Western Media Representations, Iran, and Orientalist Stereotypes
The image of Iran is almost always negative in the western media. Whether it is the BBC, CNN, The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Time Magazine, or Newsweek, Iran is regularly described as a land of abnormalities. One could argue that their representations of the country are often stereotypical and at times even dishonest. The media recurrently constructs caricatures of the country, where a reality in the country is exaggerated by means of often preposterous distortion. When confronted by media representations of Iran, one is regularly reminded of orientalism and the debates surrounding its critique.
Orientalism describes the various schools of thought and methods of investigation through which Europe came to know ‘the East.’ According to scholars such as Edward Said, it was and still is through this discourse and its construction of knowledge that the West has been able to legitimize and maintain its hold over the uncivilized ‘Other.’ A major and repeated feature of Oriental analysis in all its various forms is that it constantly confirms the thesis that the Orient is primitive, mysterious, exotic, and incapable of self-government. However, orientalism should not be looked upon as just the rationalization of colonial rule. Far more important, it seems, is how it knowingly or unknowingly justifies imperialism and colonialism even in advance of their actual manifestation.
Sayed Mohammad Marandi is Assistant Professor of English Literature, University of Tehran, Iran. He is also a regular commentator on Al-Jazeera English and other news programmes.