In his first ever interview with BBC Persian TV last week, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu warned against a nuclear-armed Iran and encouraged the Iranian public to overthrow their oppressive regime. In the midst of his remarks geared toward a younger audience presumably hungry for freedom, he made the analogous statement, “If the people of Iran were free they could wear blue jeans, listen to Western music and have free elections.” Some snarky Iranians took to Twitter to smartmouth Netanyahu’s ignorance. Sure, their women are expected to “preserve hijab and morality” — but somewhere in the midst of oppression, these folks own denim, gah!
Instead of latching on to the story of an Israeli PM using what was, perhaps, his only opportunity to speak directly to the Iranian people to advocate a fight for freedom supported by tens of thousands of Iranians, the Internet jumped on #IranJeans and joined in the joke. Forget the Iranian government’s massive human rights abuses against their own people. (After all, Obama did.) Netanyahu dared to assert that the Persians can’t wear jeans. That’s as funny as the time Winston Churchill asserted that the Hitler Youth didn’t want to burn all those books. Are you kidding? They loved the roar of the campfire as they mocked those stupid Jews! #burnbooks #stupidJuden
In what was, perhaps, the most intellectually flatulent response to the story, Max Fisher, writing for the Washington Post, eloquently scoffed, “The elections might not be so free, and some Western music is officially banned, if generally tolerated. But Iranians do wear jeans — as a great many of them pointed out by posting photos of themselves in denim online, often with a message deriding the Israeli leader for his ignorance.” Gawd, he doesn’t know they wear Levi’s? How gauche!
To Fisher, “the Islamic Republic has some of the world’s worst civil rights, but it is a far cry from Pyongyang’s style of rule, and is not peopled with 78 million Iranians just waiting to be liberated.” Netanyahu’s clarion call to the Persians to fight for their freedom could, therefore, only be seen as incendiary by a public so free they could sneak on to their government-banned Wi-Fi to hashtag pictures of denim-laden closets via Twitter.
Fisher’s hard-hitting, in-depth analysis didn’t end there. He concluded with, “It’s a telling little irony that, when Netanyahu criticized Iran’s severe restriction of civil liberties, it led Iranians not to criticize their government but Israel’s — and to do it using the very social networks, such as Facebook, that are banned by Tehran.” The only telling thing is that an entire generation raised with bedside copies of the Protocols thinks the purpose of banned social media is to mock the evil Jew for telling them they deserve to be free.
Of course, in the era of Russian negotiated pseudo-peace with Syria (weapons that give you headaches, bad; weapons that kill you outright, good), when an Iranian leader’s Holocaust distortion is a reason to believe in peace, the popular kids will take every opportunity to pounce on the one world leader willing to call it like it is. Netanyahu’s faux pas had nothing to do with jeans and everything to do with the fact that he is the only and most powerful world leader to openly pronounce that the emperor has no clothes.