Monday, October 15, 2012

Argo and the Iranian Revolution

It was so real!!!

Ben Affleck as CIA “exfiltration” specialist,
posing  as a movie man in Revolutionary Tehran.

            Whoooohhhh….. that was close! 

            Marty and I just saw Argo, the new film by Ben Affleck, which tells the story of a daring rescue of six Americans from Tehran during the 1979-1980 Iranian Hostage Crisis. 
            It’s a wonderful story, with suspense that has you sitting on the edge of your seat, just willing the Iranian police to let the Americans pass, willing the Swissair jet to lift off before Iranian security guards can stop the plane.
            None of the filming was done in Iran, but with the magic of old file footage of the actual hostage crisis, and scenes shot in Istanbul and Hollywood, you can smell the South Tehran bazaar.  You can live all over again crazy scenes created by Iranian mards, as they fire each other up over hatred for khareji--- strange foreigners from America.  With thousands of Iranians in the Los Angeles area, they had no problem getting players who speak excellent Farsi.
            Our family lived in Tehran for two years, leaving just seven years before the world turned upside down for Iran, and for the Americans that were trapped there when the Shah was overthrown, and Ayatollah Khomeini began the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Marty atop our home in Tehran, with Alborz mountains in background.

            When we lived in Tehran, it was altogether different.  Iranian people were friendly and helpful to foreigners, but we were still worlds apart.  The plain people on the streets and in the bazaars had not seen many Westerners, and they were as mystified about us as we were about them. 
            When our family, all with blond or red hair, walked through the seething bazaar, some people couldn’t resist reaching out and touching the hair of our kids, aged seven to 12.  And that drove our kids nuts!
            The bazaar was like the one filmed in Argo--- narrow winding alleys, thousands of people going about their business of shopping or selling, but never too busy to stop and stare at us as we bargained for a kilo of apples or a large slab of Persian bread.
            Affleck’s film zooms in on Tehran in the wild, hectic days of 1979 when the Shah had left, and the Ayatollah Khomeini and all the religious clerics began a reign that unleashed decades of pent-up Islamic fury, fear of foreigners and hatred of neighbor against neighbor as people denounced each other for old grudges.   Knowing that the United States had given refuge to the Shah, it took little to fire up Iranians in the street, and soon they stormed the American Embassy and took the embassy staff hostage. 
            In the wild confusion of this event, six embassy staffers ran out a side door, and escaped.  They called at the British embassy, but were turned away; the New Zealand embassy turned them away, as well. Finally, the Canadian Ambassador took them in, and there they stayed. 
            Back in Washington people at the State Department and the CIA ponder how to get these six Americans out.  Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, is a quiet CIA specialist who has a reputation for exfiltration, or getting people out of tight spots. 
            He comes up with the idea of creating a fake science-fiction movie.  He’ll travel to Tehran as a Canadian filmmaker, gather up the six Americans, coach them to become members of his film team scouting a Tehran location for their new film. Then, they’ll all go to the airport and fly out!
            Mendez travels to Hollywood, where he meets the large John Goodman and a wise old film producer played by Alan Arkin.  The idea is crazy enough to capture their imagination, and together they create a wild fake film, complete with weird Star Wars-type costumes, story boards, movie posters for “Argo”, and other trappings for a real Hollywood production. 
            Oh, the story is pretty far-fetched, and back in Washington, it’s a hard sell for Mendez. 
            Looking back over all these years, one cannot help but thinking that if this scheme would have failed, President Jimmy Carter would have been the laughingstock of the world.
            As a matter of fact, when I see Governor Romney criticizing President Obama for not having the “cojones” (Virility, you might say) to conduct a robust American big-stick diplomacy, I can appreciate the problems presidents get into when any one of them tries to show that he has the necessary “cojones” to stand up to Iranians, or Libyans, Russians or whomever.  
            Sometimes when he really doesn’t understand the people he is dealing with, the President can make a monumental mistake, all to show that he has the “cojones”*.
            Argo has some funny scenes, but as Mendez takes his fake “film crew” right into the Tehran bazaar to scout a filming location, he creates tension.  The tension builds, and as he herds the six up to each checkpoint at Mehrabad airport, I find myself leaning forward, just trying to will them past each barrier. There’s plenty of suspense, and that makes for an excellent film. 

* As it turns out, President Carter finally ordered the Desert One Operation to extricate all the hostages in the American Embassy.  He used helicopters flown from a carrier in the Gulf of Oman across miles of desert to a rendezvous in the middle of another desert. Some of the helicopters choked on the desert sand, there was a collision between an airplane and the helos, and it all  turned out to be a terrible, embarrassing failure.  But that’s not mentioned in the film Argo.

From Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) dispatch March 25, 2013:
'Best Picture' Oscar For 'Argo' Criticized In Iran: The Film Distorts History – And Is Part Of The Iranophobia Instigated And Led By The West

The Academy Awards win in the Best Picture category by the film Argo, which depicts the rescue of six U.S. diplomats following the student takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, was seen in Iran as an anti-Iran move. Regime spokesmen claimed that the film lacked artistic and cultural value and that it distorted history. According to them, the film's win is part of the Iranophobia led by the Americans and the Zionists,[1] and behind the win lurks a Jewish-Zionist conspiracy; similar allegations of conspiracy were depicted in cartoons published by regime news sites.

Following the film's win, the Iranian regime held a conference titled "Hollywood Acrobatics," with the participation of Iranian Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini, to protest against the alleged Islamophobia of the U.S. film industry. Conference secretary Mohammad Lesani announced that Iran intends to hire French attorney Isabelle Coutant-Peyre to sue "actors and investors who participated in anti-Iran films such as Argo."[2] In addition, the Iranian daily Jomhouri-e Eslami reported that Iran would produce a 20-episode television series about "the takeover of the American espionage nest in Tehran."[3]

In contrast to the criticism that was widespread in the country, Iranian reformist activist Abbas Abdi, who was himself one of the students who participated in the U.S. Embassy takeover, said that the Academy's choice of winning film was apolitical and that it should be respected; there is no reason, he said, why the film should not win an Oscar.

Following are several examples of statements by Iranian spokesmen and media on Argo's Oscar win, and cartoons on the issue published by the Fars news agency, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC):

Jomhouri-e Eslami: Argo's Win Exposed The Academy Awards' Zionist Nature
A February 26, 2013 article in the Iranian daily Jomhouri-e Eslami stated: "This film was nominated in seven categories, and, in a clearly political and anti-Iran move, it won Best Picture. All the predictions regarding the Zionist [nature] of this cinema event came true.

"The film Argo... directed by Ben Affleck, who is a member of the American Democratic Party – which also includes [Presidents] Jimmy Carter and Obama – is a product of the Zionist Warner Brothers company... The investors and artists are a team comprising the Jewish [film] company Warner Brothers in Hollywood, and a group from the ruling Democratic Party – during the hostage incident at the espionage nest, Democratic president Jimmy Carter was in office, and lost the [re]election over it – and also an advisory committee from the Zionist lobby in the U.S. (AIPAC)...

"The perception among Iranians that [the criteria for selecting the winning picture] are [solely] artistic was disproven long ago – but now, [the entire] world... realizes that the Oscars, which were initially established by Zionist capital and guidance... are a political tool in America's hands."[4]

Iranian UN Ambassador On CNN: "There Are Many Mistakes In The Movie... The Producer... Should Be Ashamed Of Producing Such A Film"
In a March 1, 2013 interview with CNN, Iranian Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaee said: "I was a member of the [Iranian film festival] for five years when I was in Iran. From the technical point of view, if I was a judge, [I would say that] this movie is a very weak movie... Compared to Lincoln, compared to Life of Pi... it did not deserve to receive [the] Oscar prize.

"First of all, there are many mistakes in the movie. For instance, you are familiar with our culture. Even the producer or the director, they were not familiar with Iranian culture. You know, in Iran when we want to say hello to somebody we say salaam. If we want to say goodbye we say khoda hafez. Even the movie, [when] they [should have said] khoda hafez, they were saying salaam. So even that much [shows that] the producer or director of the movie, they're not familiar with Iranian culture.

"And, to be honest with you, whoever in Iran saw the film, they felt insulted by America. It was politically wrong and technically wrong, and I think the producer of the film, that is known as Ambassador of Peace [i.e. George Clooney], as I heard, should be ashamed of producing such a film that from the technical point of view, political point of view, was wrong, as well as insulting a big nation like Iran.

"I would like to invite the producer and the director of the film to travel to Iran, and when they travel to Iran, the day after they will apologize [to] the big nation of Iran for producing such a weak film."[5]

Iranian Culture Minister: American Politicians Acknowledge That The Film Is Not Realistic
Iranian Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini told reporters: "Argo is an anti-Iran film, and it is very clearly lacking significant content and many artistic aspects. But from the outset, publicity and funds were invested so that this film would win an Oscar. There was a political move so that this film would win the Oscar. This is completely clear.

"Maybe they were angry that we boycotted the Oscars and did not participate in them, because of the film insulting the Prophet [i.e. Innocence of Muslims]. They were looking for a film that does not match reality. [In Argo,] we saw an inappropriate image of Iranians. Some of their [i.e. the Americans'] politicians even acknowledged that [the film] is not realistic.

"This was a political move that caused damage in the professional aspect. They lost their reputation... This is propaganda that seeks to influence the minds of the citizens of the world."[6]

Al-'Alam: The Award Announcement By Michelle Obama Was Another Sign Of The Politicization Of The Oscars
On February 25, 2013, the Arabic-language Iranian website Al-'Alam published an article stating: "Supporters of this anti-Iran film nominated it for seven Oscars, as part of their attempt to ensure that it would win by any means. Ultimately, Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, won three awards – while American film critics stressed that there were better films that were more deserving of these awards.

"Observers believe that Argo is a political propaganda film... This is scandalous; [it reached] the point where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wished this distorted film luck the day before the awards ceremony, [and, in yet] another indication of the politicization of this award, First Lady Michelle Obama announced Argo as the winner live from the White House. This is unprecedented in the history of the Academy Awards, and it surprised observers and critics.

"Awarding the Oscar to Argo was widely criticized because of [the film's] distortion of history and its anti-Iran perspective. Even former U.S. president Jimmy Carter referred to the film's distortion of history, even though he expressed his hope that it would win."[7]

Reformist Abbas Abdi: We Should Respect The Academy's Choice Of Argo
On February 26, 2013, Abbas Abdi, who was himself one of the students who took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and who is today a reformist activist, said: "Following the announcement of the winner of Best Picture at the Academy Awards, [Iranian speakers] spoke emotionally. It would have been better had they explained why Argo shouldn't win. It's a film, not history. We have said [on other occasions] that [other] films were only films...

"[The Americans] were angry, and if we were in their place, we might have been too...

"There were occasions when [the Americans] decided to [use the Academy Awards for political purposes]. They were completely politicized during the Cold War, when they came out against [artists] such as Charlie Chaplin. Sometimes there is no need for this, but when there is, they will do it...

"We should respect their choice, and not be angry. This award was awarded by Americans at an [American] festival – not by us."[8]


[1] For example, the head of the Center for Doctrinal Affairs of National Security Without Borders, Hassan Abbasi, said: "Argo is a highly political film, and the award it was granted is even more political than [the film itself].", February 28, 2013. Iranian Ambassador to Italy Mohammad Ali Hosseini called Argo a film "with no cultural value" and added that the Academy Award "was another link in the U.S.'s project of Iranophobia and Islamophobia." Mehr, February 27, 2013.

[2] Fararu (Iran), March 11, 2013.

[3] Jomhouri-e Eslami (Iran), March 3, 2013.

[4] Jomhouri-e Eslami (Iran), February 26, 2013.

[5] CNN, March 1, 2013.

[6] Fars (Iran), February 26, 2013; Hosseini was speaking during the Fajr International Poetry Festival.

[7], February 25, 2013.

[8], February 26, 2013.



The Personal Navigator offers these books:

America Illustrated

America Illustrated Williams, J. David, editor   1883     Boston, MA: DeWolfe, Fiske & Company. 121 pp. 23.7 x 29.5 cm.            Editor Williams sought to acquaint readers with the "superb creations of nature that distinguish America above all others."  Excellent engravings of Bear River near Bethel, ME (frontis.); Yellowstone Valley; Hudson River at West Point; Natural Bridge, VA; Trenton High Falls, NY; Squam Lake, NH; Lake George, NY; Mammoth Cave, KY; Minot's Ledge Light-house, MA; Niagara Falls; Great Horseshoe Curve on the Pennsylvania Railroad; Down the Mississippi River; Yosemite Valley; Region of the Juniata, PA; more. Decorated brown cloth on board with gilt and black design, cover faded and mottled. Gilt-edged pages, binding cracked at p. 7, overall good. (8270) $40.00. Travel

People's Cyclopedia of Universal Knowledge, The; Volume II,  with numerous appendixes invaluable for reference in all departments of industrial life brought down to the Year 1885, illustrated  by De Puy, W.H., D.D., LL.D. 1885 New York, NY: Phillips & Hunt. 1374 pp. 19.5 x 28.3 cm. Volume II only. Marvelous volume contains more than 5000 engravings, with 76 colored double and single-page maps. Because of volume's weight (over 6 lbs.) additional shipping cost may be required.       Elegantly bound leather on board with gilt title design. Four-ribbed spine. Marbled endpapers and page ends. Tight binding. Immaculate. Fine.  (8276) $50.00. Reference
Essentials of Mental Healing, The Theory and Practice, Second Edition Revised 1886 by Marston, L.M., M.D. Boston, MA: L.M. Marston, M.D. 122 pp. + Adv. 13 x 19.8 cm. Book embodies the truths common to all forms of mind healing, and excludes whatever is dogmatical or tends to discriminate in favor of any particular school or way of practice. It recognizes and explains the principles of "Christian Science."  Thought Defined. The Theory of Kant. Reality and Appearance. The True Law. Thought Atmosphere. Right Thought is Power. Includes eight pages of advertisement for Boston College of Metaphysical Science, incorporated November 1886, Dr. Marston, President. Books and pamphlets. Red cloth on board with gilt lettering; beveled edges. On ffep is pencil inscription ca. 1886: "To Louisa (Grant)--Peace, Health + Happiness now & evermore. M.E.H." Very good. (8277) $48.00. Educational                                
Tent on the Beach
Tent on the Beach, The; and Other Poems by John Greenleaf Whittier, First Edition 1867 Boston, MA: Ticknor and Fields            172 pp. 12.4 x 178.3 cm. "When heats as of a tropic clime Burned all our inland valleys through, Three friends, the guests of summer time, Pitched their white tent where sea-winds blew." Whittier wrote these words with the setting of the salt marshes of Hampton, New Hampshire in mind, and the two friends were "Fields the lettered magnate, and Taylor the free cosmopolite."   This little book never got far from Whittier's home ground.  He was born in Haverhill, MA and died in Hampton, NH and this copy was found in the collection of Louise Grant of Newburyport, where it has apparently remained until 2012. "The Wreck of Rivermout" is also set on the Merrimack River, which flows past Haverhill and Newburyport to the Atlantic"The Dead Ship of Harpswell", also included in this collection, is set a few more miles to the north, at Orr's Island in Maine. Burgundy cloth on board with gilt decorated title. On ffep is pencil inscription: "Miss L. Grant 1868 From Mrs. Trumbull"  Very clean, tight copy.  Very good. (8274) $85.00. Poetry

Locksley Hall

Locksley Hall by Alfred Tennyson with Illustrations 1869 Boston, MA: Fields, Osgood, & Co. Successors to Ticknor and Fields. 75 pp. 12.8 x 17.4 cm. Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and is one of the most popular English poets. This poem (written in 1835) is about an unnamed soldier, marching with his unit near his childhood home.  He takes the time to think back to his childhood, and his love, and the man she married. Dramatic monologue, written as a set of rhyming couplets. Burgundy cloth on boardwith embossed gilt title, blindstamped title on back cover, edges beveled, gilt edged pages. Spine faded, minor mottled blemishes on cover. Title page loose. "A.E. Grant" stamped on ffep with pencil inscription, "To Abbie from GKc." Good. (8275) $75.00.  Poetry             


Now That I'm Fifty by Albert Payson Terhune, First Edition 1924 New York, NY: George H. Doran Company. 81 pp.     11.3 x 16.8 cm.  Albert Payson Terhune (1872-1942) began as a newspaper writer, which he hated.  He found his place in writing novels and books about dogs and became enormously popular. Four years after he published "Now That I'm Fifty" he was struck by a car (1928) and he never quite recovered from that. "The Indian Summer of Fifty is glorious; if one has the sense to appreciate it and to revel in its loveliness."  Green leather on board with elaborate gilt design on spine, facsimile of signature embossed on cover. Leather cover worn at edges. Gilt-edged pages. Good. (8271) $250.00.  Biography    Biography

In Tune With The Infinite, or Fullness of Peace, Power and Plenty by Ralph Waldo Trine ("The Life Books") 1897 New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company. 222 pp. 12.5 x 20.7 cm. The golden thread that runs through every religion, runs through the lives of all prophets, seers, sages and saviours in the world's history--- this same golden thread must enter into the lives of all who today would exchange impotence for power, weakness and suffering for abounding health and strength, pain and unrest for perfect peace, poverty for fullness and plenty.       Cream-colored cloth on board, lightly soiled and worn. Pencil inscription on ffep: "Louise Grant February 1899, Nellie S. Colong, William, N.H." Very good. (8272) $70.00. Educational/Spiritual/Inspirational

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