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A Man of the Cities

Cities everywhere in the world are more broadly liberal and cosmopolitan than small towns and villages. Rural areas in the Middle East are often startlingly conservative, especially from the point of view of Western visitors like me and my colleagues in the media.

This does not mean, however, that country people are more likely to support fascist political movements. Egypt’s Bedouin, for instance, are far more open-minded about and friendly toward Jews and Israelis than are the denizens of cities like Cairo. Backers of the Iraqi insurgency were based primarily in urban areas like Baghdad, Ramadi, and Fallujah.

And as Nate Silver documents with hard data at FiveThirtyEight, urban voters were more likely than rural voters to support Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This strange meme in many media reports that Ahmadinejad has a “base” of support in the countryside is not only wrong, it’s backwards. The uprising we’re all watching on YouTube is taking place inside Ahmadinejad’s “strongholds,” such as they are.

Ahmadinejad is a “conservative” in the relative sense of the word, as he resists any and all reform of the 1979 revolution. He is not, however, a conservative in the traditional sense. Khomeinism and radical Islamism are 20th Century totalitarian ideologies. Traditional village people, conservative as they may be, have little use for them.



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