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 ... --