A hotly contested election takes place. Long before a single vote is cast, one candidate declares that the only way he could possibly lose is by fraud. Within hours of people going to the polls, that candidate declares that he has won. The subsequent vote count proves the claim to have been false. The candidate who had prematurely declared victory loses the election decisively. The losing candidate now claims fraud, with no evidence to back up his claim.
There are no specifics. There are no witnesses. There are no stuffed ballot boxes or discarded ballot boxes. Even if the alleged irregularities did occur, there is no explanation for how they would account for the wide gap between the vote totals of the two candidates. There are street demonstrations protesting the allegedly stolen elections.
The losing candidate is given the opportunity to detail a list of all the alleged cases of fraud. If such cases existed, this would be easy to do, since his campaign organization has had observers at every polling station across the country. The losing candidate pens several essays, again alleging that millions of votes have been stolen, again without any witnesses or specifics. He demands that the entire election be annulled.
Are we describing the 2020 U.S. presidential election? Yes, but also the 2009 election in Iran.
In many ways, the post election developments are similar. But there are also major differences, principle among which is the different ways in which Western corporate media covered them. In the case of the U.S. election, the corporate media steadfastly demanded that the Trump campaign provide evidence for allegations of fraud. In the case of Iran’s 2009 elections, however, no evidence was deemed necessary.
The wild and evidence-free allegations against Iran’s elections were accepted as fact. The incumbent president was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both the Obama administration and his Republican opposition in Congress agreed that Ahmadinejad had to go, even though it was not for them to decide. The corporate media, both its liberal and conservative wings, agreed that Ahmadinejad had to go, even though it was not for them to decide. The main opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi fell into the imperialist trap of delegitimizing the elections.
As unfounded as Trump’s claims of fraud are, at least his campaign has dug up a few minor irregularities here and there. Mousavi could not even muster minor irregularities. Iran’s elections were conducted far more transparently than those in the United States. They were organized in such a decentralized way that over a hundred thousand people – teachers, civil servants, municipal workers – administered it in tens of thousands of polling stations. But Mousavi could not come up with one witness of election fraud. He just stuck to yelling fraud over and over again.
The Western corporate media hung on his every word. To this day, 11 years later, no witnesses and no evidence has emerged, not even in Europe and the United States where anyone with evidence of fraud would have easily been granted asylum.
But Mousavi’s inability to produce any evidence did not keep the corporate media from characterizing the Iranian election as stolen. In some instances, media pieces would more cautiously use terms like “allegedly fraudulent elections.” In the years since, U.S. media outlets commonly refer to the 2009 elections simply as “disputed” elections.
The U.S. corporate media are correct to demand evidence from Trump. They are correct to not characterize the 2020 U.S. presidential election as fraudulent, stolen or disputed. After all, an election does not become fraudulent or disputed just because the losing candidate refuses to accept defeat. However, the U.S. corporate media should equally apply the same standard to elections in countries U.S. imperialism is attempting to overthrow.
Ahmadinejad was widely portrayed as having cheated into being reelected as Iran’s president, despite the fact that no evidence whatsoever was ever provided questioning the legitimacy of the elections. Iran is not the only example of this double standard either.
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has been elected in legitimate, internationally observed polls. Maduro is the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, a movement which has declared Venezuela’s real independence from the U.S. and empowered the country’s working class. For this reason, U.S. corporate interests absolutely want Maduro overthrown. The corporate media often refer to Maduro as a disputed president, or even a dictator or a despot.
In Jan. 2019, when Venezuela’s right-wing opposition attempted a coup, the U.S. State Department started calling Maduro the former president, referring to Juan Guaidó, the coup leader, as “acting president.” Guaidó had never even run for president, much less been elected as one. But that did not keep the major corporate media outlets from granting Guaidó legitimacy with the ridiculous title of acting president.
The next time major media outlets parrot the U.S. State Department’s accusations of stolen elections in another country, we need to remember that, as far as the U.S. corporate media is concerned, the standard of requiring evidence to back up allegations of fraud in the United States does not apply to independent states on the Pentagon’s hit list. The corporate media quickly and uncritically falls in line with U.S. imperialist interests. In the part of the world oppressed by U.S. empire, any elections that do not produce the results desired by Washington and Wall Street are deemed to be stolen, evidence be damned!