Rules of the Game


by Asghar_Massombagi

In the immediate aftermath of going bloggy, to coin a phrase, last year the collective id of its readers appeared to have been unleashed. It was as if a massive boil fomenting and ripening with 2500 years of decease had suddenly been lanced. The readers, allegedly the crème de la crème of “Iranian Diaspora” reared in liberal democracies - were spouting venomous bile at each other with more head turning relish than Linda Blair in The Exorcist. In short, there was enough fecal matter in the threads to fertilize a football stadium. Javid of course had to intervene; the “Nothing is Sacred” motto had suddenly become a noose around his neck and he - like Salman Rushdie before him who once asked “Is nothing sacred?” – had to come to terms with limits of free speech; that free speech without personal responsibility is often not much more than mob rule. Blogging being fairly new will have its growing pains before it matures but here a few simple rules as I see it to help it along the way.

Stick to the topic
. It sounds like common sense but in more than one occasion when I’ve had the time to browse through the threads I have noticed posters going on ridiculous tangents with little or no relevance to the article. There are a few posters for instance, both registered and unregistered, who are obsessed with 28th Mordad and the coupe de eta (a matter of debate apparently according to more than one obsessive) that brought Mossadegh’s government down and insist on dragging the said event into any conversation. I have often wondered why these posters don’t articulate their revisionist or orthodox interpretation of 28th Mordad and enlighten the rest of us in a structured and comprehensible essay form preferably backed up with references and documents rather than in the feverish undisciplined blogging style.

Refrain from using obscenity
. Let’s face it, we all like to use colourful language in private to describe those we don’t agree with but just as you don’t reveal your inner most thoughts to the woman in short skirt sitting across from you on the bus, checking the language before posting your two cent goes a long way in keeping the alleged conversation fruitful. To paraphrase Freud, keeping the id in check is the essence of civilization.

Maintain civility as much as you can
. This of course is a tricky one. How can one define civility objectively? Are there rules of etiquette everyone can agree on? After all politics by its nature is about speaking “truth” to the powerful. The demos, the ones with nothing claiming stake in a society where once only the powerful could do so is the definition of politics. Politics is about conflict, people butting heads and as they say if you can’t handle the heat then get out of the kitchen. Sharp wit and cutting commentary is the very stuff of democratic debate. That said, egotistic vitriol is not wit. Name calling, sloganeering and cheap personal attacks are not dialogue. Take the case ofHossein Derakhshan (Hoder to his friends and enemies). Derakhshan is one of the writers I always read. Not that I necessarily agree with him; on the contrary, I find his views dangerous. The mishmash of Foucault and post-structuralism with a dash of Edward Said (no fault on Said’s part) plus a generous dollop of Stalinism that he dishes out is representative a new Third-Worldism that is misguided and needs to be confronted, just as the vitriolic nationalism that is spouted by many on this site must be confronted. As the success of neoconservative movement has shown, winning the minds is essential to secure the future on one’s terms. In case you haven’t noticed there is an all-out ideological war going across the globe and the Internet is on the front lines. So take on Hoder by all means; engage him, confront him but enough with the Mullah-lover, bache mullah, hoder-you-traitor nonsense.

And that’s my two cents.


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Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

Thanks Asghar. I agree and understand your points. One thing I want to emphasize though is that I think the tendency of Islamic fanatics to proscribe and condone murder in revenge against those who make fun of or bash Islam is far more dangerous and irresponsible.


The key here is

by Asghar_Massombagi on

"vitriolic.".  I have no problem with healthy nationalism. By the way, I've seen my name spelled many ways but never Mossombaghi.  Cheers.


Dear JJ

by Asghar_Massombagi on

I've read all of Rushdie's books up to and including The Moor's Last Sigh. Took a stab at Shalimar too but couldn't finish it.  This is so that you know I actually greatly admire his writing and his courage.  When I read Shame I felt here is finally a writer who understands my world and is so articulate.  I read The Satanic Verses twice and argued with many who dismissed Rushdie either as a no talent attention getter or someone bent on creating fitna, as they say these days.  But Rushdie himself was ambiguous about what happened after publication of The Satanic Verses.  In an article titled Is Nothing Sacred? (Imaginary Homelands) he struggles to deal with this issue.  Should anything be out of bounds in modernity?  Can an artist make a fetish of her work and her right to say what she wants damn the consequences?  I don't accept that all that happened afterward was simply planned.  A large part of it was but there were Muslims who were insulted. Of course most of the said Muslims hadn't read the book, couldn't understand the post-modern techniques that Rushdie used, didn't understand in-between existence that Rushdie talked about.  I was raised in a traditional shia family so I know my Islam. There is nothing anti-Islam in The Satanic Verses in general.  There is plenty of anti fundamentalism in the book and in that regard it is a prophetic book, years ahead of itself.  But as Rushdie said later the in-betweenness is a dangerous position to be and perhaps one better cross the threshold.  And you see that since moving to New York he has taken a unqualified stand in favour of liberal democracy.  Of course even if the book challenged Islam or the prophet, burning it and threatening its author would NOT be justified in the least.  Sooner or later Islam, like Christianity has to become dialectecized so to speak (do you remember Nikos Kazantzakis’ Last Temptation of Christ?), meaning become a subject of rational inquiry.  There is a long standing tradition of heresy in Islam itself. We all know that Khomeini’s “wounded Islam” gesture was pure hypocrisy, just as the recent hyperbolic reaction against Muhammad cartoons has been as well. But in the meanwhile globalization is destroying nation-states, obliterating communities and cultures and leaving wastelands in its wake to the benefit of a small portion of population.  People do feel wounded and helpless, you can’t deny that.  Perhaps the brevity of my statement was at fault but my point was that this is a dilemma and you can't just dismiss it with a lofty an artist's right is supreme.  But I don’t advocate censorship, internal or external.


Dear Mr mossombaghi!

by samsam1111 on

 Eventhough I agree with large chunks of your essay, I,m dumbfounded as how to interpret the last part of your essay...

 "just as the vitriolic nationalism that is spouted by many on this site must be confronted"

This is a "loaded phrase" and if the reader is ignorant would translate it to ""confront the nationalists and be kinder to the kinds of pro regime Mr "H.D"


Jahanshah Javid

right on

by Jahanshah Javid on

Thanks Asghar. First of all, I so wish I could write you. Writing for me is a struggle. I'm often at a loss for words. And you're full of common sense, which I love most.

I agree with your points, especially about the difficulty in judging what comment is "civil" or not. I will never win that argument since it is indeed a matter of taste and subjective selection.

One thing I disagree with is the suggestion that Salman Rushdie was irresponsible in writing the Satanic Verses and that the reaction that followed was only natural. The reaction was to be expected, but still unacceptable, especially the death threats.

If writers, artists and thinkers are not protected by free speech laws, much of modern art and thought will cease to exist or evolve. And the Khomeinis of this world will flourish.

I'd love to see your opinion on this.

Thanks again for your wonderful contributions to this site. Me and a good friend were talking about favorite writers here and you were among the top.