A Conservative Iranian’s Guide to Suppressing YouTube Videos

*Editor’s note: Yesterday we covered the arrest of a group of young Iranians in Tehran, who made a video to Pharrell’s hit song, “Happy.” As noted in our story, the original fan video, which received over 160,000 views on YouTube over the month it was online, has since been marked private, but reproductions have been flourishing on the Internet. As of this posting, a May 20th (two days ago) upload by Pooya Jahandar has over 721,000 hits, and counting…

by Derek Davison

Friends, who among us has not been confronted by that irritating and morally corrosive internet video that both grates on the nerves and threatens to undermine everything that is good and decent in society? Are you interested in protecting others from being exposed to this filth? I’m here to help. Here’s a step-by-step guide to keeping YouTube’s dangerous grip off our beloved Islamic Republic:

Step 1: Find an offensive video to ban

too-happy-in-IranYou might consider deliberately looking for something to get mad about strange, but rest assured that combing the internet for something that outrages you is a completely legitimate and highly productive use of your time.

Now, you can’t redirect people’s outrage with just any video. Please use a discerning eye and find something that is really offensive. Like kittens — nobody likes kittens, with their little slashing claws and sharp teeth. Babies are also good — I mean, who likes babies? Or, hypothetically of course, you could find a video of pleasant-looking young people violating the long-held prohibition on men and women appearing together in an internet video and dancing to a song sung by an American who wears a funny hat. You’ll want something that’s gone a little “viral” but hasn’t blown up too much, because then you won’t be able to greatly increase awareness of the existence of the video while simultaneously trying to make sure that it never gets seen.

Step 2: Denounce the video and arrest the participants, ideally in the most public manner possible

damn-those-happy-IraniansThis is simple logic. How will people know that the YouTube video they probably haven’t seen is bad and offensive unless you do something very public to let them know? Answer: they won’t. This is not good; you can’t suppress something that only a few people know about! So put somebody in uniform, a police commander maybe, on camera to denounce the video and reassure the public that anyone who films themselves in a “false utopia” will be jolted into reality by squatting naked!

Then, arrest everybody involved in the making of the video. This will be difficult if we’re dealing with kittens because of the scratching and biting. Babies, on the other hand, are surprisingly easy to arrest, but they are unable to go on TV and confess to, well, whatever. This is why if you can find a video of dancing young people, that’s really the way to go. Anyway, stick the arrestees on TV and pressure them into confessing to something, anything, so the people watching know that regardless of who’s president, conservative forces will always be in control.

Step 3: Let the power of modern media work for you

By now your efforts are really starting to pay off. By publicly drawing massive amounts of attention to this video that a relatively small number of people had seen before you pointed it out to them, you’ve not only managed to alert your own public to the excellent work you’re doing, but you’ve gotten the foreign press interested as well.

This is great; young people think of the news media as “square,” which means “uncool,” so if the video is being covered by the media then people will be less interested in seeing it. Maybe you’ve even inspired a bunch of people to reproduce the original video so that even if the original is taken down the copies will still be available. This is excellent news, because our people are notoriously counter-culture and will not want to watch something if it’s all over the place, so the more copies of the video there are, the less likely it will be that anyone will look at it. If you’re really lucky, a major celebrity, like the American in the funny hat if you went that route, will publicly denounce your actions, maybe even a couple of times, and this is gold!

Nobody listens to famous people who wear funny hats, because if they did then those people wouldn’t have to wear the funny hats to get attention. Again, this is all basic logic. So getting the funny hat man to talk about this story will really help make sure that nobody notices it.

Step 4: Release some of the participants in the video, but keep at least one so that the story doesn’t go away

By now it may be time to goose things a bit, to make sure that everybody keeps talking about the video you don’t want them to see, so publicly release most of the people involved, but hold one or two folks back in order to extend the story still further. This will give you more options for suppressing any knowledge of the video’s existence, like maybe a nice public trial or something.

Step 5: Congratulate yourselves on a job well done

Mission accomplished, my brothers and sisters! If you’ve followed these steps, then the offensive video that you found has been totally suppressed and its copies are not themselves all going viral, and your actions have not spawned a massive social media campaign against you, thereby exponentially increasing the number of people who have seen or are at least aware of the video.

Hopefully this guide has helped you to restore order and morality to the internet and to your society. Now enjoy the accolades of your people, who undoubtedly are more convinced than ever of your great effectiveness as a leader and visionary!

Derek Davison

Derek Davison is an analyst covering U.S. foreign policy and international affairs and the writer/editor of the newsletter Foreign Exchanges. His writing has appeared at LobeLog, Jacobin, and Foreign Policy in Focus.



  1. I like the sarcastic approach. It’s appropriate whenever you think of Iran’s leaders. Iran Leadership = Obsessive Religious Conservatives. But digging a little deeper, I think it’s important to remember that this and many, many other similar situations of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment are just indicative of Iran’s government regardless of whoever is in power. The perceptions that there exist moderate and conservative factions doing battle for the heart and soul of Iran is pretty much a fiction concocted by those who want the West to loosen economic sanctions on the pretext it would aid more moderate elements in the government.

    Nothing could be further from the truth when the constitutional vests all authority into the ruling religious council and the Supreme Leader in Khamenei. So when arrests like this happen and perceived moderates like Rouhani chirp about the injustice of it all, just remember that for several decades Rouhani was in charge of the military and security institutions carrying out these arrests!

  2. The Holy Quran is divided primarily into two sections, the Surrah’s that were issued in Mecca, and those that were revealed in Medina. The “Mecci” Surrah’s, the one’s revealed in Mecca are generally peaceful and conciliatory, the one’s that were revealed in Medina, this is after the Prophet of Islam PBUH, had gained substantial power, are direct, and confrontational, the so called “Qatal” Surrahs. As one reviews the development of a resistance Islam for the past three to four decades, we can observe that the driving force has been the Madani Surrahs. This holds for development of the views and practices of the Taliban’s, Wahhabis, Salafis, Hanafis, radical Shias and others. The best way to approach these issues perhaps would be inclusion of Islamic scholars in negotiations with IRI, people of knowledge that could convince those in authority, the Ulema, that a more Mecci oriented approach to the world and their own society would best suit IRI and its Umat at the present.

  3. Good points FredA, but I think it raises the real issue confronting any nation dealing with Iran and that is nothing is held more dear to people than religious orthodoxy no matter what faith they practice. Be it the Crusades, America’s eradication of Indian tribes or Hindus battling Muslims or even Uighers figbhting Chinese, people with deeply held religious beliefs tend to trump political considerations which is why the West makes no headway with Iran just with talks. It takes punishing economic sanctions over decades to finally move the dial on such recalcitrance unfortunately.

  4. To Mr. MikeF.

    I understand your point. What has been missing in the dialogues that have been taking shape since the Iranian revolution from what I can ascertain is a deeper understanding of the Iranian’s language of negotiations, and on their part, perhaps a short coming in understanding the West? I think this maybe due to a lack of comprehension of respective cultures by parties involved. As for compromise, at least the Shia sect within Islam is more prone to amicable resolutions than some of the other sects that have acted with more orthodoxy and rigidity. The Shia can also be progressive but in their own way, it was the very same type of clergy that actually brought the Constitutional revolution to Iran and brought about representative parliamentary monarchy during the former Qajar dynasty, it lasted until 1953. Had it not been overthrown perhaps Iran would have been a very different place than it is now, wouldn’t you agree?

  5. FredA, you seem like a thoughtful person so let’s start with a basic understanding of international diplomacy. Nations either trust each other or they don’t. Trust diplomatically is usually built on demonstrable acts, i.e. pull your missiles out of Cuba, stop blockading Berlin, release the hostages, etc. Even signed agreements without history don’t hold much water without the threat of force to back them up (see Versailles Treaty). The other way to build trust is commonality of culture, politics, ethnicity or interests, the US-UK friendship for example. In Iran’s case, the West has no aligned interests, nor do they trust a nation that regularly bans free speech, free assembly, other religious practices, other sexual orientations, etc. Nor do they trust a nation that openly supports regimes like Assad in Syria with arms, money and fighters. All these things tend to block the process. Consequently, unless Iran engaged in a meaningful series of acts to demonstrate it’s willingness, i.e. release its political prisoners, halt executions, open up the internet, stop blocking social media, for example, the West will never trust Iran.

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