Even the catchiest slogans get old — and could get in the way of a new relationship.
In front of a portrait of the late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, presidential candidate Hasan Rowhani, a former top nuclear negotiator, center, gestures to his supporters at a rally in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 1, 2013.
Memo to: Iran President Hassan Rouhani
Re: “Death to America”
Since your election, some in the American bloviati have ventured onto a shaky limb, speculating that you’ll steer Iran away from its rogue nuclear program and toward a deal with the U.S. and its allies. We’re skeptical of that. But we did perk up when you said: “We can stand against powers with prudence rather than with slogans.”
Most people interpreted that as a dig against the most revered slogan in Iran: “Death to America!” This has rung through Iranian streets since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “These three words are the blood of our ideology,” one Iranian explained to The New York Times.
Your suggestion that Iranians give DTA a rest has provoked some of your countrymen: In defense of the slogan, hard-line groups have announced a “Down with U.S.A.” conference next month, the Times reports. The highlight: “The First Major International Award of ‘Down With America’ ” for the best photograph, poster, video, song or caricature. Among the contest judges: a Holocaust-denying cartoonist.
Winners - announced in December - will reap cash awards of as much as $4,000 for injecting some new venom into the vituperation of America and its allies.
Sounds like you hit a nerve there, Mr. Rouhani. But we think you should stick to your rethink-DTA campaign.
Chants are powerful. Think of the anti-Vietnam war classic, “Hell no, we won’t go.” Or this from protesters on the streets outside the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago: “The whole world is watching.” Those perfectly captured the combative mood of the moment, just as “Death to America” did in Ayatollah Khomeini’s American-hostage-taking 1979 Tehran.
But any advertising guru will tell you that a slogan is bound to wear thin after three decades. People grow tired of hollering the same rallying cry, particularly when, as in your country’s case, hard-liners are making it mandatory to shout “Death to America” at every public gathering. Sounds a little ... desperate to us.
We also hear your government wants to conduct a new public opinion survey on whether people support an outreach to the United States. You might want to tread carefully there. Despite all the ritual screaming of anti-American slogans, many Iranians favor establishing ties with the United States. In 2002, Iranian pollsters asked citizens if they favored a dialogue with the United States as a prelude to possibly re-establishing diplomatic relations. Two-thirds said yes. Did the ruling mullahs listen? Not exactly. They shuttered a polling institute and arrested three pollsters for espionage and threatening national security.
Still, we’re confident that you and your fellow citizens can find an appropriate substitute for “Death to America.”
In 2009, Iranians flooded the streets to protest the iron-fisted mullahs who stole the presidential election for your Holocaust-denying predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For many days and nights, the cry of “death to the dictator” rang out.
Sounds good to us.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.