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As a blogger, this article about the continued decline in newspaper circulation constitutes my daily dose of schadenfreude. “For the 507 newspapers reporting in this period, daily circulation slipped 4.6% to 38,165,848 copies. For the 571 papers, Sunday dropped 4.8% to 43,631,646 copies.”

And that’s on top of declines of 2-5% last year.

And it doesn’t even address the decline in advertising revenues.

But beyond my admitted self-interest, there are legitimate reasons why I think this is a good thing. The most important? MSM just isn’t that good at its job. As citizens, the carnage in the corporate, MSM will ultimately benefit us.

To illustrate, answer this question: Who is the leader of Iran?

Think about your answer and then continue reading inside.

Did you say that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the leader of Iran? Even though you may not be able to pronounce his name, you can see his face. You hear about him oon the news fairly regularly. Sarah Palin spent half of September learning how to pronounce his name. He’s got to be the leader right?

Well, he’s not.

We’re inundated with MSM stories, like this article which ran in the the NY Times on September 25, 2008 under the headline: “Iran’s Leader Criticizes U.S. Policies Around World.” The article which begins “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran….”

Unfortunately, it seems as if a disproportionate percentage of the NY Times layoffs must be coming from the fact-checking department. Ahmadinejad is not the leader of Iran. Ali Khamenei is. Ali Khamenei has been the Supreme Leader of Iran since 1989.

Article 57 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran provides that the “powers of government in the Islamic Republic are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive powers, functioning under the supervision of the absolute religious leader.” Thus, the Supreme Leader has final authority on internal and foreign policies, control of all of the armed forces, and control of state broadcast and appoints the head of the Judicial branch.

Hopefully, as the influence of MSM declines, excellent articles like this one in Foreign Affairs by AKBAR GANJI, an Iranian journalist and dissident who was imprisoned in Tehran from 2000 to 2006 and whose writings are currently banned in Iran, will find a wider audience.

The article is too long and detailed for popular consumption. I don’t expect that most of you will find the time or have the interest to read the whole thing. But in the new media world, articles like this are becoming more widely circulated.

Ganji’s take on balance of power in Iran?

Iran’s situation is “worse today that it has ever been over the past 50 years.” And for many Iranian opposition leaders, as well as much of the Western media and political class, Ahmadinejad is the main culprit of Iran’s ills today: censorship, corruption, a failing economy, the prospect of a U.S attack.

But this analysis is incorrect, if only because it exaggerates Ahmadinejad’s importance and leaves out of the picture the country’s single most powerful figure: Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader. The Iranian constitution endows the supreme leader with tremendous authority over all major state institutions, and Khamenei, who has held the post since 1989, has found many other ways to further increase his influence. Formally or not, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government all operate under the absolute sovereignty of the supreme leader; Khamenei is the head of state, the commander in chief, and the top ideologue. He also reaches into economic, religious, and cultural affairs through various government councils and organs of repression, such as the Revolutionary Guards, whose commander he himself appoints.

Of all of Iran’s leaders since the country became the Islamic Republic in 1979, only Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution’s leader; Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president for much of the 1990s; and Khamenei have had defining influences. Despite all the attention he receives, Ahmadinejad does not even rank among Iran’s top 100 leaders over the past 30 years.

Iranian politics are opaque. In that respect, it is understandable that the dumbed-down corporate news media portrays Ahmadinejad as Iran’s leader. He is, no doubt, Iran’s face to the world. It does the citizens of this country a disservice however to constantly present him to us as Iran’s “leader.”