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June 14, 2009

Comments

It's good to be concerned about what happens around the world and elections in other parts of the world, like Iran. But it sure would be nice if everyone were as concerned about stopping voting fraud in places like Chicago too.

The one thing Ahmedinejad needs now is an external enemy to make the Iranian people forget domestic issues, unite behind "their president" and link his political opponents to. (The Bush/Rove theory of politics). Thank goodness we've got Obama instead of John "Bomb Iran" McCain making these decisions.

It's good to be concerned about what happens around the world and elections in other parts of the world, like Iran. But it sure would be nice if everyone were as concerned about stopping voting fraud in places like Chicago too.
It sure would be nice if people concerned about stopping vote fraud in places like Chicago would start by demonstrating the existence of vote fraud in places like Chicago.

I mean, I'm open to the possibility that it's still going on, and I'm sure there used to be a lot of it, and heaven knows that politics at all levels is fertile ground for many kinds of corruption. But this sort of casual "Chicago voter fraud" applause line seems to be based on a bunch of stories from decades ago and little more, is mostly used to insinuate something about urban Democratic machines (I'm given to understand that researchers haven't discovered more urban than rural corruption on a per-capita or per-tax-base basis), and at times like these represents the lamest sort of false equivalence.

Get back to me about the equal importance of vote fraud in "places like Chicago" when people are rioting in American streets - which the voters (as opposed to the apparatchiks) didn't even do for the last proven case of electoral shenanigans, Florida 2000.

The Rovians and Boltonistas are popping open their champagne bottles, I presume, since they publicly rooted for Ahmedinejad. They could not afford to lose their favorite bogeyman ('the true face of Iran').
What I have heard is that the election was declared an overwhelming victory for Ahmedinejad by the state media at a time that it was virtually impossible to make that claim (since only a tiny fraction of votes could have been counted yet).
Also a near 2/3 majority when the polls consistently predicted a 15% lead of the opponent sound as credible as the >>95% results in Eastern Bloc elections. A close call might have been just dubious (but possible), this result just stinks.

God, I wouldn't want to be Obama having to make a statement on the Iran elections, because anything any US politician says about elections in other countries will immediately trigger derision around the world at least for the next decade.

Silly hilzoy, the war will pay for itself

"What I have heard is that the election was declared an overwhelming victory for Ahmedinejad by the state media at a time that it was virtually impossible to make that claim (since only a tiny fraction of votes could have been counted yet).
Also a near 2/3 majority when the polls consistently predicted a 15% lead of the opponent sound as credible as the >>95% results in Eastern Bloc elections. A close call might have been just dubious (but possible), this result just stinks."

I would be cautious to accept as fact that the results are fraudulent. It was not long ago that everybody seemed convince that Ahmedinejad would win by a landslide; the polls were supposed to have tightened recently, but who knows how accurate these polls are, especially if an unusually large number of people voted?

The problem is that after Iraq and Georgia, the English-language media is again displaying a terribly reality-distorting bias in covering a story where there is enormous pressure to condemn a popular bad guy. I don't know how many English-speaking journalists I've seen or read citing their (naturally, due to selection bias) opposition-supporting urban intellectual Iranian sources claiming that "everybody I know was voting for Mousavi".

The security services certainly went into action quickly before polling even closed on friday, which suggests a stolen election, but then again, if the numbers really did show a clear win for Ahmedinejad, then the authorities would have been justifiably (from the perspective of Iranian political culture, ie, fairly repressive) alarmed by the opposition's stated intent to contest the results very forcibly.

I also just wanted to add, that if the results are falsified, it's obvious why they would falsify a landslide rather than a narrow win -- first of all the need to avoid a run-off, secondly I don't why a landslide result is inherently less credible than a narrow win. The fact that people are saying things like "if the win had been narrower, it would have been more believable" reflects a strong bias to believe in fraud in the first place; those same people would surely argue that a narrow win was proof of fraud because all the authorities had to do was cheat a little bit in a few places.

We can certainly look forward to people with absolutely no knowledge of Iran pontificating stridently, a la Georgia...

Byrningman, did you even read the Juan Cole piece hilzoy linked to? It gives some pretty darn strong evidence of why we should be skeptical of this landslide. As to your apparent derision of those suspicious of the election, a number of analysts (who know a lot more than me. You?) are not convinced. How about highlighting the errors you see in their arguments, rather than pointing out that nobody wants Ahmadinejad reelected.

byrningman: The problem is that after Iraq and Georgia, the English-language media is again displaying a terribly reality-distorting bias in covering a story where there is enormous pressure to condemn a popular bad guy. I don't know how many English-speaking journalists I've seen or read citing their (naturally, due to selection bias) opposition-supporting urban intellectual Iranian sources claiming that "everybody I know was voting for Mousavi".

Yeah, exactly.

Maybe the elections were rigged. (FWIW: yes, I've read Juan Cole and other articles.)

Maybe they weren't. Right now, I don't think anyone can be exactly sure, and the US has such a reputation for ignoring democracy and democratic electoral results, there's nothing to be gained and everything to be lost by any official reaction from the US that assumes without clear evidence that the elections were rigged.

(And a further problem, for American commentaters: as someone else already said upthread, it's not as if there's anything the US or Obama can say or do about this that won't provoke derision. It's not as if the US hasn't had dubious elections in the very recent past, and Obama shows no interest in investigation of past crimes and electoral reform in his own country. (As noted: the right time for Obama to declare he was going to pursue electoral reform - get rid of the riggable voting machines, ensure uniform access to the vote, etc - would have been right after he was the unmistakable electoral winner. Missed opportunity there.)

Oh, and for comparison's sake? I became convinced the Florida 2000 election had certainly been stolen only after being presented with sufficient evidence, which took weeks if not months to convince me: and likewise with the 2004 elections - though by the 2006 elections it had become clear enough that there was a regular and dishonest pattern of rigging here.

And yeah... it will seem not a little ironic if people who were determined to believe that America's elections weren't rigged, jump right in to attack Iranian elections because, well... this is Iran, and they're the bad guys.

"Byrningman, did you even read the Juan Cole piece hilzoy linked to? It gives some pretty darn strong evidence of why we should be skeptical of this landslide. As to your apparent derision of those suspicious of the election, a number of analysts (who know a lot more than me. You?) are not convinced. "

Yes, I have read Juan Cole and other analyses of varying points of view, and I have also spoken to two professional analysts of Iran who don't post their views on the internet as soon as possible, and the latter are awaiting more hard information.

I'm not arguing one way or the other, I'm simply pointing out that it is unlikely that anyone expressing their opinion on the internet right now are doing so with anything but the most provisional data, which frequently turns out to be wrong as time passes and a clearer picture emerges.

The 24-hour news organisations, IMHO, are humiliating themselves by the way they breathlessly repeat second-hand rumours, twitters, "my cousin's uncle's text messages" and so forth -- bear in mind that Iran is a society particularly noted for its rumour-mongering and conspiracy-theorising even in more tranquil times.

Now consider the massive amount of competing disinformation and information-control operations currently underway: the Iranian authorities, the Iranian opposition, various foreign diplomatic and intelligence services. Where, for example, did this graph purporting to statistically prove fraudulence come from? I find it laughable -- but also suspicious -- that this completely unattributed graph with unknown data sources is rapidly zipping around the internet. That reeks of a classic disinformation, public relations operation.

To sum up: it certainly seems plausible to me that the general outlines of the story are that Ahmedinejad and other agencies of the Iranian government have blatantly stolen this election, if I had to put money down right now, that's where I'd put my money. All I'm saying is, I'm just not taking anything for granted. In such a chaotic situation with so much at stake and so many powerful interested players, you'd be naive to take anything at face value.

I don't see anything above how the votes are tabulated, which can put different kinds of spin on the story. If it's paper and pencil all the way up and there has been vote fraud, it looks like good old fashioned third world thuggery. But if there's any sort of electronic vote accumulation, the possibilities become slightly more sinister. It would be irresponsible not to speculate that, for instance, some sort of back door hack was implemented to give the reigning government huge and implausibly deniable majorities.

After all, it's not only the interests Ahmedinejad that are served by these huge margins. Ask yourself why we even care whether or not there's been vote fraud in this particular country at this particular time, and inevitable comparisons to Iraq and 'weapons of mass destruction' pop up.

That's only one theory of course, but if the vote has really been rigged, it's only natural to speculate as to why. As the bromide goes, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Conservatives embracing chaos, how very interesting...can we start calling the folks at Redstate.Com, reactionaries, now...without worrying about offending conservatives.

ditto byrningman

I do not say that I know that this was a scam, I just think that it looks suspicious enough (or maybe even too suspicious) to require an in-depths look. That the government seems to do everything it can to prevent exactly that does not make it look any better. Maybe Zimbabwe is the closest thing for comparision. The revolutionary guards in Iran (same as the Mugabe thugs) made clear beforehand that they would not accept a win by the opposition.

The revolutionary guards in Iran (same as the Mugabe thugs) made clear beforehand that they would not accept a win by the opposition.

True - but Iran, unlike Zimbabwe, is a modern state, with a sophisticated, educated, urban and urbane population. It will not stay that way if the Ahmedinajad's coup stands, because the very people Iran needs to retain those characteristics will give up on their country - will, indeed, be coerced into giving up on their country - and either escape altogether or not contribute the very best their minds and energies could have done. The regime will rule over a country divided between absolutists and ghosts.

This one of the things I've never been able to understand about despots and despot wanna-bes: why they're willing and eager to destroy their own country, their fellow citizens, in order to do nothing more than feed their egos. I guess I could write them all off as sociopaths, but that seems too facile. (The other thing I've never been able to understand is why they insist on keeping citizens who want nothing more than to leave their country. If it's all about the ego, about being adored and flattered everywhere you go, wouldn't you want the naysayers to go elsewhere?)

I'm not sure how reliable this is, but some word leaking out indicates there could be a serious rift within the ruling ayatollah councils, with even some hardliners enraged by the electoral theft.

Oh, and let me just say that cable news has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt its utter uselessness by its non-coverage of the election/coup. There's nothing quite like tuning into "The Most Trusted Name in News" and seeing Larry King conducting some idiotic interview to drive home that fact.

Reasons for skepticism include the fact that (unsurprisingly) the US spends a great deal of money trying to destabilize Iran:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh
http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/05/bush_authorizes.html

The gist: "The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions."


And it's likely part of a broader initiative pushed heavily by the Bush administration (a notable success that the administration never trumpeted):
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa


hence the skepticism of a guy who would know better than most:
http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0609/Or_he_won.html

The general MSM coverage has been heinously brief, and seems to me to mostly take A's word for things. I keep being reminded of how little time Fox News devoted to the Holocaust Museum shooting this past week. When the event doesn't fit the narrative, the MSM just doesn't cover it.

I think any kind of close vote or disputed vote in Iran doesn't fit the MSM narrative in which Iran is *collectively* a force for evil that Must Be Stopped. The people in the US and Israel who want to portray Iran as a huge threat that we couldn't blame Israel for attacking are actively resisting any signs that Iran isn't monolithically behind Ahmadinejad.

One of the commenters at Glenn Greenwald's pointed out that the NYT is giving some prominence to two not-just-the-same-old features: The Lede's coverage of the blogosphere's take, and a thread where Iranians are invited to post. I wonder if the relative prominence of the election on the NYT's front page (compare it to WaPo, the LATimes, USAToday, FoxNews) is coming from having those sources "in-house".

None of us really know. Juan Cole knows a lot more about Middle Eastern politics than anyone here, and all he can do is make inferences.

OTOH, there is zero reason to give the regime the benefit of any presumptions.

One thing that is a bit creepy is that the first comment, which puts forward an obviously fallacious pro-regime spin, is linked to a website selling insurance.

Are the spambots using the controversy to sell insurance? Or is this the Iranian secret police?

There's a chance that all this turmoil will end up stopping Iran's nuclear weapons development. Or may bring down the Mullahs. Or both. This would be good. But there's no way we can know.

Pithlord, I'm seeing more relevant spam comments (usually with irrelevant spam links at the end) nowadays, especially at Language Hat. The spammers seem to have moved on from the earlier technique of grabbing a few sentences from a post or earlier comment, inserting spam links, and posting it as a comment. Now they're posting comments with new content.

It's hard to believe the benefit is enough to have actual English-speaking humans writing the things, but maybe they reuse comments on many, many blogs writing about a current topic. I haven't seen any evidence of such repetition yet, however.

The people who want Obama to make a strong statement in favor of the Iranian opposition probably also thought it was a good idea for John Yettaw to make an uninvited visit to Aung San Suu Kyi.

I have a question, to those who are following this more closely than I:

I gather phone/TV/radio service to and from Iran has been spotty since Friday. Why isn't the govt blocking Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube? The Chinese would.

Why is it Iranian election matter imaportant to you? You? You? and you too? Why?
Would you like your 2000 election be comented and dictated from the rest of the world, like you pretend to care for democracy in Iran? Or you did not wanna hear what Iranians were saying about it in 2000? Just wondering.

"Would you like your 2000 election be comented and dictated from the rest of the world"

Absolutely; it affected everyone in the world.

"Or you did not wanna hear what Iranians were saying about it in 2000?"

No, that would have been just fine.

When the country's own election monitoring officials state that they do not believe the results of the election to be valid and calls for a new one, even though those already in power won the election, that's enough to convince me that the results are suspect. (Granted, this does assume that Andrew Sullivan's post to that effect is correct).

Gary Farber, you are truly citizen of the world.
The problem with commenting is about my concern with biased in formations we receive. There is also the question of other country sovereignty. If the other candidate Mousavi, was really independent and true patriot, he would detest any assault on Iranians Sovereignty from USA, just as USA would do to the same. Then USA would start talking about terrorist regime in Iran and history repeats itself.

CT: I don't see how random citizens' commenting on this blog constitutes a threat to Iranian sovereignty. I was fascinated by comments from abroad before our last election, and had lots of fun trying to explain Tom Tancredo to people in Karachi.

hilzoy
that random citizen comments is just a part of snowballed affect that will keep media primed about the issue that listeners wanna hear. Back and forth, back and forth and soon you will have pressure on Obama to make moves that will attack Iranian sovereignty. I am not saying that he'll be that stupid, i am talking about pressure on him to do it and how repubs can play that.

I agree with Hilzoy. The coup possibility is terrifying. For a long time I have been thinking that Ahmadinejad with absolute power would be really scary, but fortunately his power is limited. Folks, we may soon get to see Ahmadinejad with absolute power.

Many of these comments are extremely foolish.

In almost every state where there is any lack of legitimacy to the regime -- that is, most states -- the losers claim to have won the election. In the US in 2000, this seems to have been the case. However, it isn't always the case. In Iran it appears unlikely to be the case; the opposition were economically conservative and almost certainly alienated the more populist President (and the opposition enjoyed the support of foreigners with no love for Iran, which probably played its part).

Apocalyptic comments are ridiculous; the Iranian President has no more power than he had before (not an enormous amount, actually). As for the notion that Iranians have been denied democracy, this is ridiculous. Iran holds elections, but it is not democratic; the Ayatollah controls everything ultimately. If the other guy had been voted in, perhaps it would have meant modest changes, probably not necessarily changes for the good.

You all need to question your assumptions; particularly, your assumptions that, without necessarily knowing what's going on, you automatically know what's best for Iran. Haven't we had enough of that nonsense from Bush?

Haven't we had enough of that nonsense from Bush?

Yes, worries and discussion over potential electoral abuse and a clampdown on already-limited expression mean people at this blog are just like Bush. We get it. Funny that the people like Daniel Pipes that were rooting for Ahmadinejad to win, because it helps undermine US attempts to normalize relations, are apparently immune from this criticism, even though it fits much better with what the Bush administration actually did.

Regardless, I for one am grateful for this inrush of oh-so-concerned commenters who have made it clear that this is the official US State Department blog. Before it's too late, hilzoy and her commentariat might want to consider the high likelihood that their freewheeling speculations will be quoted by the IRNA as proof of Western perfidy.

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