In defence of the ‘controversial’ decision to broadcast the alternative Christmas speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Dorothy Byrne, the head of Channel 4 News and Current Affairs commented: “As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad’s views are enormously influential, as we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view.” How benevolent of Channel 4, it was Christmas after all.
What a shame then, that what was actually presented was an insipid speech lacking any form of insight into the cultural or political infrastructure of Iran and its relation with the world.
In his token grey suit, Ahmadinejad was given enough time to spout a vacuous ‘spiritual’ message infused with political jibes devoid of substance. His comment “If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly He would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers,” is a transparent allusion to America and Israel’s foreign policy, and was ironically followed by “Undoubtedly He would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over”.
The hypocrisy is so blatant that it is ridiculous coming from a president doing everything in his power to trample on the banner of ‘justice’ in his own country. Under his administration, juvenile executions have escalated, peaceful protests stifled, women’s rights further reduced, and the existence of homosexuality denied. Try telling Arash and Kamir Alai, two physicians renowned for their work on AIDS who are in arbitrary detention without a charge, that their President isn’t a bully. Or Zaynab Bayazidi who is serving a four year prison term for being a member of the Human Rights Organisation of Kurdistan, whether she believes the sincerity of Ahmadinejad’s message.
Unfortunately for Channel 4, Ahmadinejad’s speech wasn’t sensational. It was a waste of time. If it had shown what Ahmadinejad really thinks, it could have been an edifying insight into the policies of an ‘enormously influential’ politician. But the president isn’t that stupid. It afforded him the means to present the benign image he is so eager to promote; on the critical issues concerning Iran and the Middle East he remains strategically silent.
Ultimately, this was a mundane and mendacious PR stunt, and did little to enlighten in Byrne’s “critical time in international relations.”