Lost in Translation? Or Deliberate Propaganda?

I no longer know what to believe when I read or listen to the news. So much of it seems to be, to put it kindly, managed. Is it possible that I am being deliberately brainwashed? I know that sounds preposterous. This is America, after all, not Nazi Germany. But consider how the news from Iran is reported.

About six months ago, for example, news sources quoted Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying, “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Of course, Ahmadinejad did not use those words. He speaks Persian, not English, and what he said was ” بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود. ”

And you, being fluent in Persian, will realize that phrase could be translated as “cause a place to cease to exist,” to “obliterate totally,” or “destroy completely.”

I imagine the context would determine which translation is most appropriate, and critics have come forward to challenge the choice made by the news agency reporting the speech.

Some scholars made the point that Ahmadinejad did not refer to the nation or land mass of Israel, but to the “regime occupying Jerusalem.”

According to Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, Ahmadinejad’s statement should be translated as: “The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).”

But, the New York Times would have none of that. The newspaper’s deputy foreign editor, Ethan Bronner, insists that Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map. After noting the objections of critics such as Cole, Bronner said: “But translators in Tehran who work for the president’s office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement, including a description of it on his website, refer to wiping Israel away.”

And it is quite true that the inflammatory translation did not originate with Iran’s enemies, but with the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official propaganda arm.

However, Ahmadinejad said this week that he sees no possibility of a war between his country and the United States or Israel. He predicted Israel would collapse without Iranian action.

“I assure you that there won’t be any war in the future,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference during a visit to Malaysia for a summit of developing Muslim nations. Asked whether he had called for the destruction of Israel, he said that the Israelis “are a complex political group, but you should know this regime will be eventually destroyed and there is no need of any measure by Iranian people.”

That doesn’t sound like a threat to wipe Israel off the map, does it?

So who is playing with our minds? Ahmadinejad? Some troublemaker in Iran’s propaganda agency? The New York Times? Or is everybody so confused that nobody knows what the truth is any more?