Alternet: Criticizing Draconian Iranian Gov’t is Dehumanization


I came across this article on Alternet, titled How John Stewart and Others’ Poking Fun at Iranian Culture Helps America Lube the Wheels of War.

The author thought  that John Stewart should not  have made fun of an Iranian government directive on the proper dress of men.

The fact that Americans feel free to laugh about Iran in a climate where aformer CIA chief tells CNN he thinks attacking Iran “may not be the worst of all possible outcomes” speaks to the likelihood that Americans administer their empire from their unconscious minds…

Those liberals snickering about mullets play into the same sort of joking that occurred in the run up to the Iraq War – dehumanizing the soon-to-be targets. But instead of the Butcher of Baghdad, today’s monsters are the “mad mullahs” in Tehran.

In essence, the author argues that jokes about what many in the West consider to be archaic, backwards cultural practices in Iran can lead to dehumanization of the people there, and thus make it easier for the U.S. to wage war against Iran.

The Government is Not the People

The critical flaw of the article is that it makes no clear distinction between the “government” and the “people” of Iran.

Surely, there are many Iranians who, like John Stewart, believe that the dress code imposed on them by the government is yet another instance of oppression.(see protests of green movement).

There should be no objection to “dehumanizing” the leadership of Iran. Of course, as a result, the U.S. and Israeli government will likely use anything possible to achieve whatever aims they have, including distortion of what actually happens in Iran. Yet, there is compelling evidence that genuine criticism of the government in Iran is warranted.

All one need do is read Iran’s penal code, or read the testimony of those who have suffered at the hands of the government. Or look at how three  U.S. citizens have been held for over a year without any charges being brought.

It’s there, it deserves criticism. Cultural differences should be taken into account, but they cannot be a bar to speaking out. If that were the case, slavery in the South of the United States could not have been addressed. Some cultural practices are flat-out wrong, under any standard of analysis.

People will be offended. Many will “other” the other. If anything should be gained from joking at the perceived preposterousness of other cultural practices, it should be this: enjoy your laugh, then do something for those negatively affected in a non-violent manner.

As a side note, this sentence: “The fact that Americans feel free to laugh about Iran…” is odd. Americans don’t “feel free to laugh”, they just do.


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