In his column this week for Slate.com, Christopher Hitchens describes the paranoia that warps the perspectives of the radical Mullahs who rule Iran, and who have spent most of the last two weeks insisting that the recent landslide reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which sent hundreds of thousands of protestors into the streets of Tehran, was on the up-and-up.
There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran’s internal affairs. The deep belief that everything — especially anything in English — is already and by definition an intervention is part of the very identity and ideology of the theocracy.
After generations of British imperialism, says Hitchens, the ayatollahs and much of the Iranian public are apt to blame any misfortune that befalls their nation on a vast Anglo conspiracy. It’s chilling to think that the government of Iran, with its army and, perhaps soon, its nuclear arsenal, is controlled by the Persian equivalent of the 9/11 Truth Movement. But that’s not the only parallel that jumped out at me from Hitchens’s article.
It also immediately brought to mind the criticism of President Obama’s response to the Iranian protests by the likes of Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin — all three richly deserving of immortalization on the face of Asshole Mount Rushmore. “What happened to the spirit of Ronald Reagan?” Levin demanded shrilly on his show last night. “What happened to ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall’?” Hannity’s anti-Obama diatribes, because he never says anything someone else hasn’t said already, have sounded much the same.
Conservative mouthpieces like Hannity, Levin, Beck, not to mention the Supreme Leader himself, Rush Limbaugh (who’s been on vacation for this) are generally critical of Obama, so their reaction to his handling of the Iran situation doesn’t surprise me. What struck me about the above Hitchens quote, though, was that phrase “by definition.” Does anyone honestly believe that conservative talk radio would be showering the president with praise and glowing comparisons to Reagan’s Berlin Wall speech had Obama been more openly supportive of the would-be reformers in Iran? Would any of them even offer the president a grudging pat on the back in that case? I don’t think so.
I’m not saying that serious, considered, rational criticism of Barack Obama is impossible or inappropriate on this issue (Hitchens manages it very well elsewhere in his article); I’m saying that the criticisms of Obama’s careful handling of the Iran situation from right-wing water-boys like Hannity and Levin aren’t based on honest, rational consideration. No matter what Obama’s reaction had been, he’d be taking shit for it from this lot. It’s become a pillar of their ideology. They oppose him on principle. They oppose him by definition.
Hannity likes to describe the liberal-leaning media and the president himself as suffering from “Bush derangement syndrome,” reflexively blaming our current economic and international troubles on the inept presidency of George W. Bush. But aren’t he and his colleagues in the field of conservative punditry just as infected by Obama derangement syndrome? From their wild overreaction to Obama’s measured attitude toward Iran, I’d say their affliction is a lot more serious.