Two of the world’s best known Iranian artists, Marjane Satrapi, author of the graphic novel Persepolis and director of the Oscar-winning animated feature based on it, and leading filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, have been presenting apparent “proof” at the European Parliament that Mousavi actually won the elections. This comes in the form of an internal memo allegedly written by Iran’s Interior Minister documenting the actual results.
The Independent’s Robert Fisk raises some questions about the letter’s authenticity, but acknowledges that “it divides the final vote between Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi in such a way that it would have forced a second run-off vote – scarcely something Mousavi’s camp would have wanted,” which helps lend it veracity. Unfortunately, he continues, “The letter may well join the thousands of documents, real and forged, that have shaped Iran’s recent history, the most memorable of which were the Irish passports upon which Messers Robert McFarlane and Oliver North travelled to Iran on behalf of the US government in 1986 to offer missiles for hostages.”
This is one of those situations where it’s not clear whom to believe, because the economy of trustworthiness is nebulous and a little impenetrable. It reminds me of Jodi Dean‘s account of conspiracy cultures in the US, Aliens in America, in which the public-sphere ideal has been so eroded that we are left with an ineradicable “undecidability” about fundamental definitions of reality. My operating hunch, or leap of faith, here is that intellectuals and especially artists who have demonstrated accountability to a complex view of the world (that’s the key) can help weave our way through political confusion. This is a kind of ‘cultural ecology’ argument where communicative/cultural complexity — in the form of pluralism, dialogism, openness to the many-sidedness of perception, and recognition of the ultimate unknowability/undecidability/uncontainability/inassimilability of things (that’s the Lacanian/Derridean/Buddhist piece) counts for something. My leap of faith, then, without knowing much about internal Iranian politics or culture, would be to follow artists like Makhmalbaf, Kiarostami, and others, and of course to mistrust systems that rely on police rule to crush resistance. Which makes me wonder: If an analogous situation erupted in the US or Canada, who would be the artists, writers, filmmakers, I would trust?
More interesting Iran stuff can be found at iran101.blogspot.com and in Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi‘s perceptive analyses, such as this one and this (once you get through the latter’s somewhat over-the-top Israelophobia; aren’t Netanyahu/Lieberman and Khamenei/Ahmadinejad mirror images of a sort?).