The Oscar for Hypocrisy

Feb. 27 editorial of the New York Sun

A-a-a-a-a-nd the Oscar for Hypocrisy goes to . . . Asghar Farhadi. The Iranian director won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for “The Salesman,” and we certainly wouldn’t gainsay the honor. But instead of showing up for the ceremony, Mr. Farhadi had the Iranian-American businesswoman Anousheh Ansari go out on stage and read a self-righteous statement from the director saying his absence “is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”

What an obnoxious thing for Mr. Farhadi to say as America is struggling to protect itself against a war being launched from, among other places, seven countries — Iran among them — that our two recent presidents have deemed particularly dangerous. No mention of Iran’s own immigration policies, which discriminate against Jews and Israelis. No mention that even our State Department warns Americans against travel to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a warning that was up under President Obama as well as Mr. Trump.

“Iranian authorities,” the State Department warning says, “have detained and harassed U.S. citizens, particularly those of Iranian origin.” Not only that, but the State Department specifically warns of official religious bigotry by the Islamic Republic: “Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, religious activists, and persons who encourage Muslims to convert are subject to arrest and prosecution,” it says. Why in the world would Mr. Farhadi leave that out of a statement of protest at the Academy Awards?

It’s not that we’re against immigration. We know of no newspaper in America (or anywhere else) that maintains an editorial policy in respect of immigration that is more liberal than that of The New York Sun. We are for the free movement of trade, free movement of capital, and free movement of labor to the maximum degree possible. We are not, however, so devoted to these principles that we would exclude special and temporary measures to protect us from countries who are operating against us in the current — or any — global conflict.

Nor, incidentally, are we against artists, as the cultural pages and editorial columns of the Sun have attested for years. We agree with Mr. Farhadi that filmmakers have a great contribution to make in the current struggle. “Filmmakers,” he says, “can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions.” He adds that they “create empathy between us and others, an empathy which we need today more than ever.” Fine words, no doubt understood by President Trump.

All the more horrifying, in our view, to watch the vast audience at the Academy Awards burst into applause at Mr. Farhadi’s criticism of their own country. No wonder Americans reacted so viscerally against Hollywood as it fronted for Secretary of State Clinton even after the gloom of the Obama years. How is the Academy going to redeem itself from the spectacle of its audience applauding last night at the insult to America? Hard to imagine how it could, other than to say that somehow Mrs. Ansari picked up the wrong envelope.

Originally published by the New York Sun