Instagram is still removing posts and shuts down or otherwise restricts accounts which, in their personal capacities, promote the late Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The reason? He was commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by former president Trump, and Instagram as a subsidiary of Facebook operates “under US sanctions laws,” according to a spokesperson of the company.
That constitutes an interesting twist in the complicated story of free speech in the US, a story riddled with paradoxes, especially in the age of the new media.
Seen in the wider context of the eternal fight of the downtrodden against the arrogant, however, it’s not utterly surprising. If there should be any chance of fighting back, the weak can’t play in the field and by the rules set by the powerful. They, of course, can, but it’s a losing game. Such a game is essentially rigged in favor of the status quo.
“To rend the roof of the sky and cast a new way to the heaven,” as Persian mystic and poet Hafiz once put it, the weak need to find other ways to hit the arrogant where it hurts.
This is not meant to dissuade social media users sympathetic to the cause advocated by Qassem Soleimani from promoting him, and having their access to the platform automatically circumscribed. The effort has its own merits in that it better exposes the hypocrisy with which the media moguls run their business. Over time, it helps accumulate enough evidence to convince any unbiased observer that the rules set for the game are not fair, making an army of conscientious objectors whose voice will be more openly heard.
But cries of injustice have rarely, if at all, kept tyrants from conducting their business as usual. By all accounts, they don’t seem to lose a minute of sleep over such moral outcries of insignificance as long as they are winning the game. If anything, begging for mercy might even provoke a sadist to double down on their brutality, as evidenced by psychological research which demonstrates they sometimes enjoy their position of control and authority more than the physical pleasures they derive from the act of brutality. The tables need to be turned and, for their own good and for the good of others, the arrogant need to taste the medicine they have historically administered to the weak. That is more likely to convince them that the globally united front of the downtrodden is a force to be reckoned with.
And it’s not as much a phantasmagorical wish as a real possibility. Take a look at Iran’s ballistic missiles, which have angered the US. They may not be as powerful and far-reaching as American bombs, due mainly to Iran’s self-restraining defensive strategy which limited their range and payload structure. But Iran has enough of them, and they are ‘big’ and ‘beautiful’ enough (to use Trump’s terminology), and geographically dispersed enough within Iran, to cause serious damage to the interests of the US, should it dare to attack Iran.
Or take a look at the allegedly Russian hacking capabilities, which have angered the US. Interference in electoral processes across the globe was an exclusively American hobby in the 20th century, but they have now experienced a bit of it in the 2016 election, which sent their country into political turmoil for months.
Or take a look at Chinese economic production, which have angered the US. To be sure, Chinese products in certain fields are technologically superior to their Western counterparts, evidenced in Huawei’s dominance in G5 communications infrastructure, which triggered a commercial war, culminating in one episode by arresting (or in less politically correct terms, kidnapping) one of its executives in Canada in 2018.
But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Chinese products are qualitatively inferior to those of the Western. The mere fact of the astonishing growth rate of China’s GDP, which threatens to surpass that of the US within a decade, made US politicians learn a lesson or two about strength in numbers.
Or take a look at the grassroots resistance activities of the Palestinians. With a deep resemblance to the operations of resistance forces inside Europe against the Nazi Wehrmacht during the Second World War, Palestinians have made it clear, time and again, that every home, every school, every Palestinian, every living soul in occupied territories is a potential threat against the tyrannical Israelis. And the Israelis live in constant fear because they can’t commit a genocide to wipe out the whole community of resistance, though certainly not for lack of trying.
These examples, and many others, clearly establish that the fight against global arrogance should be, and is, an asymmetric war, for which Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani served as a role model: He was the man who managed to unite many elements of the Iraqi community in their struggle against both the violence primarily caused by the unjustified US-led invasion of Iraq, and the mostly US-made Daesh (ISIS), thereby winning the hearts of common Iraqis for Iran, and denying the Americans an opportunity to reap the benefits of their trillion-dollar investment in their Middle East war project.
American politicians have a right to be angered at Qassem Soleimani. Instagram has a right to be angered at Soleimani, who was a symbol of a war to which they are not accustomed, but to which they need to grow accustomed, a force whose immensity they are yet to fully understand, and a will to which they have to ultimately submit.
In the meantime, one should tell them: “Die of your rage,” as God sanctioned in the Qu’ran 3:119.
*Mojtaba Koohsari is a political analyst based in Isfahan.