Respectful photoshopping

There has been entirely too much disrespectful photoshopping going on in the blogosphere, and I must confess, I have in the past been a part of this out-of-control phenomenon. I even went so far as to photoshop Glenn Reynolds into a picture of Benito Mussolini -- a distasteful outburst aggravated further by my tasteless repetition of it.

In linking this post from The Hatemonger's Quarterly, kind-hearted Glenn was magnanimous enough to allow that photoshopping him into a bikini was "traditional." Now that worries me, as the word "traditional" always does. (Honestly, I'd hate to think that I might have had a hand in carrying tradition too far.)

There must be some way to atone for such excesses of tradition, so now I'm wondering... Can photoshopping be used for good? For the virtuous and the positive, instead of for the sleazy and the negative?

I don't know, but photoshopping often involves changing what people wear into something else, I was reminded of an earlier conversation with Justin, about the unfortunate fact that Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad never wears a necktie, and instead prefers the tacky 1970s leisure suit look.

The blogosphere's fashion mogul Manolo has commented on the atrocious nature of Ahmadinejad's attire:

...the same khaki windbreaker, wrinkled trousers, cheap oxford shirts, scruffy beard and wild eyes favored by the aging high school chemistry teachers everywhere.
I don't know what excuse is offered by high school chemistry teachers, but in the case of Ahmadinejad, it would seem to be religion. The reason most fundamentalist Muslims don't wear neckties is that some (but not all!) Islamic scholars have declared them un-Islamic. Here's the official word according to Grand Ayatollah Khamenei (the guy who made Ahmadinejad sit on the floor during his swearing-in ceremony)
Q1370: What is the view on wearing a necktie?

A: Generally speaking, it is not permissible to wear a tie, or other kinds of clothes that are considered as the attire of non-Muslims, in such a way that their wearing will promote vile Western culture. The ruling is not confined to people of the Islamic Republic.

There's more on the promotion of "vile Western culture" from Dr. K (the source of the above -- whose personal hatred of neckties IMO gives him credibility).

I really hadn't known about the necktie rules, but the mullahs' desire to control Iranians is by no means limited to what goes around a man's neck. Amer Taheri takes a hard look at what none dare call "Iranian fashionism":

Religious minorities would have their own colour schemes. They will also have to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-Islamic faiths. Jews would be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes while Christians will be assigned the colour red. Zoroastrians end up with Persian blue as the colour of their zonnar. It is not clear what will happen to followers of other religions, including Hindus, Bahais and Buddhists, not to mention plain agnostics and atheists, whose very existence is denied by the Islamic Republic.

The new law imposes a total ban on wearing neckties and bow-ties which are regarded as "symbols of the Cross." Will Iranian Christians be allowed to wear them, nevertheless? No one knows.

The law also mandates the government to wage a campaign against "expensive attire" without defining it. Some mullahs, for example, wear robes made of pure hand-woven silk that costs several thousands dollars. Nor is it clear whether or not the kind of blouson (long shirt) that Ahmadinejad often wears would be deemed Islamic. (Shops in Tehran are selling the so-called "presidential" blouson for US$3 apiece.)

One aim of the new law is to impose a total ban on imports of clothes and dress designs from the West. The Majlis hopes that all jeans will disappear from the Iranian scene within five years. The boutiques selling haute couture Western gear for men and women will also be closed over the next few years. A total ban on designer items, marked by logos, will come into force by the end of the year.

What that means is that Manolo's very blog might be in danger in Iran.

While I'm sure logic has nothing to do with this, how is it that the necktie could possibly be considered either "un-Islamic," or "Christian," or part of any religion? There was no such article of clothing in Biblical times or when the Koran was written; according to Wikipedia the necktie dates back to the mid 1600s.

An inside source reports that for Ahmadinejad, wearing a necktie would be "unthinkable":

I asked a very savvy Iranian source about it, and here is his fascinating analysis:

This issue goes back to the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Revolution. Before the revolution, all public figures in Iran and all officials wore ties, both domestically and when on visits abroad. Shortly after the revolution however, the tie itself began being associated with "Western imperialism", especially after Ayatollah Khomeini branded a large group of intellectuals (who were less religiously zealous than he would have liked) as "tie-wearing cronies of the West" and essentially branded anyone wearing a tie as being Western influenced. As such, no Iranian official since that time wears a tie, whether in Iran or when on official trips abroad. In fact, for many years after the revolution, the site of a regular person wearing a tie in Iran was so rare that heads would turn on the street and funny comments would be made if someone wore a tie outside. Many people still wore them to parties and weddings and things, but it was very "taboo" during the 1980s.

Gradually, as Khomeini's legacy became a bit less overbearing, regular people stopped caring and the rhetorical plays on people who wear ties as "imperialist cronies" were no longer made, meaning that at least ordinary people now wore ties on a regular basis. I myself for example, always wore tie at work in Tehran, as did many of my colleagues. I would actually make a point of wearing a tie outside as much as possible, to do my bit in making sure that people got used to seeing other people in ties.

On the official side however, wearing a tie is still a no-no and it would be unthinkable for Ahmadinejad, who claims to be one of the "true disciples of Khomeini" to sport a neck-tie under any circumstances.

Disciples of Khomeini or not, I think it's worth noting that the Islamic rejection of neckties as "Western" took place in the 1970s -- the very decade when a similar movement was afoot in the West! Not wearing a necktie was seen as synonymous with hipness, and if this post by Matthew Yglesias is any indication, it still is:
Mahmoun Ahmadinejad has a pretty sweet hipster style. It all starts with a beard not unlike the one I and many of my twentysomething male friends sport. But it goes deeper. The man went without a tie to address the UN General Assembly.
(Via Daniel Drezner, who is unimpressed.)

Doesn't this deliberate flouting of necktie protocols beg the question who's really being Western?

I'm reminded of the recent blogger luncheon with Clinton. While the latter wore a necktie, many of his invitees did not. What might ordinary Iranians -- the man in the Tehran street -- think? That young hip Americans take their fashion cues from Iranian leaders and not American leaders? Is this a good thing?

Considering the genuine danger posed by Iran and Ahmadinejad, I realize that some people might think it's frivolous to focus on what the man wears. But there have been innumerable reactions to the many facets of Ahmadinejad, and considering this blog's penchant for exploring cultural factors, I feel a certain responsibility. Besides, Glenn Reynolds' Ahmadinejad roundup last week included not only the above post from Daniel Drezner, but a fascinating idea from Matoko Kusanagi -- that Ahmadinejad may be suffering from "Short Man Syndrome." (A term said here to define "a short man who is very angry and hostile because he is short and vents his hostility on others.")

By any standard, Ahmadinejad is short (MSNBC says he's 5'4" and the Guardian supposedly measured him at 5'2"). He certainly exhibits many of the Short Man Syndrome features, and he may well be the shortest tyrant in the world today...

But wait! Depending on which news sources are the most credible, Ahmadinejad might be a full two inches taller than Kim Jong Il -- who according to CNN is "only 5 feet 2 inches tall but wears 4-inch lifts in his shoes." If anyone suffers from SMS, it would be Kim Jong Il.

So maybe there's something to this. But Kim and Mahmoud are only two examples, and while we all know about Napoleon, I think the latter might be too distant in time to be be a reliable barometer of short modern tyrants.

What about Stalin? To this day, historians disagree about his height, but that's largely because his coverup machine touched up most of the pictures:

Though Stalin was indeed touchy about his appearance, especially his pockmarked face and shriveled left arm, he was most vain about his height. Perhaps the subtlest touch in nearly all these falsified images is the rendering of Stalin, who was a tad under 5 feet 4 inches, as the tallest man in any group shot.
I think these three examples are enough to lend credibility to Matoko Kusanagi's contention. Might "Short Man Syndrome" dwarf the necktie argument by comparison?

But isn't something being overlooked? Take another look at the three tiny villains -- Stalin, Kim, Ahmadinejad.

Not one of them wears a necktie! Ever!

Coincidence? I think not. While I think the short stature might have played an important part in the rise to power of these men, history is loaded with tall tyrants (from Goliath on down to the 6'4" Osama bin Laden), and short heroes (from David, I suppose, down to the 5'5" Audie Murphy) and I don't think examples are needed. For every short villain, there's probably a tall hero, and vice versa.

But let's stick with the necktie, and my original goal of positive photoshopping. Lest anyone doubt my contention, consider what would happen if tomorrow, President Ahmadinejad decided to put on a necktie.

I don't think it is understatement to say that this would trigger immediate worldwide attention, and unprecedented speculation. Considering the cultural factors, the world eruption might possibly trigger an Iranian uprising. Maybe a coup. Is it too much to suggest it might even lead to world peace?

I don't know, but it is in the interest of peace that I photoshopped the following:


[Seriously, if that isn't respectful photoshopping, then what is?]

As to the man on the left, I can't be sure why he isn't wearing a tie. Maybe he took his off, and gave it to President Ahmadinejad in the interest of improved cultural ties.

Whatever the case, it seems like a laudable, maybe even non-partisan effort.

Maybe we should all send a tie to Ahmadinejad.

UPDATE (10/01/06): Thank you Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post, and welcome all!

I'm not sure whether this is evidence that the necktie is more powerful (or, for that matter, more traditional) than a bikini, and while I'm always hesitant to make sweeping judgments about these things, I think that in historical terms, "bikini blast" is at least as memorable as "necktie party."

posted by Eric on 09.30.06 at 10:02 AM


So what do you make of Jimmy Carter's passive/aggressive tie-wearing nature and his short stature?

Donna B.   ·  September 30, 2006 1:14 PM

Carter is 5'9"

Quite average

He had a reputation for being more casual than most presidents, but I'm not sure I'd call him an anti-necktie tyrant.

(Of course, I remember his thermostat police idea.)

Eric Scheie   ·  September 30, 2006 2:04 PM

Carter may be 5'9" wearing 5" heels, but he's not in regular shoes. I met him and Rosalynn in 1980 at the White House, and at 5'7", I felt like a gangly giant looking down on them. (Yes, they were standing!) There's no way he was taller than I was.

Donna B.   ·  September 30, 2006 7:03 PM

Perhaps you could photoshop him with a blue turban so that he could fulfill Nostradamus' (sp?) prophecy of being the third anti-christ - this one a from Persia wearing a blue turban....


_Jon   ·  September 30, 2006 9:46 PM

I know I am supposed to know this who is the guy int he photo with I-am-a-nut-job above?

Anonymous   ·  September 30, 2006 11:09 PM

I know I am supposed to know this; who is the guy in the photo with I-am-a-nut-job above?

buck smith   ·  September 30, 2006 11:10 PM

Oh, buck, it's almost too good for words.

Gabriel Malor   ·  September 30, 2006 11:41 PM

We must remember that Napoleon Buonaparte was 5 foot 6 inches, an average height at that time. The French "foot" measure was in those non-standard times, a bit longer than the British foot measure. The British publicized his "5 foot 4 inch" height, though that was the longer french units in an attempt to mislead.

Napoleon as dictator? Interesting, since most of Europe, as well as Japan use the Napoleonic law codes. One of the great law givers of all time.

Anonymous   ·  September 30, 2006 11:51 PM

Napoleon; One of the great law givers of all time.

Napoleon = Guilty until proven Innocent.

Tom Jefferson = Innocent until proven Guilty.

Which do you want?

BeachBumBill   ·  October 1, 2006 1:12 AM

I'd prefer him in a burnoose, without the "bur"

AST   ·  October 1, 2006 1:34 AM

So are you saying that having a "necktie party" in Ahmadinejad's honor might bring about world peace? Or is there something missing in the translation of your post into Texan?

As another blogger often writes: Rope, tree, some assembly required.

Austin Mike   ·  October 1, 2006 6:04 AM

Very interresting discussion. I remember well an essay by Miss Manners on the "purpose" of a man's necktie, which was to say to everyone in a room, "I am here to talk, not to fight".

tyree   ·  October 1, 2006 10:54 AM

I understand your point that the necktie evokes a western mode of dress and so President Armageddonjihad must reject it. But doesn't the 80's-ish windbreaker bring to mind the wannabe hipster dad dropping his teeny-bopper daughter and her friends at the big Duran Duran show circa 1985? Now what could be more western/ decadent than that? I say he dresses like an infidel!

Monkeydarts   ·  October 1, 2006 11:02 AM

I actually blogged about Stalin's boots a few years ago.

Gary Farber   ·  October 1, 2006 12:35 PM

So, would it be subversive to use that picture anytime I refer to the President of Iran... because I wouldn't want to be subversive.

Frank J.   ·  October 1, 2006 2:12 PM

One classical value you have no respect for is SPELLING. Learn to do it. It's Yglesias, not Iglesias. Clown.

Axis of Weasel   ·  October 1, 2006 2:54 PM


(My value is always in need of serious correction.)

Eric Scheie   ·  October 1, 2006 7:40 PM

Frank I don't know what to say. I was only trying to be nice and respectful, and the thought that anyone might be subversive with niceness and respectfulness is alien.

Austin Mike, that was my poetic interpretation of the relative historical power of the bikini as a symbol versus the necktie as a symbol; not an endorsement of anything. Actually, I'd love to see Ahmadinejad wear a necktie, in the normal sense, and I think it would be nice for concerned Americans to send him neckties, literally.

And Donna, if you're right I'd say Lil Jimmy has a lot of 'splainin to do!

Eric Scheie   ·  October 1, 2006 7:50 PM

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