ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Carnival of Socialism And Ahmadinejad.

with 20 comments

Have you had one of those moments, when you hear a line of reasoning or an argument and think: “Hang on, there’s some very dodgy thinking behind this”?

I had one recently.

I was hoping to read the 34th Carnival of Socialism, learn some new facts, get some refreshing ideas and maybe see an intelligent debate.

That’s what I hoped for.

Imagine my surprise when I scanned the page and saw

“Jews Sans Frontiers look sat Iranian President Ahmadinijad’s recent controversial speech.”

I thought for a moment and wondered if “controversial” was some new euphemism that I’d missed.

That happens amongst the English and in politics. Often rather than use the real word another lesser one is concocted, eg. instead of kill, the word pacify, instead of murdered, the word dispatched. There are many more examples of such vile euphemisms, history is littered with them.

Still, I thought that must be just a slip of the keyboard, as most conscious people scanning the speech would see Ahmadinejad’s racism, and if they were in any doubt they could look at the draft PDF version where the naked Holocaust denial would leap off the page.

So I was surprised to find such a remark on a popular Green blog, and without any reaction from the readers, who appear to be, for the most part, middle class, highly educated activists. It is perplexing that the downplaying of Ahmadinejad’s racism, and how we are meant to believe that it is just “controversial”, wasn’t picked up by others.

But, let me explain it in another way, would any halfway sensible Green activist or socialist be tempted to say:

“he’s is a racist – but”

No, certainly not, yet that is in essence what is being argued, as can be seen in the comments box:

“Jim Jay said…

Keep it up Roobin :)

Mod: A. [Ahmadinejad] is anti-semitic – but his speech (or at least all the bits reported in the news) wasn’t. He said Israel is a racist state – it is. He said it was formed with violence – it was.

That’s why his speech is controversial, because whilst he may hold obnoxious views the things he said on this occasion did not denounce the Jews or deny the Holocaust.

I’m perfectly happy to criticise the Iranian regime and its leaders – but I’m not obliged to pretend he said things that he didn’t.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009 10:45:00 AM “

Think back, I can’t imagine any socialists in Britain 30 years ago, saying

Enoch Powell is a racist, but his speech wasn’t….”

It is that insidious “but”.

That unconscionable need to qualify Ahmadinijad’s words and somehow lessen Ahmadinejad’s racism, that is the major problem.

In the comments thread I pointed out that another famous anti-Jewish racist, David Duke, often uses similar arguments to Ahmadinejad, but who would ever think of seriously saying:

“David Duke is a racist, but…”

No one would. Certainly not Greens or most socialists, who should be more sensitive, and should have learnt to avoid that line of thinking.

Again, if Greens or socialists would not seek to co-opt the views of Enoch Powell or David Duke, then why does that occur with Ahmadinejad?

So all in all I am disappointed.

Disappointed that the Carnival of Socialism instead of highlighting the cream of the crop ends up using the decidedly spurious line of reasoning (I paraphrase) “He’s a racist, but his speech wasn’t”. As I said, very dodgy thinking and extremely disheartening.

Finally, if my point wasn’t clear enough, if Greens or socialists wouldn’t dream of excusing the BNP leader, Nick Griffin by saying “He’s a racist, but….” then why do it with Ahmadinejad?

Update:
Thanks to The Contentious Centrist for the pointer towards Mick Hartley’s 2007 post, we’ve been here before.

Update 2: Holocaust denial seems uppermost on Ahmadinejad’s mind, as the Fars News Agency reports from Tehran:

“The Iranian president further strongly criticized supporters of the Zionist regime’s behavior towards those who question the Holocaust, and said, “They said that the Holocaust is a reality and nobody has the right to question or raise doubt about it.” “

I just wonder if those, who were so willing to excuse his utterances, will even see the Holocaust denial embedded in those words? Unlikely.

Update 3:
Bob adds more political meat to the bone in his comment:

“[Jim:]That’s why his speech is controversial, because whilst he may hold obnoxious views the things he said on this occasion did not denounce the Jews or deny the Holocaust.

[Bob's reply:]Am I reading you right Jim? You’re saying it was controversial precisely because… it wasn’t racist? If he’d said something more explicitly racist we could have all comfortingly said, ‘ah that Mahmoud, he’s so predictable’, and then got on with our lives?

When I was becoming acive in the socialist movement, I think most socialists would have responded to the opening of the speech – calling for the hastening of the reappearance of the Hidden Imam – as something not to take seriously.

Then, when he opened the substantve part of his talk with a condemnation of the way that “In the Middle Ages scholars and scientists were sentenced to death”: what a cheek! From the president of a country which has hounded out most scholars and scientists, which has the second highest execution rate (and highest per capita) in the world.

But anyway, the key to why his speech is racist is his use of the words “the Zionists”. If someone talks about “the Zionists” and refers to the Jewish nationalist movement, then they’re probably not being racist. But if someone talks about “the Zionists” and refers to a shadowy global conspiracy with tentacles in every world capital, able to initiate wars and financial crises, then they’re probably being racist.” [my emphasis].

Written by modernityblog

01/05/2009 at 17:36

Posted in Uncategorized

20 Responses

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  1. Good point, Mod. It goes along with anti-semitism being “understandable”. Other racisms aren’t “understandable”, just that one

    Rosie

    01/05/2009 at 23:15

  2. I am mystified, as the people concerned are smart, articulate and have knowledge of the issues surrounding racism, but they can’t seem to see why it is so so bad.

    modernityblog

    01/05/2009 at 23:37

  3. [...] about the other so-called  ’Carnival’s’ tolerance of pro-Iranians apologists, here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)I’m No SupermanJoy on the joy of helpful [...]

  4. it’s not so much a question of the people concerned being smart, articulate and possessing knowledge.

    It’s a matter of how deep goes their understanding of the essence of democracy, but also on a much simpler level, or wrong and right.

    It is a superficial understanding of what tolerance means.

    The problem is that people in western countries got so used to live in democracy that they took it for granted.

    The bad guys are not dumb! One of their basic rethorical technicques is to appropriate themselves of apparently moderate perspectives and then twist them. Any person with a good sense of balance easily detects this, but not the self-haters…

    another example, those people who naively distort the phrase by Voltaire which says that we would fight to defend the right of expression of the people who have different opinions than his, and apply them to neo-nazi thugs, as if freedom of expression and hate speech were the same thing.

    then, of course in all this mess, in which nobody really knows what tolerance means, we also have people making an equivalence between blasphemy and hate speech, and we get to the point that some people get offended that suine flue is called after pigs…

    the lack of clarity over very simple concepts that every adult should be able to understand intuitivelly plays into the hands of the intolerants, the professional haters that insidiously place their seeds. First step, relativization…

    Sarah Franco

    02/05/2009 at 19:40

  5. Sarah,

    On the contrary, the point about them being middle-class articulate and highly educated is that they are accustomed to using their critical faculties.

    They are accustomed to seeing beyond the surface.

    They are well used to the tell tale imagery of racism, even when it’s hidden by changing a few words.

    That is why it is all the more annoying.

    If another politician had said these things they would have been down on him/her like a ton of bricks ( and rightly so)

    But the Iranian President is given immense latitude.

    That is despite him organising a Holocaust denial conference and inviting neo-Nazis to Teheran, that is leaving aside his inflammatory and racist laden speeches.

    So the readers of the Daily (maybe) should, in my view have picked all this up.

    I agree with your other points.

    modernityblog

    02/05/2009 at 20:14

  6. even worse the following crap from the May Day message of “The Posadists in Britain”:

    “The speech of Ahmadinejad (of Iran) at the ‘UN Conference against Racism’ was the thought of humanity, for once to be heard, on the question of Israel. 13 delegates marched off because, unable to deny what had been said, they fled the place. For capitalism, this is not an economic crisis but a first class political and social one! Finished the old style colonies. The masses stand up in Venezuela, Nepal, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine. They created an Ahmadinejad. Finished the time where three cats reigned supreme over international encounters.”

    … but who would expects something intelligent from Posadists?

    entdinglichung

    05/05/2009 at 12:12

  7. Hey Mod:

    What the hell is up with Harry’s Place. Were they banned? or just me?

    mesquito

    05/05/2009 at 16:39

  8. Seems like their hosting company has an outage. If someone tells me more I’ll post on it.

    modernityblog

    05/05/2009 at 18:07

  9. Thanks, Mod.

    mesquito

    05/05/2009 at 18:19

  10. It’s interesting how the Ahmadinejad apologists often talk about understanding him in his ‘cultural context’, whilst Ahmadinejad himself makes no effort to understand the context of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, what with his Holocaust denial, claims of a global Zionist conspiracy and his funding of Hamas and Hezbollah.

    seismicshock

    05/05/2009 at 19:38

  11. seismic,

    That does assume that they want to discuss the issue, as far as I see it, there’s a bit of a shift from:

    “oh, no you misread Ahmadinejad, he didn’t mean anything by his comment “Vanish from the pages of time” “

    and “No comment, about him inviting neo-nazis to Tehran.”

    to “well, of course, Ahmadinejad is just attacking the Zionist regime, nothing wrong with that, he probably loves Jews, etc., They even have one in the Iranian parliament. ”

    All very feeble reasoning and arguments.

    Still, if people actually want to apologize for Ahmadinejad’s racism then they are going to, one way or another.

    modernityblog

    05/05/2009 at 19:52

  12. [...] Modernity followed up by noting some rather poor practice in a subsequent Carnival of Socialism: positive press for the anti-socialist butcher of Tehran, racist dictator Ahmadinejad. (However, the carnival in question, the 34th, did have one or two highlights: Mick’s obit for Jack Jones, Charlie Pottins’ Toldpuddle history lesson, Splintered Sunrise’s Marxist revisionism. [...]

  13. [...] Modernity Blog: Carnival of Socialism and Ahmadinejad [...]

  14. I like your blog – I think you might hate mine.

    The Polemical Report

    17/05/2009 at 14:19

  15. Frankly, The Polemical Report, I couldn’t give a shit either way.

    If you wish to apologise for Ahmadinejad’s racism that’s your lookout, then I suppose that modernday neo-Strasserism comes in many forms.

    Firstly, you’ll have to do a better job, ie, deal with why he invited the creme de creme of neo-nazis to Tehran.

    Secondly, if and I say, IF you are a semi serious anti-racist then you’ll have to address Bob’s points (and my early ones) at the Daily (Maybe),

    see http://jimjay.blogspot.com/2009/04/34th-carnival-of-socialism.html

    then again, if you are not even semi-serious and like making excuses for racists then you’ll probably end up surrounded by UKIPer, Little Englanders and the BNP, one day, worth pondering that.

    modernityblog

    17/05/2009 at 15:13

  16. Wow!

    Thank-you for responding

    The accusation of Neo-Nazism is hard to swallow.

    I am no fan of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – at no point did I defend what he has done. The nearest I came is “The claims made in his defence are that his words were poorly translated, taken out of context, exaggerated and manipulated. This is certainly true, to some extent.” I am not suggesting that he is an innocent victim – but that occasionally claims are exaggerated. This is by no means an apology for another man’s racism.

    My point is that he has plenty to be criticised for – so exaggeration & fabrication are unnecessary & counter-productive. It undermines the authority of his critics. Could you take seriously somebody who criticised someone for something he hadn’t done? “I hate Hitler for causing the great fire of London!”

    To Bob’s point – At no point do I attempt to justify Ahmadinejad’s claiming that there is a “conspiracy of some powers”.

    The Polemical Report

    17/05/2009 at 21:36

  17. My apologies, The Polemical Report, I had thought that you were a semiserious individual but you are not.

    Because had you been you would have understood my point concerning neo-Nazis in Tehran or at least asked questions as to its significance.

    Just so you understand I will make the point more slowly.

    1. It is very easy to dismiss criticism of the Iranian President’s speeches, after all, Farsi is a rich and complicated language not easily rendered into English, so there’s plenty of wiggle room for those who would defend the racism pushed out by the Iranian regime.

    2. But where there is less wiggle room, to people of a rational disposition, is to explain away why the Iranian President organised and hosted a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran in 2006.

    3. Should you have the inclination to research that conference you will see that it contained a few useful idiots and the creme de la creme of Holocaust denial, Faurisson, Wolfgang Frohlich, Michele Renouf, Serge Thion, Toben, etc.,

    That is not forgetting David Duke.

    I hope you will make an effort to research David Duke’s views, and what you will find is that the ex-Grand Wizard of the KKK, is a neo-Nazi, white supremacist and arch hater of Jews.

    I hope that you can draw the dots? Or how will you explain that away?

    modernityblog

    17/05/2009 at 23:42

  18. I think there is some misunderstanding surrounding my “The accusation of Neo-Nazism is hard to swallow”. I do not dispute that Ahmadinejad invited Neo-Nazis to Tehran, nor do I defend it. I was responding to “If you wish to apologise for Ahmadinejad’s racism that’s your lookout, then I suppose that modernday neo-Strasserism comes in many forms.” I felt that ‘neo-Strasserism’ was aimed at me for “defending” Ahmadinejad, which in itself I dispute.

    I do understand your point concerning Tehran, however, I feel that I was criticising the media’s reporting of the speech rather than defending Ahmadinejad. That is why I do not feel I need to defend Ahmadinejad various crimes and misdemeanors, especially ones that I abhor. That is why I do not intend to “to explain away why the Iranian President organised and hosted a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran in 2006.”

    You say, “It is very easy to dismiss criticism of the Iranian President’s speeches, after all, Farsi is a rich and complicated language not easily rendered into English, so there’s plenty of wiggle room for those who would defend the racism pushed out by the Iranian regime.” I do not dispute this. Similarly, there is plenty of wiggle room for those who criticise the Iranian regime. Surely neither of these truths are contentious. Stating that there have been instances in which the complexities of Farsi have been exploited is as close as I get to defending Ahmadinejad.

    As for “Should you have the inclination to research that conference you will see that it contained a few useful idiots and the creme de la creme of Holocaust denial, Faurisson, Wolfgang Frohlich, Michele Renouf, Serge Thion, Toben, etc.,” I am assuming that this is in response to “It is interesting to note that even the Guardian, arguably the most left leaning British broadsheet, opted not to report the apparent applause.” If the report was in the opinion section of the newspaper this omission would be one thing, but it wasn’t, it was in the news section. I wasn’t suggesting that his speech was deserving of applause. I would have preferred it if they had have listed those that stayed and applauded. I don’t dispute that a number of those that stayed and applauded are anti-Semites. Not all were.

    The Polemical Report

    19/05/2009 at 02:46

  19. Polemical Report,

    If you want to dance around with something like “I am not defending ….just saying” fine go ahead.

    If you want to criticise coverage of the Iranian President, then fine go ahead, it is the stuff of media studies. Fascinating trivia.

    But let’s take that one step further. let us suppose that all the critics of the Iranian President wrong and not only are they are wrong, they terrible people but nasty with it.

    But suppose that all of that is true.

    Does that change one iota of Iranian President’s racism? NO

    Does it change the fact that he periodically uses anti-Jewish racism to attack Israelis? NO

    Does it change the long line of his speeches and coverage from PressTV which pushes Holocaust denial? No, it doesn’t.

    If you wish to go in for media studies then brilliant go-ahead, but it doesn’t change the objective facts concerning his views as he articulate them.

    And by all means go to his web site and hunt around you will find his speeches from 2006.

    If the Iranian President’s racism doesn’t concern you, then there is no common ground between us and I see little point in continuing this exchange.

    If, however, the Iranian President’s racism does concern you then you have to make up your own mind on its significance and not be troubled by what other people say in the media.

    You have the Internet you can search all you like, you can independently of any news outlets make up your own mind concerning the Iranian President’s views and why he uses racism.

    If you did that I think you’ll find it’s slightly more productive than media studies.

    PS: I was probably over the top to make the jibe concerning modern day neo-Strasserism, but I’m astonished that anyone relatively educated with access to the Internet would consciously tried to deflect criticism from Ahmadinejad, or duck and dive the plain issues here.

    My assumption was that only someone unconcerned with anti-Jewish racism and Holocaust denial would be flippant enough to do that, maybe I was wrong, but frankly my patience is wearing thin on those who would obfuscate on Ahmadinejad’s racism.

    I hope you will make an effort to understand that particular point.

    modernityblog

    19/05/2009 at 05:38

  20. [...] I finally gave up on CoS when Ahmadinejad’s racism was glossed over, which as all socialists should appreciate is unforgivable, read more on Carnival of Socialism And Ahmadinejad. [...]


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