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Blind gatekeeper
You must guard the public from thoughts and words which are patently obscene and offensive

By Je Sea
April 22, 2004
iranian.com

Dear Editor,

I would like to lend my voice to the rising chorus of criticism that has been heard from many quarters in response to the salacious content contained in Iranian.com's recently published articles; "Guys are stupid" and "Use your brain". I shan't, however, join those who have, unequivocally and unambiguously expressed to the author, via your letters, their absolute revulsion with her personal mores and values as well as the licentious nature of her articles. No, she has been upbraided enough.

You, on the other hand, have not. 

What were you thinking when you made the decision to give this young, perhaps disturbed, and most certainly deviant, woman a public platform to espouse her reprehensible and morally bankrupt views on healthy interpersonal relationships between men and women? In my estimation, sir, you have wholly abrogated your editorial responsibilities to your readers, to the world-wide Iranian community, to young women everywhere, and most importantly to Mitra, herself. 

Before I discuss the harm that each of these parties has suffered at your hands, I would like to explain what I believe your proper function should be as the editor of iranian.com and what your responsibility is to those of us who patronize iranian.com both as regular readers and/or contributors.

First, however, I think I ought to clearly state that I am in no way encouraging or endorsing censorship in any way, shape or form. I tell you this now because I wish to avoid any confusion on your part which might cause you to mistakenly believe that I am in favor of censorship. To my mind, the responsibilities incumbent upon any editor do not include the right to censor the freely expressed words, thoughts and ideas of others.

A censor, in the most pejorative sense of the word, is one who inhibits or suppresses the free flow of ideas that are of import or merit within any community. Unlike a censor, I believe that any idea having the most minimal degree of redeeming worth or value should take its rightful place in the marketplace of social thought and discourse. This does not mean, though, that I believe that every thought which can be conceived within the deep recesses of the human mind possesses a redeeming quality making it worthy of public circulation. 

Unconventional ideas, unorthodox ideas, even ideas which are hateful and despicable to the prevailing climate of public opinion should be and must be afforded the right to open and public discussion, or we risk one of our most cherished freedoms; the right to voice our opinions and ideas freely and without fear of persecution or retribution. Any idea sufficiently consequential to make it worthy of widespread currency must possess one essential expository element without which the thought deserves to remain exclusively within the private sphere.

That simple element is that the thought or idea must seek to broaden the scope of human knowledge, to influence prevailing opinions, to entertain, to uplift, to inspire, to warn, to advise, or to sincerely search for some, heretofore, unrevealed truth. Neither of Mitra's submissions did any of these, unfortunately. It is not her fault, however, that you gave credence to her prurient prattle. Your exercise in editorial and expository egalitarianism has proved to be little more than the equivalent of intellectual masturbation. Just as nothing blossoms from any act of self-gratification, nothing good has resulted from your lack of sound judgment in vetting and approving these two articles for publication.

Your dearth of sound judgment mocks the spirit of free speech when you disseminate material of such a sexually explicit nature as represented by the recent writings of Mitra.  I need not lecture you about the millions in Iran who are denied the fundamental human right to speak freely, which you abuse in such a cavalier and unconscionable manner. How many Iranians have paid with their lives during the past 25 years to give your people this very right which you so flippantly toy with? 

You, in your capacity as Editor, are a gatekeeper. You have the responsibility to guard the public from being assaulted by thoughts and words in you publication which are patently obscene and offensive unless of course such materials have even a scintilla of redeeming social value in one of the many fields of human thought and enquiry that exist today.  

When, however, lewd and obscene thoughts and ideas are not essential to the exposition of socially relevant discourse and bereft of any purpose other than to shock the senses with prurient subject matter, then you are obliged to exercise your authority as gatekeeper and reject any such submission. Surely articles of a grossly lascivious nature can find a home amongst the plethora of sexually explicit publications and web sites found everywhere today. Such publications specialize in the circulation of sexually tantalizing material and to subscribers that are specifically interested in a shocking, sexually explicit genre of writing.

Not for one second, do I deny Mitra's right express herself in an obscene and vulgar style of discourse. Far too many young soldiers from western nations, over the years, have paid with their lives and with their blood to protect her right to speak in such a manner. On the other hand, I do challenge your unwarranted assault on the sensibilities of your unsuspecting readers by publishing not once, but twice her socially unredeeming commentaries vis-a-vis your unfettered failure to live up to your gate keeping obligations. 

Try as you might, you can't hide behind iranian.com's all-encompassing mantra "Nothing is Sacred" in hopes of evading your ethical duties to your readers. We, your readers have an unwritten contract with iranian.com. We will continue to read and from time to time contribute to iranian.com as long as it remains fresh and socially relevant. While iranian.com should be proud of its eclectic approach to journalism, it must not make the one unforgivable and fatal mistake that any publication can commit and that is to take its readers for granted.  

No one ought to feel aggrieved or taken for granted when iranian.com merely gives a platform to an unpopular speaker, or to a speaker espousing unpopular ideas. However, when iranian.com gives a speaker who has nothing to contribute to the marketplace of socially relevant thoughts and ideas, a platform from which to the assault the sensibilities of the many  thousands of its readers with vulgar language and unseemly tales of sexual intercourse, then one may in all fairness feel that they have been taken for granted. 

Iranian.com has published many articles and photographs, in past issues, which have dealt with sexually explicit images, words, thoughts, and ideas. None of these can legitimately be regarded as obscene or offensive because each one attempted to expand the rubric of intellectual exchange and social discourse in some redeemable way. Whether one is talking about subjects as diverse as medicine, art, literature, human psychology, or any other area of human inquiry, the notion of sex, sexual acts or one's beliefs, morals and ideas related to sex may very well serve a legitimate and essential element of public discourse. Such was not the case with the two articles written by Mitra. 

Why should iranian.com be concerned when it publishes articles like those of Ms. Mitra? Because someone is always harmed and in this instance a number of people have been harmed. While I do not suppose that this list is exhaustive, I would like to briefly discuss how you have harmed each one.

First, by publishing Ms. Mitra's articles iranian.com has encouraged her to continue pursuing a course of personal behavior which may very well prove highly damaging to her reputation as well as her physical and mental health. This young women has now been held up to public scorn and ridicule in every corner of the world. This was only made possible by iranian.com's printing of her unfortunate articles.

Second, by printing these articles iranian.com has given Mitra a loud voice and powerful platform with which to influence the behavior of young women around the world. Parents worldwide can only pray that their daughters who read "Use your brain" will not heed Mitra's advice that they should acquire as many sexual partners as they can and as quickly as possible. This kind of reckless and injurious advice completely ignores the potential ruin of a girl's reputation (especially an Iranian girl) as well as the very real danger of contracting a sexually transmitted disease and being burdened with an unwanted pregnancy.

Third, you have injured the worldwide Iranian community. By peddling smut under the banner of iranian.com you invite scorn upon the entire Iranian community, especially by those who don't personally know an Iranian, or are unaware that many individual Iranians were dismayed with iranian.com's publication of these articles. You make the descendants of the great and noble Persian civilizations of the past appear to be a people unworthy of respect in the modern world.

Moreover, iranian.com has harmed and confused the generation of Iranian children (including my children who are half-Iranian) that have grown up outside of Iran, through its promotion of behavior which most Iranian and mixed-Iranian families find morally unacceptable. Iranian parents throughout the world struggle daily to impart to their foreign-born children both Persian values and family values as well as a pride in what it means to be Iranian. When iranian.com publishes socially unredeeming articles of the kind written by Mitra, it undermines the efforts made by millions of Iranian mothers and/or fathers everywhere and it doesn't make it much easier on those of us who are the non-Iranian parent of Iranian children.

Many people of good conscious in Western countries are fighting as hard as they can against the ever increasing levels of moral impoverishment and decay afflicting their cultures. These people would warmly welcome you as an ally in their struggle to combat any further moral degradation of their once proud cultures. Bringing an Iranian cultural perspective to computer screens around the world, iranian.com has a unique opportunity to bring a breath of fresh air to English-language journalism every week.

Why would iranian.com want to jump head first into the muck and mire of Western sextoxication when it can just as easily take the journalistic high-road? By taking the road less traveled, iranian.com would help in a very meaningful way to shape the minds and morals of the next generation of Iranian intellectuals and leaders worldwide. Moreover, you as editor could help to morally fortify the culture of the country that helped you when you needed it. Iranian.com can and should always see itself as being part of the solution rather than as being part of the problem.

.................... Say goodbye to spam!

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