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December 04, 2003

Let's start shaping debates, not be shaped by them
Hossein Derakhshan  [info|posts]

The mainstream Western media has long forgotten Iran as a major factor of political change in the Middle East. They only remember Iran during the elections or if something nasty happens. They used to be more interested in Iranian internal issues when they were hoping that out of the entire reformist movement, something big would happen, but now it seems as if Iran has lost its importance, except for the nuclear issues. But part of the reason for this has been our own selves.

The sad reality is that Iranian intellectuals and writers figures have never been actively involved in shaping debates--or at least participating in them.

Aside from a few, mostly right-wing-backed columnists such as Amir Taheri have been writing op-ed pieces for major western newspapers.

There are numerous educated Iranians, especially from the younger generation, who are qualified and capable enough to raise important issues about Iran by writing articles, stories and opinion columns in the Western media. But it seems they suffer from two things: lack of confidence, and lack of journalistic connections.

I believe it's time to overcome these two barriers, especially while we have overcome the huge and strong barrier of language, which, in my opinion, has been the biggest cause of the problem for the last decades. Therefore we only need to find the confidence and the network we require to be able to shape important debates on Iranian issues.

The solution to both of these, I believe, lies within a favorite term of the recent years in Internet-savvy community: Peer-to-Peer networking.

All of us have different contacts in various publications in North America and in Europe. If we share them all with each other and create a network of these shared contacts, we would absolutely be able to produce a couple of insightful columns with fresh viewpoints every week in various newspapers and magazines. And if we can only keep it going for a while, it would not only help us gain the necessary confidence, but also grab the attention of the media even without much networking. Then, after a couple of years of hard work, it will be Western editors who desparately need Iranian columnists to write for them, not Iranians.

Free Thoughts on Iran could be a great starting point for such a network. We can share our journalistic and academic contacts and begin to frequently send our writings to them. They surely can't ignore the quality pieces that Free Thoughts on Iran members and editors systematically produce. We can start from the local newspapers and magazines, and once we get enough credit, we can start pitching bigger and more famous publications.

Medi Yahyanejad, one of the founders of Free Thoughts, had previously written about this problem and I think this could be a good move to actually try to find a solution.

It's time for educated Iranian men and women to start shaping the public opinions of Western people and politicians by creating debates themselves, and not leaving it to not-necessarily knowledgeable Western journalists. The big heads in the Western press might resist it for a while, but not very long. Aren't we now strong enough not to be ignored?

shahrzad at December 4, 2003 11:26 PM [permalink]:

Hossein: Let's stop talking crap!

Nasser at December 4, 2003 11:34 PM [permalink]:

I have a question. I would like to write about Islamic Laws and rules for Australian newspapers.particularely human rights in Iran or criminal laws or laws related to women. I do not know how to contact them. Should I first finish my article then contact them? whom should I contact to? Please advise me on this issue if you have any knowledge about them.

Seńor Gręd at December 5, 2003 11:22 AM [permalink]:

I don't like the title of your post(ing), Hossein. Of course we will be shaped, and we should be, by debates. Otherwise, what would be the point of debating anyway? I have more to write about your post(ing), but first I need to get a life. Until then, then!

WhoMan at December 5, 2003 12:59 PM [permalink]:

Some sporadic thoughts:
1- Media carries the news that sell. Iran's news don't sell. Iran's political developments have always been fundamental but gradual. That's why they are interesting to analysts, but not to the mainstream listeners/viewers of a mainstream media.

2-I have some insights into column writing. Respectable papers don't publish anyone's writings. You have to be recognized somehow first. Either a well-known journalist who has focused on a particular subject for a while (keep in mind, not even an ordinary journalist), or someone who has had first hand experience of the subject like a former diplomat or an analyst. About the less respected papers, it's still too hard to get into. But then again you would think how many people read a column on Iran. Not so many. Add this to the fact there are many people who have graduated from jounalism schools or have first hand experiences and yet there are too few columns in all papers for them. It's a very competitive business and sometimes you have to suck up to the editors.

3- Hossein, I did a homework on that back in a year ago, but then your motto on why you're the editor of yourself struck a cord with me. You basically didn't want to suck up to editors. So I started blogging. Now I have a good number of readers that satisfies me. I have become too lazy by blogging or half-assed journalism to engage in real article writing! Yeah blogging is subversive.

Seńor Gręd at December 5, 2003 01:18 PM [permalink]:

I think I understand what you are trying to say, Hossein. You are craving for a more serious involvement of Iranians, especially the Iranian youth, in mainstream Western media, because you think they and their viewpoints are currently under-represented. You assume that the language barrier has been overcome, which I don't quite agree with. Writing in acceptable English is not always easy for the majority of us, myself included. Your very post(ing) above is (unfortunately) full of minor English mistakes.

Writing for American magazines in general is not an as easy a task as it seems, Hossein. You not only need connections, which always helps, but you also need to be a full time writer, you have to dedicate your whole life to it, whilst most of the guys in FToI are full time graduate students in areas far from journalism or political science or the like, which is why it is truly amazing that they have been able to achieve even this much.

One other thing is the mainstream Western media do not necessarily have an interest in what is happening in a country unless it has something to do with themselves, and understandably so. Iran is no exception. Why should they be over-concerned about what's happening in Iran if it doesn't have much to do with them? Having said that, I have been finding almost one article per issue in the prestigious weekly The Economist that is related to Iran, so...

Anyway, since you mentioned Amir Taheri (whom I don't know), I'd like to mention a young Iranian writer who is also interested in Iranian affairs and whom I personally find surprisingly well-balanced: Afshin Molavi, who has actually published a book, that I have not yet managed to read, but does sound like a good read.

Finally, I'm delighted by your active optimism.

Seńor Gręd at December 5, 2003 01:28 PM [permalink]:

I'm glad that while I was working on my comment, WhoMan clarified in the 2nd part of his comment a point that I agree with, but I had not been able to put that well in my own comment. Upon reading my own comment one more time, I would like to replace "surprisingly" by "refreshingly". Thanks!

Pouria at December 7, 2003 07:33 PM [permalink]:

Hossein, you ask that we shape debates, not be shaped by them, yet in your previous post it is clear that you are the one being shaped by the present debate about the political situation in Iran.

JFTDMaster at December 8, 2003 08:47 PM [permalink]:

After I asked the to print an article by Amir Taheri, he began appearing on conservative papers in the West. Funny how things work out.

Did you know that Israel's current president, Moshe Katsav, and Israel's current defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, were born in Iran?

JFTDMaster at December 8, 2003 08:54 PM [permalink]:

You could probably get an article backed by "right-wing-backed columnists" if you just ask them. They are people in America actually interested in Iran. You could start with columnists of