Monday, January 10, 2005

Two Cheers for Censorship & Torture

Tsk,Tsk! Some control freaks have been brushing up their English it seems. I guess if you're reading this, you've probably heard the news. As of last Saturday, a new campaign of filtering has been in progress. It just morphed qualitatively.

I can't be certain about the exact motives, the scope or the likely duration and permanence of this apparent phase of crackdown. There are about a dozen or so ISPs I normally play musical connections with. Here is a rough profile of what's happening as far as I can surmise.

Certain providers are blocking access indiscriminately. The Blogspot, Persianblog, Netstats, Orkut, among others, are being blocked in a blanket sort of way. The numbers of Iranian Bloggers filtered have dramatically increased. The numbers who have stopped blogging too is up.

Some English language sites are now being filtered as well…who knows why. Not mathematically exact but schematically: among some of the more famous pundits I read with various degrees of frequency, Pejman has been affected, as have Jarvis and Andrew Sullivan. Certain appeasers (just kidding) such as Daniel Drezner, the Oxblog, Crooked Timber, (and Nadezhda and Prakrite) to name a few, have not been affected yet. Neither has Ledeen! The has been hit.

Out of curiosity about the psychological makeup of those behind this move, I would like to know the number of monthly visitors the affected bloggers have been getting from Iran. It might help to put things in perspective and to get a better sense for what we are up against.

But to belabor the point, the filtering is neither universal nor consistent. Certain ISPs still allow access to some or all of the filtered sites. Again, it is still possible to continue relatively normal browsing habits, albeit with added headaches. And this campaign in its present form would probably go nowhere fast if the ISPs were more adamant in their refusal to cooperate.

This comes in the aftermath of the arrests, torture and the publicized forced confessions of some prominent journalists.

But why now? What motives?

You know, I really wished I could have believed this campaign inevitable. The Evil on a rampage narrative is probably easier to digest. But this past couple of years alone I have had to reevaluate more of my assumption about this Regime, us as a people, our place in the universe and our future than any other time in my life.

Just these past couple of days, for instance, there has been official word of the arrival of cheaper internet access, and faster internet services as well as more exposure for bloggers as the vanguards in a new revolutionary movement of communication according to various newspapers. This despite the entire ongoing attempt to suffocate us even further!

Do they really intend to dismantle the entire infrastructure? Unlikely! You've heard me repeatedly claim that for an authoritarian society, ours is one of the most unruly, fearless and lawless of societies imaginable. And inconsistent.

To be quoting that witty imbecile Al-Sahaf, they are not in control even of their own stomachs, let alone this society. Do they really want to pick a fight just about now? Can they maintain the tempo? Do they have the will to stay the course? And to what end?

There was a time people were burying books in their backyard by the dozens. And now anything you want is accessible. Millions of titles. And then too the argument was this Regime wouldn't outlast the lifting of the ban on books.

The Regime nowadays has been less heavy handed than in the years past in its encounters with what it deems undesirable conduct. By this I mean, they single out an issue of concern. Do a massive show of force for a relatively brief period of time. Make an example of a few unfortunate souls and then move on. This has been their modus operandi.

Just remember some of the headlines of this past year alone: massive deployment of the elite Revolutionary Guards for a while on the streets; stricter enforcement of hejab and the closing of some coffee shops during the summer; various anti corruption campaigns and the raiding of some video clubs, and more recently the threat to stone a young woman to death, etc,. But then retreat, relative normalcy and life as usual.

The naïve part of me just wants to yell: "what the hell do you think you're doing?" "Can't you see what a monstrous society you've created?" "What could you possibly hope to gain by denying us the chance to say exactly what you too are saying on daily basis?"

But it helps to remember discretion as the better part of valor!

Some of the most scathing criticism of this society, both of the military and political elites as well as her various captains of industry is originating from the extreme right nowadays. An elaborate, unrestrained and cogent critique of the injustices, and the unfairness playing out in this Republic as well as the preposterous avarice, gluttony, corruption, mediocrity, incompetence, poverty, abuse and prostitution all indisputable facts of life in this purported spiritual land.

I know MEMRI T.V. broadcasted a speech a few months ago of one Dr. Hassan Abasi, a passionate advisor to Mr. Khamenei. Another figure of note is Dr. Azghani. Watch the movie Poverty and Prostitution to get a sense for the style.( Faqhr va Fahsha)

But why couldn't others say what these two figures get away with saying all the time?

And so a part of me is so angry, furious really and ashamed. I hardly know the faces I encounter on the streets anymore and the glances and the gestures and the mentality and the mannerism of my fellow citizens. We are nothing like the Iranians I remember. We were once more humane, kinder people-- tender, civil and decent.

Obnoxious is what we have become. Curt, abusive and self absorbed. Just tally the amount of money we --a nation of 70 million-- as individuals have contributed to the tsunami relief efforts. It should all amount to roughly around negative zilch!

And so we are now at the mercy of the arbitrary decisions of some who decide what we can or can not read.

Deterioration of character, my friends, is what befalls people in a creeping sort of way when they are busy planning grandiose social engineering schemes without regards for safeguarding Rights.

But alas, ducks like what quacks. So, in the spirit of the superfluous patriotism of a marionette in the service of the Omniscient State Power, I offer my salute: two cheers for the censors and torturers—the unholy midwives of the grotesque.

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