Iran’s unrest triggers explosion of fake news

19 Jan 2023

Iran’s unrest triggers explosion of fake news

By Setareh Sadegi and Christopher Weaver

January 19, 2023

Some of the most incendiary accusations made against Iran’s government by corporate media, celebrity influencers and Western leaders in the past months are little more than fabrications. And most remain uncorrected.

Protests in Iran that ostensibly began as a reaction to the death of a woman in police custody in September 2022 have prompted unprecedented international opposition to its government, not only from the usual Western, Israeli and Saudi suspects, but from celebrity social media influencers with no previous record of commenting on Iranian affairs.

Iran is now the target of a carefully coordinated information war with a single goal to drive international support for regime change by any means – whether through sanctions, armed insurrection, military intervention, or some combination of the three.

Before a largely uncritical audience of billions of admiring Instagram followers who do not speak Farsi and have little to no understanding of Iranian politics or culture, a collection of Hollywood actors, washed-up rockers and top models have pumped out viral posts depicting ghastly abuses of protesters by Iran’s security forces, including retaliatory home demolitions and outright massacres.

While Western media outlets from the BBC to the New York Post have spun out a series of reports accusing Iran of killing more protesters than civilians killed by Russia in Ukraine, think tank pundits and leaders of NATO governments have claimed that Tehran has sentenced 15,000 people to death simply for participating in anti-government demonstrations.

These horrific stories would certainly seem to legitimize the calls for regime change, but there’s just one problem: they are just stories.

Indeed, some of the most incendiary accusations leveled against Iran’s government by legacy media outlets, celebrities and Western leaders in the past months are simply fabrications, while others lack critical context that deadens their impact. And as we will see, few, if any, of the bogus reports and phony social media posts have been retracted or corrected by official fact-checkers.

The examples of regime change disinformation listed below represent a mere snapshot of the propaganda war launched against Iran since protests and violent anti-government riots erupted in September 2022. Taken together, however, they expose the near-total refusal of corporate media and social media fact-checkers to exercise even the most basic standards of integrity whenever Iran’s government is the subject.

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