In the Arena

Dot. Dot. Dot.

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The Great Americans over at the Weekly Standard have a parody this week that involves a quote from one of my posts here a few weeks ago.

“Iran…is breezy with freedom.”

Which raises the question: Why the ellipses? Well, because the words elided were “by contrast.” By contrast to what, one might ask.

By contrast to the Soviet Union in the early 1980s.

I was commenting on the neoconniving attempts to compare Obama’s reaction to the events in Iran to Reagan’s reaction to the “Evil Empire.” Those comparisons–still gushing from the bomb-Iran crowd–remain foolish. Here is what I wrote–in context:

The Soviet Union was the most repressive place I’ve ever been; its residents lived in constant terror. I’ll never forget my first translator in Moscow telling me that his parents had trained him never to smile in public–it could easily be misinterpreted and then he’d be off to the Gulag. There was no internet in those days, no cellphones, no facebook or twitter.

Iran, by contrast, is breezy with freedom. It is certainly freer now, despite Ahmadinejad, than it was when I first visited in 2001. There are satellites dishes all over the place, which bring accurate news via BBC Persia and the Voice of America. The place is awash in western music, movies and books. The Supreme Leader has a website; ayatollahs are blogging. You can get the New York Times and CNN online. (I was interested to find, however, that most blogs except those, like this one, that are associated with a mainstream media outlet, are filtered by the government.) There is, in fact, marginally more freedom of expression in Iran than in some notable U.S. allies, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia–although the danger of imprisonment always exists if a journalist or politician takes it a step too far for the Supreme Leader’s watchdogs. 

The post was written on June 16, four days after the election. Obviously, Iran is less free now than it was then. But still, it is markedly more free than the Soviet Union–which killed 40 million of its own citizens and imprisoned countless others–ever was. My dear colleagues over at the Weekly Standard are, as ever, breezy with the truth.