On air: Do protests hijack the agenda?

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The massive protests in Tehran over the past two days have been the centre of your attention and the media’s as well. Quite right we at the BBC would argue as Iran has seen nothing like them for 30 years. But is there a danger that these protests start underpinning a certainty that the result must be inaccurate?

I heard one Mousavi supporter saying ‘how can Ahmadinejad have won when there are this many people on the streets?’ But with many millions of Iranians not on the streets, is there a danger we draw the wrong conclusions? Some protestors are holding up signs in English to maximise their impact abroad – is this fair protest or an attempt to skew how events in Iran are reported?

And we’re not just talking about Iran…
… I can think of significant anti-war protests in the UK and the States, protests against election results in Ukraine and Kenya and protests against the President in Madagascar.

Did those taking part in the protests gain disproportionate influence and media coverage? Have you ever watched at home and felt that protestors were giving the wrong impression to your politicians and to the rest of the world?

Or have you taken part in a protest which you felt successfully expressed a real frustration and which effectively communicated that feeling to people in power?

73 Responses to “On air: Do protests hijack the agenda?”

  1. June 17, 2009 at 14:08

    Following this story from the other side of the world I get the impression that it isn’t just about alleged vote-rigging anymore but is about much deeper issues. I wonder if a recount was done, or even an re-election and Ahmadinejad won again if the pro-Mousavi protesters would be satisfied. I wonder if the protests are really about wanting democracy or just about wanting a regime change.
    I think this is a common issue in protests and demonstrations. Are they really about democracy or just a way for a small and vocal group to create the impression that they are “the voice of the people”

  2. June 17, 2009 at 14:08

    protests rarely have any effect on any ruling elite. as to the iranian vote. ahmadinejad certainly had a great deal of support. he may have actually had over 50%, but the strength of his platform in the past was economic prosperity. iran’s economy right now is dreadful, and his belligerent and ignorant statements have been a source of embarrassment to the country. so it is logical to guess he did not garner the prerequisite votes to avoid a run-off. the real fear is that the revolutionary guard have become a self proclaimed “dictatorship of the proletariat,” that is too powerful to control. however, the bottom line is that this sharia state will be led by ayatollah khamaini now matter who the puppet president.

  3. 3 steve
    June 17, 2009 at 14:08

    I don’t get it, if Mousavi were in the Mullah’s approved list, then he’s really not much different than Ahadminjad. The policies of the Mullahs would remain unchanged. So there is one of a few possibilities, he’s either a revolutionary, and has changed from his past, or this is just a show, or perhaps, he’s just a polician and he wants the spotlight instead of the other guy. I have no idea what the truth is here.

  4. June 17, 2009 at 14:21

    Without protests, there would be no agenda.

  5. 6 Livia Varju
    June 17, 2009 at 14:21

    Protests are not always representative of the majority of a population. In the case of Iran, for example, the protestors are mainly educated people living in cities. The majority of people living in the rest of the country have probably voted for Ahmanidejad because they are less educated, less informed about the whole picture, and more easily swayed by his confidence and rhetoric (apart from the fact that he is said to have handed out money in the countryside!). This situation shows the weaknesses and limitations of democracy, which relies for effectiveness on a population that is educated and well informed.
    In any case, protests do serve a purpose in that they bring to the fore a problem which needs to be considered and resolved. Livia Varju – Geneva

  6. 7 Meir Avrahami
    June 17, 2009 at 14:33

    Due to Ahmanidejad all eye’s were on Iran in the first place so taking to the streets was bound to be effective

    The magnitude of the protests suggests – there is a lot in what the opposition are saying

  7. June 17, 2009 at 14:34

    Protests trigger a situation that is planned by politicians with an agenda. Massive protests are generally instigated by the very few who manage to have a big influence on the masses through slogans and speeches.

    Protesters usually call for action to be taken on behalf of them by the leaders they support who in turn feel empowered to effect change.

    What is wrong about protests is when they are orchestrated and protesters are used as a tool by politicians for their own advantage. Once in power, they perpetuate the situation they were asked to change.

    For the Iranians, whatever protest they stage, it’s unlikely they will bring about regime change as any president’s job is to be a “puppet” in the hands of the Supreme Leader. He will be just a like a prime minister in countries where the president is a dictator and all the ministers should be at his beck and call.

  8. 9 Julia in Portland Oregon
    June 17, 2009 at 14:36

    There is a definite chance that protests can give a false sense of the real issues, either pro or con, and the ‘event’ and not the ‘reason’ becomes the story.

    An example: The anarchist branches of the green movement, here in the US, have turned some peaceful protests into violent, destructive events. The result of which was reporting that may have given the general public the impression that all the environmentally conscientious people at the event were out of control, when in fact it was a small handful of people, leaving many observers with a negative impression of the environmental movement. The environmental issues were diminished in the shadow of what made for what is termed ‘good TV’ .

    A protest will always be up to the interpretation of the viewer.

    I think the only solution is try to report all the facts about the events, who-what-where-when-why, as much as you can and hope that through thorough efforts the truths come out.

  9. 10 mabewa
    June 17, 2009 at 14:43

    Protests after an election result has been announced is like crying over
    spilled milk, especially if the rulling party is winning. We see it in almost
    all democracies in the world including the US(Bush era) & Europe. In the
    case of Iran, I personally believe that the Opposition is being sponsored some
    members of the internatinal community, because of the current Iranian policies
    on nuclear power & Isreal. We have seen how previous Iranian governments
    have been undermined by some members of the internatinal community, & they
    still sabotage other governments across the world. Mabewa From Nigeria.

  10. 11 John in Salem
    June 17, 2009 at 14:50

    A tiny fraction of the population staged a protest that was brutally crushed by the regime and hundreds died in the process.
    And now, twenty years after Tianamen Square, most who were there say that it was worth it. Everyone today enjoys the benefits that they demanded and sacrificed for and that includes those who were too afraid to support them at the time.
    Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

  11. 12 rob z.
    June 17, 2009 at 14:54

    Protesting are tools used by both sides of an arguement.Unfortunately when they turn violent,the rulling party can easier justify their position.
    I do like to see people marching together to show their support for a change in policy or society that is progressive.
    In the U.S.A.,I feel we don’t do enough of it.
    Does protesting change policy;or make a differance?
    Yes,it can,maybe not right away but it can if support is constant and grows over time.

  12. June 17, 2009 at 15:02

    Protests have always been a means to get a point across. In the 1960’s the protests held for Peace were world wide. In the US, they definitely made a difference.
    Unfortunately now-a-days the corporate controlled media doesn’t cover much of any protest if it doesn’t fit their political needs.
    I say, Good luck to the Iranians protesting, and Godspeed. Make your selves heard. Let them know that you want real change.

  13. 14 Patti in Cape Coral
    June 17, 2009 at 15:06

    At first I was under the impression that the protests were representative of most of Iran’s population, then reports said that it was mostly Tehran. Then it was reported that Mr. Nejad reported his victory before all votes were counted, now I am hearing reports that Mr. Moussavi announced his victory first. At this point, I have no idea what’s going on, and the protests are not really making it clearer. There is such a thick veil between Iran and us here in the west, it’s hard to know the truth. I hope that in the end the people get what they want and need.

  14. 15 Tom K in Mpls
    June 17, 2009 at 15:11

    Of course noise is noted more by all than silence. That is why it is important to find facts and ignore emotional babel. As for hijacking the agenda, no. In this case it creates a new issue that distracts from the issue. Those involved in violent protests have in effect given up on change from within and declared an unfocused revolution. This can not help their cause.

  15. June 17, 2009 at 15:11

    Why not talk about fraud in Venezuelan and American Elections.

  16. June 17, 2009 at 15:17

    Here in Kenya protests have always been avenues for unknowns to rise and gain prominence for political reasons. Its why I don’t attend them. A quarter of those in Kenyan legislators who refuse to be taxed started as movement leaders. After they gained political prominence they became boastful bullies who think we owe them. maybe its different in other countries but i will listen today and hear.

  17. June 17, 2009 at 15:29

    Perhaps it is not so much the protests, but HOW the protesters are received by the government in that country that is the real story? (The true colors of the Russian government have shown themselves by the discrimination against one group and for another, and then the treatment of the protesters on the streets.)

    As for the “reliability of a protest” to gauge the desires of the population, I think it is a mixed bag that must be evaluated in the context of the particular situation. Demonstrations in the US against the Iraq war under-represented the national feeling against our government’s policies because the citizens knew that change would only happen through the ballot box. In the case of Iran, it is the ballot box itself that is the issue, and because the Ayatollah is trying to placate the demonstrators, one must think that the numbers demonstrating are significant.

    Lastly, demonstration is a political tool, hence, one does have to take care whether the government or world perception is being manipulated by a few to control the many. Iranians like to demonstrate, but for 30 years they have not demonstrated in such numbers as these against their revolutionary regime. This gives one pause and makes one think that 1) democracy is happening on Iranian streets and 2) we are witnessing an honest litmus test of the democratic nature of Iran’s government itself.

  18. 19 deryck/trinidad
    June 17, 2009 at 15:29

    There is a danger we can draw the wrong conclusions

    from the protests. The media continually bombards you

    with the stories of protests and pretty soon the

    majority of peolpe who are ignorant of the politics in

    Iran and the size and population begin to believe and

    say as fact things that can’t be corroborated.

    I think it is dangerous for the media and the public

    to spout anecdotes about what’s happenning in Iran as

    if they are established facts.

    I choose to stay on the fence because both sides in

    Iran have agendas.

  19. 20 Ayuba in Nigeria
    June 17, 2009 at 15:32

    Protest does not resolve issues these days be it political, social or economic. With this “unnecessary” protest lives would lost, opportunity or more time is being given to Armadinejad to plan his response to the turnoil which may probably be fatal. Therefore, instead of addressing the causal factor of the protest which the disputed election, you discover that it would be neglected and Mousari would end up being the loser. Mousari should either accept the result or seek constitutional means to get his mandate back if he is confident he won the election. In case of any loss of life, he should be arrested and prosecuted for murder and for bringing the Iranian state inti disrepute.

  20. 21 Ann
    June 17, 2009 at 15:36

    There seems to me to be a noteable inconsistency in the actions of the Mousavi supporters….

    On the lead up to the elections (if reports are to be believed), there was excitement and anticipation and Mousavi supporters believe a change was immanent. But if they had so little faith in the electoral process, then why this excitement? And why would they even engage in the voting system if they believed it had no validity?

    Maybe someone can help me out here, because I can’t see what the truth is.

    • 22 Ramesh, India
      June 17, 2009 at 16:43

      Ann, You are right. Initially these people pretended that they are in democracy and now are calling it a dictatorship. What a hypocracy!!

  21. 23 deryck/trinidad
    June 17, 2009 at 15:37

    I would like to know the percentage of the approx. 72 million people in Iran that have access to the Internet.

    I would like to know how developed the infrastructure is to facilitate internet access especially in the rural areas.

    I would like to know the percentage of the population that are university educated.

    I would like to know the percentage of people that live in poverty.

    Information on these things will give a premise for being able to analyse the likelihood of fraud.

  22. 24 UMOH AMOS (Nigeria)
    June 17, 2009 at 15:51

    Unless an immediate, transparent truce is reached in the next few days and at the rate that events are unfolding, I am afraid that the “heat” being generated will evolve into something that Armored Personnel Carriers may be tempted to come on to the streets.

    My fear is that (in most cases), when that point is reached in civil unrest, GUNS AND BULLETS DON’T HAVE ANY MEANING anymore. Please pray that we don’t get to that point. Pray that the leaders in Iran will see reason…. PLEASE PEOPLE PRAY

  23. 25 Elias
    June 17, 2009 at 15:59

    People in power are determined to remain in power, they cannot accept to be ousted from a way of life that benefit them, to loose power is to be downgraded to having nothing. As long as they rule over the police and military they use them as tools to remain in power.
    If the government of Iran do not hold another election with strict proceedure to show the result is correct it will not be acceptable by the opposition, hence the turmoil will continue which will result in a stronger dictatetorship or on the other hand should the demonstraters succeed in ousting the present governrnent, a more democractic Iran will emerge. The key to all the problem that has arisen is the wide margin of 60% of votes in favour of the present leader which is unbelievable to the opposition, as they believe the election was rigged.
    The saying “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

  24. 26 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    June 17, 2009 at 16:08

    The current Iranian protests do not hijack the agenda. The hijacking–of the so-called democracy in Iran–was done not by the protesters but by the people who engineered voting irregularities and interfered with communications: the government of Iran.

    The protests are in RESPONSE to Iranian authorities hijacking the election.

  25. 28 CJ McAuley
    June 17, 2009 at 16:17

    Public protests are an integral part of many Western “democracies”. Was not the “Boston Tea Party” a protest that played a role in the American Revolution? It has to be taken for granted that relatively few people in any “democracy” possess either the time or inclination to take to the streets; but when thousands or millions choose to do so, the government that decides to ignore the feelings expressed does a disservice both to itself and democracy in general. There is indeed a fine line between keeping public order and making people feel that their “democracy” is nothing but an illusion. I do not envy those who must walk that line anywhere.

  26. 29 Ramesh, India
    June 17, 2009 at 16:32

    Ros, I greatly appreciate your pondering over the issue. Yesterday, the blog was hijacked by anti-Nejad people who seemed to be very eager to explain to the world that some thing very bad has happened in Iran. I don’t have any sympathy for the protestors because they really don’t have a clue as to whether Iran is under dictatorship or a democracy. Ofcourse, it is a dictatorship for me. These people should have boycotted the elections in the first place.

  27. 30 Anthony
    June 17, 2009 at 16:34

    No way. Protests are the only way to get around a fix system. Keep on keeping on Iran, don’t give up like the U.S. did in 2000, because look what happened as a result of us giving up!

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  28. 31 Cajetan Iwunze (UK)
    June 17, 2009 at 16:52

    This is not about votes, neither is it about wining or loosing. We all know what was going on but it is a very bad way to do this business. Removing the current president will not solve anything and it will not stop Iranians developing weapon of mass destruction to wipe out Israel. Those behind these riots are using it to cover up something very dangerous. We must wake up from political slumber , and take a step to ensure that the future of the next generations are not hold to ram-some by few mad men.

  29. 32 VictorK
    June 17, 2009 at 16:57

    The media, not protests, hijack or create an agenda.

    Look how excited the Western media is getting over Iran, even though what’s happening there has no real political significance (Tweedledum thinks he was cheated by Tweedledee). Power in Iran doesn’t centre in the office of the President; but the Western media is reporting events there based on their own lack of understanding and desire to create a narrative around heroic, Westernising, liberal & progressive young people fighting againist a reactionary theocracy. But an opinion poll taken several weeks before the election by a reputable organisation of international pollsters indicated support for Ahmadinejad running at roughly two to one, and consistently across most demographic blocs, including young people! That’s exactly how the vote turned out, but I’ve heard almost nothing about that poll in the Western media, who have hijacked the agenda & are reporting it according to their expectations, wishes and illusions. The same ignorant but politcally motivated reporting demonised the Shah 30 years ago (everything was about ‘Savak’ to Western journalists, and Khomeini was an Islamic Gandhi), helped drive him from power and installed the Mullahs in his place.

    An irresponsible and biased media, not protesters, is the problem.

    June 17, 2009 at 16:58

    SENARIO 1.
    The gene is getting out of the bottle. I get the feeling that democracy after all has been growing in the revolutionary government despite the denial from the west. For the first time, what we see is a statement to this fact. Whoever, the situation in Iran does not auger well for the whole of Arab world. What you see in Iran might be replicated in the whole region and there lies the big danger. The fallout might affect the undemocratic states of Saudi Arabia, Egypt which have been equally suppressive and power rotates round a selftish clique under the glaring approval of the west.

    Despite its failings, Iran has not been victim of Al Qaeda nor is it a safe haven for extremist groups up like the Taleban to date. Its fight against drug trafficking have been commendable. If these mob driven chaos go out of control, you will never know who comes on the stage. My fear is, a new agenda might be in the making and may not work according to the script of the behind-the-scenes plotters of this mayhem-in-the-making.

  31. June 17, 2009 at 17:04

    Protests most often miss the point. They usually degenerate into violence and with unpredictible outcomes. I think discussions and negotiations better serve the purpose.

  32. 35 Ramesh, India
    June 17, 2009 at 17:12

    In India we need to regiter voting right everytime there is an election. If we don’t do that, we would lose our vote. Even if we did, there is a possibility of missing our names in the voter list. These things happen in India quite often. But we never call the rulers as dictators because inspite of all the irregularities, if there is a massive anti-incumbency, there is no way the rulers could win the election.

    After losing the state election in the state of AP in India, the opposition leader Chandra Babu Naidu(once the darling of western media)expressed doubts about the trustworthyness of electronic voting machines. Nobody cared about his doubts because the incumbent government has a clear mandate.

  33. 36 deryck/trinidad
    June 17, 2009 at 17:15

    The protests demonstrate that democracy is not at work. In Iran the Guardian Council vets all the candidates and chooses who they want to run for elections. THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY.

  34. 37 VictorK
    June 17, 2009 at 17:17

    The evidence that Ahmadinejad may very well have won, and that the scale of his victory may accurately reflect the will of the Iranian people


    Other examples of the (Western) media hijacking the agenda: Zimbabwe (where reporting reflects Western hostility to ‘Mugabe’ – the BBC often seems to have a grudge against the man, behaving as if he murdered its favourite nephew); Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon – absurdly simplistic dichotomisation of their politics into a clash between pro- & anti-Western factions; Ethiopian invasion of Somalia (regularly misrepresented as a US proxy action – the Western media consistently refuse to believe that non-white countries can actually have and be independently motivated by policy agendas of their own); every story about a non-Western country that asks, ‘Should the West act?,’ or ‘Should the West do more?’, or ‘Has the West done too much?’ or ‘Is the West to blame…’, while not once attempting to frame the matter in terms of the country, its issues and its people.

  35. June 17, 2009 at 17:17

    In my country [Southern Sudan] strikes arent common and things are left to the militarist politicians who are corrupt, tribalistic and self enriching at the expense of the poor.
    I can not see protests happening in this part of the world. when Dr. John was slain in a plane crash, protests were at a bare minimal. today corrupt ministers are exposed and no protests makes it to 20 persons.
    If protests are a good thing, then we are missing much more. our people prefer to not have their say…this is not good. but very little reason for hope.
    I hope i will lead protests in 2011 if Southern Sudan does not gain full independence. ..we have suffered too long and the world should get ready to protest with us who want a free and independent southern Sudan…

  36. 39 deryck/trinidad
    June 17, 2009 at 17:19

    @Cajetan Iwunze (UK)
    So what if the Iranians developed nuclear weapons to wipe out Israel.

  37. 40 Tom D Ford
    June 17, 2009 at 17:29

    “But is there a danger that these protests start underpinning a certainty that the result must be inaccurate?”

    Even if the result were 100 percent accurate, the result is unjust, and that is the problem.

    We have seen unjust forms of Democracy, like Iraq under Saddam Hussein where 100% percent of the people voted for Saddam Hussein or were killed.

    Sometimes a Democracy is like the false fronts on stores in an old western town, they look good but the inside does not the advertising.

    So the question really ought to be how to get to a just government, whatever form that government looks like from the outside.

  38. 41 Tom D Ford
    June 17, 2009 at 17:32

    Oops, my last post should have read:

    Sometimes a Democracy is like the false fronts on stores in an old western town, they look good but the inside does not “match” the advertising.

  39. 42 Ibrahim in UK
    June 17, 2009 at 17:34

    I agree with VictorK, it is the media that has it’s agenda and dresses it over the protests. Perhaps the media is carried away with celebrations at Obama’s rise that they now think momentum is on their side.
    The protestors have their own agenda, is it regime change? revolution? or as one poster answered yesterday, they want changes within the regime, evolution.
    The media may actually be doing a disservice to the protestors by forcing their own bias and agenda onto the news reports.

    June 17, 2009 at 17:53

    Chaos in the Middle East benefit no one but the oil cartels and arms manufacturers. Another rise in pump prises will deal a severe blow to the world economy and hurt those who are not insulated against econmic calamities. It will hurt.

    Come open and talk nuclear issues and the address the Israeli hardline stance. Do not forget that one reason the world is armed to the teeth has to do with Middle East politics which alone is fueling the military spending in the world. Everyone wants tech military with smart bombs. Is there any good guy with nukes and, who is he and, what is his target?

    These demonstrators are turning us away from addressing more partinent issues because these are mundane matters.

  41. 44 audrey
    June 17, 2009 at 17:53

    There is no way of knowing anything for certain about the Iranian election. It seems the media has fixated upon the opposition’s point of view and have completely ignored the ‘winners’.

    We have been sold the idea that the elections were not fair. Let’s try to focus on both sides and get over ourselves as the be all and the end all of democracy.

  42. 45 John LaGrua/New York
    June 17, 2009 at 17:58

    Chaos is often a sign of progress toward resolution.The media delights in violent scenes as they capture attention but all reporting has to be viewed with scepticism.Th. energy in Iran is very positive requiring the ruling clerics to take serious note of discontent and act artfully.Outsiders with a special agenda such as the US neo-cons (Isreal Lobby) will exagerate the negatives ,Lieberman and Perle urging US intervention shows once again their pernicious ,dangerous voices at work.in the interest of Isreal to the serious detriment of the US.The Iranians will sort it out as the country is undergoing great change.

  43. 46 deryck/trinidad
    June 17, 2009 at 17:59

    ‘I heard one Mousavi supporter saying ‘how can Ahmadinejad have won when there are this many people on the streets?’

    I once had a friend who taught that all the women in the US looked like those in music videos seen on BET etc. Poor guy.

    You see, you perceive and that becomes your reality, it might be wrong BUT its your reality.

  44. 47 Archibald
    June 17, 2009 at 18:01

    Protest is nothing new, but, the way in which it is portrayed is. No longer is it just simple and objective coverage of significant socio-political protest. Camera angles limit perspective as much as rhetoric silences dialog. The extreme contrast of make-up heavy media presenters speaking about political unrest in countries where most people do not earn enough to afford a television is absurd. Yet, most people in the west just accept it, because, they are actually more ignorant of world circumstance than the people they are watching.

  45. 48 Paul Browne
    June 17, 2009 at 18:01

    “The evidence that Ahmadinejad may very well have won, and that the scale of his victory may accurately reflect the will of the Iranian people


    Actually Victor the Washington post has itself doubts about the poll, given the high proportion, 52%, who said that they were undecided or had no comment…odd given the reported very high turnout! Given the political situation in Iran I suspect that this means that there were a lot of people who were afraid to say that they would vote for Mousavi, and it’s quite reasonable to believe that those who expressed support for liberal positions might have felt the need to cover themselves by saying that they would vote for Ahmadinejad.


    • 49 RightPaddock
      June 18, 2009 at 01:15

      @Paul Browne offers “to believe that those who expressed support for liberal positions might have felt the need to cover themselves by saying that they would vote for Ahmadinejad” as the reason that the polls got it wrong.

      What reason does he offer for pollsters getting their predictions for the Indian election. Or the several elections in Australia where pollsters got it wrong.

      I suggest people are fed up with polls and just say what they think will please the pollsters – in the case of Iran they said they were going to vote for a non incumbent and then did the opposite. Also the perhaps the 52% who said they were undecided or had no comment were actually saying – go away and mind your own business.

  46. 50 Roy, AZ USA
    June 17, 2009 at 18:09

    Although protests are an effective way of bringing an issue to national and international attention, the protests themselves may not be very effective in bringing a clear understanding of the national opinion of an issue to the governement. Petitioning, as it is often done in the United States, is a much more accurate and effective way in getting one’s voice heard.

    June 17, 2009 at 18:14

    These kind of elections and attendent demonstrations everywhere are slowly redefining deomcracy in a short period of time. Look; Kenya, Zimbambwe, Angola, Iran, Venezuela; Madagascar, Lithuania, Ukrain etc. Its always somebody saying the votes have been stolen and recount is useless because votes have either dissapeared or destroyed.

    This has led to democracy getting turned from a representative process for the people to a process serving the interests of power brokers. Demonstrators and citizens in general are the losers. Wait and see.

  48. 52 Crispo
    June 17, 2009 at 18:15

    So, let me ask; Does the BBC think that Iranians have the same agenda like them? I am stressed by this invalid attempt by the media painting their agenda on to those of especially Iranians. What of the other side of the coin? Are there any real issues that the western media has left out? I seem to think so. Slanted language of reporting is an effective platform for advancing pro-sentiments.

    The agenda of the protesters can only be determined by them and not any one else. Whatever happens then might not be in the least of our interests by theirs alone.

    The paltry reporting has more less left me like a drunk man who is only able to vaguely scan what’s ahead of him. And until then, i’d like more straight reporting; giving every news as raw as it’s seen. ‘Extended’ propaganda isn’t at all too favourable.

  49. 53 John Foster
    June 17, 2009 at 18:25

    One aim of protests is to disrupt “business as usual”, in order to give a cost for continuing with a certain policy. An example is that in the ’80’s at Universities in American there was a divestment campaign for endowments from owning stock in companies who did business with South Africa in order to not aid the Aparteid system with investment and economic development. So there were shanty towns and other disruptions of classes so that the University would have to pay attention. Sad as it is, institutions rarely just change their behavior just upon reflection of the “rightness” of their actions. They sometimes need to realize that there is a cost to continuing a policy. And the unfortunate thing is that violence can sometimes come from either the state or institution trying to get back to “business as usual” or the protests trying to disrupt “business as usual”.

  50. 54 VictorK
    June 17, 2009 at 18:33

    @Paul Browne: the poll is the only evidence we have that prefigured the election result. But since it favoured Ahmadinejad, who’s disliked by certain Western interests, it’s rubbished and held to be of no account. But if it had shown the voters going for Mousavi the Western media and commentariat would be pointing to & shrieking over it as solid evidence of electoral fraud.

    I’m not sure that one blogger’s opinion should be identified as being the Washington Post’s. As for the suggestion that the poll is unreliable because terrified Iranians would have said whatever they thought the authorities wanted to hear. Errrr – ALL the candidates were approved by the regime. There was no reason to be fearful of preferring Mousavi or anyone else in such a survey. The sample wasn’t afraid to give opinions on much more controversial points – e.g. wanting better relations with the US; wanting UN inspectors to be given access to Iran’s nuclear prog.; wanting the Supreme Leader (great title!) to be elected.

    There are irregularities surrounding the election that haven’t been explained. It’s possible that the regime attempted to rig an election that Ahmadinejad – a populist if ever there was one – had won comfortably anyway. Still, there is something suspicious about the need some Western commentators have to portray the Iranian regime as an an intolerable theocracy, especially when we know that Iran has long been on the neocon list of countries that the US must go to war with in order to shower on the people the benefits of freedom & democracy (a la Iraq). Now that’s an agenda that has nothing to do with protesters.

    June 17, 2009 at 18:34


    Formenting fear evewhere has become fashionable everywhere these days.Politicians have realized that this easily enables them to dip their hands into the national petty cash kitty easily when they divert our intelligence from more important issues impacting on their communities. The reason they do so is simply due to fact that, without open purse strings, political power is more or less importent.

    Hey! We are in the recession you know! Supporters need jobs for manufacture of arms, jeeps, bombs, uniforms, jets etc. That is easy now when you can tweet the mobs out of their wits. As a result of this, we are running very fast out of anti biotics because they are not lucrative ventures.

  52. 56 Dennis Junior
    June 17, 2009 at 18:39

    Yes! Protests ususally hijack the agenda, but, in the on-going case in Iran…I support the rights of the citizen to protest…

    ~Dennis Junior~

  53. 57 Michel Norman
    June 17, 2009 at 18:43

    Saddam Hussein used to get 100% of the vote, the Russian communist party used to get 100% of the vote, Assad was more democratic and sufficed with 99.9% of the vote, with his secret police looking to arrest the 0.1%, similar percentages in Venezuela and Burma. Mubarak in Egypt got 88% of the vote so Ahminijad with 76% is heading in that direction. In Western democracies, the candidates almost invariably get less than 50% of the vote. So it seems that there is a correlation here – the more undemocratic the country the higher the votes the leader reports.

  54. 58 Tom D Ford
    June 17, 2009 at 18:44

    June 17, 2009 at 18:14

    “… This has led to democracy getting turned from a representative process for the people to a process serving the interests of power brokers. ”

    Sometimes that is why the idea of Democracy is promoted and/or imposed, the power brokers know how to corrupt a Democracy but still leave a false image of real Democracy.

    Just think of the way the Conservative Republican Bush/Cheney version of “Democracy” was imposed on Iraq; people were disappeared through secret renditions, people were tortured, over a million people were driven out of Iraq into refugee ghettos in Jordan, Syria, and the like, Bush/Cheney enabled the ethnic cleansing of entire neighborhoods and religious fighting between husbands and wives, neighbors and friends, and caused the deaths of over a hundred thousand people, “Privatized” and sold off Iraqi national resources, and installed a puppet leader under a US Conservative written Constitution, and all at the cost of trillions of US taxpayer dollars and driving the US into unheard of debt.

    The alleged “democracy” in Iraq was not the will of the people, it was imposed on them by way of death and the destruction of their country.

    I protest!

      June 17, 2009 at 19:47

      @Tom D Ford.
      I have been skeptical about these methods of configuring our thinking that have endangered ordinary western citizens in other parts of the world. Everywhere people are getting advisories not to go here and there by people with a hidden agenda. Although this is legitimate at times, the reasons behind is this same political braggadocio which going over a decade now.

      It is as result of this that people feel as if tomorrow will never come and as if there will not be enough for everyone. The end result is pure defrauding of citizens of the world. As a result of this, it’s the ordinary people like you and me that are being asked to foot the bills. I feel sorry too when people are cheated to explode themselves so that others can full fil their hidden agenda.

      There are avenues for addressing nuclear issues and even peace in the Middle East. These have not been pursued with honesty and more hurdles continue to be injected. We continue to rubber stamp these fiascos but only end up being ripped of through huge military expansion. We are already militants through ignorance ourselves as we continue to wallow in economic catastrophes.

    • 60 RightPaddock
      June 18, 2009 at 01:00

      Also think about how the Bush/Cheney regime was imposed on the people of the United States via electoral fraud and a defective legal system.

      Same thing in Iran, electoral fraud and the Guardian Council walking in the shoes of the US Supreme Court.

  55. 61 Marco Polsen
    June 17, 2009 at 18:45

    Good evening –

    My request is a bit off topic, but I feel (like probably all your podcast subscribers) left out o a very important discussion due to some technical issues with the podcast publishing. I beg that you intervene with the relevant BBC web team to resolve whatever hinders your show’s podcasting. For many @ work during your live show, this is the only way to connect with the world’s discussion. Please take a moment to make us part of your community once again. Thanks.


    • June 17, 2009 at 19:03

      Hi Marco,

      I understand your frustration. We’re frustrated too. But please be assured that we’re working on the problem and all podcasts should be made available soon. Fingers crossed.


  56. 63 Dorothy
    June 17, 2009 at 18:48

    The right to protest is a special right and it should remain peaceful to have any impact. When the protests become violent, ordinary people tune out to your message. Protests are typically useful only to the protestors. They have little or no impact on the target of their protest. Most reasonable members of society are fearful of and turned of by violent protests.

    It seems as though protestors HOPE that the police or authorities will step in and put a stop to violence. There is a spirit of martydom, again this tends to cause peaceful people to tune out on the protestor’s message.

    Be calm and peaceful. Enter into a dialogue with your opponent, not a shouting and killing match. Listen to one another with sincerity and compassion.

  57. 64 kweli
    June 17, 2009 at 18:49

    The protests in Kenya were not only about the outcome of the rigged election but also about the economic war between the have-alls and the have-nones. Kenyans took to the streets to protest about long-standing land issues, huge and increasing economic disparity between the rich and the barely-considered-human, unbelievable levels of unemployment and political impunity by the ruling elite. The result of the presidential election may have just broken the last straw, but all of those other grievances had been festering for long and may have caused protests and violence by themselves. Kenya is still tense because these problems continue to exist.

  58. 65 Nate, Portland OR
    June 17, 2009 at 18:54

    The general statement that the protests in response to an election undermine democracy is far to vague to have any real meaning. There are three general cases I can think of off the top of my head:

    1) The election was fraudulent or extremely opaque and questionable. In this case democracy requires protest.

    2) In a country where minority rights are respected, a fair and transparent election resulted in a leader that is simply not liked by the minority. In this case protests can undermine democracy.

    3) In a country where minority rights are not respected, a fair and transparent election results in a leader who will oppress the minority. In this case the democracy is a flawed one, and protests can result in important improvements of minority rights.

    Iran is a flagrant case of 1, with elements of 3 regarding the rights of the secular minority and non-conservative women.

  59. 66 Tom K
    June 17, 2009 at 19:03

    Your guest who brought up the pro-life movement spouted a fact that is incorrect. I think she protests too much (at least in the US). The majority of people in the US now favor pro-life – not pro-choice. I heard this in the news and did not have enough time to find a website to back up my data.

    June 17, 2009 at 19:09


    Politicians have failed the world. Its all more arms and more arms alongside hijacking truth and the free press.

    Hey lets turn to the media. You have been messy because of getting compromised in your duty to humanity. Never the less I think you have the best opportunity to diffuse these tensions and lead people bakc to reason. You have power to save the people of Iran from self immolation. Right now they feel as if they are the only ones in econimic woes.
    Talk to them now and bring peace through evolution rather than revolution. Politicians are powerless withot you.

  61. 68 globalcomedy
    June 17, 2009 at 19:10

    It’s kind of insulting to say that people are only protesting to be seen. What about the issues at stake? Why not concentrate on those instead?

  62. 69 Gabriel
    June 17, 2009 at 19:12

    The fact that the Iranian guy on air could not mention 5 differences between the agendas of both presidential candidates was not a technical difficulty on the phone line. Most of people taking part in the protest does not have a clear idea what they pretend to fight for. Both candidates are islamists and one can not expect radical changes comming soon. Most of young Iranian are easy to convince and be cheated about changes that will not come. The colour revolutions, now are becomming something that some media call “twitter revolutions”, I rather would say “122 words limited tourmoils”. In the last days I am hearing from Iran the same motto used in “colour revolutions” like in Ukraine. Unfortunately the disappointment after such apparently democratic movement was enormous. Few months after the hated candidate was elected to the post of Prime Minister, the leaders of the “orange revolution” split off and continue fighting for power. Mr. Yushenko, the president comming from the revoultion has now a potential vote of only 2%. The turmoil in Teheran is a trade of emotions and impressions, from which a reduced group of people have already delineated the reveues to take to their political and physical pocket.

    • 70 RightPaddock
      June 18, 2009 at 00:06

      I think Corazon Aquino may have started the color revolution movement – Yellow)

      Gabriel seems to imply that the Philippino’s would have been better off if Marcos had remained as their dictator.

  63. June 17, 2009 at 19:46

    I’m surprised that the protester’s haven’t started kidnapping the Police right off the streets. But they don’t understand that violence begets violence!

  64. 72 RightPaddock
    June 18, 2009 at 00:49

    Such protests would not be allowed in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Morocco.

    Perhaps it’s because Egyptians, Saudi’s, Jordanians, Libyans and Moroccans do not get to vote in competitive elections.

    Also interesting to see the number of women on the streets, can’t imagine that being allowed in Riyadh, Cairo or Rabat.

    I have only heard of protests in Tehran and Shiraz, what about Mashad, Isfahan, Tabriz, Qom and Karaj – any protests in those cities.

    I heard one report saying that the Revolutionary Guards was going to Universities and arresting people, a second report said it was the Basiji Militia, which was it, they are NOT the same. I also heard that the Guards have been confined to barracks. A former Commander of the Guards, Mohsen Rezaee, was a presidential candidate who spoke out against Ahmadinejad’s holocaust denial statements.

    I heard that the protests emanate from northern Tehran, I believe that’s where the wealthier residents live.

    I am reminded of the protests by the so-called Turkish secularists in Istanbul over the possible un-banning of the headscarf . Most Turks would like to see the ban removed, only the urban elite and those who worship Attaturk think otherwise, and of course the BBC who rarely lose an opportunity to show off their bourgeoisie credentials.

  65. 73 Cyanocitta cristata
    June 18, 2009 at 01:28

    Sometimes there is good in protest as in the Protestant reformation and the revolution that created the USA. It helps to challenge a predominant thought pattern and have another paradigm in place. Other times, like in this case, protesting does you no good it just gets people seen and divert the issues on the agenda. The mullahs run Iran and it doesn’t matter who won this election because more of the same would happen. Does a Mousavi all of a sudden change the nuclear direction of Iran? or enhance Iran-US/UK relations? Yes, there are good people in Iran that want the same things western civilization have but until the perception of corruption and unfairness wears away, it will take more than a protest…it will take a revolution to objectively tackle the issues.

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