Sehaty Foreign Exchange

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Tuesday
May 15, 2001

What does "Nothing" really mean?

I have enjoyed reading The Iranian for the past couple of years. I must say I found this site to be one of the most interesting sites dedicated to Iranians. The ever-increasing audience participations and contributions are more than enough to show why it has been a success.

In the recent weeks we all read some, rather strong, points of views regarding anything from gay rights to terrorism to Reza Shah, and there have been number of responses about each and every subject. And that's what makes it worth reading.

Then there is Nooneh and her short stories ("Bahram", "Dariush", and so on.). I'm not going to comment on her or about these stories in any shape or form; a lot of other people have done that, but I'll tie this to what I'm trying to say later.

For a while now, The Iranian, along with its new look has adopted "Nothing is sacred" policy. Although it sounds good to most of us who are sick and tiered of censorships, self-imposed or otherwise, but what does "Nothing" really mean? Can one submit a letter full of hate and insult to what is dear to the most? Can one submit the most graphic (or porno graphic) picture to The Iranian? Would it be published?

I would (like to) think not. Probably because the editor of this online magazine has a set of standards, both professionally and morally, that forces him, or I should say, allows him to pick and choose what he thinks appropriate for this site. The same is true for any public forum, be it in print or any other form.

Even the most radical or liberal publications confine themselves to a set of guidelines that they think better serve their target audience. That's why, for example, you wouldn't find nudity in the Wall Street Journal or religious preaching in the Playboy. The bottom line is, there has to be some standards as what a publication (or other kinds of media) delivers to its audience.

I think, "Nothing" is not, nor can it be, just nothing. When it comes to issues of freedom of press, choice and expression, the limitations still do exist, and it must. The beauty of the freedom is to be able to choose not to do something as much as the ability to choose to do it. For that, I don't think The Iranian would be out of order if it refuses to publish some material based on what "identifies" this site, if such standards exist

I have been married to a non-Iranian woman and we have a sixteen-year-old daughter. While my wife and daughter are free to experience and explore what ever is out there on their own, I have always tried to provide them with ways to know and understand what we, Iranians, are the best way I know. One of the ways to show what we are about is The Iranian. I have recommended this site to my family and friend for how refreshing and informative it can be, especially since most everything in it comes from us, the readers.

However, based on what I have been trying to say about the standards, I don't find the Nooneh's witting appropriate for The Iranian. I read The Iranian to be in-touch we the rest of my fellow Iranians, to get informed, to offer my opinions, to be entertained, to be challenged, to disagree, to get nostalgic and to think. "Bahram" and alike does not belong.

It's not a question of good or bad writing; it's not a matter of morality; it's like, for instance, having Pamela Anderson's naked picture in the business section of your daily paper. It doesn't belong. It makes it hard to suggest to a sixteen year old iranian.com is where she could learn about Iran and Iranians. It makes it hard to choose.

Ray Irani

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