TEHRAN (Press Shia) – An American author described the Reuters news agency as “not reliable” and said reports like the one claiming that some 1,500 people have been killed in the recent unrest in Iran have nothing to do with “the truth or historical fact”.
“No, it’s not reliable. It’s not impartial and it’s beholden to the power that funds it,” John Steppling, who is based in Norway, told Press Shia in an interview.
“The fact is that nothing resembling the truth or historical fact is ever in these sorts of reports. The best approach is to try and dig through the propaganda and find history. History, when you can access it, does not lie. The US has interfered in Iran for half a century. Why should they and their organs of disinformation start telling the truth now.”
Steppling is a well-known author, playwright and an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theater, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. He is also a regular political commentator for a number of media outlets around the world.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Press Shia: The Reuters news agency last week published a report on the death toll of Iran’s recent unrest citing unknown sources. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-protests-specialreport/special-report-irans-leader-ordered-crackdown-on-unrest-do-whatever-it-takes-to-end-it-idUSKBN1YR0QR). Later a spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council described the report as “fake news”. What is your take on the report? Can a media report on sensitive and controversial issues based on unknown sources be considered professional work?
Steppling: The best way to answer this, in a sense, is to step back and really examine who is behind corporate-owned media, and what is the agenda. Iran is a target of US foreign policy and all that that means. Reuters is going to parrot the US line on these things. Think of them, and the NY Times, Washington Post et al during the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. Did they believe they were telling the truth? Of course not. And as you point out there are no sources given. It’s a bit absurd at this point. But the public in the English speaking world and much of Europe, too, are heavily indoctrinated.
The planet faces a massive loss of biodiversity and pollution and growing inequality. But do we hear much about the environmental impact of the military? The climate discussion is shaped to help convince people that the forces that caused the problems are the only ones who can save it. There is no climate consensus. Science is not free of these forces. People live in some fantasy about scientific objectivity. In the 1950s, science in the form of doctors was telling you which cigarette to smoke. Any independent nation will be a target of this disinformation. Even in Imperialist nations like the US, there is a marked growth in precarity for growing numbers of people. Israel has the highest poverty rate in the developed world. But mass media erases these contradictions. So, no, as it is the report is meaningless.
Press Shia: Given the fact that Britain has lost its interests in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, do you agree that such reports by an anti-Iran media outlet are politically motivated or biased?
Steppling: Of course it’s biased. The UK just elected the English version of Donald Trump. That tells you something about indoctrination. How is it that so many people vote against their own interests? The answer is that contemporary life is awash in propaganda. The ruling class wants to make sure that capitalism survives and the class structure remains intact. Not to mention in the US (and now in South America with the fascist coups and opposition) there is radical Christian extremism. Mike Pompeo is a Dominionist. That means he is on the far fringe of religious extremism. Mike Pence the same. The rise of far-right parties in Europe is another feature of this recalibration by the ruling capitalist class. Fascism is growing, and the media is helping rehabilitate it.
Press Shia: Given that Reuters had similar fake news about Iran in the past and, accordingly, it faced restrictions on its media activities, can we regard the new agency as a professional one?
Steppling: No, it’s not reliable. It’s not impartial and it’s beholden to the power that funds it. The fact is that nothing resembling the truth or historical fact is ever in these sorts of reports. The best approach is to try and dig through the propaganda and find history. History, when you can access it, does not lie. The US has interfered in Iran for half a century. Why should they and their organs of disinformation start telling the truth now?