Saturday, March 08, 2008

Diane Rehm-Interview with Robin Wright, author of "Dreams and Shadows"

After listenting to the interview I downloaded from, I wrote the following letter to the Diane Rehm show. I've added the hyperlinks for the blog.

When are we going to hold "veteran reporters" like Robin Wright and Thomas Friedman accountable for the distorted ideas of Middle Eastern peoples they've fed the American people for 30+ years? These distorted ideas so saturate the American public's mind that it could not resist the Bush administration's infomercials selling "Operation Iraqi Freedom." In your interview, why could you not ask, "Why have your writings of 30+ years completely failed to give us a real idea of the peoples of the region?"

Regarding the specific interview, there's two points I think which illustrate to me your timidity in this interview. Number 1, when a caller challenged her assertion that the main problem in Palestine is Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel, you allowed her to completely sidestep the question. Number 2, the idea that Abdolkarim Soroush is the "Martin Luther of Islam" is so cliche. Put "soroush iran martin luther" into a search engine and see what comes up: a bunch of U.S. media outlets repeating a phrase with no understanding of Islam's theological traditions or the historical Martin Luther. Ms. Wright's explanation that he's the first to claim that belief is invalid without a conscious (and hence free from coercion) choice is a distortion of historical Muslim theology and perpetuates the notion that, without Euro-American influence and intervention, Muslims would not be able to come up with the simplest foundations of a functioning society. Also, it's a distortion of European history, since Martin Luther's differences with the Catholic Church did not involve the relationship between free will and belief, and in fact some "Protestant" groups, particularly Calvinists, placed more limitations on free will than the Catholic Church ever did.

Having said this, Ms. Wright's book purportedly highlights Muslims' initiatives. I'm just hoping that the ignorance in her reporting over her career is a function of the system of reporting and editing and broadcasting and that her book will demonstrate a deeper understanding of the region's peoples, not just repeating the words of people she meets at the airport Marriots of these countries.

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