Sean Dixon

What Is This Place?

The fourth estate once stood like Rome, surrounded by high walls, bursting with standards, wisdom, riches and reputation, broadcasting well-honed messages to the world. Now it has to contend with the likes of this.

Republican Congressman Mike Castle (DE) in Georgetown, DE (July 10, 2009)

Here is a good old-fashioned town-hall, pre-internet, pre-print even, but this town hall is different from the ones in the old days in that it has been recorded and uploaded in an ongoing effort to build a quorum of like-minded paranoiacs, myth-makers, misinformation-peddlers, xenophobes, racists, self-pitiers, cowards, fear-mongers, etc., who want nothing better than to plunge the world into a new Dark Age the likes of which has not been seen since Konstantine saw the cross of Jesus shining through the sun in 312 AD. Historians tend to say the Dark Ages started later, but this date of Rome’s instant conversion is looking more and more fitting to me.

So the walls of the city are breached and the occupants scattered. And their tools are taken and distributed to the four points of the compass. Where there was once a vast plain with a single McLuhan megavillagecity, soon there will be hundreds of thousands of villages, millions of them. Some of these villages are interested in being interested in the things of this world, others aren’t. Whoever it was that said when given a choice between the myth and the facts, choose the myth, probably didn’t witness the Internet.

And now here is a Persian song, showing some signs of Western (Latin) fusion, apparently about an unsuccessful lover.

Neda Jalali, Saeed Moeni and Eric Tompkins at The Main in Vancouver (2007)

The election in Iran took place on June 12, 2009. Still, a lot of hope remains that much is happening behind the scenes, a power struggle between clerics who are truly shocked at the carnage vs. those who believe that blood should flow in the streets (and in the courtrooms, and in the prisons). Even if Ahmadinejad was legitimately elected, must the punishment for voicing your displeasure be death?

My Iranian neighbour says there’s never been a legitimate election in Iran. They’ve always decided in advance who will win, and stuffed the ballot boxes accordingly.

Many of us here in the west still have our Twitter accounts set to Tehran in a one-time bid to confuse the efforts of Iranian security seeking to destroy the bug-bears within their borders. Blowing smoke from the comfort of our homes seemed a better option than folding our arms and sitting it out. Even if there were those who poked a bit of fun.


Twitter is the newest forum to follow the functions of these Global Villages. In this most level of all playing fields, if you tweeted to disparage, it was rumoured you were a paid member of the Iranian Police or a volunteer Basij. And maybe you were. But, in the nastier realm of tweeted commentary, you were more likely a sociopathic, narcissistic fake, masquerading as a Basij, giddy to be mistaken for one, taking refuge in the internet as you evoked the damp undergarments of dying protesters, typing with a single finger while you held your cock with your other hand.

Or else, as in the screenshot above, you were what the narcissist aspired to but could never be: witty in your suspicion of the ease of it all.


(@banjobanjar is me. I was wrong to pick a fight with the above tweeter, for reasons outlined below.)

For all of these the forum was the same, and it was also the same as that of @PersianKiwi, who was probably many people and who sent dispatches followed by everyone from you and me to anchors on the evening news, who were forced to sign off and disband because one of their numbers had been arrested and would soon be forced to name names.

I witnessed all of these message-types, dizzying as they passed through my Twitter feed in late June, along with the spammers who were apt to tweet something supportive, including a link you thought would show a scene of the demonstrators putting the police to flight but really sent you straight to a marketing page.

And the Kool-Aid punch revolution tweeter had the good sense not to append his bits with #iranelection. If he had, his missives would not have merely entered the personal devices of his friends and followers (and me). They would also have bunged up the cell-phones and computers of the protesters of Tehran, not to mention the flickering screens of the policemen who’d have surely appreciated their wit.

Because in the global phenomenon that is Twitter, each hash mark (#) represents a village all its own.

But there’s a better to go along with the worse.

At the centre of the village of #iranelection, people go up to their rooftops every night. Some have cameras. Some upload videos. One of them was recorded the night after the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei shed tears at Friday prayers. This one knew the police would be coming in the morning. When the Supreme Leader has wept, it means that tomorrow, children will die in the streets.

Okay, it’s not much of a video. You can’t even see anything. But I would throw away my newspaper for this.

Poem for the Rooftops of Iran (June 19, 2009)

I don’t know which is more stirring — the single voice in the foreground or all the others rising up from the city behind. Is this the way it is when we have no other way to communicate? Checking in from the heights, the rooftops, the towers, the treetops, always in the dark, expressing defiance, taking and receiving courage, finding the will to go on in the morning? Are these the facts? Or is this the myth?

If this is a sound that travels across time as well as space, then how queer it should end up on Twitter and Facebook, via YouTube, in this new dark age.

My neighbour who just got back recently from Tehran says it’s still like that, every night. The police come and mark the doors, as best they can, so that their compatriots on the dawn patrol can come and bust them down. In the mornings the night criers get up early, run downstairs, wash their doors clean. The next night, it all starts up again. My neighbour laughs when he tells it. I’ve heard this laugh from him before. It doesn’t mean what he’s saying is funny. It means that what he’s saying is just the way it is.

– Sean Dixon

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Sean Dixon is a novelist, playwright, and actor. His novels include "The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn" and "The Girls Who Saw Everything" ("The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal" in the U.S. and the U.K.) — named one of the Best Books of 2007 by Quill & Quire. His plays have been produced in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the U.K., and three have been collected in "AWOL: Three Plays for Theatre SKAM." There is also his drama, "A God in Need of Help."