Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Our Man in Tehran

Sean Penn, apparently between acting jobs, is reporting again for the San Francisco Chronicle, this time from Iran. You may recall that Mr. Penn spent a few days in Iraq back in January, and the Chronicle published his observations in a two-part series, with the reverence typically reserved for a Pulitzer-prize winner.

After reading part one of Penn's latest reportage from Iran, I'd encourage him to continue his acting career. Describing his "article" (and I use that term loosely) as laughably bad would be an act of charity. Consider, for example, this scintillating annecdote, used by Mr. Penn to set the stage for his Iranian oddysey.

"We were sitting in Nayeb restaurant in central Tehran. I’d been holding a piss through the hours of prayer service. So after I ordered my lunch, I excused myself to the men’s room. “Men’s” was written in Farsi above, and “Manly” in English below. I stepped into the water closet, grateful to just have a piss. If I’d had more serious business there, it would’ve been a squat job with no hook for one’s jacket. Now, that would’ve been manly."

Amazingly, that discourse on bodily functions is the highlight of Penn's article. After his trip to the loo, Mr. Penn wades through sophmoric interviews with various Iranian figures. Along the way, they manage to recite most of Tehran's talking points, dropping a few whoppers here and there. For his part, Penn is either unable (or unwilling) to challenge his Iranian hosts. For example:

From the son of former Iranian President Rafsanjani, we learn that the United States made the chemical weapons used against Iranian civilians in 1988. The younger Rafsanjani also opined that there are "only four or five" Iranian dissidents currently in jail, and likened their imprisonment to that of Judith Miller, The New York Times Reporter currently being held on contempt charges, in connection with the Valerie Plame case. Penn notes that Iran's leading dissident, investigative journalist Akbar Ganji, is currently staging a hunger strike in his prison cell, and another leading dissident rejected a request for an interview, fearing a similar fate.

Because of that, Penn begins to "question" the younger Rafsanjani's views on freedom of the press in Iran, suggesting that even a Hollywood dolt can catch on after a while. However, such doubts arise about midway through the article, after Rafsanjani's son paints a glowing picture of life in Iran. "Ordinary" Iranians seem happy as well, but Penn never wonders whether these interviews are legitimate, or simply set-ups from the Iranian information ministry. Afterall, anyone who prints the assertion that the U.S. provided chemical weapons to Iraq (a lie of the first magnitude) will believe almost anything. Indeed, judging from Penn's observations, life is generally good in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it would be a lot better if the U.S. left the peace-loving Iranian leadership alone. Heck, Iran is such a liberal democracy, that Penn actually encountered into a lesbian couple (or a presumed lesbian couple) in Tehran, and procured a bottle of liquor for personal consumption. We can only assume that Mr. Penn was somewhat inebriated when he typed this "article," judging from its (ahem) quality.

Even a left-wing rag like the Chronicle should be castigated for publishing this drivel, apparently with little or no editing. However, in the spirit of fairness, I am willing to end my criticism of the paper, providing they underwrite my expedition to examine human rights issues in Maui.

1 comment:

Clay said...

hey Sean - your 15 minutes are over. g'bye.