Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad, Schmadinejad

Note: This post was also published on The Huffington Post. -Ed.

You know all this coverage of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University?

Well guess what -- it’s all a bunch of baloney.

While everyone from CNN to The New York Times gets caught up in the politics of Ahmadinejad’s remarks, the real story behind the podium is how much this event – wait, pseudo-event -- is a victory for both the Columbia University and Iranian public relations teams.

That’s right: Columbia and Iran 1, U.S. Media Sources 0.

While the press debate in newsprint and over the airwaves whether homosexuals exist in Iran and the existence of the Holocaust, the real story is how Ahmadinejad’s visit to the Ivy League school is a non-event to most people and, in the words of the late Daniel J. Boorstin, a pseudo-event to the press covering it.

According to Boorstin’s definition in his highly-regarded 1961 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America, the Bollinger-Ahmadinejad prizefight met all four requirements of a fluffed-up circus of hot air, er, I mean a pseudo-event:

1) The event is not spontaneous but instead a planned event;

2) It is planted primarily for the media to report on it;

3) The reality of the situation (academic discourse?) is ambiguous;

4) It is intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

By this measure, our beloved news outlets shouldn’t have reported on this story at all. Do I even need to ask who reported on the presidents of Turkmenistan, Chile and Malawi who also spoke that day? No, probably not, because Geraldo Rivera was too busy asking people who were locked out of the university’s campus to shove their protest signs in the camera lens.

In just once piece of evidence of this truth, Bollinger’s heated introduction to Ahmadinejad was far more extensive and planned than his introduction for the other three aforementioned foreign heads of state. You can agree with him or not on his take on “academic discourse,” but there’s no denying that his day’s efforts got him leading stories on all the major national and regional news outlets all day.

So who really wins in this scenario? Certainly not the protestors, journalists or average Joe America. But investors in Iran and Columbia trustees? Start rejoicing. That’s coverage that money can’t buy.


rwest said...

The guy is a leader of a country and can't ever wear a freaking neck tie. I am wondering if he will wear one at the UN tomorrow?

When the Geek Squad guy comes from Best Buy to fix my PC; he wears a tie. A black one.

Maybe wearing a tie would be "too western."

Do they have loaner ties at the door of the UN in case you forget one like when you go to a fancy restaraunt?

I think you should have to wear a tie to run a country and a person should certainly have to wear a tie to have a nuclear bomb.

No tie; no bomb. Sorry. We have to draw the line somewhere.

Shades of Ghadafi; Idi Amin; Mussolini and Hitler.

Interesting that are no gay people in Iran though.

You unlearn something every day!

We live in interesting times.

I wish it was a bit less interesting.


Anonymous said...

Too "western" to wear a tie? There's something I often wonder: what about his western style haircut, or rather, hairpiece. Where did he ordered it from?

Did Columbia and the trustees win? I dont think so. One alum said she had torn up her columbia diploma, one alum said he and his fellow alums would vote with their check books, not for Columbia.
I for one do not believe one bit about the academic discourse and advancement of understanding by inviting him. His speeches and beliefs can be found everwhere you look. you cannot convince me that smart students such as the breed in Columbia can only learn more about a person's philosophical and ideological positions by personal appearance. If anything, it is academic dishonesty to disguise the purpose of inviting such a person to take the podium and command a forum.

John Lichman said...

this was a win for pace university. for this day, while all attention was uptown, they held their annual unicorn olympics!


yeah, i'm going back to my "fake" side of the internet, mr. "also posted on the huffington post." sheesh.

Anonymous said...

In Chile right now on fellowship [stop]
Teaching journalism and media to students [stop]
Didn't hear or see a thing [stop]
Major newspaper features not Ahmadinejad, but Bachelet and Sarkozy of France [stop]
Big story today was gas explosion with two dead [stop]
Breathless, nauseating coverage on tv [duh]
Yoda says "center of universe, US media thinks it is." [stop]

Editorialiste, Pare
por favor....

Doug Mitchell