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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Hobbit in Iran


UNCLE TED. Now that he's retired from the temporary show he started during the Iran hostage crisis a quarter century ago, Ted Koppel decided to visit the country that cemented his journalism career at ABC News. Only he's not working for ABC anymore but for the Discovery-Times channel, which means we got to see his tiny body in jeans and the oh-so-cool khaki foreign correspondent shirt with epaulets. You couldn't help noticing that he's gotten older -- the bags under his eyes have bags of their own now, and some of them are even toting little man purses -- but he hasn't lost his gift for stentorianating. His magical voice somehow transforms every cafe table and restaurant booth into an anchor desk, and the minuscule nods and tilts of that enormous head still serve to inform us eloquently about what the great man is thinking of the responses to his gravely intoned questions.

Frankly, I had been hoping for a lighter touch. When he met with the woman who served as Khomeini's spokeswoman during the hostage crisis, I thought he could have winked at her and said, "Do you have any idea how many millions of dollars your little stunt put in my pocket? Thanks, babe." But he didn't. Of course, it could be that his softball interview with her was an expression of gratitude. When she deprecated the importance of President Ahdumjihad and dismissed him and Bush in the same breath as fundamentalist idiots, he didn't bother to point out to her that the American fundamentalist idiot hasn't ever proposed erasing an entire country and race of people from the earth. I suppose that would have sounded jingoistic or not objective or something.

Actually, I think we were supposed to feel encouraged about our future relations with Iran. Everyone Koppel talked to acted as if Ahdumjihad was just a slightly comical figurehead whose quaint notions about genocide and Armageddon are more to be sniggered at than taken seriously. The real power resides with an imam who looks enough like the Ayatollah Khomeini to be his twin brother -- or his resurrected corpse. So we shouldn't worry. I mean, the modern world can't be put to an end by an irritable old zombie, can it? This isn't a George Romero movie we're living in, is it? Okay then.

And there's more good news. There are rappers in Iran. And Y-Generation party animals. And snidely above-it-all intellectuals. And BMWs. And sex. And bloggers. It was downright touching to watch Koppel visit his first ever internet cafe and express his astonishment that the young burkha-clad woman he was chatting up was simultaneously exchanging coarse sexual jokes with a friend on-line. In fact, except for the burkhas and the medieval theocracy and the looming nuclear doomsday, Iran is just like America, a place where the well educated people are much much smarter than their dim-bulb government and would fix everything if they could just win a modest electoral majority in the national legislature. Really. You just couldn't believe how well Ted and his intellectual Iranian friends got along. They flashed the same crooked grins when someone made a Bush joke, and they just knew that we can all get through the rough patch caused by America's paranoid fantasies about Islam if enough of the right people nod sagely at one another in chic urban settings.

The one thing they left out was any description of the process by which the cool intellectuals are going to stop the runaway train that is their government. It's all well and good to interview people who make fun of Ahdumjihad, and it's (possibly) reassuring to learn that the Iranian government appears to be a classic authoritarion rather than totalitarian state. But no amount of seeming reasonableness can disguise the fact that an authoritarian state run by crazed Jew-haters who have nuclear weapons is an incredible danger to everyone. And worse, no amount of articulateness by the Iranian gentry Koppel liked so much can obscure the fact that they are still blaming America, not themselves, for the insanely bipolar world they are cruising through in their BMWs.

I'm sure Koppel doesn't see anything wrong with that because he and the other members of the MSM demi-monde also blame America for everything that's wrong in the world. But I see something wrong with it. As a people, Iranians are kind of like a giant head on a ridiculously tiny body. In their own minds they are powerful, sophisticated, and blameless. In reality they are impotent fools, incapable of turning their grandiose thoughts into action.

No wonder Koppel looked right at home there.







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