- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

During its 20th-century struggles for world domination, international communism periodically benefited from the naivete and willful ignorance of some in the Western media, who foolishly portrayed totalitarians as agrarian reformers and social democrats. During the 1930s, for example, New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles falsely depicting Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as a reformer while ignoring his responsibility for the murders of tens of millions of people. Similarly, beginning in the late 1950s, New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews made then-Cuban guerrilla leader Fidel Castro out to be an advocate of democracy; Matthews persisted in depicting Mr. Castro this way even after it became apparent that he was a Marxist-Leninist intent on becoming a dictator.

Judging from some of the recent front-page coverage of Iran’s Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the NYT and The Washington Post, the specter of Durantyism is alive and well. Last Sunday, for example, the Times’ page one, above-the-fold story by Michael Slackman suggested that the Iranian leader has been misunderstood: His real concerns are coming to grips with “a system of conservative clerical rule that has lost credibility with the public”; negotiating with the United States; and fighting “wealthy people” who are making life difficult for “poor people” inside Iran. And never mind all that negative reporting elsewhere in the press about the regime’s insistence that women wear the veil, or the vigilante harassment they are subject to if they are thought to be “immodestly” dressed. Mr. Ahmadinejad is in the vanguard of the fight for social equality, opposing the vigilantes and fighting to permit women to enter stadiums.

To be sure, Mr. Ahmadinejad has a few eccentricities, according to the Times: He apparently became so upset that jokes about his personal hygiene were being exchanged via text messages on cellphones that he decided to “punish” cellphone system managers for permitting this to happen. And there is his preoccupation with Jews. But not to worry, the Times reminds us, this is just a part of his campaign to create a “new identity” for his countrymen. As one Iranian pol put it: “Being against Jews and Zionists is an essential part of this new identity.”

If anything, Karl Vick of The Washington Post was even more sycophantic in a front-page piece about the Iranian president that ran two days ago. Mr. Vick pointed out that the Jews (among them the backward-thinking Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) believe Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments about wiping out the Jewish state suggest he is a very dangerous man. The rest of the article is largely devoted to rebutting Mr. Olmert by showing, as Mr. Vick puts it, that Mr. Ahmadinejad is a “caring” person who works 17-hour days looking for ways to help the Iranian people obtain better housing and assist the mentally disabled.

As the Iranian nuclear crisis worsens, look for more of the same from the mainstream media.

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