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Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Another Troubling New Yorker Cover

June 25th, 2009 2 comments

 Consider these two New Yorker covers:

June 29, 2009  July 21, 2008

Both are by Barry Blitt. The one depicting the radical, terrorist, Muslim Obamas “graced” the July 21, 2008, issue, and caused what I considered to be way too much controversy. It was obviously intended to mock the right-wing media’s treatment of Obama, and was in fact entitled “The Politics of Fear.” But, following the magazine’s unbreakable convention, the title didn’t appear on the cover, but in the Table of Contents. Some worried that, especially without the benefit of the title, many would miss the joke. I never thought so; it struck me as what I’ll call “projection snobbery” — attributing to the New Yorker and its readers condescension and disregard of the opinions of those “too dumb” to get it, while it turned out that everyone got it.

The other cover,  “Hanging Chador”, is from next Monday’s issue, which I received yesterday. Yes, I get it: There’s a disputed election in Iran, and there was also a disputed election in the U.S.! It happened in 2000!!

It’s early, but so far I’ve not seen any expression of disapproval, in the mainstream media or even in the blogosphere, over the image. But for reasons I’m finding hard to articulate (readers? any help?), I find this “Hanging Chador” much more offensive than “The Politics of Fear.”

Up front, I’m not one of those people who’s ever been able to take “Justice” Scalia’s advice and “get over” the Supreme Court’s wholly unprincipled ruling in Bush v. Gore, effectively  handing the election to Bush 43. (It doesn’t help that the man the Court installed was a cataclysm.) But there was some comedy in the whole Florida recount, and no B-level comedian was able to resist verbal or visual puns on the “hanging chads” that might have determined the outcome (again absent the Supreme Court’s hijack). Despite some very bad and occasionally borderline-scary behavior, no one was being killed over the 2000 election, and even I must admit that the Republic yet stands.

There’s nothing remotely funny about what is going on Iran, though. Indeed, the New Yorker’s own Laura Secor is at the top of my list of clear and careful writers on the subject; in both her blog and in her Talk of the Town comment, her lucid prose and clear exposition make the horror, the stakes, and the shifting landscape (lately among the clerics) clear.

The cover, by contrast, is clever and jokey — not what’s called for. I rarely think that jokes are inappropriate, but in this case I see a profound if unintended disrespect. There’s no one in Iran scrutinizing ballots to discern “the intent of the voter.” The votes didn’t matter, and the protesters’ attempt to make it otherwise are being met with intimidation, violence, and death.

Very funny.

The Revolution Will Be Greened, Blogged, Tweeted…but not Televised

June 16th, 2009 No comments

I’m hopeful that my savvy and terrific webmaster can turn me green tomorrow. I always  bear in mind that we don’t know, with certainty, who won the election — but it’s clear enough for me to take the plunge in solidarity with the reformists in Iran. Fellow bloggers: Stand up and be green!(H/t Andrew Sullivan for this suggestion.)1

Another site on the events in Iran to add to those I recommended on Sunday: The sleepless Nico Pitney’s live-blog of the dreadful events is inspiring and depressing at the same time. Again, read as much as you can bear.

Pitney and Rachel Maddow engaged in a thoughtful discussion on her show tonight about the promise and perils of “citizen journalism.” In this case, of course, it’s that or nothing, as the mainstream media (“MSM”)  has been mostly blocked and silenced. This kind of on-the-ground reporting by those with a huge stake in the otucome does run the risk of amplifying and echoing one position. Pitney seemed alive to this problem, and tries to hold off blogging an event without some kind of corroboration. I don’t envy him the difficulty of his task.

  1. He removed the post for other reasons, but the idea remains a good one.

Iran Comes Apart

June 14th, 2009 No comments

After a weekend of thought about the whole DOMA/DOJ fiasco, I’d planned on writing a short summation, and the text of a speech Obama should — but won’t — give that might do for gay and straight relations what his Philadelphia race speech did for race relations .

That’s still in the works, but I’m pushing it back to tomorrow. (Look for it late in the day.) For tonight, though, I think this blog needs to show respect to the millions of Iranians who are fighting and dying in a probably doomed effort to prevent their election from being stolen. Here are few recommendations for different kinds of news sources that have been doing a great job of keeping up with the issue. These will lead you to many more, without practical end. Read as much as you can bear.

Juan Cole, an expert on Mideast relations (and  Prez of the Global Americana Institute), offers incisive and frequently updated commentary.

This New Yorker blog entry by Laura Secor makes a clear and convincing case that the election was stolen, done in the sober and persuasive style that’s the magazine’s hallmark.

Over at the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan has been a blogging madman for the last two days (even by his hyper-prolific standards), focusing almost exclusively on Iran. This blog is more in the style of “all comers,” where Sullivan reports and tries to make sense of the news, from an astounding multiplicity of sources, as it comes over the transom. The Dish imparts the chaos of the unfolding situation, chillingly. He and his staff must be exhausted by now.

The New York Times’s coverage explains how it can get away with charging $2/paper ($6 for  the Sunday Times). Both the “mainstream” and blog (“The Lede“) stories have been predictably first-rate.

There are many more.

In the long arc of history, this situation is a good thing. But people being beaten and killed might have trouble keeping that in mind. We should salute their courage.

A Few Further Thoughts on the DOJ’s DOMA Brief

June 13th, 2009 No comments

The anger and disillusionment continue unabated from the Department of  Justice’s (“DOJ”) brief filed in the Smelt case. The case challenges (among other things) the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), and DOJ just moved for dismissal. As I wrote yesterday, the brief will stop you in your tracks, as it recites terrible homophobic cant. For example: DOMA doesn’t discriminate, as gays and lesbians can marry —  just not members of the same sex.

The fact that this story has gotten any traction at all — it’s a legal brief, hardly the stuff of blogosphere excitement, and it’s competing with the minute-by-minute implosion in Iran — is a testament to two related facts:

(1) The contents of the brief (more than the decision to file such a motion) betray an astonishing tone-deafness to the LGBT community. With a few exceptions, most measured legal academics have taken pretty much the position I set forth last night: Defend DOMA if you have to, preferably on procedural grounds, but there’s no need to make arguments against gay equality that it will be tough to walk back from. Art Leonard, one of the founders of the legal gay rights academic movement, is a real voice of reason here. I recommend reading his entire post, which provides a clear analysis of the other (more defensible) grounds for the DOJ’s arguments. But on the substantive arguments:

“[One basis] for dismissing the case, according to the Justice Department, is failure to state a valid legal claim.  They argue that every legal ground presented by the plaintiffs for attacking DOMA is so lacking in any possibility of winning that the court should just dismiss the case.  Here is where the trouble comes, and why all of the LGBT litigation groups have blasted the Justice Department (and the Obama Administration, for after all the buck stops with the President for every act of his administration, regardless whether he was specifically aware of it).  Some of the arguments made are so specious and prejudicial that they sound atrocious coming from this administration.

“The one that bothers me the most is the argument that there is no anti-gay motivation behind DOMA, merely a desire by Congress to pursue a policy of “neutrality” with respect to the issue of same-sex marriage in a situation where some states might allow such marriages while others would oppose them.  This is absurd.”

(2) On a more cosmic level, the brief seemed to have blown into the open a dormant suspicion that Obama isn’t really much of friend of the gay community, after all. He’s done little or nothing so far (face it, Kool-Aid drinkers1), and this latest action is likely to cripple the argument that he’s simply being smart and strategic. His (atypically) halting comments on marriage equality during the Brian Williams interview might now be seen as a kind of prelude to this filing.

And as much as it pains me to admit this, we ignored at our peril his decision to retract his early-stated support for marriage equality: In 1996, while running for Illinois State Senate, he’d filled out a questionnaire stating that he supported same-sex marriage. Then he backed away, further and further. Here‘s a Windy City Times reporter on the issue:

“In a January 2004 interview I conducted with Obama at the Windy City Times’ office, Obama clearly stated that lack of support for full marriage equality was a matter of strategy rather than principle, but in even more recent comments, it appears he is backing off even further, saying it is more of a religious issue, and also a “state” issue, so he favors civil unions.”

Conveniently (for whom?) this story didn’t break until shortly before the Inauguration, but it should have concerned us more. Well, we’ve been here before (see Clinton, William J.) Husband political power by throwing us overboard. I don’t think it’s even necessary, as a political matter, to do this, but why take any risk at all? Apparently, there aren’t enough of us to matter.

  1. I, too, have been one.