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Publishing in Payvand: Can It Make a Difference?

By Nader Habibi


Payvand is my favorite news website for learning the latest developments about Iran. However, a more important reason that I visit Payvand regularly is to read the informative commentaries that are posted linked to the website. During the past seven years I have also contributed a number of articles and based on the feedback that I have received it is clear that a large number people from all over the world visit Payvand. The political message of most commentaries that appear in Payvand can be divided into two different categories. One group of articles criticizes the U.S. policy toward Middle East and Iran in particular. The second group criticizes the Islamic regime of Iran for violation of human rights, lack of democracy and a radical foreign policy that often jeopardizes Iran's national interest. Both of these are valuable contributions and could be very informative for a reader that is otherwise using the mainstream media as its source of news and analysis.


However, the majority of the people who visit the Payvand website are already in agreement with the perspectives of the regular contributors such as Kam Zarrabi, Kaveh Afrasiabi and Davood Rahni to name a few. It is perhaps fair to say that for the majority of the Payvand visitors who are worried about what is happening inside Iran and what the Western World is doing to Iran (and some other developing nations), the daily visit to Payvand is an emotional ritual. Reading articles that reaffirm their perspective and share their point of view, helps these visitors relieve their political anxieties. While the contributors to Payvand hope that what they write will have an impact on public opinion, they are well aware that many of the people that read their articles already agree with them and many of the people whose political views can be changed as a result of exposure to such articles hardly know about Payvand.


A commentary that appears in Payvand can make a valuable contribution if its inspires an individual who might have voted for a conservative candidate in an American or European political election, to vote for a more liberal candidate who would advocate a more humane Middle East policy by his own government. To achieve this goal the Payvand articles must reach the types individuals that do not visit Payvand regularly. In my view both the contributors and regular visitors to Payvand can take steps to bring these points of view to a broader group of people. The contributors can try to re-publish these articles in mainstream newspapers and websites which are not directed to a specific ethnic group (the article might need some modification based on the background of the target audience.) A good example is a recent article by Abbas Maleki and Kaveh Afrasiabi that appeared in the September 21 edition of San Fransisco Chronicle.


The Payvand visitors can make a contribution by emailing the Payvand articles that they find informative to their acquaintances outside the Iranian community. If you have a co-worker or a neighbor whose views about Iran and the rest of the Middle East are shaped by Fox News but is not a fanatic, email him/her a link to a Payvand article that you think might help challenge his misperceptions and modify his view.  It is also equally valuable to email these articles to moderate and liberal acquaintances outside Iranian community who are likely to email them to a few other people. It is however, important to avoid the types of articles that might be perceived by some readers as having an anti-American or anti-Western bias.  Instead select the types of articles that are balanced and informative. The Payvand readers that might be worried that sending such emails might have adverse consequences for them can do so by setting up an anonymous email account. However they must be careful not to annoy the email recipient by repeated emails or offensive comments. People receive tens of emails a day and delete most of them.  


These are only two suggestions that come to my mind. I hope this article inspires other members of the Payvand community to share their views on how the content of Payvand can reach a broader audience and make a real difference.


About the author: Nader Habibi teaches economics of the Middle East at Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies.


... Payvand News - 9/24/07 ... --

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