Freedom of Speech Framed

Darius Guppy, left, with Earl Spencer

The Independent has offered Darius Guppy the opportunity to write back against the dominant ‘Iran narrative’ in the Western media. Guppy argues that there is no hard evidence for rigging in the recent Iranian presidential elections (an argument made here and here too), and criticises the easy assumption that Ahmadinejad’s victory was fraudulent, as well as, more generally, the West’s usual double standards when it comes to the Muslim world. He questions the complacent expectation that most young Iranians wish to emulate our ‘free’ society, and contrasts the UK unfavourably with Iran in terms of authoritarian surveillance, public ethics, and culture. “Visit Iran and you will see a people polite, hospitable, cultured, noble and brave,” he writes. “Look at Britain’s urban hell and you will see young girls and boys armed with knives, swearing, half naked, vomiting the previous night’s attempt to stifle their pain and their emptiness.” Guppy here is employing the rant genre, as I often do myself. Like all op-ed journalism, his piece is necessarily partial and incomplete. He generalises, and fails to mention, for example, Iran’s galloping heroin problem. But he surely makes some very good points, and makes them very eloquently. The Independent is to be congratulated for giving him the space.

Or is it? Two paragraphs into the online piece, the reader is directed to another article which mocks the author. This framing piece doesn’t engage Guppy’s arguments but simply launches ad hominem attacks against him. It turns out that Guppy was imprisoned for insurance fraud in 1993. This is relevant information, but not so relevant that we need to be informed even before we’ve finished Guppy’s piece. Then the Independent’s omniscient voice implies Guppy is not a genuine enough native informant because he’s only half Iranian. (Guppy does use the rhetorical ‘we’ in his piece, but also describes himself as an old Etonian. He isn’t pretending to be anything he isn’t.) The framing article also subtly distorts Guppy’s perspective, for instance by claiming that he mocks the idea that Iranians long for democracy. In Guppy’s article, democracy is written inside inverted commas – ‘democracy’. In other words, Guppy is not writing against democracy, but against the propagandist use of the word in the West.

So this is the Independent’s understanding of freedom of speech. The other side can be allowed to talk, but only when ‘we’ have told the reader how to listen. The word ‘we’ isn’t actually used; the tactics are more insiduous than that.

Below is Guppy’s piece, followed by the Independent’s avuncular guidance.

Darius Guppy: Here in Iran, we look with horror at the country that Britain has become

On 21 March, The Independent published a letter in which I argued that there was no empirical evidence of the elections in Iran having been rigged, despite prolific assurances to the contrary. Driven by forces beholden to the corporate interest, nothing would please the West more than to have the Iranian masses emulate “the mindless McDonald’s-munching slaves of Mammon” of my last sentence.

Ignoring certain wholly predictable responses of a personal nature, two principal lines of reasoning have emerged that are intended to rebut my hypothesis. First, that recent events in Iran, notably large street demonstrations, are proof of election rigging, and second, that all the Iranian people really want is to enjoy “freedom” and “democracy” – just like us! A proposition that smacks as much of arrogance as of Fukuyaman hubris.

To suggest that two undeniably devout men, Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, should have engaged in such an un-Islamic conspiracy as cheating their own people (unnecessary, since the consensus of the opinion polls put Mr Ahmadi Nejad comfortably ahead) constitutes possibly the most serious allegation that one could level against them.

In supposedly civilised societies, the more serious the accusation the greater the burden of proof required to shore it up. Evidence is required; hand-in-the-till-captured-live-on-video type evidence. Nothing that I have seen or read comes close to this standard; something all the more surprising given the Iranian people’s inventiveness and tenacity.

If the death of a poor protester is able to be posted on YouTube within minutes of its occurrence, then one might have expected to see some footage perhaps of Revolutionary Guards intimidating voters or of a whistleblower with a blacked-out face claiming he was paid by the authorities to empty ballot boxes and refill them with voting slips he was handed.

Nor is the proposition that a hermetically sealed society has managed to contain evidence of wrongdoing convincing. Truth has an uncomfortable habit of getting out. Proper evidence, real smoking guns, have been regularly uncovered where genuinely repressive regimes such as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Stalinist Russia and so on are concerned.

In fact, those who rely on such arguments have clearly never set foot in Iran, where they would be struck by her openness, warmth, lack of surveillance cameras, fingerprinting at airports and other paraphernalia that accompany a KGB-like state apparatus. The Englishman need travel no further south than Land’s End to experience a genuine police state.

As pointed out by Dr Dickie in his response to my letter (28 March), where then has the quality of scepticism, a crucial component of the liberal, reasonable mindset, and once so defining of the national character, gone? Now replaced in citizens of the so-called free world, including Britain, by a blind acceptance of what they hear from two most discredited sources: politicians and journalists.

How often does one hear, for example, that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad has called for the eradication of Israel? A simple click of the mouse is all that separates those who swallow what they are fed from what the man actually said, which was that the state of Israel, qua state, should vanish, not that millions of Jews should be exterminated, as implied in the media.

Such bovine acquiescence before the official line negates the very justification for democracies – which rely upon a citizenry that is rational and capable of making up its own mind – and has dangerous consequences. Take, for example, the media and politically induced conviction that Iraq abounded in weapons of mass destruction capable of annihilating London at 45 minutes’ notice.

And how to explain this sudden interest in Iran’s democratic aspirations? Did Western governments care for the wishes of her people when it helped Saddam kill hundreds of thousands of them because they had risen up in popular revolt against a genuine dictator? Whether Iranians support Mr Ahmadi-Nejad or Mr Mousavi, one thing is for certain, virtually to a man they are in favour of their country developing nuclear energy.

Will Western governments support such a democratically expressed desire? How about the overwhelming numbers for Hamas? Or the Algerians when they voted for the Islamic Salvation Front to save them from oppression by corrupt army cadres? What about the wishes of the Uzbek, Egyptian and Saudi peoples? Are they respected? Put the question of Israel’s legitimacy as a state to the world’s Muslims – how do you think they will vote?

Always and everywhere, at least in the Muslim world, democracy sides with the dictators.

Perhaps too those, in Iran and elsewhere, who look with cynicism at your democratic utopias are not quite as wet behind the ears as your own citizens. This was the meaning of my reference to “McDonald’s-munching slaves” – not, as one commentator put it, an expression of snobbery directed at the working class who cannot afford a meal at the Bullingdon, but a highlighting of who it is that actually runs the show in your democracies and enslaves your population through a culture of consumerism.

For McDonald’s is the ultimate symbol of the bourgeois, corporate interests that hold the real reins of power in your countries. Was it an oppressed working class, as one commentator suggested, which took to the streets in the Nayavaran and Shemiran districts of North Tehran – districts as representative of the nation as are Mayfair and Knightsbridge of Britain?

On the contrary, Iran’s workers are largely in favour of Mr Ahmadi Nejad. It was in fact commercial, bourgeois interests which choreographed the Tehran demonstrations, a class compromised by their collaboration with Pahlavi despotism and consequently repudiated by the Iranian masses who groaned under the regime from which that class prospered.

The truth is that many in Iran and in the Muslim world in general have grasped Western democracy’s dirty little secret: that your leaders have no real power. And if your representatives are as ineffectual as their electorate before the Dictatorship of Money, then what meaning have your votes and your democracy?

As for the patronising assumption that Muslims in general and Iranians in particular, look with envy from far across the Bosphorus at Western society: wake up! While I do not claim to speak for every Muslim or even every Iranian, I am confident that my views coincide with those of the majority.

For we look with horror at your anarchy and what you have become. Visit Iran and you will see a people polite, hospitable, cultured, noble and brave. Look at Britain’s urban hell and you will see young girls and boys armed with knives, swearing, half naked, vomiting the previous night’s attempt to stifle their pain and their emptiness. Turn on the radio and listen to laddettes boasting about what they did with their boyfriends in bed the day before, but tune in to Iran’s airwaves and you will hear poetry and beautiful music.

Now while you may have traded Turner for Emin, Shakespeare for Rushdie, Mozart for Madonna, people who think very much like me will never allow such a thing to happen to their nation. You offer us Puff Daddy but we have Hafez, thank you very much. You offer us Hollywood when we have perhaps the finest modern cinema on earth. You may have jettisoned a once great European and God-fearing civilisation, but your moral poison must never be allowed to insinuate its way into one of the greatest and oldest cultures on the planet.

The events in Iran of the past 30 years must be seen for what they really are, not a revolution at all, but a counter revolution; not a negation of a nation’s grand past as occurred in France or Russia or China, but an affirmation of it; a realisation that the experiment you call the Enlightenment, or secular liberalism, far from being the triumph of your comfortable certainties, has been the opposite – a bringing low of all that once made Europe great.

The planet has been brought to its knees by bourgeois greed. Scientists increasingly consider us to be in the midst of a “mass extinction event”, similar to that which gripped the world when a giant meteorite slammed into the Gulf of Mexico and extinguished the dinosaurs. Vast and increasing discrepancies in wealth cause massive social unrest that can but accelerate the apocalypse. Meanwhile, the value of your cultural output is zero, and in the West the family has all but disappeared.

Built on a doctrine of expansion, your effervescence entailed history’s greatest genocides, 60 million alone in South and Central America within a century of Columbus’s arrival, the virtual eradication of the Plains Indians in the North (“Manifest Destiny”), the enslavement of millions of Africans and Asians and the pillaging of half the world’s resources. No creature in history has been as destructive as European Man and no force has harnessed that destructiveness as successfully as secular liberalism with its denial of a transcendent order.

And yet you accuse us of aggression.

The history of Iran is one of invasion by foreign powers. How many Iranian warships patrol the Gulf of Mexico or the straits of Dover? How many Iranian spy satellites sail across your skies? How many Iranian troops are stationed next to your borders poised to invade? How many billions of Toumans are pumped into destabilising your regimes? How many Iranian nuclear missiles are aimed at your cities? How many atom bombs has Iran dropped on civilian populations? Now ask these questions in reverse. And yet you allow your politicians to make you feel insecure!

Were the catastrophes I outlined above caused by Islam, or Iran, or even Bin Laden for that matter? Or were they in fact caused by a way of life which you arrogantly assume the whole world wishes to embrace? Your “mindlessness”, by which I mean your failure to ask such questions, comes from the fact that you cannot even comprehend your own indenture – to money and to desires that can never be satisfied.

Iran is set irreversibly on a course towards independence and will never adopt the position of servility towards Mammon and America which has earned for England the appellative not of the “the Great Satan”, a term reserved for the United States, but “shaytan-e-kuchek” or “the little Satan”.

To this end, she has recently developed her own fighter jets and her own communications satellites. Likewise, she is engaged in building a giant oil refinery so that she will no longer be reliant upon imported petrol. And, rest assured, she will develop a peaceful nuclear technology to insure her energy requirements against the inevitable day when the oil runs out, however much the “free world” or “international community” plot.

God willing, she can then become what Huntingdon refers to as a “core state” around which other nations that cherish freedom can coalesce. As one of the few countries that has consistently dared to stand up to Mammon, she must be a bastion in the coming clash – not of civilisations, as Huntingdon puts it, but between civilisation on the one hand and the barbarism that is now synonymous with secular liberalism in the minds of so many Muslims, and others disillusioned with the fruits of the West, and not just in the imagination of one particular old Etonian, former member of the Bullingdon.

Darius Guppy’s back – and now he’s Iranian

Disgraced Old Etonian breaks 13-year silence with attack on West’s ‘moral poison’

By Chris Green

Friday, 7 August 2009
Darius Guppy in 1994 before going to prison.
Darius Guppy in 1994 before going to prison.

He was born with good looks, intelligence and the connections to match, and once moved in the finest circles at Eton and Oxford, where he was a member of the Bullingdon Club and a contemporary of Boris Johnson and David Cameron.Then Darius Guppy fell into obscurity for 13 years following an insurance scam and a spell in prison – until now. Now he uses an opinion piece in The Independent to launch an extraordinary attack on Western civilisation.

In an essay about Iran, Mr Guppy says Britain has become an “urban hell” and a dispenser of “moral poison” whose citizens are enslaved by a “culture of consumerism”.

Mr Guppy, whose mother was Iranian and who frequently visits the country on business, told The Independent he no longer recognised Britain, the country of his birth.

He said: “Very often, people ask me: ‘Darius, why do you feels so antipathetic towards England and the West? After all, England is your country.’ My response is always the same: the question is not whether England is my country, it is whether England still is a country. What the hell is England any more?”

Throughout the piece, he refers to British citizens as “you” and Iranians as “we”. He also insists that most Iranians view the West “with horror”.

Mr Guppy’s grandfather, Mohammed Kazem Assar, was an Iranian ayatollah and philosopher who taught at Tehran University. Among his students was Ayatollah Khomeini, the famous Iranian revolutionary leader.

In his piece, he pours scorn on the idea that the Iranian elections were rigged, and expresses the wish that Iran will become a “core state around which other nations that cherish freedom can coalesce”.

It is a sudden and surprising return to the public eye for Mr Guppy, who left the UK in 1996 after being released from prison for fraud. In 1993 he suffered a spectacular fall from grace after it emerged that he and a friend had paid someone to tie them up and fake a robbery in New York so that he could claim £1.8m in insurance. After serving three years in jail, he disappeared to South Africa and continues to live in Cape Town.

In his essay, he writes: “Visit Iran and you will see a people polite, hospitable, cultured, noble and brave. Look at Britain’s urban hell and you will see young girls and boys armed with knives, swearing, half naked, vomiting the previous night’s attempt to stifle their pain and their emptiness.

“Turn on the radio and listen to ladettes boasting about what they did with their boyfriends in bed the day before, but tune in to Iran’s airwaves and you will hear poetry and beautiful music.”

Earlier this month, Mr Guppy wrote a letter to this newspaper criticising the widespread assumption that Iran’s elections had been fixed. He also referred to Westerners as “mindless, McDonald’s-munching slaves of Mammon”. A debate on the letters page ensued, and today’s essay is Mr Guppy’s rejoinder.

In the piece, he argues that Iran is not a repressed society, but in fact enjoys more freedoms than the UK, which he calls “a genuine police state”. He describes the idea that the Iranian people long for democracy as “a proposition that smacks as much of arrogance as of Fukuyaman hubris”.

In March this year, 20-year-old tapes emerged of a secret telephone conversation between Mr Guppy and his friend Boris Johnson, then a journalist at The Daily Telegraph. Mr Guppy wanted Mr Johnson to track down a News of the World journalist who had been investigating his affairs, so that he could hire someone to beat him up.

Mr Guppy was formerly a close friend of Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, and was best man at his wedding to Victoria Lockwood. But the pair fell out after he accused the Earl of trying to seduce his wife Patricia while he was in prison.

4 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech Framed”

  1. I can’t help myself: WHAT an unfortunate name!

    But I’m glad he’s speaking up… not, clearly enough, that many will heed….

  2. What Darius Guppy says about most of us in western “democracies” is true, but too painful or frightening
    for us to accept as truth.
    It’s much easier to believe the lies & feel secure.
    The best slaves are the ones who aren’t even aware of their own servitude.
    We all need to wake up & smell the deceit.

  3. The Guppy story seems mighty fishy to me!

    Did he get out of jail and marry a fish called Wanda?

    Remember the guppy was bred to produce longer fins and colour varieties.In fact it was a Dary forebear,Lechmere who was the naturalist who discovered the fish.

    Levity aside-the picture of police-state Britain with its culture enslaved to Mammon painted by Guppy rings true.

    When Dary refers to the protester who was up on YouTube the day after getting killed on a demo I thought for a second he was referring to Ian Tomlinson the guy who was killed by a cop at the G20 protest in London.

    The fact that Tomlinson wasn’t even on the demo and was killed anyway bears out the accuracy of Guppy’s view of how aggressively oppressive the state in this country has become.

    Britain a dystopian democracy hostage to the Dictatorship of Money wallowing in a morass of “bovine acquiesence” and Fukayaman hubristic delusion?

    Yes,the fish-sorry the guy’s spot on!

    If sending guys to prison begets this level of insight then stiffer sentences are clearly called for.Porridge has done wonders for Guppy.

    The Indie’s omniscient framing device is curious in that it rehashes material re-Dary’s youth and time in jail for the Lloyds insurance scam.Some of the information is erroneous and out of date.

    Dary was noted more for being a member of Piers Gaveston at Oxford rather than Bullingdon.The former is male same-sex oriented Dining Society where the Eye/HIGNFNY satirist,Ian Hislop,Tom Parker-Bowles and Hugh Grant also enjoyed public copulation and caviar.

    Now we all understand the Guppy predilection for caviar,don’t we?

    The muck-raking framing device is on a par with the savage review the Indie’s Roger Clarke gave to Guppy’s “swell of the cell” prison memoir,Roll of the Dice in Feb.2007.

    An “horrific hybrid” screamed Clarke-squeezing the last drop out of the fish joke-written solely to make money.

    Talk about kicking a man while he’s down.

    Evidently while inside the tension between Guppy’s Brit/Persian,Christian/Islamic mixed heritage was resolved in the latter’s favour.In Brixton he befriended Abu Hamza and the cleric’s critique of Western Civilisation rang a chord.

    The secret tapes of conversations between Guppy and Boris Johnson surfaced long ago and were a frequent source of ribaldry on HIGNFY.Johnson gave a good impression of someone who was embarrassed by his association with Guppy and the contract to duff up a journalist.

    It was in fact Johnson who leaked the tapes to the newspapers in the first place.

    I would guess that the discrediting of Guppy in the framing device is the Indie’s forlorn attempt to maintain some consistency in its Iran coverage leaning heavily as it does on the side of the Green revolution establishment narrative.

    Which of course begs the question as to why the Indie prints an anti-Western rant by someone they are keen to discredit in the same breath?

    Which in turn leads us to the question as to just exactly what are the current sources of Guppy’s income and capital?

    Could be Aquatics online,I suppose…….

  4. Every word that Guppy wrote could be a lie…but it would still be a protest against a practice stifling real discussion. The saving grace of Brits has always been that they are able to be irreverent of societal consensus.
    Putting an op-ed next to his piece reeks of an old practice of hypocrisy and propaganda : an ‘argument’ attacking character with specious allegations because refutation is too difficult!
    That the ‘Indie’ pushes such a practice tells me all I need to know about how real is their Independence?

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