Never trust a bureaucracy. This should perhaps go without saying but the singularly remarkable series of events which has ended in my feeling the need to pen a formal denial of a bizarre accusation has reinforced the belief in my mind, and perhaps after reading this, it will have done so for you as well.
Over the Labor Day weekend it came to my attention that Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), an official part of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government of the United States of America, had penned an article entitled â€œA Name, A Phenomenon, An Iranian Website.â€ The article concerned a relatively anonymous and heretofore to me unknown website with an Iranian domain name, BarackObama.ir.
Which is perhaps an odd enough thing for Radio Free Europe to be concerning itself with, but in the course of insinuations about the siteâ€™s possible links to the Iranian government, and its role as part of a post-2009 election attempt by the Ahmadinejad government to â€œartificially constructâ€ a presence a funny thing happened and the article became about me.
Well not so much about me, but the author speculates that I personally was either â€œrecruited to write exclusive for BarackObama.ir or agreed to share (my) contentâ€ with a site that the article makes very clear is up to some dastardly deed on behalf of the Iranian government. They add “or neither” parenthetically later on but it seems pretty clear this is an afterthought.
My first thought was â€œwhy me,â€ as the website has lifted content (entirely without permission) from countless writers, including many much more well known than I. With such luminaries as John Pilger and Tom Engelhardt also having had content copied and pasted by this site, it seems odd that my name should be singled out for scrutiny.
But I assure you that I, Jason Ditz, am not now nor have I ever been an agent provocateur for any government, let alone the Iranian one. The fact that such a proclamation has to be made is perhaps a lesson in the absurd state of affairs for a radio station that has gone from Cold War propagandist to CIA proxy to forgotten (but still funded) ward of the government.
After all the speculations about my so-called relationship with that website or, for that matter, the Iranian government, could have been readily cleared up with a phone call or a simple email. My contact information has never been difficult to find, and with the administrationâ€™s â€œBroadcasting Board of Governorsâ€ insisting these sites maintain the highest standards of journalism one wonders how such content is invented, let alone published as what one is supposed to accept as â€œofficial policyâ€ without even cursory fact-checking.
In the era of the Internet wild accusations gain a remarkable level of currency across broad swathes of society, and certainly people making up stories is nothing new. Itâ€™s just that these stories usually arenâ€™t backed by $90 million annually of taxpayer funding.
Which is perhaps the real story here. With the Cold War long since over and virtually the whole of Europe long ago freed from totalitarianism why on earth does Radio Free Europe still exist as a federally funded program? Despite federal law openly forbidding them from duplicating any service provided by private media their website appears to cater primarily to American audiences with content that is by and large culled from private wire services. The service pumps its content, such as it is, to a handful of nations in Central Asia and the Near East, but its era of dropping leaflets into enemy countries and fomenting revolutions in Hungary is clearly past. Its attempts to reinvent itself as a â€œmodel of media professionalismâ€ on the taxpayerâ€™s dime seems downright silly, when at the end of the day they are eagerly (and inexplicably) muck-raking about my non-existent ties with Iran.