Monday, February 4, 2013

Monkey Business: John McCain and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

    Senator John McCain strirred up a fuss today by mocking Iranian "President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a tweet.  Here's the offending remark:

    While the joke was frankly fairly lame and comes from a long line of monkey jokes (think: "Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, You look like a monkey, and you act like one, too",) it was not the lameness that landed McCain in hot water.  Rather the joke was deemed racist by some, even by fellow GOPer Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who replied:

    "Racism" in America is often in the ear of the hearer even when not in the mouth or mind of the sayer. True racism surely still exists in this country, but is often obscured by sensitivities, selective application, and outright mischaracterizations. 

    Honestly, in this case, who in the world before today would have listed "monkey" as a racist name for an Iranian? I failed to turn up an example of this in an internet search today. (If anyone can refute this, please do.) However, I did find this story from 2009:
Iranian TV show scrapped after child calls toy monkey Ahmadinejad live on air 
An Iranian children's television show has been pulled after a child appearing on the programme called his pet monkey Ahmadinejad live on air. 
When the presenter of Amoo Pourang (Uncle Pourang), a programme watched by millions of Iranian children three times a week on state TV, asked the name of the toy the boy had been given as a reward for behaving himself, the child replied: "Well, my father calls him Ahmadinejad." 
The father's likely unease at his son's honesty was matched by the programme makers after the state broadcaster, IRIB, immediately responded by removing the show from viewing schedules, The Guardian reported.
     If John McCain's statement was racist, this story makes little sense.  An Iranian father makes a racist joke about the Iranian president? In all probability, Iranians use "monkey" in the same way Americans (including John McCain) do: a term of derision for someone they find silly or absurd. But while the consequences for McCain may consist of a few angry tweets, the Iranian father in 2009 may have faced much more dire consequences for his attempt at humor. Once again, the silly charges of "racism" have distracted from the real evil here: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the oppressive regime he heads. Ahmadinejad himself might actually be laughing this time.

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