The bumper sticker read, "Not Fooled By The Media." I lacked the nerve to track down the owner of the car and ask exactly what he meant by it.
Obviously it expressed a lack of trust, but did he believe the media deliberately lied or is part of a conspiracy to hide the truth from the public? And truth about what?
I have friends who insist the media is tool of big business. Perhaps, but remember, media IS a business, and if the public doesn't like what it sees, it can and will go elsewhere.
Remember too that many journalists risk their lives to report the news. In the last 10 years, more than 1,000 reporters and cameramen have been killed on the job. These are brave men and women, and they deserve our respect.
Anything I say about the turmoil in Iran today is likely to change by the time the column goes to print so I'll confine my comments to what's going on in the U.S.
As Iranians cried foul in the week following the June 12 elections, the response in the U.S. once again split along political lines. President Barack Obama called for caution and patience. Republicans John McClain, Mitt Romney and others called for action.
What action? Military intervention or just more threats and sanctions? Remember the 2000 Bush-Gore election where the popular vote went for Gore, and the legitimacy of the Florida vote took weeks to resolve? Imagine the American response if Europe or the Muslim world had intruded. Let's put ourselves in Iran's position before we go any further.
Obama has reached out to Iran and to the Muslim world in general. The degree to which this has encouraged the men and women on the streets of Tehran may be considerable, but what is the U.S. role now when the Iranian military and press are controlled by a ruthless elite?
What ever happens, this is Iran's revolution, a very different revolution than the uprising in the late '70s when Islamic fundamentalists overthrew the pro-western Shah. The Iranian people have had more than 30 years to think things over, and apparently they are ready for change. But is change possible in an autocratic state like Iran?
Of course it's possible. In fact, it's inevitable, but the kind of change the U.S. wants to see is something else. Iran is a Muslim nation. That isn't going to change. We can hope for a more moderate and modern Muslim state, but threats and condemnation are not the way to get it. Being an example of a free and nonideological nation is.
It is not up to the U.S. to discredit President Ahmadinejad or Iran's religious leaders. They are doing it to themselves. If nothing else, the secrecy, the arrests, the beatings and attempts to silence the people have proved to be a huge moral embarrassment. The Iranians know it, and the world knows it.
Neither Ahmadinejad nor the Ayatollah Khamenei are likely to back down, but they need the respect and cooperation of the public in order to function effectively. In other words, they need to change. The job of the U.S. and the West in general is to facilitate that change.
Against an autocratic and ruthless state, the people on the street are going to lose their battle, but they may yet win their war. The rulers of Iran may have silenced the press, but they have not been able to silence the people.
Today nobody controls the media. It belongs to everyone who has a cell phone or a computer, or even a human voice. Just as they did in the '70s when the Shah was overthrown, Iranians are taking to the rooftops each evening at 10 p.m. to chant in unison, "God is great. Death to the dictator."
We will achieve more by honoring these brave people than by damning their oppressors.
Joan King lives in Sautee; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.