Iranian Poobahs Pooh-Pooh Western Pop; Beethoven, Brahms, Bach Also Banned

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Lee Harris at TCS Daily on the latest inane gesture from the president of Iran:

Ahmadinejad isn't just banning Eminem, Fifty Cent, and Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aron, which might be reasonable; nor banning the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Weber, which would be positively commendable. No, Ahmadinejad is banning Bach's St. Matthew Passion (obviously); Wagner's Tristan and Isolde; the wonderful songs of Harold Arlen, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and Jerome Kern. Also forbidden are Handel's endlessly diverting Concerti Grossi, Opus 6, Gabriel Faure's chamber music, Eric Clapton's guitar, and Anton Bruckner's vast cathedrals of sound….

Let The Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council do its worst; it can never hope to erase either Beethoven's sublime melody or the poetry of humanitarianism with which it will forever be associated. As long as men can hum to themselves, it will continue to stir men's souls and to elevate them above all the pettiness that divides us. It will remain long after Ahmadinejad has become merely a footnote in the history of our dark and troubled times.

Whole thing here. I could do without the Beethovenolatry (indeed, I can't be the only one who thinks a heavy radio rotation of Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds' "Don't Pull Your Love [Out]" would flip the Islamic government in a long weekend), but the point holds.

We looked at the subversive power of music in the Middle East here. And here are some related articles. We checked out official Iranian rock 'n' roll here and told Iran to "Go Fuck Yourself with Your Atom Bomb Pop Songs" here.

NEXT: The Coalition of the Willing Just Got Less Thrilling

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  1. Isn’t it “Brahms”?

  2. it can never hope to erase either Beethoven’s sublime melody or the poetry of humanitarianism with which it will forever be associated. As long as men can hum to themselves, it will continue to stir men’s souls and to elevate them above all the pettiness that divides us.

    Oh horseshit. This same guy just wrote an essay citing Thomas Hobbes in calling for some kind of benevolent dictatorship in Iraq. As far as I can tell, he was being totally serious.

  3. It’s only Bach ‘n’ roll but I like it.

  4. Let The Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council do its worst; it can never hope to erase either Beethoven’s sublime melody or the poetry of humanitarianism with which it will forever be associated. As long as men can hum to themselves, it will continue to stir men’s souls and to elevate them above all the pettiness that divides us.

    If I were one of the Iranians forced to live under this new ruling, the statement quoted above would absolutely infuriate me. The problem isn’t that Iran will succeed in wiping Beethoven out of humanity’s collective memory; the problem is that Iranians are forbidden to listen to it without facing serious penalties.

    Pompous jackass. The Taliban’s don’t-educate-girls rule had no chance of successfully ridding the world of Literate Females. Does this mean it wasn’t too bad?

  5. I’m still a-hatin’ people.

    Jennifer,

    I took your quoted part to mean only that the Iranian government is being kinda dumb.

    I don’t think it was an endorsement.

    I will, however, wholly endorse the goal of keeping girls from reading. I like that.

  6. Wait, did you just read my comment? What have I told you about reading???

  7. Shorter Lee Harris: The Clash. I can’t imagine anything further needs to be said on the subject.

  8. Faure’s chamber music? They don’t like the modulations? The most sublime harmonies imaginable.

    I could see banning Erik Satie, perhaps, just for the performance directions. “May the righteous indignation of God crush out the proud and the unholy”

  9. “The revolutionary implications of Arab music videos.”

    When I read this piece now, doing my best to strip it of any of the context I may have projected onto it when it was written. …anything regarding the Iraq War or any mechanistic explanations for the inner workings of Reverse Domino Theory, etc… When I read it that way, it makes more sense to me now.

    …originally, it made no sense to me at all.

    Regardless, wasn’t it the implications of the videos, rather than the music, that were supposed to be subversive?

  10. I took your quoted part to mean only that the Iranian government is being kinda dumb. I don’t think it was an endorsement.

    No, it wasn’t an endorsement, but it was an appallingly callous thing to say. It sounds to me like Harris is reassuring people: don’t worry, Iran will never be able to eradicate music from the world. No shit, Sherlock; nobody thought they would.

    “Let the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council do its worst”? Go live in Iran before you say that, Lee Harris; you’re not the one who suffers when the Supreme Council does just that.

  11. *sigh*

    Under a dictatorship, what should be mundane activities take on revolutionary significance.

    This, I think, allows people to play at being rebel without actually doing anything that threatens the oppressive power structure.

  12. This, I think, allows people to play at being rebel without actually doing anything that threatens the oppressive power structure.

    Marjane Satrapi has another theory; her book Persepolis details her childhood in revolutionary Iran. And she said (paraphrased), “A woman who is always asking herself ‘Is my hair covered? Is my veil straight? Are my ankles sufficiently hidden?’ is NOT asking herself ‘Where is my freedom of speech? Where is my freedom of thought? Where is my freedom to control my own destiny?'”

    Now, Iranians can busy themselves with questions like ‘Are my walls sufficiently soundproof to keep the music from leaking outside? Are my CDs is a safe enough hiding place? I’m not accidentally humming a tune in earshot of the cops, am I?’

  13. As I recall, the Iranian liberals boycotted the election.

    Good work, guys. Yeah, the thing was probably rigged, but you didn’t even try. Even in a rigged election, the odds are that your favorite candidate would have done better than Badnarik did. But you didn’t even try.

    I realize that the real power lies with the unelected officials, not the elected officials (hence things were so shitty even when Khatami was in office), but you guys sent the Ayatollahs a loud message: You can’t be bothered to mount even symbolic resistance.

    If you can’t mobilize a bunch of people to vote, how will you get a crowd to stand in front of the tanks? How will you ever get a crowd big enough to lynch Khameini?

    Good work, guys.

  14. There’s an argument to be made for not lending any legitimacy to an illegitimate election, thoreau.

    …The mullahs disqualified reformist candidates for office. You could only vote for the approved opposition candidate. If Bush had disqualified Badnarik, I wouldn’t have voted for whomever the President appointed to run in his place, that’s for sure.

  15. Then submit a blank ballot.

  16. Then submit a blank ballot.

    To what end? For the private knowledge that you stood by your principles as the mullahs and clerics shafted you in the ass again? Iran needs a revolution of revolutionary proportions. Either that, or they really do need to procure nuclear weapons so we can begin the process of turning Tehran into a smoking sand trap.

  17. “Then submit a blank ballot.”

    According to this bit, it looks like a number of people did as you suggested, although it’s hard to tell precisely how many. (See “Blank or invalid votes”)

    I see Jamie Kelly’s point though. …If you’re gonna screw me, I’m not gonna help you.

    If the link is accurate, the second round had a 60% participation rate, which makes the election appear legitimate. As a reformist, I’d want to attack the legitimacy of that number and suggest that people didn’t get to vote for the candidate they wanted. …’cause the results aren’t helpin’ my cause any.

    …Unfortunately, for reformists, Ahmadinezhad won 62% of that vote, apparently, with a populist message.

    I’ve pointed the following out to those who see the ballot box as the answer to America’s terrorist woes. Elections are like a box of chocolates–you never know what you’re gonna get. I don’t think much of Hugo Chavez, but, from what I can tell, he seems to be the legitimately elected leader of Venezuela. He may be illegitimate in the eyes of many of his own people, but he’s popular enough to win an election. It kinda looks like the same thing in Iran. People don’t always want what we want them to want.

    …If I suggested that every democracy has to confront its own Popular Sovereignty issues sooner or later, would someone accuse me of some kind of cultural superiority complex?

  18. Honestly, Thoreau, what good would a blank ballot do? Expressing your disdain to someone only makes a difference if the person gives a damn what you think. I doubt the mullahs do.

  19. I don’t know why more liberals didn’t show up to vote for Moeen in the first round. I would have done that, based on what I know, but maybe there’s something I don’t know.

    As to the second round, I don’t claim that the blank ballot is a magic cure for anything. But I’d rather register my disapproval that way than stay home on election day. Yeah, the ideal solution would be a revolution, but until that happens, the blank ballot is a form of protest.

    Ahmadjinead got a little more than 17 million votes, or about 36% of eligible voters. Rafsanjani got a little over 10 million votes. If another 15% of eligible voters (7 million) had cast blank ballots rather than taking the advice to boycott, they could have denied Ahmadjinead a majority. Given that Khatami won twice, it’s sad that the liberals couldn’t find 15% who were willing to wave their middle fingers at the system with blank ballots.

    I don’t know that denying him a majority would have had any effect under the law, but they should have at least shown up to flip the bird at the authoritarians.

    I, for one, refuse to stay at home on election day. I’d sooner feed a blank ballot into the Diebold machine than give up.

  20. If another 15% of eligible voters (7 million) had cast blank ballots rather than taking the advice to boycott, they could have denied Ahmadjinead a majority.

    I don’t know how the Iranian system works; do they actually count blank ballots like that?

  21. “I don’t know how the Iranian system works; do they actually count blank ballots like that?”

    In the link I gave above, they list the number of “Blank or invalid” votes; and while “invalid” is a bit unclear, context suggests it includes ballots in which the voter did as thoreau suggested as well as ballots cast for disqualified candidates.

    …There were probably some hanging chads in there too.

  22. Is Ahmadinejad Bizarro Bush, or is Bush Bizarro Ahmadinejad?

    Inquiring minds want to know.
    (Don’t answer with a blank ballot.)

  23. This ballot is not blank. I detect a faint but obviously visible indentation in the surface of this ballot. This person’s vote for Ahmadinejad must be counted! Their feeble attempt to punch a hole in a bit of paper will be heard!

  24. Clapton is not God!

  25. I will, however, wholly endorse the goal of keeping girls from reading. I like that.

    I can’t imagine what good it would do, they’d just invent their own special code & not tell men about it (if they haven’t already).

  26. Weren’t the Iranians electing reformers a few years ago?

    It’s funny how the people totaling up the Godot-like tidal wave of democratic reform unleashed by the Iraq War never turn their gaze towards Iran, where there used to a large, active, liberal democratic student/popular reform movement, and where electoral popularity is now about being more Islamist and anti-liberal than thou.

  27. I think Ahmadinejad appeal to “Red Iran.” People like him because he endorses traditional values and a strong military.

    Also, he seems like someone you could sit down and eat a goat with.

  28. ?nor banning the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Weber, which would be positively commendable.

    Damn straight.

    Oh, and you can also add me to the “Beethoven stirs men’s souls and has the power to elevate them above pettiness” camp.

  29. More interesting facts about Ahmadinejad, joe:

    1) He campaigned on a promise of massive social spending. (I wonder if he’ll give free pills to the elderly?)

    2) He relies heavily on his religious base.

    3) A lot of people are wondering what he was doing in the 1970’s.

    I’m just glad that a person like that could never win high office in this country.

    Right?

    Um, right?

    Oh, shit!

  30. Boy, that’s really dumb, thoreau. I’ll just assume you’ve been blinded by, oh, a green light and haven’t been able to think straight lately.

  31. LOL, thoreau.

    Doug, get the stick out of your ass. “A lot of people are wondering what he was doing in the 1970s” – that’s funny!

  32. The question about whether and under what circumstances common acts can become revolutionary ones reminds me of something that occurred to me. In a lot of countries even something like listening to the “wrong” music is a crime and a revolutionary act; in the US, you can call the president a chimp and a fascist, demand that he be driven out, etc., and the collective response of the establishment is a big yawn. The political establishment of the US seems to have co-opted or at least defanged criticism and resistance by ignoring it. Again, in a lot of countries, if there’s a protest in front of the Pooh-bah’s office, the response is something like “Aaa! Call out the guards! Shoot them all!” In this country, it’s, “Oh, look. Another march. Well, whatever.” And then all the marchers go home happy that they’ve waved their banners for a few hours, and nothing changes.

    I wonder whether our seeming freedom actually makes real anti-state consciousness and action harder, not easier. When everything is permitted, how do you meaningfully resist?

  33. This sounds like a job for Radio Free America.. Park a 150,000 watt station nearby Iran, and broadcast news and “forbidden” music to the Iranian masses.

  34. When everything is permitted, how do you meaningfully resist?

    If everything were permitted, one wouldn’t have to resist.

  35. Jennifer

    As an ex-pat of Iran (I left when I was 13) I fully agree with your assesment and paraphrase:

    Marjane Satrapi has another theory; her book Persepolis details her childhood in revolutionary Iran. And she said (paraphrased), “A woman who is always asking herself ‘Is my hair covered? Is my veil straight? Are my ankles sufficiently hidden?’ is NOT asking herself ‘Where is my freedom of speech? Where is my freedom of thought? Where is my freedom to control my own destiny?’

    I think that’s absolutely dead on.

    Here’s some Context:

    The ruling that Ahmadinejad made “technically” only applies to the state owned TV stations. Not the street vendors who are the main source of media in today’s Iran.

    It is a known tactic in during the Islamic Republic era of the last 25 years to cause scandals and “reshuffle” the power structure as a means of either hiding incompotence/corruption or causing a ruckus that would check the advances of your rivals. The Salman Rushdie edict that Ayatollah Khomeini made was widely seen as a way to curb the overtly Pro-west, then-president Rafsanjani was making with the government of Margaret Thathcher. Ahmadinejad, I suspect, is using the same tactic, yet he seems to be far dumber and less tactful than Khomeini, he also has no clerical accredation (yes, i know saying clerical accredation is an oxymoron yet it is significant within the Islamic republic run by clerics)

    But all that said, i’m kinda glad the world has seen the true face of what a “hezbollahi” (member of the ruling party in Iran, and of course, hezbollah of Lebanon) thinks like. I was chastized in school by my religious teachers for reading nietzche at 12 as it was deemed too anti-god, yet my philosophy teacher who was of the old guard encouraged me in secret and gave me books to read.

    The so called “resistence” movement in Iran is oddly not very Political, it is mostly CULTURAL. You see, Islam needs to be in control of ALL thing for the “Perfect Human Society” to manifest itself, is the claim of the muslim believers. And controling the mind of all the citizens seems to be yet another feable attempt to prolong an ill-functioning government.

    Little chuckle fact: Ahmadinejad has a PHD in traffic management, he got his master’s the old fashioned way, by going to classes and taking the tests, but his PHD was “awarded” to him as an honorary degree! Making him even less qualified to run a country.

  36. I, for one, refuse to stay at home on election day. I’d sooner feed a blank ballot into the Diebold machine than give up.

    Are you presuming that ballots are indeed secret, and there won’t be a “reeducation” visit circa 2:00 AM?

  37. “Little chuckle fact: Ahmadinejad has a PHD in traffic management”

    Bazil,
    If he would come out four-square against traffic signals, he would get my blank ballot… or, at least one thumb up from me here on H&R.
    Are there many round-abouts over there?

  38. Doug, get the stick out of your ass.

    tee hee, does that make you feel better?

  39. Are you presuming that ballots are indeed secret, and there won’t be a “reeducation” visit circa 2:00 AM?

    OK, fair point.

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