Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, July 24, 2015

Soft power within Iran

Among the pressures created by the sanctions on Iran was the wavering support for the government among the young, urban citizenry. The powers that be are trying to win that support back.

How Iran is trying to win back the youth
Amir Tataloo
The Iranian rapper Amir Tataloo released a new music video… on 14
July. It was called Nuclear Energy and took the Iranian web sphere by storm. The clip features members of the Islamic republic navy on a warship singing “This is our absolute right, to have an armed Persian Gulf”.

The video, with clear support from the regime and its military apparatus, has shocked many Iranians, given that officials have snubbed rappers as “westernised” thugs at best, and fomenters of evil, at worst…

Some in Iran’s pro-regime cultural centres felt they had a problem though: very few young people were interested in state-sponsored media. Media makers had spent… 20 years creating films, television series, and books about the “Sacred Defence”, the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. But, from the 1990s onwards, ticket and book sales were dipping, according to their own accounts.

“Frankly, we turned young people off with the propaganda we produced in the 1980s and 1990s,” one prominent pro-regime film producer… told me. “We have to learn to speak the language of youth and use their codes if we want them to like our work. In short, we have to entertain them.”

Observing an increasing trend in displays of nationalism in the general population, the regime’s cultural producers and the political elite sensed an opportunity…

A prominent example is the newly built multi-million dollar Museum of the Sacred Defence in northern Tehran…

One of the main exhibits… displays large maps that demonstrate the expanse of the Persian empire ruling swaths of Asia over 3,000 years ago. It juxtaposes it against shrinking Iranian territory throughout the centuries. Iran’s size today is minuscule in comparison to the glorified empire painted on the wall…

This museum, in line with the new strategy pursued by these cultural producers, moves away from celebrating martyrs to offering a narrative heavy on nationalism, dignity, and pride. “This youngest generation doesn’t understand our religious language,” a key filmmaker said at one meeting of pro-regime cultural producers where I was present. “We have to reframe our heroes for them - give them heroes they can relate to.”…

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