Commentary Magazine


Not Without My Islamist Dictatorship!

Today’s New York Times has a delightfully moronic story which illustrates the ridiculous nature of efforts to appease Iran. It seems an “official delegation of Hollywood actors and filmmakers met with their Iranian counterparts in Tehran over the weekend, the first such visit to a country that banned American movies 30 years ago.”

The delegation, which included actress Annette Bening and writer/director Phil Alden Robinson (“Field of Dreams”) was not there to appeal for freedom for writers and other artists imprisoned by the Islamist police state. Nor was it there to protest the persecution of Bahais or the country’s funding of terrorist groups, its program to developed nuclear weapons, or its threats to wipe the State of Israel off the map. No, these “cultural ambassadors” were there to make nice with the Iranian film-industry and maybe, as a bonus, help kick-start talks between the countries.

But there is a problem. It seems the Iranians aren’t grateful for the American liberal/left’s opposition to tough measures to oppose their rogue regime. No, they are still too angry over the depiction of their glorious Islamic republic in Hollywood films over the years. That’s interesting since, perhaps like you, I haven’t noticed much of a trend of anti-Iranian movies or even anti-Islamic movies in recent years. In fact, unlike its wholehearted and entirely justified effort during World War Two to demonize both the Nazis and the Japanese Imperialists, Hollywood has largely taken a pass on films depicting our current struggle against Islamist terrorism.

So what are the Iranians upset about? The 1991 film “Not Without My Daughter,” starring Sally Field and depicting the traumatic experiences of an American woman who married an Iranian, moved to Iran with her husband, and then found herself trapped in a repressive society where women had no rights under the law. Tehran thinks it was very naughty of someone in Hollywood to produce a film that told a little bit of the truth about their country, albeit just once, and that was 18 years ago.

They’re also mad about the hit action/adventure film “300” which came out a couple of years ago, depicting in a cartoonish graphic novel-style the famed battle of Thermopylae between the Greek Spartans and the forces of the Persian Empire. Though virtually no one else connects the Persian Empire of that time with the mullah-ruled state run out of Tehran, they’re still sore about the Persians being depicted as the bad guys since the assumption for the past 2,500 years is that the Spartans defended the origins of Western Civilization from Eastern barbarians.

The point is, although the Iranians granted the Hollywood types visas — something they denied to the American women’s badminton team a couple of weeks ago — creating a detente with these characters is not going to be easy.  Americans’ willingness to abandon concern for human rights or for the malevolent intentions of the Iranian government won’t be enough.

And for those interested in reading about the latter, try another story which the Times thought less important than the travel plans of Ms. Bening. The Times buried it on page 10, but wouldn’t you say that the announcement from Admiral Mike Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chief of Staffs, that Iran “Has Enough Material to Construct an Atomic Bomb” is fairly significant? But don’t worry, the Times insists that all that means is that this “add[s] urgency to increasing dialogue with Tehran.”

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