The Corner

Ezra Klein on Iran

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Autocratic Iran?

The latest Time Magazine has an article on internal criticism of Ahmadinejad that demonstrates something important:

The scene was like the Iranian answer to March Madness. At Amir Kabir University of Technology in Tehran this past December, a crowd of several thousand packed the school’s auditorium. On one side were hundreds of members of the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary force controlled by Iranian hard-liners, who had been bused in to cheer their most prominent alumnus, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They waved placards and roared as Ahmadinejad boasted about Iran’s growing power and dared the country’s enemies to challenge it. But in the back of the room, a group of 50 activists burned an effigy of the President, set off firecrackers and interrupted his speech with chants of “Death to the dictator!” Ahmadinejad grinned tightly and struggled to finish, but few people would remember what he said. At the height of his power, in a time and place of his choosing, Iran’s President had been upstaged.

This just isn’t that repressive a society. For all the talk of Iran’s autocratic tyrants, here you have the president being burned in effigy, interrupted by firecrackers, and condemned to death, all while he’s giving a speech. And he does nothing more than “smilie tightly” throughout it! In this country, if an activist exposes an anti-war t-shirt while the president is talking, she gets muscled out of the room. That’s not to say Iran doesn’t have all sorts of human rights violations of its own, but the attempt to make the country look like some sort of tyrannical, dictatorial regime is just another element of the war propaganda.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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