July 4, 2015

ISN'T THE WHOLE MIDDLE EAST JUST RUG DEALERS, CAMEL JOCKEYS AND SHYLOCKS?:

How not to write about Iran (Ishaan Tharoor July 2, 2015, 

In a write-up published in January 1952, Time magazine named Iran's democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh  as "Man of the Year." The recognition was not particularly flattering. It sneeringly described Iran as "a mountainous land between Baghdad and the Sea of Caviar." And it went on to attack both Mossadegh's plan to nationalize Iran's oil -- at the expense of British and American energy interests -- and the leader's character.

Time actually called the Iranian politician "a strange old wizard."

A year later, the Ivy League buddies of Time's editors in the C.I.A. helped engineer a coup that ousted Mossadegh, scrapped Iran's fledgling democracy, and re-installed the country's monarchy as an American client. Memory of that event still informs the political conversation within Iran, but is rarely recognized in the West.

"In American media, it seems that either those wily Persians are calculating 'chess masters' outwitting the well-meaning Westerner," says Karami, "or they're bumbling idiots" who resent how "the West rules the Middle East."

To be sure, there are many negative things that should be said about Iran's political status quo -- where a repressive theocratic government curbs dissent, jails journalists and actively supports armed proxies elsewhere in the Middle East. But you don't need to start quoting Xenophon or Morier to get there.

"If you're writing about a country of more than 77 million people," says Kia Marakechi, news editor at Vanity Fair, "and the metaphors or signifiers you draw on come more from 'Aladdin' than a serious understanding of that nation's politics and culture, you should probably hand the assignment to someone else."

The Iran of the neocons' imagination isn't a real place.
Posted by at July 4, 2015 8:46 AM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« SHE OUGHT TO COACH THE MEN: | Main | JUST ANOTHER FREELOADING WETBACK: »