Another Productive Visit to Iran

Tehran Conference Critically Examines 'Hollywoodism'

By Mark Weber
Director, Institute for Historical Review
February-March 2013

More than 40 writers, filmmakers and scholars from the US, France, Italy and other foreign countries, together with dozens of Iranian cinema specialists, journalists, officials and others, gathered at the large Azadi hotel in north Tehran for a four-day “Hollywoodism” conference to critically examine the formidable role and often harmful social-political impact of the US film industry, and to discuss how to counter it.

I was one of several Americans who had been invited to the event, which was organized by Iran’s Ministry of Culture. My productive six-day visit -- Feb. 3-9 -- also included appearances on national television, many interviews, useful discussions with Iranian scholars and officials, and informative talks with writers and opinion-makers from a range of countries. (This was my second visit to Iran. A brief report, with photos, on my September 2012 visit is posted on the IHR website .)

Conference participants voiced strong criticism of Hollywood’s role in promoting hostility toward Arabs, Iran and Islam, in fostering war, and in degrading traditional cultural values and ethical norms.

Mike Gravel, a former two-term US Senator from Alaska, was the most prominent American participant. He said that Americans are being fed a distorted, hostile view of Iran, and he sharply criticized the Obama administration’s campaign to halt Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program. Attendees applauded video clips that were shown of Gravel condemning US military and Middle East policy in remarks made during an appearance in 2008 with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when the three were Democratic party presidential candidates.

Other Americans who took part in the Hollywoodism conference included: Franklin Lamb, a former Assistant Counsel of the US House Judiciary Committee, and a former professor of international law; Art Olivier, filmmaker and former mayor of Bellflower, California; Merlin Miller, filmmaker and activist of the “American Third Position” party; Kevin Barrett, American educator and writer; E. Michael Jones, American academic and author.

Both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times considered the event important enough to run reports on it, each written by their own correspondent. The Anti-Defamation League, a pillar of Jewish-Zionist power in the US, predictably denounced the gathering as “a rogue’s gallery of conspiratorial anti-Semites and anti-Zionists.” Conference participants, complained ADL director Abraham Foxman, were “promoting the classical anti-Semitic stereotype of Jewish domination and control of the film industry.”

In my address to the conference, titled “Hollywood’s Agenda, and the Power Behind It”, I cited facts and figures that confirm the Jewish-Zionist hold on American cultural and political life. I cited specific Hollywood films that present a distorted, pro-Zionist view of history, or which promote a socially corrosive cultural ethos. “Along with the rest of the Jewish-Zionist dominated media,” I said, “Hollywood sensationalizes and distorts current events, systematically falsifies history, promotes debased 'entertainment' and perverse cultural standards, and makes possible the Jewish-Zionist hold on American political life.”

Israel threatens Iran, I said on another occasion, because the Islamic Republic is a bastion of global resistance to Zionist power, and because it is a principled supporter of Palestinian resistance to Israeli oppression and occupation. Iran deserves praise and gratitude for organizing this conference, I also said. In fact, I added, events like this one should be held in major cities around the world, and especially in the US, because the issues that are being dealt with here are vitally important for all nations.

During this expense-paid visit I gained a greater understanding of this ancient but vibrant nation of 75 million, which Israel and its allies in the US have demonized and threaten with military attack. I got to better know “ordinary” Iranians, and thereby to more fully understand their attitudes and values. I gained a greater appreciation of the depth of patriotic and religious sentiment that brought down the US-backed Pahlavi dictatorship, and which has sustained the Islamic Republic during the past 34 years. My lengthy discussions with Iranian officials helped me to better understand the views and outlook of the nation’s leadership. I also saw more of Tehran, Iran’s sprawling capital, including a ride on the city’s clean and modern subway.

Iranians are very mindful of the sanctions campaign against their nation, and they frankly acknowledge the hardships it has caused. But based on my talks with Iranians and on what I observed, as well as the views of seasoned analysts, it’s obvious that Iranians are not about to capitulate to the US-Zionist campaign of threats, intimidation and economic warfare.

It should not be forgotten that Iranians endured vastly more pain and suffering during their eight-year war with Iraq, which was launched in 1980 by Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein. That protracted conflict devastated the nation’s economic life, and cost Iran an estimated one million casualties (killed or wounded), including thousands of civilian deaths in air strikes and missile attacks. Iranians have not forgotten that during that war the US provided extensive, perhaps decisive, aid to the aggressor.

At an IHR meeting on March 2, three speakers provided informed perspective on Iran and Iranian society, the impact of the US-organized sanctions campaign against Iran, and the prospects for war. Paul Sheldon Foote, a California professor with years of experience in the Middle East, including Iran, and Art Olivier, a filmmaker and a former California city mayor whom I met at the Hollywoodism conference in Tehran, joined me at the spirited gathering. (A report on the meeting, and audio recordings of the presentations, are posted on the IHR website.)

Mark Weber addresses the Hollywoodism conference in Tehran. Seated with him (wearing glasses) is Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh.

Weber makes a point during a discussion session with E. Michael Jones (far left), American writer and editor of “Culture Wars” magazine, Dr. Kevin Barrett (with glasses), American educator and scholar, and Hervé Ryssen, French author.

Iran’s Culture Minister, M. Hosseini, center, talks with J. Shamaghdari, Deputy Cultural Minister for Cinema Affairs, at the Hollywoodism conference, Feb. 3, 2013. At the left is Arash Darya–Bandari, a conference organizer.

Former US Senator Mike Gravel makes a point during an interview with an Iran television reporter at the Hollywoodism conference

At the Azadi hotel in Tehran. Left to right: Mark Weber, Whitney Gravel, Mike Gravel, Bahram Heidari, and E. Michael Jones.

Art Olivier (left), with Merlin Miller and Kevin Barrett (right), at a restaurant in Tehran

Rashid Benaissa (right), an Algerian-born author and scholar, with Mark Weber at the Hollywoodism conference

Tehran. In the distance is the Milad Tower, and, further north, mountains still partially covered in snow.

Tehran’s modern subway