Watching the internet react to US-Iran relations has been quite the trip. With each new development comes a refreshed sense that we may soon be in another protracted war. President Donald Trump is escalating tensions time and again while directly appealing to his most fortified base — Americans who view him as a strongman defending a nation under siege. Accordingly, his administration and supporters have employed several disinformation tactics to justify US aggression toward Iran.
ما شروع کننده جنگ نبودیم. ما متجاوز نبودیم. ما ترور نکردیم. ما از بمب اتم و شیمیایی و ناپالم و اورانیوم ضعیف شده استفاده نکردیم. ما با تحریم و محاصره و جنگ ملتهای دیگر را ویران نکردیم.
اما سه هزار سال اینجا ماندیم. «دفاع» مشروع ترین حق انسانی ست.#بسماللهالرحمنالرحیم pic.twitter.com/CRqTWxp9DA
— Ehsan Mansouri (@ehsanmansuri) January 7, 2020
The recent assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani has bolstered the conviction of most Iranians, who want an end to the US military presence in the region. Imagery circulating on Iranian social media paints a picture of embattled opposition. Having historically garnered little sympathy from the West, many Shia Muslims rally around the words of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, who warned that any invading American troops would “arrive vertically and leave horizontally.” His two-handed T-shape gesture appears in artwork, photos, and videos as a symbol of self-defense. Another popular design depicts a man’s shoe with one lace pulled upwards by a missile. The text in this particular tweet states that “This only avenged Soleimani’s shoelace,” referring to Iran’s retaliatory strike on a US military base in Iraq, which by design claimed no casualties.
Poster on Iranian social media says ‘this only avenged Soleimani’s shoe lace’, referring to Resistance Leaders’ promise that the ultimate vengeance of Commander Soleimani’s assassination in America’s terrorist attack will be the end of the US illegal presence in the region. pic.twitter.com/kB1pCfT5ys
— Zahra Shafei
(@shafei_d) January 8, 2020
Confusing resistance with extremism is textbook US foreign policy, a longstanding bipartisan tradition of justifying interventionism. Trump consistently props up a false image of altruistic concern, which he then projects onto US economic endeavors and military actions. After Iran admitted to accidentally downing a Ukrainian passenger jet, Trump tweeted in Farsi to express support for anti-government demonstrations in Tehran and on university campuses. The media gives these protests plenty of coverage, portraying Iran as a country in dire need of reform. While freedom of speech is indeed suppressed in Iran, this is nonetheless an imperialist push to weaken and potentially overthrow its government. US officials have built on this for years, disguising their true agenda behind appeals to nebulous notions of “human rights” — conveniently ignoring their uncritical support of countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The majority of the #IraniansDetestSoleimani tweets are coming from USA, Canada, UK, and Germany. Almost 50% from USA.
Roughly only 3% being tweeted out of Iran.
Don’t fall for the twitter bots.
— Amir Moazzami (@AmirHMoazzami) January 7, 2020
Ideological warfare trickles down to American civilians, who rationalize intervention in bad faith. Implying that women were more free before the Islamic Revolution, as right-wing entrepreneur Michael Choudrey did, promotes a false image of Muslim cultures in Iran and enforces Western stereotypes of beauty. In reality, Iranian women were largely illiterate and less politically active before 1979. Concurrently, internet bots and MAGA supporters popularized the #IraniansDetestSoleimani hashtag to discourage Americans and Europeans from sympathizing. Unlike in the past, however, Twitter users have been readily available to shut down the spread of such astroturfing efforts.
You’re just a little too dim witted and too racist to understand 2,500 years of civilization. I hope you get deployed to one of America’s occupation bases here and lose your limbs defending an oil infrastructure, you child of seven generations of bastards
— Zahra Shafei
(@shafei_d) January 5, 2020
In an election year, questioning the governance of a majority-Muslim country feeds into Islamophobia and American exceptionalism. Casual racism from ordinary Americans receives sharp-tongued criticism from Iranian civilians who have lived through decades of Western abuse. While Soleimani’s supporters organized the region’s largest funeral in recent history, Americans cracked jokes about a World War III draft in myriad posts. It’s clearly a laughing matter in the States, while Iranians grieve the loss of a national icon and hundreds of unintended casualties.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
— Saeed Jalili (@DrSaeedJalili) January 7, 2020
Iranian citizens and government officials are proving to be far more adept and quick-witted than the US president and his revolving door of henchmen. Just look at the embarrassingly lo-res American flag that Trump tweeted after the killing of Soleimani. Compare it to Tehran official Saeed Jalili’s image of the Iranian national flag, in high resolution, posted after Iran’s missile retaliation. The original Trump tweet received well-deserved ridicule for its sloppiness and irresponsible jingoism. In the coming weeks, we will surely see more bizarre Twitter theatrics and sniffling speeches aiming to control the narrative and drum up support for military intervention. Trump’s incompetence will continue to play out as tensions wax and wane, while Iranian civilians remain caught in the middle.
Iranian caller on TV: “America has no hero that we can target… It’s a huge country but no real heroes… Who are we going to assasinate there? Spiderman? SpongeBob?!”
— MOWZÜ (@mowzdef) January 5, 2020
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