I have received a few “why” emails this week. They fall in two categories: “why have I not finished the Fast Food Fighter blog though 30 days is up?”, and “why am I not commenting on the current commotion in Iran?”
The answer to the Fast Food Fighter question is pretty straightforward. The filming and actual conduct of the McDonald’s experiment were complete on June 9, 2009 (with the final blood test) and I have all the imagery necessary for the last week of blog entries, but I have been busy with transitions in my personal life which have taken a huge amount of time and left Fast Food Fighter as a lower prioriy for now. The blog will be completed fairly soon. There is not that much left to write, really. The blog was never really a priority of its own; it was just interesting to get some public feedback on what I was doing. The documentary will be released when I have time to edit it all appropriately — a mammoth task by itself.
As far as Iran is concerned…
The media is naturally self-righteously indignant about the Iranian gag on information exchange but in the end the media plays little role in a place like Iran, or perhaps more accurately the Western press plays a far different role in a place like Iran than we (and the media itself) thinks it does. The reason I have not been commenting on the election or what is going on there is that there is simply very little geopolitical importance to what is happening right now. Outside of a complete takeover of the government and an actual annihilation of the Ayatollahs — two outcomes which are extremely unlikely — nothing significant is going to change. Iran has no qualms about strong-arming its own people and an unarmed population against a military apparatus which is designed specifically to act as a domestic guard force stands little chance of altering the balance of power. Simply put, too many people with too much power in Iran have a stake in seeing the general status quo maintained, despite Western popular views and mores. In fact, this is all in deliberate spite of Western views and mores. Iran is not the West nor does it desire to be. Iran has certain geopolitical imperatives to follow which will put it on a path to direct confrontation with the West at times, no matter who is in charge. There may be something interesting to say about these events later on, as a referential footnote, perhaps “Ah, and we all remember the time those politically charged people tried to raid the Iranian Ministry of Interior…” but nothing earth-shattering will likely come of this. It is important to remember that an Islamic state’s repression of its own people and suppression of the Western media and other social influences are hard-wired in and cannot be considered “news” in any case.
Iran is a deeply divided country when it comes to politics and it has historically always been a socially difficult to control region. These protests were fairly predictable as is the government’s attempt to keep a lid on information about them. Iran does not want to appear as divided as it actually is because that perception could undermine its position at a negotiating table with the Turks, Americans, Russians, Taliban, Saudis, etc. (the list is very long). The interesting thing to note is how much of a lid the government has been able to keep on things, not that there are things upon which a lid should be kept. This is naturally missed by the media because for some reason media workers and reporters tend to think that what they do and say matters and shapes events in some way. That is tantamaount to believing that news is news itself. Human history is defined specifically by conflict and those conflicts are predicted by specific conditions, conditions which are usually not very dramatic on their own and therefore usually never reported in the popular press (when there is even a press to report on things, that is). The typical self-appraisal of worth so common among the media often leads to gross misinterpretations of events and ironically acts to keep the public (and media actors themselves) blinded to or at least extremely confused as to the true nature of events. Conflicts are real whether the media is there to tell anyone about them or not and telling someone about an event is not the same thing as influencing that event.
All that being said, the unorganized and unarmed media thinks it is their right to know everything that is happening inside Iran right now. Coincidentally, the well organized and heavily-armed Iranian state security apparatus thinks it is not. Being denied access is putting the media world in a real fit right now and is inspiring all sorts of amazing stories, none of which can be confirmed. This amounts to publishing dramatic outcome headlines which support our greatest hopes and fears (both sell well) and support the media’s self-important “mission” (makes it sound like a religion… I’ll just leave this here…) based on hearsay at best. The funniest effect of this all is the “news is news itself” phenomenon turned on its head: the lack of news is the news right now, which reflects the senior correspondents’ and chief editors’ self-appraisal of importance.
If there is anything significant to come of the protests we will really know when Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei makes his next public statement about anything. Outside of that, everything is merely conjecture to such a degree that I do not want to play around there just yet. Conjecture is a large part of what I do, but supported conjecture can amount to hypothetical prediction whereas the current media frenzy is promoting highly mislead revolutionary daydream dialogue which is simply unhinged from geopolitical reality. People do eat that stuff up though, and as a mentally corruptive form of entertainment I suppose it has a value all its own.
In the end Iran is general non-news at the moment. No concrete positions can be derived from information available. The current social turmoil was predictable and when the dust settles we will most likely see Iran maintaining the stances it took before the election — but we knew that before the elections began. Here are a few reasons why:
- Iran cannot give up its nuclear program without significant concessions from someone significant enough to give such concessions (such as the US)
- Iran cannot give up its support for Hezbollah in light of its deep fiscal and political investments in that direction, and also because Hezbollah is Iran’s most effective (and currently only) foreign lever against a wide array of allies and enemies
- Iran cannot suddenly grant Europe an energy alternative to Russia for many fundamental reasons
- Iran cannot give up its stake in controlling political developments in Iraq
- Iran is not about to allow a liberalization of the government through revolution — after all it was a revolution which brought the hardliners in power who are still there today
- Iran will still maintain an interest in seeing the Taliban undermined in Afghanistan and Pakistan
In the end none of Iran’s imperatives are going to change no matter who is in charge or how many protesters toss away their lives in an emotional frenzy whether there are cameras to see them or not or whether I speculate on dreamed up outcomes or not. Iran’s course is largely set.
A much more interesting — and far less reported — story is going on right now in the German banking industry and European economy, however. The European recession is fascinating and actually is of geopolitical importance over the mid-term. It is also entirely European-made and was going on for almost a year before the US subprime crisis locked up liquidity in the US market and exposed the mess that the European economy had become over years of mislead Continent-wide populist programming. There is a lot to write about but not many are doing it. Perhaps it is not violent enough to garner public attention… yet. This summer or next could get interesting as social unrest rises with the unemployment rate.
One thought on “Answers to this week’s “why”s”
Above I had written that it did not matter much what people on the street had to say as much as it matters what Supreme Leader Khamenei would have to say about things.
I was late to the punch. He spoke at a Friday sermon on June 19th. In no uncertain terms he supported Ahmadinejad’s electoral victory, forced a “you’re with me or against me” situation within the clerical establishment and made a level promise of violence to protesters should they decide to turn out in large numbers again.
I was not aware of the speech/sermon until much later because I wasn’t paying much attention to things right then and it was very difficult to sort through the flurry of unreliable and unverifiable trash that was so clogging the networks at that time.