[ Andrew Sullivan posts a Churchill style Victory V, to symbolize Obama’s response to Iran. Unfortunately, it’s shown from the back, and where Churchill comes from this means “fuck off”. ]
Twitterers are twatting, 10 a second, in breathless support of Iranian democracy, painting little icons green and spewing vapid, cliche ridden, 140 character essays which represent the general level of depth and understanding of Persian politics.
The general train of thought seems to be this – we have democracy, democracy is good, Iranians want democracy, Mousavi says he represents democracy, he must be good.
Except nothing is quite that simple.
The Iranian election results are weird, and they look rigged in the details. In the overall outcome, however, they do not look rigged – Mousavi was always way behind even in polls by neutral foreign observers.
Mousavi may indeed look like the moderate, but these things are relative. He may not have called for the extermination of Israel in the manner of his odious opponent, but he was involved in killing 30,000 political opponents, supporting the US Embassy hostage taking and Prime Minister of a repressively religious regime. Sure, he might be reformed, but resumes with their listings of past achievements are important when looking for a job at McDonalds let alone running a country.
But then again, the Khomeini regime was put in place in ’79 by majority will, to replace a brutally repressive and corrupt secular dictator, the Shah. On one level it was a triumph of a democracy, on another it was a democratic installment of the anti-democratic, as happened tragically in Algeria. Democratic election of the undemocratic is to tolerate intolerance.
The Shah was put there by the US and UK. A democratic Iran would not be a triumph of America bringing democracy to the world and more than it would be a triumph against America and the UK who paid street gangs with bundles of cash to beat the crap out of people and start the coup which ousted the democratically elected leader in the 50s. Coincidentally, it was my former room mate’s father who organized the coup.
Perhaps the twatting is understandable, Iran, after all, has a notably young population gagging for reform and Mousavi seems up for it. But unless you are Iranian the sentimental support on social networks normally remarkable for their transient superficiality smacks of fashion rather than reason, like sticking a Che Guevara poster on a dorm room wall.
In particular lets not get carried away as Andrew Sullivan does for The Atlantic:
“The rejection of al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan; the ground-up election of Obama in America; and now the rising up of Iranians for freedom and civility with their neighbors: these are the green shoots of recovery from 9/11 and its wake”.
These are pendulum cycles, and elsewhere like in Britain, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria etc. they are swinging back to the right. This is not an Obama trend and if it were it wouldn’t represent an American trend because the American influenced trend in the region is not democracy.
A more sober Tweet might be: we have democracy (but we took it away from Iran), democracy is good (unless you elect anti-democratic people), Iranians want democracy (Iran has elected un-democratic people before), Mousavi says he represents democracy (he didn’t used to), he must be good (if you believe what he says now rather than did in the past).
But, of course, you can’t say something like that in 140 characters.
In the end these things are relative, as the image at the top of Sullivan’s post, accidentally and ironically shows. It displays two fingers, painted green, in a Churchill style Victory V under the heading “Obama’s Response”.
Unfortunately it is photographed from the back, which, where Churchill came from, traditionally means “fuck off”.