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The Third Worldists Are Back

Laura Secor in The New Yorker takes aim at the Orientalism of fools:

A sort of pernicious cliché has entered our discussion of Iranian politics, namely that the Western press cannot be trusted because American reporters are too lazy to leave North Tehran and too dazzled by the appearance of a vocal minority of upper-class Iranians who are congenial to our self-image. We believe Iran is overrun with people who think like we do, the argument goes, because these are the people who talk to us. It is true that the movements of American reporters in Iran are controlled and curtailed to the point where Tehran is the main, if not the only, point of access, apart from the hard-line holy city of Qom. I cannot speak for all American journalists who report from Iran, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who is acutely aware of, and frustrated by, the lack of insight into the rural heartland this affords us. The best that we can do is to familiarize ourselves with the full spectrum of urban life, across class and cultural boundaries. Most Iranians, after all, live in cities, of which Tehran is only the most gigantic.

It is from this reporting that I have written, in this magazine and elsewhere, that the urban poor had ceased to be a reliable constituency for Ahmadinejad.

I will never forget the similar line peddled about Lebanese in March and April of 2005. I was there when the “March 14” revolution was in full swing, and I heard from even some Western expats who lived in Beirut that the demonstrators were mostly liberal and “bourgeois” Christians from the “Gucci” class.

It was wrong, and it was contemptible. What ignited that revolution was the assassination of a Sunni prime minister. Around a million people – more than a fourth of the entire country – demonstrated in Martyr’s Square and demanded the ouster of the occupying Syrian military dictatorship. There aren’t a million liberal “bourgeois” Christians in all of Lebanon. In any case, the Christians as a community have proven themselves far less reliably anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah than the Sunnis.

The Westerners I’ve met personally who believe and write this sort of thing suffer from a condescending Third Worldism and a barely concealed contempt for Middle Eastern people whom they don’t think are “authentic.” Arabs and Muslims (and presumably now Persians) aren’t supposed to hate terrorists or yearn for democracy like Americans do. They’re supposed to be in thrall to “resistance” and every other morally and politically bankrupt ideology that attracted the afflicted expats to the region in the first place.



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