Putting the Political in Political Asylum

Headlines today abound with notices of Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s cameraman defecting and seeking political asylum in the US. The importance attributed to this fact by the media exposes a tacit conceptualization of political asylum as an indicative legitimization of governments in international affairs, the venue for a conceptual beauty pageant to determine the best nation, if you will. Indeed, in this vein one hears the phrase that immigration is the highest form of flattery in international affairs. The tacit implication of the tactical reporting on who is seeking asylum where suggestively legitimates the US political system by showing how the friends of the bad guys in Iran really just want to come to America because the latter is inherently better. This story adds fodder to the propaganda of American heroism out to save the Israelis and the Iranians from the savage Iranian Islamic government and their hyperbolic nuclear program.

A further elaboration of this comes in the form of the discourse around Julien Assange’s political asylum case. The Australian founder of WikiLeaks is the center of a nebulous showdown in international affairs. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is said to be purposefully positioning himself as America’s chief Latin American enemy by his steadfast resistance against corrupt media and American imperialism (along with its accomplices the UK and Sweden) by granting Assange political asylum. Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino reiterated this after the UK threatened to raid the Ecuadorian embassy and forcibly remove Assange when he declared that Ecuador is not a British colony and that colonial times are over. Amid these diplomatic tensions, the US decided to grant an Ecuadorian journalist political asylum, seemingly in retaliation.

What are the repercussions of this instrumentalization of the political asylum process as a way of vetting out political legitimacy? Is it simply the means for a good story? Does this indicate anything about the American media’s complicit reinforcement of American propaganda despite the seeming objectivity of their language and reporting? Food for thought.

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