Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A month or so ago, I was talking to a journalist from a loathsome right-wing UK paper who asked the following question with the feigned curiosity/innocence that most journalists have perfected:

arrogant british journalist: "why isn't there any Iranian cultural production?"
me: "pardon me?"
arrogant british journalist: "you know, like Iran doesn't have the equivalent of say, a bollywood".

what i really wanted to tell the fellow was that just because things were not accessible to his mono-lingual brain, didn't mean that they didn't exist.

Instead I patiently explained to him that contemporary Iranian cinema produces some of the world's most critically acclaimed and creative films, that persian bloggers have surpassed the hundred thousand mark, that Iranian poets, fiction writers,and journalists continue to publish on a massive scale even in the face of censorship and various other restrictions, and that the same holds true of iranian music and theatre.

but the journalist, like his reaction to all the other questions he asked, wasn't interested in hearing answers that contradicted his ill-founded assumptions.

so i didn't bother telling him that attempts at making iranian cultural products accessible to non-Persian speakers were undercut by the same people who preach about bringing freedom to the rest of the world. Almost exactly a year ago, the U.S. federal government warned publishers that editing or translating Iranian manuscripts would have grave legal consequences and that it amounted to "trading with the enemy". And how about the case of iranian human rights activist and nobel prize winner shirin ebadi, whose memoir was refused publication in the U.S. for the same reason?. Or the million and one bureacratic hurdles iranian films have to go through (in the form of getting euro distributors, for example) so that their work can be shown in the U.S.? And how about the U.S. server that terminated its account with the Iranian Student News Agency just the other day?

so much for the free market of dollars and ideas, right?