By Neil Clark
13 Jan, 2020
Iran is thousands of miles away from Britain, yet because the power elites support them, anti-government protests in Tehran receive much wider coverage in the UK than the ones in France, just across the Channel.
How many British people have ever visited Iran? How many have lived there or have second homes there?
I suspect the figures are very small. It’s quite a contrast with France. In 2018, it was revealed that France came top in a survey of countries which Britons had visited. 76% of Brits had been to France at some time in their lives. According to the UK government’s own website, about 17m Britons visit France each year.
The last time I went to France was in October. Then there’s the expats. In 2017, France was home to 190,000 UK-born people. For many Brits, a year (or more) in Provence is a reality.
Now let’s pretend you’re a UK news editor. You’d think it would be reasonable to assume that British TV viewers would be more interested in mass anti-government street protests in France, a country they know very well, than in faraway Iran, wouldn’t you?
Yet, the reality is that while this weekend’s anti-government protests in Iran (over the unintentional shooting down of a Ukranian airliner), led the news bulletins and were the top story for all Sunday on the BBC website, the coverage of the protests in France, and a nationwide strike over pension reform, has been scant.
The French are famously quick to say ‘Non’ to things they don‘t like, but even by their standards, the protests taking place there have been quite extraordinary. Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vests) demonstrations have been held across the country every weekend since December 2018.
Last weekend was ‘Act 61.’ In Paris, the protesters were pelting police with stones, trying to erect barricades in the streets and setting dumpsters on fire. Police responded with volleys of tear gas and force.
At the same time, a general strike against President Macron’s planned pension age hike from 62 to 64 reached its 31st day. Macron in response temporarily suspended the planned hike. Moral of the story is that direct action works.
Yet, none of this, which again I stress is taking place just across the English Channel, was deemed worthy of being a lead news item in the UK. Neither it must be said was the march of thousands in Glasgow to demand Scottish independence from the UK! Isn’t that astonishing?
Instead, we woke up on Sunday to extensive coverage of anti-government (sorry, ‘anti-regime’) protests thousands of miles away in Iran. The punditocracy have the same laser-like Iranian focus. Contrast the number of tweets and statements they put out about the weekend protests in Tehran with their lack of interest in the Gilets Jaunes and demonstrations in France.
— Gordon Dimmack (@GordonDimmack) January 13, 2020
It’s not just the differing level of coverage which is striking (no pun intended). It’s the way the protests are framed. Iranian ‘anti-regime’ street protestors, like those in Venezuela twelve months ago or in Hong Kong, are clearly very much approved of. Donald Trump sends them his support, and neocon fanatic John Bolton can hardly conceal his excitement, tweeting “Regime Change is in the air”.
The Khamenei regime has never been under more stress. Regime change is in the air. The people of Iran can see it. America, Europe and France should not try to prop it up or negotiate with its illegitimate representatives.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 12, 2020
But the Gilets Jaunes don’t get this elite backing. Instead they’ve been besmirched. They‘ve been accused of ‘anti-Semitism’, of being far-left and far-right. In fact the Yellow Vests is an incredibly democratic, grassroots movement, open to all who feel angry about the iniquitous status quo. It is totally organic, and not under the control of any political party, or factional grouping, which is probably why the power elites are so scared of it. The Gilets Jaunes protests receive minimal and, when it comes, begrudging coverage because our rulers don’t want us to copy it in Britain.
Instead they’d rather we cheer on civil unrest in oil-rich Iran, knowing that anything which weakens the Iranian government serves their greedy, hegemonic interests. Those interests are not just about getting hold of the enormous reserves of crude oil and natural gas which Iran possesses (a new oil field with an estimated 53 billion barrels was discovered only in November). It‘s also about smashing the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis of resistance to the neocon project for total control of the Middle East and ‘taking out’ any independent actors who support the Palestinians.
This is not, I must stress, to criticise Iranian protestors or their reasons for taking to the streets but to highlight the wider agenda of those saying to us: ‘Don‘t look over there (France), look over here (Iran)! Once again, as was the case over the Great Iraqi WMDs hoax, news editors have allowed themselves to be the puppets of the powerful.
* Neil Clark, is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66