Unintended good

The second installment of the greatly anticipated two part miniseries “In the name of Democracy”, a production of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), has come and gone. Although it was billed as tell all about the sinister plots that are hatched to overthrow the “first government of Allah on earth”, the docudrama/ confessional series did not deliver on its billing.

In fact, the program came across more as a how to manual for achieving good, in this case democracy, than how to avoid the bad, subjugation. To put it simply, if the intent was to paint the main actors, the hapless prisoners, as the instruments of the evil-intentioned powers to be, it failed. The show portrays the prisoners and their supposed masters as crusaders of Johnny Appleseed kind of good.

Although the set designers and costume people had gone to great length to pacify the unbelieving viewer, their toils resulted in opposite of what was intended. The set — including the barren bookshelves and haphazardly placed decorative objects, the ill placed mini-bar type refrigerator so close to the settee that made opening its door impossible and many other obvious oversights — left a lot to be desired. The costume designer too might not have realized that the getup Haleh Esfandiari was provided made her look more like Star Wars’s Obi-Wan Kenobi rather than the evil Dark Vader.

All in all the Islamic Republic is in a bind: it professes to be a democracy and yet fights any and all that is part and parcel of a democracy. Unions of all kind, students, labor, teachers and the like are not tolerated and ruthlessly suppressed. The free exchange of ideas in any setting, especially in universities, is not only frowned upon but actively discouraged.

Meanwhile the local mass media — newspapers, books,… — are all controlled and channeled by employing multi layered governmental sifts. All other uncontrollable sources of free flowing information including the great equalizer, the internet, are actively confronted with expensive and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to block out. Even the Non Governmental Organizations, NGO, if they lack Islamic Republic linage, are suspect and their members harassed by Islamic goons. And the judiciary is ever willing to throw around its weight against NGO activists.

What the two parts “In the name of Democracy” leaves with the viewer is a desire to achieve what it wants you to abstain from, it is the classical case of unintended consequences on display. The Revolutionary Guard commander come head of the IRIB, “General” Zarghami, should be commended for this two part how-to-achieve a peaceful transition to Democracy series and must be encouraged to do more of the same.

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