How much longer will the U.S. media — anesthetized by the past six years of U.S. foreign policy — continue to consider Arab countries and predominantly Muslim countries as one big “them?”
Beyond the written and spoken word, this tendency is radically dramatized and reinforced through pictures. Take this shot that ran last week with a NYT Week In Review article titled: Envisioning U.S. Talks With Iran and Syria.
The feature sketches the pros and cons of the U.S. opening a dialogue with Damascus and Tehran. Although the two countries are mostly discussed separately, the article’s point of departure is the fact that, up to now, those countries have been seen in the same constrained terms: as bad boys that can’t be reasoned with.
Toward the end of the write-up, the article cites “diplomatic analysts” who suggest “that this is a good time to recognize that differences [exist] between Iran’s and Syria’s positions….” Some advise that the U.S. play one country against the other, especially as their interests depart in relation to Hezbollah.
… Wait, what was that? The interests of Syria and Iran actually depart at some point in relation to Hezbollah!
Congratulations to The Times for indicating, if only briefly, that Assad, Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah aren’t triplets, separated at birth, who spend weekends together playing dominoes behind the mosque. But then, how unfortunate the picture (which, along with the headline, is about as far as many viewers will get) still reinforces the diplomacy-vanquishing notion that “they’re all the same” and “in it together.”
To the same end, you’ve got to love the caption:
Syria and Iran feel emboldened; their leaders appeared with Hezbollah’s on a poster. What would they want, and what possible areas of agreement could there be?
Oops, there’s that they again. And then, what’s with the impression (given the ambiguous language) that the leaders appeared together, as opposed to the fact they came together on the screen of a poster-maker?
(image: Shawn Baldwin/The New York Times. Damascus. June 2006. nytimes.com)