Nima Shirazi

With the surprise election (CNN, 6/15/13) of moderate pragmatist Hassan Rouhani as the next president of Iran, and the attendant departure of the West’s favorite bogeyman, outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from the political stage, U.S. elite media have had to rapidly adapt the collective narrative in order to maintain their alarmist depiction of the Islamic Republic. For the past eight years, references to what is perceived as Ahmadinejad’s bombastic rhetoric abounded in political speeches and were readily parroted by the press (Extra!, 6/12). He was routinely presented as a megalomaniacal, apocalyptic madman, hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons in order to annihilate Israel (e.g., New York Daily News, 9/23/11). While Iran’s political and religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has always had final say over the direction of Iran’s nuclear program—one which, despite a decade of intrusive inspection, has never been found to have a military dimension (Reuters, 2/22/13)—this fact is only now deemed noteworthy without Ahmadinejad to kick around anymore. For years, the media produced report after hysterical report (Jerusalem Post, 5/10/06; NBC News, 9/25/07; Fox News, 9/11/12) on the Iranian nuclear program without mentioning Khamenei (Foreign Policy, 11/9/09; Christian Science Monitor, 11/8/11; AFP, 10/8/12). With Ahmadinejad’s coming departure from the political stage and an election on the horizon, government officials, commentators and reporters alike had been tactfully pivoting away from placing any emphasis on the Islamic Republic’s elected executive,...

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