The Spectacle of Ahmadinejad
by GOLAB P. in New York
24 Sep 2010 23:04
[ comment ] Yesterday I watched Ahmadinejad speak in front of me while I was seated in the General Assembly at the United Nations.
It was quite dramatic, to say the least.
He walked out, that small, hirsute man, sat on the chair, and awaited the famous bow.
Then it was his turn in the spotlight, and you could tell easily that the podium is his stage, and he relishes every moment of it. I have seen dozens of presidents in the past few days from Tarja Halonen of Finland to Pál Schmitt of Hungary to Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia and even Barack Obama. But no one was as jovial, no one seemed to be getting that ultimate kick like our man Mahmoud.
Yes, and I saw the Europeans and Americans "walk out" -- but up close it is not nearly as dramatic as they make it out to be. People are constantly streaming in and out of that hall anyways, so you had to look hard to notice where they were getting up from to realize they were making a protest.
And despite the fact that a few dozen diplomats left, you did not get to see the rest of the audience in the huge hall where I was seated. Hundreds of people had come just to see him -- I know that because, like me, they walked in before his session and left right after. They had taken time off from work, walked from all over that annoying neighborhood amid hundreds of patrol cars and police officers and security personnel, to hear "Ahmadinejad." As we waited in line to be seated (the hall had been emptied for lunch), everyone was giddy, as if in line for an exciting show or a movie premiere -- and a spectacle of full proportions is what he delivered.
They were there for the show, and he did not disappoint. This great, sinister actor knows the spectacle and plays it well.
And if for some odd reason, some day the Americans were to ignore him, if no one was to walk out, if Larry King, that most obnoxious of hosts were to rethink his invite, we would see a very different Ahmadinejad indeed.
He is our most famous export since Persian carpets and pistachios. Despite the difficulty in pronouncing his name, and despite New York City being as huge as it is, I have heard random people talk about him on the streets while waiting for the light (in the rare instances when people actually stop for the light), I've heard young girls giggle about him in the elevator, I've heard couples discussing him in the grocery store.
"Ahmadinejad, I call him the cab driver," a guy walking out of a law firm told me.
He is a superstar, for all the wrong reasons, and we only amplify his fame.
I'll tell you a funny part, though, another part you probably did not see. At the end of his address, there was massive applause for Ahmadinejad. The sound was thundering, unusual for the small crowd on the General Assembly floor (although many delegations were clapping, as well). I looked around to see where the noise was coming from and eventually discovered it. The translators' chairs, which had been deserted less than a minute ago before, were filled with Iranian diplomats -- chubby, hairy men dressed in that particular Iranian way -- clapping like mad. Their hands were thundering loud, and it was easy to notice that all the noise was coming from that part of the room.
That scene, watching them clap in unison like the devil was after them, was one of the most priceless visions I've ever set eyes on. It was remarkable -- their glee and enthusiasm, the way they clapped as if their lives depended on it.
Ahmadinejad was there for the show and as the lead performer, he was not going to leave the room shortchanged. He had kept his end of the bargain, given us a magnificent spectacle over which the world will be abuzz for weeks to come, much to his delight. And he was not going to leave the stage without that final, majestic farewell -- even if he had to create it himself. The men clapped like crazy, and he could pretend they were real. The spectacle became the real, and we could no longer tell the difference.
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