Richard Bernstein: In Tehran, Shades of Tiananmen
In the New York Times, Richard Bernstein is the latest to make the comparison between Tehran 2009 and Tiananmen 1989:
The Chinese have succeeded in the 20 years since in suppressing public comment about the massacre, so that young people growing up in China today are taught only the official version: that the only people who died on that day were the soldiers who bravely took back the streets from what were termed “hooligans” at the time. One senses that this success has probably not been lost on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian security forces who have been using tear gas and truncheons to suppress the demonstrators in Tehran.
It’s impossible to say, of course, how the Iranian case will unfold, and whether the public will come to accept the official version of the recent election, which is that it was won in a landslide by Mr. Ahmadinejad and that reports of voter fraud were themselves fraudulent. For that matter, it’s impossible to know whether he actually was preferred by 62 percent of Iranian voters.
Even so, the Iranian handling of the election looks more and more like a repeat of the Chinese model — violent suppression followed by a concerted propaganda effort to shape the way recent events will be perceived. The foreign press has been expelled; efforts to control Internet communications continue, the mass demonstrations are being blamed on pernicious foreign and Zionist plots, and the deaths of protesters are being attributed not to the paramilitary Basijis or other security forces but, as Mr. Ahmadinejad himself put it, to unnamed “terrorists” and “vandals” — a bit like the “small number of hooligans” that, in China’s official view, were responsible for the violence at Tiananmen.