Thursday, November 30, 2006

Take a walk on the Sharp Side

"Azar Nafisi writes about the current crackdown by the crackpot Iranian regime on what can be published in Iran", says The Literary Saloon, supplying a link to her article in the Guardian Review. Crackpot compared to what?, one might ask.
Unfortunately, Ellis Sharp's pertinent question won't be heard by anything like as many as those who read The Literary Saloon or the Guardian because his blog is inexplicably under-recognised. I notice it has only 15 Bloglines subscriptions to its RSS feed. Crazy! It's one of the few literary blogs (along with the Literary Saloon's) to whose every post I pay attention. Yet many others will not read of his necessary qualification of Nafisi's deceptively uncontroversial call for solidarity with Iranians against censorship.
With an American fleet and hospital ships in position near the Iranian coast, I can’t help thinking that perhaps the best way of supporting Iranians is to say that we don’t feel that they should be bombed.
Sharp then provides the equally necessary literary insight (i.e. for a literary blog) with a quotation from the unusually prescient analysis of Western policy in the Middle East by a great writer, an analysis published in an American newspaper.


  1. Anonymous4:07 pm

    I take it Mr Sharp is not applying for PEN membership any time soon then?

    I maybe being a bit Bourgeois liberal here, but I think where Ellis falls down is this bizarre 'either/or' line of argument. Of course any right-thinking person would oppose military action against Iran (even most of the Blair government does, so that's something even Peter Hain would agree with him on) but how on earth does that translate into acquiscence on censorship?

    I'd also be more inclined to agree with his rationale if he didn't give parity to an all-pervasive state censorship regime and the public execution of homosexuals, with the office of the Lord Chamberlain until the late 1960s. Unless I missed the part where Edward Bond was carted off to prison and repeatedly tortured for his offensive works.

    I'm sure an Iranian James Kirkup-style poem with someone fantasizing over doing stuff with the Prophet Mohammed would merit more than a private prosecution under their equivalent of the Obscene Publications Act as well.

    But as there are no warships in the English Channel at this moment in time, it's probably best not to make such parallels.

  2. Ellis quotes Nafisi and adds his support:

    "Democrats around the world need to support Iranians by condemning censorship."

    "Well I’m happy to do so."

    Of course, there'll never be Iranian warships in our waters, though I'm sure during the Shah's reign many servicemen were trained by our brave boys.

  3. Anonymous4:33 pm

    He could have actually pointed out that 'democrats' opposing censorship from outside of Iran will actually not amount to a single tangible act within Iran itself. But it might make them feel better about themselves, I suppose (which was my first reaction to reading those rather glib sentiments).

    And again, I don't see it as Shah or Ayatollah. While I'd prefer a freer society there, ultimately it's a matter for the Iranians what system of government they live under, even though they're not exactly in a position to determine that themselves, sadly. I just don't believe in writing blank cheques for people on account of their criticism of the US or ability to get up the White House's nose.

  4. Well precisely, it's up to the Iranians. No-one else. Aren't you therefore a little worried that our media is full of 'concerned' neoliberals apparently manufacturing consent for *another* mass slaughter? They're not concerned with similar regimes on our side of course. So neither a word of criticism nor a single tangible act. One out of two isn't bad in comparison isn't it?

    Iranians will have to work toward a freer society themselves. That's the only way it can be freer. But we shouldn't make it easier for the crackpot government to do its worst because it's under constant and very real threat of invasion, just as we shouldn't (and don't) support fanatics who bomb the US + UK thus giving the neoliberals an excuse to do their worst.

    And I just don't see how resisting our own governments' crackpot schemes is a manifestation of support for an apparent enemy! Don't you find it ironic that it's precisely specious spin like that is used by oppressive governments everywhere to suppress dissent, including Iran?

  5. Anonymous7:35 pm

    Steve, I do apologise for bringing this here rather than on email or on Ellis' blog (which does not allow comments, incidentally). Anyhow, you've asked some questions.

    I, for one, am not interested in why 'concerned' neoliberals don't extend the same courtesy to regimes they consider on-message or allies. I don't, end of. In fact, I'd consider Iran better than Saudi Arabia, whom the British government are upset with today over the fact that they're refusing to let it arm it!

    However, I think you're flattering the neo-cons to some extent by suggesting importance they no longer have. It's a bankrupt project and they're all either bickering or recanting on their previous standpoints. They can't get out of Iraq quick enough. Britain is not supporting military action against Iran and has gone out on a limb to engage with Syria in spite of the US' view and Syria's rebuffing. The neo-con strategy was hopeless to begin with.

    One day we might be able to argue the toss about this and Dan Brown over a cold beer in Tehran...

  6. Anonymous5:15 pm

    Ellis Sharp responds, in his usual self-righteous fashion, to the suggestion that he should join PEN here:

    Basically, it's another opportunity for to him to bash Israel, or, as he would put it, a "bellicose sectarian colonialist settler state" (one adjective would do fine, thanks).

    Nothing wrong with criticising Israel, of course - but as ReadySteadyBook suggested, Sharp's fixation on Israel borders on obsession.

  7. Oh what fun Ellis would have if he had comments enabled!

    I don't always agree with him or share his tastes, but I'm all for independent thinkers, particularly when they irritate liberal apologists.

  8. Anonymous10:55 am

    "In Zabriskie Point, for example, which is surely Antonioni’s worst film"

    Now we know he's taking the piss.

  9. Anonymous5:51 am

    What is amusing in Sharp's piece is his hysterical assertion that Israel assasinates Palestinian novelists. He cites the example of Ghassan Kanafani, who, in addition to being a novelist, was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; it was probably his role in that organisation that made him an Israeli target (whether justified or not) - I don't think his being a novelist or intellectual had much to do with the decision.

    Sorry about the post - again, if Ellis had a comments section on his site (or even an email address listed), I would have posted this there.



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