Posted by: manafanana | May 27, 2008

If we all change our middle names to Hussein, then Iran will like us, right?

Given how many people still think Barack Obama is a Muslim, I cringe every time I see media coverage of his stance on negotiating with Iran. Not because I think the debate over negotiations is unimportant, but because the coverage I’ve seen so far has been riddled with islamophobic/racist arguments and commentary that are both offensive and inaccurate. Case in point:

This L.A. Times blog article entitled: Is Iran gunning for a victory by presidential candidate Barack Obama?

Depends on whom you ask. But, yeah. It is.

Despite the official line that it won’t make any difference who wins the U.S. presidency (after all, they say, America is totally under the thumb of “Zionists”), Iranians are watching the U.S. elections closely and rooting for a victory by the Illinois senator, who has said he’s willing to agree to unconditional talks with Iran.

Well this doesn’t seem so bad. I mean, I’m a little disturbed by the suggestion that all Iranians are doing anything, considering that, like any other country, it’s filled with people with differing political and ideological views and priorities. But still, I’ll give them that since these types of generalizations are often useful for the sake of concision…

Not only is Obama’s middle name Hussein that of the prophet Mohammad’s grandson (revered as the saint of all saints by Iran’s majority Shiites) but the candidate’s foreign policy seems light years away from the saber-rattling of President Bush and Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Oh, *smashes head on desk*. I see I spoke too soon.

Let me get this straight, on the list of reasons why Iran would like Obama to be our president they have:

  1. He would agree to unconditional talks.
  2. Hey guys, he’s got a name we like!

Brilliant! We can all just change our names to Hussein and there will be world peace. Or, conversely, everyone in the Middle East can change their names to Peter, Jesus’ favorite apostle. Right guys? …Guys?

Special Bonus Round: An extra 1200 points for using “saber-rattling” imagery in an article dealing exclusively with Iran-U.S. relations. They even used it in reference to U.S. politicians that way it wouldn’t be overtly offensive. Nice. I love the subtle reinforcement of stereotypes.

But wait! What would this article be without some revisionist history?

Iran is a hornet’s nest for American presidents. Jimmy Carter lost the presidency in 1980 largely thanks to the ongoing hostage crisis. Ronald Reagan’s reputation was tarnished as a result of his underlings’ secret arms deals with Iran in what came to be called the Iran-Contra affair. George Bush the elder weathered arrows slung at him after he pardoned six officials busted in Iran-Contra during the waning days of his administration. Bill Clinton struggled first to isolate and contain Iran and then to encourage warmer ties after the election of reformist Mohammed Khatami as president in 1997.

George W. Bush now blames almost all of the world’s evils on Iran, which has become something of an administration obsession during the last year of his term.

(Emphasis mine.)

See how they turned it around and made Iran the “hornet’s nest”? It’s Iran that’s dangerous. U.S. presidents just wander innocently in and Iranians attack like a swarm. The article fails to mention these witless presidents’ actual agendas, like (along with half of Europe) exploiting the political situation in Iran in order to gain control of more oil. Western imperialism isn’t a factor or anything—it’s all the hornets’ fault.

Articles like this not only over-simplify the issues (and history), but they also contribute to negative stereotypes about Muslims in general (for proof, see the comments at the end of the article) and completely wrong assumptions about Barack Obama and his policies.




  1. Can I be Mary Magdelin?

  2. Only if I can be Doubting Thomas. You have to love the guy who’s remembered for 2000 years simply because he was like, “You gotta be kidding me!” 😛

  3. What’s in a person? All you need to know is their name.

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