Shocking silence

In Iran, a grass-roots, student-run, anti-theocracy movement has reached critical mass. So why doesn't the U.S. left care more about it?


Something truly extraordinary has been going on in Iran these past few months and especially in the past couple of weeks. A grass-roots, student-run, anti-theocracy movement has reached some sort of critical mass. The enemy is the religious right of Iran, the group of murderous mullahs who have run their country into the ground and now have to answer for their godly tyranny to a new and populous generation of under-30s. Suddenly, we have the possibility of regime change in a critical country without war and without the intervention of the United States.

You’d think that this would be the central story on the left in this country. As blogger Don Watkins explained: “Here are a bunch of brave souls fighting a tyrannical regime through the old liberal favorite of massive protests. Here’s the chance for them to get behind the cause of freedom without having to support war.”

So take a look at Indymedia, one of the activist left’s prime Internet Web sites. Blogger Meryl Yourish did. What did she find on the armed struggle against theocracy? Nada. Zilch. The top stories on San Francisco’s Indymedia site were as follows: “Rally & March Against War in Iraq, Philippines & the INS; Anti-war Movement Audio Retrospective — The Struggle Against Empire; Thousands at punk rock heroine Patti Smith anti-war benefit; Beat Generation Bookstore’s 50th Anniversary Draws Huge Crowd.”

Meanwhile, there’s a story to be told:

“It has become almost routine for us to go out at night, chant slogans, get beaten, lose some of our friends, see our sisters beaten, and then return home. Each night we set to the streets only to be swept away the next dawn by agents of the regime. Two nights ago, on Amirabad Street, we wrote ‘Down with Khomeini’ on the ground. Before long, the mullah’s vigilantes attacked us on their motorcycles. They struck a female student before my eyes so harshly that she was no longer able to walk. As she fell to the ground, four members of Ansaar-e-Hezbollah surrounded her, kicking her. When I and two other students threw stones at them so that they would leave her alone, they threatened us. We escaped into a lane and hid in a house whose owner, an old lady, had left the door open for us. A few minutes later, we saw the young lady being carried away by riot police, her feet dragging on the ground, her shattered teeth hanging out of her still-bleeding mouth. At least three of my best friends have been detained; nobody knows anything about their fate.”

Where did this piece appear? The National Review, of course. In fact, the most comprehensive coverage of the nascent Iranian revolution has been on the right. Much of the antiwar left has sadly long since stopped caring about the actual freedom of people under oppressive regimes, except, of course, if their plight is a way to blame or excoriate the United States. The antiwar left’s blindness toward the evil of Saddam is now compounded by its refusal to grapple with the next great part of the struggle against Islamo-fascism.

Check out some of the more mainstream publications of the left: The Nation’s home page has nothing — nothing — about Iran on it. Search for Iran on its Web site and you get more results still gloating over the Iran-Contra scandal than anything that’s going on in Iran today. “What Liberal Media?” blogger Eric Alterman has said nothing as the story has unfolded. This magazine has been a little better — but not by much. The Boston Globe editorialized — but mainly against what it sees as counterproductive American support for the dissidents. The New York Times has covered the news but has yet to put its full weight behind the story. The BBC, to its credit, has provided several excellent reports.

The question is: Why? Could anyone on the left actually sympathize with the sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic theocrats in Tehran? Of course not. But it seems that many of them hate the American right more than they hate foreign tyranny. A revolution in Iran might serve to cast a better light on President Bush’s Middle East policy — and that’s so terrible a possibility that some leftists simply prefer to look the other way. Lefty blogger Matthew Yglesias let it slip that “these stories about the Iranian student movement have been so relentless hyped on rightwing sites that I think we on the left have been shying away from the story.” That’s an excuse? Mercifully for Yglesias, it isn’t.

If you want to understand better why the American left has been losing every debate it has joined recently, you could do worse than observe its indifference to the fight for freedom in Iran. The position reeks of myopia, self-regard and opportunism. Those qualities are not political winners, and they don’t deserve to be. Until the left attends to its principles as meticulously as it attends to its resentments, it will lose the battle for ideas for good. There’s still time to reverse this — and help the cause of human freedom as well. Let’s hope the left comes to its senses before the revolution is over.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Bookmark Andrew Sullivan here

Salon columnist Andrew Sullivan's commentary appears daily on his own Web site.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>