Bishop: Iran, the Shining City? The Troubling Story of Nasim Aghdam
Thursday, April 12, 2018
as archived by the New York Times): “There [Iran] they kill you by ax; Here [America] they kill you with cotton”
This condemnation is surely reminiscent of black author James Baldwin’s exploding the apocryphal dichotomy of an enlightened north and a racist south in America: “There’s no difference between the north and south. There’s just a difference in the way they castrate you, but the fact of the castration is the American fact.” Thus Aghdam begs us to notice that Iran struggles more honestly with competing mores and the social status quo, while America sweeps its coerced conformity under the carpet.
Aghdam continued with her reflections on the United States: “If you are superficial, you will think it is heaven here, that you can go naked outside and have sex left and right like other animals without any morality. But if you enter the system, you will see that it is worse than Iran. Those who want to inform people against the system and big companies get censored."
It’s not actually all about money
Bitching about being demonetized by Youtube to please advertisers is hardly anything unique. It is her frank invitation to us to see the United States as no better than Iran – perhaps worse – that is the enduring challenge left by this troubled character. And I am ashamed to say that she could be right.
Some of this criticism lands squarely on our anything-goes culture. Ironically, it is the timidity of Youtube in this respect that set off the Ahgdam rampage by adopting a “not everything goes” policy, in the face of controversies that scared off advertisers.
But the ironies only start there. Over at Breitbart, conservatives who venerated Ajit Pai for taking to the barricades to almost single handedly and deservedly pitch ‘net neutrality’ into the ashbin of history have now discovered that there are progressives in silicon valley. So it’s not enough to have prevented these progressives from taking the upper hand with internet suppliers by deep-sixing ‘net neutrality’ regulations, conservatives are begging for content regulation!
And what happened to the vaunted entrepenurial spirit? If Facebook and Youtube don’t like conservatives, which they don’t, why doesn’t Drudge or Peter Thiel or some lesser known wunderkind offer a competing service? And even such a service as that is either one that you would pay for or you would still be subject to the whims of advertisers who do pay for it.
Oh yeah, it is all about the money
While surely Mark Zuckerberg is aghast that his progressive credentials have been undermined by any inference that Facebook was the butterfly’s wing that cascaded into the Trump election, he is much more worried about how many users he has than their political proclivities. Youtube was no doubt equally thinking about viewer statistics when it summarily demonetizied Ahgdam’s harmless exercise video while countless videos of Nicky Minaj grinding on men, women and ice sculptures of motorcycles or whatever else happens to be on the set remain with advertisers lining up.
This is, of course, just lazy poll taking. 750 MILLION views for Minaj; 750 for Ahgdam. You can guess which is going to hit the cutting room floor. But it is hardly some criminal act or even deserving of regulation. It is no excuse in hindsight (pardon me miss Minaj) to regulate Youtube. It just is. If you want the real edge, not the more rounded Minaj, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
Will the real Shining City please stand up . . . eer . . . shin
It is unsurprising that Ahgdam, who saw this as a conspiracy as serious as the persecution of her religious beliefs in Iran, was exercised to the point of suicide -- and she didn’t need to see Paul Logan’s infamous suicide forest video to further her pyschosis. But it is a far more complex statement on her legacy that a young woman who escaped the persecution of her Baha’i faith in Iran should openly muse that her American respite is worse. Indeed, that she can see hope in Iran even though the uber tolerant Baha’i are routinely discriminated against, subject to property seizure, detained and, according to the International Federation for Human Rights, beaten, tortured and executed is the challenge to America’s onetime standing as the shining city on the hill. Have we given up that role to Iran of all purported axes of evil?
There is perhaps no country more representative of the stain to America’s international reputation than Iran where the CIA aided the overthrow of the democratically elected government in a cold war era maneuver motivated in no small part by British kvetching over the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry. By the Suez crisis, several years later, America actually thought better of intervention and left the British and French exposed in their invasion of Eygpt which lead to the resignation of British Prime Minister Anthony Eden. But reinstalling the Shah had already done its damage to the US reputation in the middle east – a shameful gambit for which we are still paying.
Indeed, one of the few things that Obama did right was to signal the possibility of rapprochement with places like Iran and Cuba from which we have been so long estranged. That is not to say that he was a dealmaker of the sort purportedly occupying the Whitehouse now. The resulting diplomacy was oft one-sided and while America bears much responsibility for the longstanding hostilities, that hardly insulates these regimes from criticism of their own autocratic grips on power and resulting encroachments on civil rights but civil rights are not a universal concept or one dictated strictly by United States standards. As illustrated, we are hardly in a position to dictate about international norms to Iran.
Ahgdam in some ways may have spoken for or to a more tolerant strain of Iranian who is not anti-western but neither ready for wholesale westernization. She maintained Persian Youtube channels – which have been characterized to an extent as comic relief, even so bad they were funny. She took such criticism head on and her inreach to her former home was not as a veiled or submissive women -- although very occasionally so costumed. But neither did it stray to what could be properly criticized within any culture as, at minim, a decency challenged parade of women’s attributes. As one can perhaps glean from my cadence, it isn’t that I am not tempted by indecency, but I recognize it as that.
Although Aghdam’s final act was hardly diplomatic and, thankfully, not deadly to anyone else, hers was possibly a more effective ambassadorship between cultures that have refused to acknowledge each other’s legitimacy than any President’s or Ayatollah’s. There is criticism to be shared in both directions, but one cannot fairly criticize that which they do not respect. If Nasim Aghdam raised the tiniest conviction in any of us that we ought to walk in the other’s shoes before we decide how badly they fit, one hopes that can temper the contempt for her sociopathic denouement.
Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017
Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level
Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017
Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)
Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.
When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?
Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?
Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...
Definitely be voting: 78%
Probably be voting: 13%
In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?
Right track: 39%
Wrong track: 45%
Don't know/Refused: .6%
What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?
Jobs and economy: 21%
State budget: 9%
Corruption/Public integrity: .8%
Don’t know: .9%
Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?
Changed for the better: 35%
Changed for the worse: 16%
Not changed at all: 43%
Don't know/Refused: 5%
Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?
Changed for the better: 26%
Changed for the worse: 19%
Not changed at all: 54%
Don't know/Refused: 1%
Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?
Net: Approve: 28%
Definitely approve: 15%
Probably approve: 14%
Net: Reject: 67%
Probably reject: 19%
Definitely reject: 48%
Don't know: 4%
Could you please tell me your age?
Don't know/refused: 1%
What was the last grade you completed in school?
High school grad: 16%
Technical/Vocational school: 1%
Some college: 23%
College grad: 34%
Graduate degree: 24%
Don't know/refused: 1%
The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).
$50,000 or less: 27%
More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%
More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%
More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%
$150,000 or more: 13%
Don't know/refused: 17%
What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?
Black or African American: 6%
Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?
Never heard of: 0%
Cannot rate: 3%
Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%
Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%
Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 8%
Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%
Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%
Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%
Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%
Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%
Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%
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