Thursday, September 20, 2007

Not what you thought

I'll let the Wall Street Journal do the talking:
Every Monday night at 10 o'clock, Iranians by the millions tune into Channel One to watch the most expensive show ever aired on the Islamic republic's state-owned television. Its elaborate 1940s costumes and European locations are a far cry from the typical Iranian TV fare of scarf-clad women and gray-suited men.

But the most surprising thing about the wildly popular show is that it is a heart-wrenching tale of European Jews during World War II.
The program has an undercurrent of very mixed messages regarding Jews, Judaism, and Israel. (They're still struggling with the fact that Zionism is not imperialism, just a nationalism.) It also has a funny allusion to Descartes and his skeptical "I think, therefore I am - but I'm not sure about anything else" line. In the context of Iran's theocracy, that has a clear implication.*

You can watch part of the first episode here. It's in Farsi, but has English subtitles.

POSTSCRIPT: For more about Iran, read the irrepressible Michael Totten again. His work is getting more exposure in the conventional media, which is a Good Thing.

A somewhat different point of view is provided by Abbas Milani, professor at Stanford and Hoover Institution fellow. A counterforce strike against Iran might yet prove necessary. But no one should be under any illusions that it has any other purpose than just that. It can't lead by itself to political change. Counterviolence can stop or prevent violence. It cannot produce constructive change by itself. Other forces have to be at work.
* Not that there are no sources of religious doubt and philosophical skepticism in Iranian history. Just read Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat, written about nine hundred years ago, but banned in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution. The West has a long history of such things, but surely no monopoly.

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