Iran pundits

April 15, 2006

A dozen years ago a friend of mine got obsessed with computers. New software needed to be purchased; any new gadget had to be tried. His room was a computer lab rather than a living room. And on his door, where others would have had their name, he attached a cartoon – on the subject of computers. It showed a computer user, standing in front of a pc with a blank screen and telling a technician, “It was suggested to me that the computer might be simply unplugged. But this strikes me as too simple and unimaginative.”

Abhorrence of simplicity is rampant in our age of sophistication. One class of people who just cannot abide it is political pundits. They make quite a good living by scratching deep beneath the surface, by reading between the lines, by showing that no word means what it says. Nothing is simple; everything has double, triple or quadruple meaning: one for supporters, another for opponents; one for domestic audience, another for the foreigners. Every sentence is to be parsed to distill its true, hidden purpose.

I don’t suggest that this never makes sense, but the habit is being carried to the point of making us unable to take a political statement at its face value. A dual meaning has to be found, whether intended or not. When Mr. Ahmadinedjad, the president of Iran, repeatedly expressed a wish to wipe Israel off the map, the pundits jumped in and deciphered the meaning of hateful words to everyone’s relief and satisfaction. Iranian president was simply rallying the base; he was trying to advance Iran’s prestige in the Moslem world, putting Iran at the forefront of Islamic community; his rhetoric was but showing off of an inexperienced politician.

May be; but there is another explanation that is commonly ignored by the pundits as too simple and unimaginative, and thus going against the very core of punditry – that Mr. Ahmadinedjad simply said what he meant. Simple as it is, this explanation may be quite adequate, for at times simple explanations are quite adequate. Such, at least, was the case of the computer problem in my friend’s cartoon – upon its close inspection, one could see electric plug lying idly on the floor. And, likewise, there is no need to get too imaginative with the words emanating from the one as full of idolatrous Truth as is Mr. Ahmadinedjad.

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