Behold the rise of a new political creature: the Iranian-American neo-conservative, better known as the Iranicon. As arguably the most important election in recent American history draws closer, I sadly believe some segments of the Iranian-American community have found role models in an older, more established immigrant community in the United States; the hardliner Cubans of Miami (note: not all Miami Cubans are hardliners). In their unbridled enthusiasm of Bush's take-it-or-leave-it foreign policy, these Iranians created a new identity for themselves that eerily reflects some of the less palatable qualities of their Miami counterparts.
These Iranicons employ a number of now-recognizable tricks:
— First, they exhibit a willful blindness or amnesia to history and the brutal, repressive conditions and unfair social conditions of the Shah's era, and seek to recreate that era in homogenized, rated PG tones and images of modernity and progress to pave the way for Junior Pahlavi to come to power.
— Second, they exhibit the same gharbzadegi that disgusted the majority of Iranians of all political and social stripes before and after the Revolution, and have taken it upon themselves to label anyone not slavishly loyal to US foreign policy or pop culture as either Communists (with whom they have an inexplicable anal retentive fixation) or hezbollahi backers of the Islamic Regime. For them, being All-American is synonymous with being anti-IRI, when in fact, opposition to the IRI is quite nuanced and diverse, already exists within Iran, and does not necessarily involve prolonged American ass-kissing.
— Third, they threaten, harass, insult, and seek to verbally smear those who happen to have a better command of the facts and mechanics of the written language.
— Fourth, and more pathetic, they do so from behind false pseudonyms and fake email addresses because they are either too cowardly or too inept to make their points convincingly through public debate, which by the way, is a hallmark of a democracy. I have received more such threatening emails than I feel comfortable with, and yet I still have the organs necessary to sign my name to my own words.
Like their hardliner Cuban counterparts in Miami, these Iranians insist on voicing their opposition to the current regime controlling their home country by deliberately distorting and misrepresenting the facts about their ousted U.S. backed dictators and calling them defenders of freedom, modernity, and progress.
Like the Cuban hardliners in Miami, these Iranians construct their memories, views, and political stances based on nostalgia for the socio-economic status they occupied under their respective U.S.-backed dictators (Batista and Pahlavi).
Why? In my view, three possible explanations exist: First and mostly likely, due to their privileged and insulated social standing, they are ignorant of what happened during the reign of their ousted U.S. backed dictators; second, they are aware of what happened prior to their respective revolutions and are purposefully obfuscating and rewriting history; or third, perhaps the Miami and Los Angeles sun has muddled their memories and minds.
Like their hardliner Cuban-American counterparts in Miami, these Iranians subscribe to the TV dinner theory of democratization; democracy is something that can be speeded up or cooked faster in a microwave. When the LA stations were urging people in Iran to spill into the streets to overthrow the government recently during student protests, images of Cuban hardliners exploiting Elian Gonzalez to get publicity for their political benefit came to my mind; both groups were trying to telemarket another revolution at the expense of others.
Rather than fault their poor tactics, it is important to look at their strategy. Iranicons, though they throw the terms around a lot, have an abysmal understanding of what democracy, civil society and free media actually look like, as exhibited by the propagandist programming on their expatriate news and talk shows. This usually involves bringing an eloquent “expert” onto the program who presents primarily one side of an issue, ignoring other possibilities and opinions, and screening or limiting callers with opposing views in a way that would make Fox News proud.
Lastly, like their Cuban-American hardliner counterparts in Miami, these particular Iranians plan to vote for George W. Bush and have developed an almost knee-jerk reaction to social and political positions different from their own. They are sycophant-like in their willingness to adopt the Doublespeak language of the current administration vis-à-vis their respective countries and assail those who disagree with them.
However, the Iranicon has some of its own, original attributes that set it apart from other conservative immigrant groups. I am not sure if it is more funny than tragic, but after September 11th, 2001 I mistakenly believed that Iranian-Americans would play a pivotal role in helping other Americans understand the history of illegal, destructive, and criminal actions its government has embarked on over the past century, beginning in the Philippines and continuing on through the present in Iraq. This has not been the case.
Ironically, it seems many Iranians, the Iranicons in particular, have been among the most eager to forget their own history and fall into line for the latest American wars of aggression and intervention, and cry and moan when someone brings up that little coup d'etat of 1953 or SAVAK-CIA torture training; they see it as being prisoner to history or 'ignoring what the Communists or Hitler did.'
Additionally, Iranicons are disturbingly intolerant and feel the need to tell those with whom they disagree that 'they must update their way of thinking', which I understand to mean swallow whatever new spin you are fed. Perhaps most infuriating is the fact that they exhibit little to no trace of original critical thought and continue to make causal links between Bush “freeing” Iraq and being a better President for dealing with Iran. It is as if they don't know that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 (which is what the whole war on terror was supposedly about); they have forgotten that this administration lied to get authorization and support to go to war (see Bush's State of the Union Speech from 2003); and they have only inflamed and united an Iraqi and Muslim resistance (see Abu Ghraib photos).
These Iranicons forget that this administration passed the Patriot Act which led to over one thousand Iranian-Americans being held in federal custody for being Iranian and takes away or compromises their civil liberties and right to privacy. Yet they still believe in Bush because he 'talks tough' on the IRI. This may have to do with the Iranicon's intense aversion to facts and empirical data that make him look naïve and foolish. Basically, the Iranicon is unable to connect the dots and see the big picture that socio-political change in Iran, or anywhere for that matter, should not be prescribed from America.
Rather than suggesting the candidate to vote for and inventing that candidate's moral high ground, it would benefit not just the Iranicons but all Iranian-Americans to form civic advocacy groups, register to vote, and start writing letters not only to their representatives, but to the current candidates to push US officials to start formulating policies that reflect Iranian interests, rather than the narrow interests of Exxon, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, and the Coca Cola Corp. I understand the Iranicon's reluctance to take such action, because it would cut into his time to send asinine and threatening emails to people who dare to think for themselves instead of to the people who make actual policy decisions.
Finally, if anyone can think of a catchier nickname for these Iranians, I will personally mail you a thank you note and one dollar. I personally like “Iranicons” a lot; it rhymes, it's catchy, and it's so on the money. Just be sure to leave me your real name and contact information so I don't accidentally send that dollar to “Cyrus the Great” or “General Xerxes.”