by Park MacDougald
Wednesday, 17
August 2022
Reaction
13:00

Why is the American press letting Iran off the hook?

The Rushdie attack is inconvenient for the Biden administration
by Park MacDougald
Who could be responsible? Mohsen Shandiz/Sygma via Getty

Should we be surprised that the New York Times is yet to publish an op-ed on the Friday stabbing of novelist Salman Rushdie in New York state?

It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to guess the motive behind the attack. Rushdie’s assailant, Hadi Matar, was a 24-year-old American of Lebanese Shiite extraction whose social media presence is littered with praise for the Islamic Republic. He was arrested with a fake driver’s licence under the name “Hassan Mugniyeh”, presumably in honour of Imad Mugniyeh, the former top Hezbollah lieutenant suspected of planning the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut. Vice News reported on Sunday that Matar has been “in direct contact with members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on social media”. As one Middle Eastern intelligence official put it,

A 24-year-old born in the United States did not come up with Salman Rushdie as a target on his own… Even an avid consumer of Iranian propaganda would have some difficulty finding references to Rushdie compared to all the other, modern enemies, designated by the regime.

However, most U.S. coverage of the attack has downplayed the Iran angle and focused instead on the issues of “free speech” and “censorship.” The Washington Post opinion section, for instance, has warned in general terms about rising threats to “freedom of expression”, the growing danger of “violent extremists”, and the clash between “Islamic fundamentalism” and the “foundational principles of the West”. The New York Times news section proclaimed that the stabbing had “renew[ed free speech debates”, while noting lamely that “law-enforcement officials have not publicly stated what motivated the attack”. 

In this, they have followed the lead of the Biden administration, which initially condemned the stabbing merely as a “vicious attack.” On Sunday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken finally mentioned Iran, condemning “Iranian state institutions” for inciting violence against the author but making no mention of Matar’s alleged links to the IRGC. 

Compare the American press’s muted reaction to the Rushdie stabbing to its response to the October 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the Saudi state, which received wall-to-wall coverage for more than a month and prompted the city of Washington, D.C.. to rename the street in front of the Saudi embassy “Jamal Khashoggi Way.” In that case, there was no hesitation to draw geopolitical lessons, with the Washington Post editorial board announcing that the murder “should spark a long-overdue recalibration of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and its reckless de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman.”

What accounts for this divergence? The Khashoggi murder, of course, was seen as a way of discrediting Trump for his closeness with Saudi Arabia, which should not be discounted as a motive. But as Tablet’s Lee Smith detailed at the time, it was also a way for the Washington faction favouring geopolitical rapprochement with Iran — led by Robert Malley, the architect of the original Iran nuclear deal — to use the press’s anti-Trump sentiment to drive a wedge between the US and Riyadh. 

Today, Malley is leading the Biden administration’s ongoing effort to negotiate a new deal with the Iranian regime. As Politico EU reported last week, the recently finalised draft text of the joint EU-US proposal would, among other concessions, significantly weaken sanctions on the IRGC. So a highly publicised, IRGC-backed assassination attempt against a world-famous author on American soil, occurring just as the US is attempting to finalise the deal, is the last thing in the world the Biden administration wants to be dealing with. 

Luckily for the Biden administration, it can probably count on the press not to ask too many inconvenient questions — at least until after the deal is safely done. 

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
13 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 month ago

In the 30 years since the fatwa by Iran, Western media has embraced the postmodernist idea that “offensive words are violence”. As well, progressives (who run every major media outlet) now claim that any non-white person who claims to be offended must be believed.
This combination makes it it’s very hard for them to condemn the Ayatollahs for their fatwa. They can condemn the attack, but only by ignoring the motive. After all, journalists broadly support “cancel culture”, and a fatwa murder is really just an extreme form of cancellation. Once you’ve decided it’s acceptable to socially ostracize and economically ruin those who disagree with you, that imprisoning people for their beliefs is acceptable, the step to murder is far smaller than most progressives realize.
Thankfully, it appears Rushdie will survive, but he will be scarred for the remainder of his life (and I don’t mean psychologically.) I suspect there will be many journalists who would say “he brought it on himself by being offensive”. And that’s a pitiful indictment of their occupation and class.

Last edited 1 month ago by Brian Villanueva
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

The step to murder is dangerously smaller for sure! But, apparently, it’s the right that is supposedly a danger to democracy.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago

Why is the American press letting Iran off the hook?
The Rushdie attack is inconvenient for the Biden administration

Your sub-headline exactly answers your headline.

Michael James
Michael James
1 month ago

These days ‘motive unknown’ serves as media code for ‘Islamic jihad’.

Last edited 1 month ago by Michael James
Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
1 month ago

And after handing that deal over to Iran, Biden was clueless enough to go beg Saudi Arabia to increase its oil output! <face-palm>!!

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
1 month ago

The New York Times probably believes that Salman Rushdie is an Islamophobe!

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
1 month ago

Yes, indeed.

I for one am disgusted that the Guardian is condemning the attempted assassination. It likes to have it both ways: on the one hand claiming that words are violence, and on the other hand, condemning violence in response to words.
It should at the very least have the self honesty to be consistent with its theme of “words are violence” and claim that Rudhdie had it coming to him.
The level of self delusion and double-think required to believe that words are violence and then, at the same time, imagine you are simultaneously on the side of Rushdie when your wishes are implemented, is completely mad, but also completely unsurprising.

Last edited 1 month ago by hayden eastwood
D Day
D Day
1 month ago

It seems that only some words are violence – well reasoned, thoughtful pieces by Rowling or Stock, or classic literature for example – whereas actual death/rape threats and fatwas are not considered so.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago

Rushdie is an embarassment to the globalists. Didn’t you know? They find Islam a useful weapon to undermine western culture, and they’re scared of it too. Hadn’t you noticed? How many more times does it have to be rehearsed?

Last edited 1 month ago by Martin Smith
Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 month ago

‘Compare the American press’s muted reaction to the Rushdie stabbing to its response to the October 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the Saudi state, which received wall-to-wall coverage for more than a month and prompted the city of Washington, D.C.. to rename the street in front of the Saudi embassy “Jamal Khashoggi Way.”‘

The main difference is not geopolitics, but that Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist. Journalists always get upset when one of their own is killed, because they think of themselves as a uniquely worthy bunch, because ‘freedom of the press’.

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
1 month ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Khashoggi seems to have been a nasty piece of work. And of course, so was that hero of the World’s Left, George Floyd.

Obviously that is no reason or excuse for either of them to be murdered. If the latter really was.

But we should also remember that Rushdie is a deservedly famous author whose books will likely still be read in a hundred years. (If our craven nincompoop leaders haven’t managed to supress them.)

Khomeini’s Little Green Book may also still be read, by historians trying to puzzle out one of the first big steps in our Beloved Leaders’ cowardly and venal attempts to destroy the West, by facilitating this 7th Century crackpot to take over Iran.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

Let’s just keep focusing on the spec in your eye, whilst ignoring the plank in mine. – U.S. Media

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
1 month ago

Not just the US media. Two days ago the Financial Times published Simon Schama’s essay “Salman Rushdie and the sacred right to irreverence” which majored on the role of the US religious right without once mentioning Iran.