"The true gentleman is friendly, but not familiar." - CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iran: Separating Fact From Fiction

IRAN'S ON FIRE, AND FINGERS ARE POINTING as fast as the bullets are flying. Conservatives are big cheaters. Liberals are sore losers. And like clockwork, the know-it-alls on each side are trundling out all kinds of important-sounding factoids and statistics which they copy-pasted into their brains from Facebook posts and mass emails and their favorite ‘alternative’ news source that ‘tells it how it is’. Everyone waits calmly with a comfy little smile tickling each edge of their lips for the idiot in front of them to finish reciting the last Iran fact that they swear they heard on CNN but actually heard from their sister’s half-Iranian brother-in-law, so that they can return fire with a factoid they read on a blog on page eight of the Google results with thirteen spelling errors. Boom! In your face! All hail the world’s newest master politician. And to think I’ve been working at Starbucks all these years!

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a weird little concept known as journalistic impartiality. The term may sound complex, but it’s not. It means that we don’t let our feelings on an issue fuck with the facts. And we welcome the possibility that the facts could prove our feelings wrong, because that would lead to a greater understanding of the issue —“ which is what journalists are supposed to be in the business of. News is always subject to a little bias, no matter where you get it from. Humans can’t say anything without throwing their own spin on it. It’s your choice to take the deliverer’s word for it or not, and if the news you’re getting already chimes in with the way you feel, chances are you’re going to take it. Now that everyone’s a journalist, you can bet that 75% of everything you’re told is probably not worth the time it takes you to hear it. But even people many might expect to keep things 100 do no such thing; after six months of Obama in office, Rush Limbaugh still can’t find one good thing to say about the man. Really? Golden Rule #1, kids: if someone swears they’re always, always right, you’re probably being bullshitted. Humans just don’t have that high a success ratio. Golden Rule #2: the truth is normally somewhere in the middle. Stand about equal length from the nutcases on both side of any debate and you’re probably right on the money.

So with all this in mind, let’s boil this Iran thing down to the facts.

  • Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is nuts (see: last four years of the Ahmedinejad administration).
  • Ahmedinejad is popular with a lot of Iran's more backward, isolated citizens who are also nuts.
  • Mir-Houssein Mousavi is slightly less nuts than Ahmedinejad (see: his eight years as Iran's Prime Minister before the post was removed, during which he kept its economy stable despite international economic sanctions, embargos and a ten-year war with Iraq).
  • Mousavi is popular with a lot of Iran's more educated, progressive citizens who, coincidentally, tend to be slightly less nuts.
  • Iran is quite like the U.S., in the respect that its big cities are full of educated people, but its small-town areas are full of people who are, well, a bit nuts. And they are the people who get nutjobs like Mahmoud Amhedinejad and George W. Bush into office.
  • Iran is a country where people are routinely kidnapped and jailed for offenses like wearing short sleeved shirts, or fraternizing too openly with the opposite sex.
  • Iran is a country with one of the youngest and most literate populations in the world, and tons of natural resources and exports. Yet its economy is in the tank and most of those young people are literally dying to get out.
  • Government forces are kidnapping, beating and killing people for protesting. And they will continue kidnapping, beating and killing people until people stop protesting, or until there are no protestors left. Kidnapping, beating and killing people is how the Islamic Republic of Iran commonly deals with protest.
  • The government is shutting down internet connections wherever it can, confiscating cellphones, kicking out all foreign journalists, and jailing many Iranian journalists, so that they can kill even more protestors than they’re killing already. Oh, the journalists who do nothing but agree with the government get to stay. They’re okay.
  • The president of Iran isn’t even the guy in charge, ya big dummies! The Supreme Leader of Iran, currently a cuddly little white-haired man with a nasty mean streak by the name of Ali Khamenei, is basically the Islamic Pope out that way, and along with his cabinet of fellow cuddly little white-haired men with mean streaks known as the Assembly of Experts, he can overrule anything the President tries to do. That’s right, anything. And Mr Khamenei is currently firmly in Ahmedinejad’s corner.
  • The only person who stands a chance of doing anything about this is yet another cuddly fella (not much hair though) named Akbar Rafsanjani, ex-president, richest man in the country, Mousavi’s strongest ally and a powerful member of the Assembly of Experts who has been silently beefing with both Ahmedinejad and Khamenei, a situation that only got more sour when his daughter Faezeh was recently arrested for, you guessed it, protesting. If Rafsanjani can get enough votes from the other experts, he can have Khamenei expelled as Supreme Leader. And rumor has it he has been in meetings with his people to do just that.

So, media and politics share the same problem: nobody wants to be wrong. And the world keeps burning. Enjoy your lattes, folks.

My verdict? Go Rafsanjani!