Review of Argo

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What did you think of the film?

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I really enjoyed the fear and paranoia that was captured in the film as the Iranian Revolution comes into play.  As Malcom X would say “the chickens have come home to roost” as the US felt the full impact of the overthrow of the Shah in 1953.

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How did the overthrow of the Shah drive the US hostage crisis?

Well, not only did the US organize a CIA plot to overthrow the legimate Prime Minister at the time, they backed the Shah using the brutal secret police Savak, which was trained by the CIA.  So the Iranian citizens had suffered decades due to this bad policy decision at the height of the Cold War.

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How accurate was the film?

Well, like any good Hollywood film the plot was tweeked a bit to increase the cliff hanger suspense.  They did use as much of the real events as possible to capture the public hatred of the US and how the hostages suffered because of this.  The film skims over coming of the Ayatollah because of time constraints as well.  All in all I think it was a great capture of a historical event.

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For people of my generation, we had no idea that there was a Canadian Caper as the operation was called to get out some of the hostages.  I only knew of the bungled US helicopter rescue that led to Iran dividing up the majority of the hostages and increasing the impossibility of a repeat of the failed mission to fly them out.

How has Iran responded?

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Great question.  There is the official and unofficial response.  The official government line was to say it was highly inaccurate and begin filming their own version of the event, which shows how weak the regime is in the use of the propaganda and how crucial the US hostage crisis was at demonstrating the power of the regime to its own public.

The unofficial on the street response is a complete runaway success of black market versions of the film with subtitles in Farsi (the main language of Iran).

Why does the Iranian public respond so well to a film portraying them as the enemy?

One reason that the film was a smash hit in Iran is that the film is done intellectually and portrays the humanity of each side well.  Its the complete opposite of such films like “Team America” by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  I love that film, but it is the typical simplification of US policy abroad, which resonates with a western audience only.

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I think that Ben Affleck as director went out of his way to explain the 1953 coup in the beginning of the film, which was the reason the initial Iranian response to the US hostage crisis was so positive and cemented the power of the Imans in politics.  As the decades have passed, the Iranian public has realized the same terror tactics used against the US Embassy staff is now being used against the public.

What are those tactics?

In the recent 2009 reelection of President Ahmadinejad, the public was outraged at the voter fraud and started protesting the results.  The regime responded by attacking schools with motorcycle gangs with chains and even shooting civilians.  The shooting of Neda became the martyr face of the green movement protest.

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Have you decided to paint on the subject?

I recently completed the painting “444 Con” about the US hostage crisis as a whole rather than the focus of Argo on the Canadian Caper.  As a painter, you only get one image, so I take on the whole perspective of the Ayatollah, who likley could have ended the crisis at any time, but milked it for all the political value to cement his power over other political groups vying for power.  The US flag has various symbols of the revolution and historical themes leading up to the revolution in 1979.

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Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Interview on “444 Con” painting

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So what is with the name “444 Con”?

I came up with the name because there were 444 days that the US embassy staff was held hostage.  The word con could be understood as a prank or as convict.  One was that it was a game of bluff the Ayatollah played with Carter and his peace position.  The convicts were the days the staff was held hostage as prisoners suffering torture like fake shootings. Additionally, I like the reference to early graffiti signing their name with numbers to indicate a street number in New York City.  Another reason for 444 in the name was that 1979 was a bit obvious, so I chose the 444, which always surprised me.  It seems odd that the number was 444 and not 425 or 433.

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How did the situation develop?

Well, initially the students had planned a sit-in and then the regime supposedly just sat on their hands.  Considering that the Ayatollah refused to accept any other party to the table during the free form government forming, I would say his philosophy directly led to this situation.  When it occured, it was so popular the leader kept up the situation.

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How did the situation get resolved?

Ironically, as the regime was taking such a one-sided view of the future government after consolidation they decided to “liberate” secular governments to become theocracies like in Iran.  This was despite the fact Saddam had sheltered the Ayatollah for years from the Shah’s reach in Iraq.  At the point of the start of the Iran-Iraq war, Iran decided they had a life or death survival situation and the US hostages were a distraction at that point.  Both leaders had huge egos that thought they would free their world and expand.

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How did the event effect the US policy?

One direct result was that the US backed Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war and sold them chemical weapons that Saddam used on Iranians and his own people.   There are photos of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam.  At the same time, al-Queda was getting formed to help defeat the Soviet puppet government in Afganistan, which the US initially supported.

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What were the events leading up to the Iranians accepting this extreme Ayatollah regime?

In 1953, the CIA along with Shell and BP lobbying decided to reinstate the old Shah because the recently elected new Prime Minister Mossadegh had just nationalized the 2 major players old companies.  It was kind of a replay of existing US policy that had played out earlier in the 1900s with US Fruit Company in Central America and related invasions to “free” the people and reinstate a dictator friendly to US business. I would call this the dark side of capitalism during the Cold War with the USSR.

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What do you think of the suggestion that Reagan delayed the US hostages until he became President to win in the elections?

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Many say this is circumstantial, but if you see the Iran-contra weapons scandal that follows it definitely seems very fishy.  Another tie-in was that in Lebanon bombing of US Marines (sponsored by Iran), they also bombed French troops.  During the withdrawal, the candidate Chirac decided to pay out 10 times the money to delay the release of the French hostages in order to win the election, which he did. So that Reagan might have done something similar would not be impossible.

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So what inspired you to do the piece?

Recently, I saw the film “Argo” by Ben Affeck.  It was a nail-biter movie that captured the fear and terror as the regime came to power.  Additionally, I found out recently that Iranians had made Argo an black-market sell-out of the movie as well.  Apparently, the new generation is seeing how the theocracy is now starting to brutalize its own people with the same methods used on the US hostages.

So is your piece pro-US or pro-Iran?

Well, in the work I tried to take the long-term approach in that each side is guilty.  The US instigated the bitterness of the CIA overthrow while the Ayatollah fanned the flames of paranoia of US and Israeli power and continued the brutality of the secret police that were originally trained by the CIA for the Shah.

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Do you think the US is now on a more democratic mission or is reverting to its old real Politik?

Great question.  Its hard to say in the moment.  Each side is trying to shape the public opinion to its own view as well as each citizenry has a limited understanding of each side as well.  I definitely would say we went into Iraq for the oil and a bit on the terrorism, but now accomplished little from it.  You can see the democrats and Obama step away from the active wars Bush started.  One sad event is that Syrian civilians are being killed because of the West and US exhaustion of war intervention in the Middle East.

 

Are any works available? 

Check my shop at www.shawnshawn.co

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact