by Jews in Nazi Germany during the 1940s.(MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images)."
Like the Weapons of Mass Destruction rumor, scaremongering about bombs is accompanied by emotionally charged claims about human rights, this one referring to the most notorious violation thereof in the 20th century and beyond. Political strategy, speed and contagious claims play into the news market desire to spectacularize for profit's sake. Baudrillard and Debord were never so pertinent (even if their totalizations were erroneous, many of their observations, analyses, and forecasts were dead on).

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