Thursday, February 7, 2013


Continuing the analysis of the CBC report "Iran is really on the nuclear brink", I would like to consider the headline which was used.

Headlines play a very powerful role in printed or online journalism, and the CBC editors must know this very well. Headlines are "relevance optimizers" and strongly influence what is most likely to be remembered by readers. Also many readers may skim all the headlines on a page, but only read the text of articles which particularly interest them. So CBC online could expect that all its readers would see and possibly internalize the false information that Iran is on the nuclear brink without reading any further. The fact that CBC chose this headline indicates that they strongly desired their readers to remember and internalize this notion (that is not supported by any facts) that Iran was on the brink of acquiring a nuclear weapon.

If the purpose was just to attract readers to an article on Iran, a much more honest headline could have been used, such as "Growing Concern about Iran's Nuclear Development". By placing the lie in the headline it was guaranteed to have the maximum propaganda effect.

Regarding propaganda, a well-established principle of successful persuasion is repetition. Things become increasingly believable the more often they are read or heard. CBC online has the practice of listing "Related Articles" in sidebars to its articles. Over the following four months after "Iran is Really on the Nuclear Brink" was published, virtually every CBC article about Iran listed this headline under its Related Articles. This meant that this false information was highlighted and repeated dozens of times over several months in true propaganda fashion. Indeed as late as last month, January 2013, this headline was listed under "Related articles" accompanying articles on Iran.

It is also interesting to note the use of the word "really" in the headline. This is not a particularly sophisticated word, and would not normally be found in a headline. However its use does reveal a desire to convince. Really! Believe me – it is really true! Again one might ask why CBC is so keen to convince, and is not satisfied just to inform.

I might add that immediately after the article came out I filed a personal complaint with the CBC Ombudsman about this article. Unfortunately my claim was rejected by both CBC and the Ombudsmnan, both claiming that whether or not the IAEA report stated that Iran was on the brink was a matter of interpretation. I invite any reader of this blog to read the IAEA report for him/herself and see if there is any possible wording that can be interpreted as CBC claims to have interpreted it.

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