A few days before Seyyed Ebrahim Nabavi wrote “DearHossein, You Are Not an Israeli Spy” in his website, I tried to convey more or less the same message in an article published here. Hossein Derakhshan is not a spy, a traitor, or a snitch, as he has been labeled. He is a flamboyant man who loves Iran and writes sensational material, some days with a sharp sense of timing, and some days not.
Is he a journalist? Certainly his style leaves something to be desired in that department, precisely the reason why so many people take offense at his quick-witted and unchecked criticism of others. Whether he likes it or not, there are standards to be followed in the field of journalism, starting with form, continuing to content, and evolving into careful reflection of facts, sources, and conclusions. So much of that seems to be absent from his material, especially one of his April 2007 posts, which Iranian.com has published.
I am glad Hossein has stepped out of his blog and has submitted his article for publishing at Iranian.com. This gives us a chance to approach him on a more public and uninhibited level, something that is difficult to do when we step into his blog, where articulate as his audience is, standards of polite tolerance and exchange of ideas are often glaringly unobserved.
While Hossein can easily be called an Iranian phenomenon in the internet field, arguably the first in discovering, utilizing, and manipulating this technology among the young Iranian community, leading the path for thousands of others to follow, today and outside Iran, he is like a big fish in a small pond who has traveled to bigger waters, assuming the position of small fish, but having a hard time accepting it.
There are moments of sheer brilliance in Derakhshan’s work, where he is brave beyond common wisdom, such as the times he has traveled to Israel, or when with unparalleled honesty, he has talked about his feelings, his fears, and his worries. Other times, however, this brevity turns into pompousness, defiance of existing realities and limitations imposed on all Iranian journalists and activists, especially those in Iran, and forgetting basic standards of constructive human interaction, camaraderie, and tolerance.
In his hasty attempt to lash out at those who don’t treat him as a guru or even an equal anymore, he attempts “telling all,” a dangerous and careless action with unpredictable results. Why all this anger at his fellow journalists?
Many of the people he attacks viciously used to be his colleagues, his friends. In acting hastily and emotionally, he appears vicious, unfair, and jealous. Is he all that? I don’t think so. I sense that like all other Iranians who have been exiled outside of Iran for whatever unfair reasons, he faces challenges, fears, and emotions ranging from sadness to anger at circumstances which have put him where he is. He has all of that in common with the very folks he so relentlessly attacks.
However, one point appears lost on him; that he can “tell all” once or twice; he can take mean stabs at others a few times; he can “discover” and “uncover truths” about the livelihoods of his ex-friends; then what? What is the next step? If he portrays Nikahang Kowsar as a mercenary who would do anything for €200, beyond the increased foot traffic in his blog, what exactly will he achieve? How would calling other journalists and activists names and taking cheap shots at them further Hossein Derakhshan’s career? Someone needs to tell Mr. Derakhshan:
“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” Welcome to the West, now grow up! Take a look around you, Hossein. The people you are calling names and accusing of betraying their country are painfully but quickly finding themselves places as respected journalists, activists, and artists in the world, and no one else thinks that they are traitors, much as we don’t think that you are one. Nikahang Kowsar is a respected and world renowned cartoonist. Aside from his fair, witty, and honest viewpoint on issues as reflected in his blog and artwork, he works non-stop earning a living, attending school, and sharing his art and intellectual gifts with others.
Mehrangiz Kar, a brilliant lawyer and a respected activist, is a world-renowned expert on Islamic law and women’s rights issues. Omid Memarian is one of the brightest students and affiliates of one of the best schools of journalism in the world, respected and mentioned by name by world-class American journalists such as Reese Erlich. The list does go on with Massoud Behnoud et al, whose credentials need no mentioning.
Audiences, who follow each of your works, can be the best judges of whom they would like to read, see, and follow, Mr. Derakhshan. Your tidbits of “information” about each individual’s ties to secret organizations and undercover funding sources can do little to tarnish the image all these people have worked hard to attain. You do remember how the lot of you was called “ghalam be dast-e mozdoor,” purportedly receiving “suitcases full of dollars” by certain officials in Iran, don’t you? I do. Were you? No, you weren’t, and as your audience, we never believed those accusations, either.
What are Hossein Derakhshan’s plans for his future? How will the Iranian phenomenon grow into his own rights as a journalist? The future could be equally bright for Hossein Derakhshan, if he lets go of this anger and this falsely liberating sense of freedom he feels in the West.
I am convinced one of the reasons Hossein Derakhshan has a website called “Editor Myself” is that he has found he is unwilling or incapable of engaging in teamwork, making compromises with partners and colleagues, and pulling off bigger jobs with the help of others. This limits him to only small jobs, because he works with himself alone. He will need to grow fast, learn the techniques and ethics of this business, and learn to trust others again, and in return earn others’ trust and respect. If he wants to be a journalist, he will need to leave the confines of his blog, Editor Myself, and join in journalistic work in other media and other platforms.
Five years from now, those who are studying journalism in Western institutions will be properly educated, experienced middle-aged journalists who love Iran and know how to navigate their profession anywhere in the world. Where will Hossein Derakhshan be five years from now? I certainly wish the best for this brilliant young man, and hope that he finds his way and arrives at his destination successfully. He will have to make his choices and carry them out carefully and sensibly, however.