Economist Hook Sentence du Jour: Iran’s Presidential Elections

I have been a fond reader of the Economist for a while, partly for the dry wit and erudition evident in the writing and partly for the fun of discovering what I call the “hook sentences” that go into many of the articles: statements that are tossed out with such carelessness that one is tempted to think they are unimportant but that in truth hold or represent all the biases that the Economist holds dear and from which biases proceeds much of the reporting choices made by the periodical.

For my first post on this thesis, I cherry picked an article from a recent issue that I thought would have a preponderance of “hook sentences,” and here’s one that’s simply a gold mine:

Iran’s presidential choice: It could make a big difference

There’s so many ways to slice this cake, that it’s hard to know what to focus on. Let’s just pick this pair of sentences, which are fairly safe to quote out of context: “Wary of the ever-vigilant supreme leader and chastened by past failures to overcome conservatives, … a reformist president would probably shy away from any bold departures in foreign policy. Yet even changes in tone could have a dramatic effect.”

The hook sentence is the one in bold font. Simply put, this sentence adroitly side-steps the more plausible counter-argument that the Iranians cannot produce any change in tone because it starts with the assumption that they must, because, after all, it “could have a dramatic effect.” How about considering that, in the face of increased Israeli and American aggressions in the area, Iranian reformists will have little or no success with any deviation from a hardline stance against the West? Obviously an argument not worth considering, because it is better to focus on the fantasy that because of some imagined butterfly effect of global p0litics, Iran can change the world by simply, perhaps, denouncing the United States as merely an imp, and not the Great Satan.

The Economist is calling out with this hook sentence to readers who believe that, no matter what the geo-political realities of the area, Iran has to yield diplomatically, at some level or the other, to the West. The precise level that is pragmatic to accept has perhaps changed in the years, as the Economist also realises just how deeply in the grip of conservatism and fundamentalism the region is. But even as the region drowns, the Economist gaily declares: “Even a change in tone,” just a slight change in tone, dammit.

Further down in the article, the article does go back into plain reporting and concludes that some Iranians feel that “it may be shrewder to back a conservative who might fulfil his promises rather than a reformist who very well might not.” However, the hook is clear in its direction: Iran must change its tone. So you know that any analysis of the democratic support the conservatives have is not going to get the same press as any headway the liberals make. I don’t support the ideas of the hardline Iranian clerical establishment, but I do judge the Economist for not giving me a reasonable window into their thinking. I prefer reading, for articles on issues like this one, the Atlantic Monthly which does a better job in general of profiling both sides and allowing readers to decide how to judge them.


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: