Celebrity vs. Security: The Story of Iran & Their Hope For Survival

I’m just going to say it: I’m worried that Michael Jackson’s death will overshadow the justice that Iranians are fighting for. Media coverage is huge, so huge that sometimes the role of media outlets are jokingly referred to as the fourth branch of the United States government. In this case, it’s not really a joke. The response to Michael Jackson’s death has been overwhelmingly more significant and heartfelt than the fight for peace and justice in a distraught society. From news coverage, nationwide candelight vigils, t-shirts, iTunes surges, an internet meltdown because of overloaded MJ searches/downloads, and even a revival of the Philippines’ prisoners “Thriller” performance, the world is literally consumed by the death of Michael Jackson. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be insensitive because Michael Jackson’s music, story, and life have all convicted me, particularly the domestic history behind the song “Thriller” and what it meant to Michael Jackson. But here’s the thing: Iran cannot afford to be overlooked. The civil strife of hundreds of thousands of Iranians and their personal security is literally on the line. I don’t know how many of you follow TehranBureau’s twitter page, but TehranBureau is one of the major extensions of information regarding the scene in Iran. Before the person responsible for twittering left Tehran a few days ago for fear of their life, these words were posted:

you cannot believe it. they have turned this place into a killing field.” (June 22nd, 10:21AM)

And then just one minute later,

I'm going, but I'm scared. I may go quietly.” (June 22nd, 10:22AM)

I don’t care if you Twitter or not, but folks, as I read this, I had to tell myself, “This is not just a status update. Someone could die.” And granted, the person twittering has continued to tweet, but This is a plea for help on behalf of a nation of people who are literally scared for their lives, a last line of hope, if you will. And I’m not saying Michael Jackson isn’t worth mourning over, because he definitely is. Everyone life is worth mourning over, but perhaps our energy would be better spent on something where we can actually have influence. I mean for crying out loud, the security guard at the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. confused me this afternoon. When I first approached her, she was terribly dry and monotonous. “Open your bag, sir.” she droned. But then, she came to life when she noticed my computer.

“Is that your MacBook, sir?” she asked curiously, as if to investigate. Politely, I said, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you have photos on there?” This time, she looked in my eyes intently, with a sense of security.

Confused, I stuttered,“Ummm, yes. I have pictures on here.”

“Are they of Michael Jackson?”

I blanked. “Ummm...I...”

She interrupted me firmly, “Do you have Michael Jackson photos...or Music? You know you can download all of his pictures off of the internet? And before you know it, you won’t be able to get any of his albums that are located in record stores. They’re all gonna be gone soon, you know.”

Realizing her impact, I said, “Oh... Yes, I do have some of Michael Jackson’s music.” To which she looked at me as if I was not identifying with her. So I tried to adjust my response, “I’ve been listening to him for a long time, so I’ve got some of his stuff. It’s definitely sad.”

“You can go through now, sir.”

Now, as silly and awkward as this sounds, it legitimately bothered me. Solely because Americans have developed the capacity for compassion towards celebrities and not towards global security, which often times is centered around the global poor (and I mean this more than just in terms of financial capital). And I’m convinced that Americans care so much about celebrity because that’s what the media outlets feed them. For this reason, I’m asking us to come together and help those crying out for help in Iran. And folks, I am serious about this. People’s lives are online and there’s a good chance the media will slowly digress their coverage of Iran the same way that they’ve faded other stories of injustice out in the past year (anyone wondering what I’m talking about has to look no further than the Congo to know what I mean). Currently, the government of Iran (who are being rioted against by their people on account of injustice) has communicated that oppositional forces (the people of Iran who have been rioting their cause) have until Sunday to lodge their complaints. At the same time, developing stories are coming out about the possibility of Michael Jackson’s doctor being the culprit in his death and that now he has agreed to meet with police officials.

So this is my proposal: Save the Story of Iran. Let’s call on the media, social-networking sites, and the rest of the global internet community to publicize the hell out of the injustice in Iran.

If you have the resources to develop a webpage, let’s get some communication going between Burnside Writers and yourself about how we can spread the word.

Secondly, let’s get a logo developed and get some branding going on.

Third, let’s get these logos on people’s blogs and let’s start posting “#savethestoryofiran” on your twitter pages. Also in this vein, let’s develop some facebook groups and work to get people’s attention back on Iran.

Look, I’m not Iranian and I know there’s no way I can practically alleviate what’s going on in Iran, but there are people who can and I know that the voice of the people can really make a difference. The voice is what calls people to do the right thing. So let’s start doing that.

As Martin Luther King prophetically stated, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Whatever you do, don’t be quiet. People’s security depends on it.

Written by Guest Contributor, Matthew Worthington.


  1. Great point, Matt. I want you to know you are not alone. I even read a story this morning about a Congressman who left the chamber when some other Congress members called for a moment silence. As he said afterword, it wasn't that he wanted to disrespect Jackson. He just wanted to keep things in perspective.

  2. Make a phone call . . . here is who you need to talk to . . . 1-202-456-1111.

  3. Ditto!

    Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish (http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/)is doing a great job keeping the story at the forefront and aggregating various sources.

  4. Found you through a @themattscott tweet.

    I agree too. (I even blogged something similar). It gets pretty conflicting because the constant Jackson coverage creates an unintended backlash from within you while there are so many other things that we need to stay informed on.

    But the point should be made, the news doesn't exist to inform but to entertain us in a different sense. This is the thesis of Neil Postman's influential book Amusing Ourselves to Death.

    I enjoyed your post, see you around.

  5. Mousavi was vetted and cleared to run for office because he's a regime insider -- and yet some people think he presented such a large threat to the regime that they had to resort to massive election fraud to keep him out office? Use your brains.

    There's no actual evidence of election fraud in Iran. Such claims and counter-claims have been compiled at IranAffairs.com --go see for yourself.

  6. Watch and read mohammed T-shirt art from Sweden at,

  7. Such an important point. My big question is (even if agree in principle): how do I orient my life so as to not be overwhelmed by the reams of information I get about the world be it Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, or anywhere else that's "foreign?" We have so much data and so little knowledge.

    I think it's the job of the media to educate us, show us both sides, and not dumb the news down. But I, for one, get bogged down in all the available information. I love the internet, but it often feels like a blessing and a curse.

    How do I sort through it all without getting overwhelmed? Any thoughts? I'd rather not read People Magazine for my news, but I get why people do it.