Meeting Ahmadinejad, Trashing ‘Hollywoodism,’ And Eating Kabob

Tehran, Iran: Iran seems to many to be next in line for the Iraqi freedom treatment, the latest in a long line of “enemy” nations menaced by overt and covert military threats by the United States and its allies.

Tehran. Photo: Maryam Ashoori (CC)

Tehran. Photo: Maryam Ashoori (CC)

As the psyops operations and media propaganda intensifies, you might think war is imminent for defense and that Iran is doing what countries under threat do in these circumstances—such as mobilizing their people and preparing for a bombing onslaught.

Think again. While I have been told that military targets have been or are being moved around, the atmosphere in Tehran is relaxed with more talk of a cultural battlefield than a military one. There’s a commemoration under way of the 33rd anniversary of the Iranian revolution and an international conference on “Hollywoodism and Cinema” as an extension of an annual Fajr film festival.

And that’s what I am doing here, as a guest participant in an event that sees Hollywood as a bigger enemy than the Pentagon. It has become for then an ISM and is the subject of discussions over its global role in shaping positive attitudes towards what passes for American “civilization,” its relationship to the awakenings and uprisings throughout the world—Iran’s Press TV probably devotes more coverage to Occupy Wall Street than any TV channel and its alleged support for Zionism and Israel, a country that’s only cited here as “the Zionist Regime.”

Israel, in turn is even more hostile seeing Iran as an “existential threat.” Sometimes it looks like both countries—both under the influence of religious fanaticism– need a stereotyped enemy to rally their own populations. It is Israel that is banging the drums loudest for war.

The conference was opened by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who didn’t have much good to say about Hollywood, which, paradoxically, celebrated its 125th anniversary on February 1.

“All those who work in Hollywood push ideas, based on getting maximum of profit and pleasure using any possible methods,” Ahmadinejad said. “We do not expect anything from Hollywood.”

Speaking softly and philosophically, Ahmadinejad noted that people must “deliver truth and facts”, so that “masses would follow up.”

About 48 foreign scholars are here, and one News Dissector. Most of President’s speech was really about values more than politics emphasizing the importance of the cultural environment. He believes it is impacted negatively by a movie industry that does little to educate customers about the world’s crises.

He rejected Marxism and Liberalism speaking of man as a creation of God who is caught between conflicting pressures to be selfish or to serve humanity.

I am not sure that the President knew that one of the Hollywood companies leading the charge against Iran is owned by Disney and one I used to work for: ABC News.

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) singles out a recent ABC newscast as an egregious example of propaganda.

“America’s top spy warns that Iran is willing to launch a terrorist strike inside the U.S.,” announced anchor Diane Sawyer at the top of the program. “We’ll tell you his evidence.”

The ABC report was actually very light on evidence. It did, however, pass along numerous incendiary allegations from government officials–without the skeptical scrutiny that is real journalism’s primary function.

Echoing the government, Sawyer set up the report with an assertion that Iran is “more determined than ever to launch an attack on U.S. soil.” Correspondent Martha Raddatz, claiming that the “the saber-rattling coming from Iran has been constant,” told viewers that Clapper delivered “a new bracing warning…. Iran may be more ready than ever to launch terror attacks inside the United States.”

Reports like this are barely criticized in Iran because there have been so many of them for so many years, with ABC’s earlier “America Held Hostage” series a well known example of reporting as incitement.

After his talk, an Iranian friend pushed me into the President’s path where I tried to engage him, asking if would be willing to talk to American leaders.

He smiled, responding, “Washington does not want to have any dialogues.” So that was a non-starter.

I then smiled back and asked if the American people have reasons to fear him and an Iranian nuclear bomb.

This time, he laughed as if I was being naïve. (I was trying to be provocative.)

Looking up at me, he asked if I thought he was scary, and then denied that Iran was building bombs or threatening the American people. He was very calm as he spoke.

Admittedly the evidence for Iran doing so is not very strong and, in fact, a recent report indicated that the US military wants Israel to chill out its agitation and bombing threats.

(Gareth Porter reports on IPS: “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.”)

I then told the President I have been covering Occupy Wall Street and asked what his advice would be to them.

As a charter member of the Iranian student movement, he was quick to express admiration for those in the streets struggling for justice in America, but added, “The Wall Street movement has to deepen its work” by intensifying its organizing efforts.

At that point, his security intensified its presence, and after welcoming me to his country, I was pushed gently to the side as he went back to work. My “interview” was over.

The conference continued in the afternoon with more reports on the Occupy Movement and analysis of Hollywood’s impact. On hand to receive an award for his father Oliver Stone, was his son Sean who spoke about the growing power of social media. If nothing else, his dad has proven that Hollywood can produce topical dramas and social criticism.

The Zionism issue was spoken to by three anti-Zionist Rabbis and raised in an interview that I did live on Press TV Thursday night which I found not so much anti-Semitic as totally uninformed about many in the Jewish community worldwide who are not only not ardent Zionists but are critical of the Israeli occupation of Palestinians and the suppression of their rights.

The host was startled by the vehemence of my views that may not have much support at high levels in the government. I was glad to have an opportunity to publicly challenge holocaust denial in Iran and combat stereotypes, even as Hollywood legitimately stood accused of creating them of Muslims.

This is my second trip to Iran, a country that is being embargoed, sanctioned and put down in our media with nary a chance to talk back. That’s why I came—to learn more about Iran’s views that have been banished from the airways in Britain, and rarely, if ever, given airtime in what passes for our “free” media. Iran is escalating its media efforts with a new channel in Spanish.

There is more to come, and I am already on Kabob overload.

Danny Schechter writes about Occupy Wall Street on Al Jazeera, Progressive Radio Network other outlets and his News Dissector blog. He made the film Plunder the Crime Of Our Time. Please email comments to

11 Comments on "Meeting Ahmadinejad, Trashing ‘Hollywoodism,’ And Eating Kabob"

  1. feint_ruled | Feb 3, 2012 at 8:57 am |

    Well – while I have no doubt that the US and Israel have vested interests in demonizing Iran as much as possible, I don’t quite buy this Ahmadinejad as big cuddly uncle act either. Iran is a repressive theocracy and shouldn’t get a pass just because the West hate them.

  2. Jihadmedia | Feb 3, 2012 at 8:58 am |

    I like the part where disinfo openly endorsed the abuse of women and anything anti white or christian, because that is how you maintain an open non partisan viewpoint. Also, they hate the jews.

    • smooth_operator | Feb 3, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

      That must be why Iran has the second largest Jewish population outside of Israel in the Middle East.  It must also be why a Jew has been elected to Iranian parliament in successive terms.

      Iran wants to see Zionism end, not Jews.  Kind of like the American establishment wanted to see Communism end, not Russians.

  3. thegrubz | Feb 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm |

    Ridiculous article. Israel is a secular country in which 40% of the popular identifies as completely secular, with only 10% identifying as “ultra-religious” (check the 2009 census). It is known to have one of the most queer-friendly cities in the world, Tel Aviv. 

    Iran is a self-defined “Islamic Republic” ruled by a fundamentalist government. Watch the movie Persepolis or read the graphic novel for a first-hand account. Or read this:

    Iran threatens to destroy Israel. Israel threatens to defend itself. 

    To say the two are basically analogous in respect to religious fanaticism is totally ridiculous. 

    • Antediluvian | Feb 3, 2012 at 10:10 pm |

      And Israel is a self-defined Jewish state, i.e. it defines itself in terms of ethnicity.  Be an ethnic Jew, get citizenship.  Read Hans Kohn’s work on the “Idea of Nationalism”, where he elaborates on the dichotomy between ethnic and civil nationalism.  He, a Jew proud of his cultural heritage, was disappointed in Israel’s turn for the former, instead of the latter.  Israel embodies all the characteristics that humanity has resoundingly rejected in the last century – settler colonialism, racism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and genocide.

      • To lobby all those loaded terms at Israel is both wrong and to willfully ignore the details of its existential situation on a number of levels. First and foremost, that Israel exists because so-called civic nations have for centuries employed each against the Jews.

  4. Jjchia07 | Feb 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    Interesting article about the ethical and legal systems in these nations by a former muslim.

  5. Brilliant smack-down of a CFR-backed puff-piece shamelessly dog-whistling the ‘Iranian threat’ and openly advocating the commission of what the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg called “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” available here:

    “When Kroenig is trying to justify the need for war, he
    depicts an Iran with far-reaching capabilities and dangerously evil intentions
    in order to convince readers that we have to stop them before it is too late. But
    when he turns to selling a preventive war, then suddenly Iran’s capabilities
    are rather modest, its leaders are sensible, and the United States can easily
    deal with any countermeasures that Iran might take. In other words, Kroenig
    makes the case for war by assuming everything will go south if the United
    States does not attack and that everything will go swimmingly if it does. This
    is not fair-minded “analysis”; it is simply a brief for war designed
    to reach a predetermined conclusion.

  6. I’m no fan of American imperialism, though I am a strong supporter of Israel.

    When Iran stops hanging gays (or anyone) from cranes, stops sentencing people to death for “espionage,” stops treating women like shit… you can start bitching about American and Israeli bullying of Iran.

  7. Ceausescu | Feb 4, 2012 at 4:35 am |

    Great article !
    Too bad that many people like the dramatic shit propagated by the mainstream media :/

Comments are closed.