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Pouya Alimagham: “Ben Affleck’s Argo and the Problem With Viewing Iran Through a Narrow Lens”

Of course Ben Affleck is no Islamophobe but does anybody else find the timing of this film to be rather “convenient”?

Ben Affleck’s Argo and the Problem With Viewing Iran Through a Narrow Lens

by Pouya Alimagham (Huffington Post)

The season in which studios begin to roll out their Oscar contenders is upon us. Ben Affleck’s third and probably most important directorial feat, Argo, will certainly receive due attention from the Academy. The film, however, should not receive acclaim for its untimely and unbalanced depiction of Iran and Iranians. Indeed, by revisiting the Iran Hostage Crisis at a critical moment when political hawks are ceaselessly demonizing Iran in their bid for another U.S.-led military conflict in the Middle East, Affleck, giving him the benefit of the doubt, unintentionally aids that effort.

Affleck’s Argo is based on the true story of how six Americans were entangled in the revolutionary storm that gripped Iran in 1979 and managed to flee the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Holed up in the Canadian ambassador’s residence for months, Ben Affleck’s real-life character Tony Mendez, a CIA operative, concocts an elaborate plan to fly to Tehran and facilitate their escape. In doing so, he pretends to be part of a Canadian film crew making a B-level science-fiction film called Argo, which is based in the Middle East, and explains why they are in Iran scouting for locations for a movie that never actually existed.

It’s a gripping political thriller that will keep moviegoers on the edge of their seats and holding their breaths. The problem, however, is the unintended political consequence of the film and its deeply troubling portrayals of Iranians.

In his book Confronting Iran: The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Next Great Conflict in the Middle East, Ali Ansari writes, “For the U.S., the traumatic scene of Americans being paraded in front of cameras blindfolded, marked the beginning of a U.S. obsession with Iran.” That obsession has led many Americans to view Iran strictly through the narrow scope of the Hostage Crisis, an event that transpired over 30 years ago. So ubiquitous is this trend that when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005, mainstream American media outlets mistook him for one of the hostage takers! The frenzy dissipated only when one of the actual American hostages, Thomas E. Schaefer, came out and dispelled the accusation.”

Read the rest here.

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  • mjasghar

    Look at the films released this time of year and then go on to get oscars for actor or screenplay etc
    A v large number in the last 10 years or so have had a holocaust theme – the Daniel Craig one about partisans the cate winslett one that Stalingrad sniper one etc etc
    It’s not talked about as it would seem to be antisemitic but if your desperate to get an Oscar to establish your serious career star in a holocaust era film released around this time of year
    Face facts – many of the most influential directors producers in Hollywood are Jewish so a film that legitimises Jewish atrocities now by bringing up the holocaust will always get votes
    As for affleck this film will sell to the neocons so he’ll play up to them

  • JD

    This is a site devoted to insulting people with different opinions and those who see Islam for what it is….

    Right Opinions like this…

    “Simply put WE DONT TRUST Muslims – end of story, if we were smart in USA we would deport ALL NON-Resident Muslims including those i univesity. YOUR history of slavery, torture of women & children has not changed since 1700′s”
    Follower of Robert Spencer

    “May all who worship the false prophet Muhammad (a thousand curses be unto his pig name) be slaughtered like the sub-human scum they are. I spit on your false prophet. The bottom of my feet are prettier than his ugly face. All muslims are terrorists and must die!”
    Follower of Robert Spencer

    Robert Spencer: Muslim Appointees Deserve Special Loyalty Test (Video)

    At Geller-Spencer’s CPAC Panel, Anti-Muslim Activist Says He’s Proud of Attacks on Mosques

    Robert Spencer’s post in March 2010 wherein he promoted a “genocidal video” calling for “wiping Pakistan off the map” and nuclear annihilation of Pakistan

    I am calling for a worldwide crusade against islam we let the muslims breed their hate and rebound from the last quarantine for far too long and now they are a treat t every man women and child on the planetagain. So its clearly time for another crusade

    Comment on BareNakedIslam

    Now lets think for a sec if these comments were towards another group say Jews or Blacks would it be Anti-Semite and bigot hate or just a opinion? There is a difference between arguing religion and Hitler like speeches calling for ban on _____ religion or mass murder of ______ religion followers or how all the problems of the world is because of _____ religion

  • AJ

    Jonathan asked,

    “Why would he participate in some wild conspiracy to rabble rouse anti-Iran sentiments and galvanize the conservative base ?”

    Yeah sure Jonathan, Ben’s views about Iran’s nukes have got nothing to do with the timing of the movie….

    Excerpt from Ben’s interview with O’Reilly on Oct. 10, 2012.

    O’REILLY: All right. Sounds good to hear. All right, now, Iran, again, influencing presidential election because of the nuke thing.

    AFFLECK: Well, I’m worried about it in the sense that everyone has obviously a trouble spot. This is the same regime that is in my movie in 1979 with Khomeini. Now, there’s Khomeini. It’s the same Islamist regime.

    O’REILLY: Same mentality, right.

    AFFLECK: And we’re still dealing with them. And if they got a bomb, I think everybody thinks that would be trouble. And I’m just an amateur pundit. But my feeling about it is, you know, one has to also be judicious. Frankly, I don’t think there’s a lot of —

    O’REILLY: But what does judicious mean. I mean, look, here is your choice. You strangle them with sanctions, which seems to be working right now, all right.

    Because the rial is collapsing, their currency.

    AFFLECK: They’re in bad trouble.

    O’REILLY: Or you give Netanyahu the OK to go in if it reaches a certain point and whack them.

    AFFLECK: My understanding is that Netanyahu is not — or Israel is not entirely capable of whacking them to the extent in which they need to be whacked.

    And I wouldn’t outsource U.S. foreign policy to any other government. I would be judicious in the sense that the higher percentage of Americans don’t want to see another war.

    And one, I think, ought to be careful before one engages in war. However, we have to have a line beyond which we say this is not acceptable in Iran. So, it’s —

    O’REILLY: All right. So, if that line were crossed by Iran and they were very close, you wouldn’t oppose military action to stop their nuclear program.

    AFFLECK: I wouldn’t oppose military action, but if the question is where the line is —

    O’REILLY: That’s always the question.

    AFFLECK: and I’d certainly wouldn’t make the line public and I wouldn’t be backed into the line.

    Read more:

  • Garibaldi

    “This is a site devoted to insulting people with different opinions and those who see Islam for what it is.”

    As if it weren’t obvious enough that you were a troll, you had to go and say this^

  • Jonathan

    Haddock, the implication is obvious. This is a site devoted to insulting people with different opinions and those who see Islam for what it is. You mean to tell me that our writer friend just decided to do a piece on an inconveniently timed movie release?

  • Jonathan

    Ben Affleck has been an avid and outspoken defender of Islam. Why would he participate in some wild conspiracy to rabble rouse anti-Iran sentiments and galvanize the conservative base ?

  • Haddock

    @Jonathan. There have been talks of “going to war with Iran” since 2007, and the talk has intensified since 2009. It’s not a “conspiracy theory” to notice the timing of this film falling neatly during the presidential debates where the two candidates try to prove how much more they love Israel/hate Iran than their opponent.

    Even Jack Valenti, who was the President of the Motion Picture Association of America for about 30-40 years, once remarked that “Washington and Hollywood spring from the same DNA.”

    Joseph Stalin once said, “Cinema is the art of illusion, yet it dictates its laws to life itself.”

    I guess they are conspiracy theorists too.

  • MadHatter

    so? is there a scene about the shooting of Iran Air Flight 655?

  • Abbey

    Stop bullying Iran.. let her live in, as we do, peace.

  • JD

    guess someone here does not understand Propaganda and how Propaganda works

    Keep Drinking the Kool-Aid Jonathan

  • Garibaldi


    I think the question posed by Haddock has more to do with the current threats to bomb Iran, etc.

  • mindy1

    This actually looks like it might be an intersting movie purely from a historical perspective-unless you are a hater, this movie will not make you one. But certainly an interesting article and viewpoint which deserves to be heard.

  • Jonathan

    Yes. This movie- which has been in production for about a year- was released in anticipation of the latest bloodshed in the middle east. You people are crazy.

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