Monday, December 14, 2009

Money Talks: The Riyal Truth

Ingenious Iranian opposition members are apparently using paper money to disseminate anti-regime propaganda and challenge the authority of the state on its very own symbol of power, the national currency. According to the Iranian exile website, run from Mountain View in California, opposition activists
"have taken their expressions to another high circulation mass-medium, banknotes. The Central Bank of Iran has tried to take these banknotes out of circulation, but there are just too many of them, and gave up. For the activists’ people it’s a way of saying “We are here, and the green movement is going on”.
In times like these, the "green movement" idea of letting the money do the talking might be worth a try in other countries too. Certainly, this type of free speech is a most felicitous marriage of form and substance - the medium is the message.

Assuming that these sample images are genuine and represent a sense of what a significant part of the Iranian public think, it is particularly interesting to see that the regime is being challenged on the basis of its deals with other countries. Khamenei is accused of being a "servant of Putin" and the government is charged with having passed on the nation's oil revenues to Chavez. The government's relations with China (from where it imports garbage) and India (to where it exports gas) are also slammed.

But the slogans also hit pretty close to home on domestic policy issues. Particularly irksome must be this quote from Ali Shariati, the chief ideologue of the 1979 revolution (all quotes based on the info provided by - I don't claim to know any Farsi):

"Don’t believe what a government says if that government is the only entity that has the right of expression."
Ouch... it's got to hurt for any corrupt, violent, fundamentalist regime that draws its legitimacy from a revolutionary heritage when it is reminded by its own population of its long-lost ideals from 30 years ago. Meanwhile, in my own neighborhood, I will be looking out for Swiss franc banknotes with hand-scribbled demands for nationalization of UBS and Credit Suisse, and calling for the head of Marcel Ospel.

In other news from the Siamese twins of crime and politics (conjoined at the head), The Observer reports that over US$350 billion of drug money were injected into legal circulation (read: laundered) at the height of the financial crisis last year when no other liquid assets were available, keeping several unnamed banks afloat; and last night, somebody wiped that smirk off Silvio Berlusconi's face - throwing shoes is so 2008:

Not that I endorse that kind of behavior. Pronta guarigione, Silvio!