I have to say that I’m really disappointed in this Ken Baer article. Back in March, Time ran an article about widespread criticism of Mahmoun Ahmadenijad in Iran. Ezra Klein did a blog post noting that the existence of such criticism seemed to undermine the narrative that Iran is a totalitarian society:
For all the talk of Iran’s autocratic tyrants, here you have the president being burned in effigy, interrupted by firecrackers, and condemned to death, all while he’s giving a speech. And he does nothing more than “smilie tightly” throughout it! In this country, if an activist exposes an anti-war t-shirt while the president is talking, she gets muscled out of the room. That’s not to say Iran doesn’t have all sorts of human rights violations of its own, but the attempt to make the country look like some sort of tyrannical, dictatorial regime is just another element of the war propaganda.
Here’s Ken’s take:
. And yet, as in 1967, too many progressives–so chastened by the Bush Administration’s deceptions over Iraq and the egregious mistakes that followed–are in danger of letting the past prevent them from focusing on the real threats looming ahead. Some even go so far as to excuse the Iranian regime, the better to deny the very existence of a threat. One prominent blogger, Ezra Klein, wrote, in a post titled “Autocratic Iran?” that the “attempt to make the country look like some sort of tyrannical, dictatorial regime is just another element of the war propaganda.”
I think Ezra worded the half-sentence that Baer quotes out of context poorly, but taken as a whole I don’t think any fairminded reader could reach the conclusion that Ezra is “excus[ing] the Iranian regime.”
Meanwhile, it’s frustrating to me personally to see yet another go-round of this with Baer who, thanks to his occasional participation on TPM Cafe, has some interactions with progressive bloggers, myself included. Every now and again he’ll pop up to accuse progressives generally, and progressive bloggers in particular, of not taking the Iran issue seriously enough. Each time, I try to engage him in an actual argument about the merits of different policies vis-a-vis Iran but instead he kind of vanishes only to reappear once again, months later, with another effort to pathologize opposition to military action against Iran rather than wrestle with the many, many actual arguments that have been raised by a wide variety of knowledgeable experts as to why this would be a catastrophic course of action.