December 13 2000
Blamed for holding a mirror
With enormous respect for Ms. Rassi, I think she has set a bad precedent
by what is basically a manifesto condoning censorship ["Drawing
the line"]. Why is Ms. Rassi punishing the messenger for the message?
Iranian.com's editor is being blamed for holding up a mirror in front of
the Iranian community and exposing its racism ["Married
a Black man?!!"].
Ms. Rassi states that "It's often very difficult to straddle the
line between freedom of expression and censorship - and in most cases we
should err on the side of freedom of expression, but not in this case."
Why not this case? Why not err on the side of freedom of expression every
time and all the time. And exactly when do we err on the side of freedom
of expression if not this time and the next time someone is insulted and
the next time when some stupid person out there sends a bigoted troll.
Ms. Rassi argues that "by not framing the debate more carefully,
an issue that needs to be raised and discussed has led to a series of attacks
. without a more in-depth discussion of racism in the Iranians community."
We have to ask Ms. Rassi again who sets the standard for framing the debates,
and again what if that framing insults some people.
At what point are we going to accept that designating too many channels
for our discourse (however crude and libelous) to flow through will at
the end lead to censorship. And at what point do we accept that the price
of freedom is hefty? Sometimes it comes in the form of having one's private
life discussed in public and sometimes it comes at much worse price, such
as having one's private life incinerated, as it is evident in our own country,
the ultimate bastion of censorship, Iran.
Ms. Rassi requests an active editorial approach where as she puts it,
the editor can "out" people. But outing people, framing their
debates, being mindful of private lives, etc will all lead to what has
been the bedrock of our community's debates and discourse for as far as
we an remember: conformity.
There is an old Iranian adage that says: "Aaheste boro Aahestee
beeya taa kesee shaakhet nazane." What has that done for us so far?
Let us accept that what is happening in this corner of cyberspace is a
revolution and some of us, in fact many of us, will be hurt and attacked
once we dare to upload anything that is threatening to the community.
And finally, I sympathize with a couple's simple wish to be left in
private, but I have a feeling that those insults and stupid remarks they
received are not exclusive to those in iranian.com. They probably receive
many of the same sort of remarks everyday in the course of their daily
lives simply by stepping out of the door. It can be gesture, a look, a
crude word, anything! But every time they do step out the door, they push
the envelope a little further and pave the way for a little less conformity.
They advance everyone's liberty by becoming public every day of their lives.
In a way, the same thing is happening here at iranian.com. Everytime
something like this comes up, we are forced to look to the bottom of the
well of our own ignorance and our culture's sick shortcomings.