Commentary Magazine


Kerplunk Rock

If the U.S. isn’t going to bomb Iran – or even lend a hand to the Green movement – maybe some Persian singers can serenade Ahmadinejad into stepping aside. In the New York Times, Nazila Fathi reports that since the regime has squelched Iran’s democrats, “a flood of protest music has rushed in to comfort and inspire the opposition. If anything, as the street protests have been silenced, the music has grown louder and angrier.”

Think about it: Iranians came out in the thousands chanting, “Death to the dictator” and challenging the Revolutionary Guard. Less than a year later, what could have been – with a little effort from Washington – the beginning of the end of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad instead became the golden age of Persian hip-hop.

Actually, it’s more depressing than that. This isn’t even indigenous Iranian music. All but one artist highlighted by the Times has left Iran. Shahram Nazeri, who’s still there, has already been silenced by the regime’s goons. So basically, what was once the Iranian democratic movement has been downgraded into a wave of Iranian-exile protest songs.

“Music has become a tool for resisting the regime,” said Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University. “Music has never been as extensive and diverse as it is today.”

Good to know. No doubt, this kind of pop-sociology story is intended as an inspiring take on the power of music to mobilize youth and change minds. But the truth is, it’s a sad testament to just how fast the world stopped “bearing witness” to the life-and death struggle of Iran’s democrats.