Friday, June 19, 2009

THE DAY THE WORLD TURNED DAY-GREEN. So let me see if I have this straight: We're going to save Iran with Twitter. Oh, and Facebook going Persian. And the guy who was supposed to be Tweedledum to Ahmadinejad's Tweedledee is now George Washington. And the usual dumbbells are calling for the stupid hippies they hate to side with the Rebel Alliance.

It's all bullshit. Iran's a theocratic shithole going through a paroxysm that might eventually lay the groundwork for a genuine Western-style democracy. God bless them. But to pretend that changing the color of your avatar has anything to do with this is childish. And to imagine that the conversion of people who once disdained Mousavi and are now among his most fervent supporters is sincere is worse than childish. It's cheap domestic politics dressed up as high principle, and will have the same effect as the video above had on apartheid in South Africa nine years later -- which is to say, shit.

Great tune, though.

P.S. Does anyone remember what an enthusiastic warblogger Andrew Sullivan was back in the day? If so, do you not see in his current enthusiasm a reversion to form?

UPDATE. Very lively comments. I take the point that the Sun City vid had a specific tactical purpose -- that is, to embarrass Western musicians like Elton John and Queen out of going to Sun City -- and that the UN boycott added public pressure on the South African government. We can argue about how valuable that effort was to the overturn of apartheid; it may be argued that every little helps, and that mine wasn't the best choice.

I do believe that the video added to an inflated wider perception of the worth of cultural products as munitions against tyranny, and led to the unfortunate impression that artistic outrage makes authoritarians shake in their boots. While I often enjoy such efforts, from "Ohio" to The American Tea Party Anthem, I am with Tom Lehrer on the limits of their utility. Also I think popular music does its best work against repression by just being what it is, and that its citizens' desire for bootleg Rolling Stones records did more to shake the Soviet Union than any number of anti-Communist Hollywood movies.

As for calling Iran a theocratic shithole, I agree that calling anyone's country a shithole is impolite. But Iran runs all its laws by the Guardians Council, which is sort like the Supreme Court as operated by Fred Phelps' church. This leads to the sort of democracy we are seeing practiced on the skulls of protesters at this very moment. There are worse things than impoliteness.

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