Mahmoud and me (continued)

I woke up this afternoon to find, in the comments section of my previous post, an ongoing debate about whether or not I was being serious when I praised the President of Iran for his resoluteness and conviction. For those who couldn’t figure it out, the answer is: of course I was being serious. In fact, right after I finished blogging, I telephoned Mahmoud to ask whether the Iranian army could use the services of a 24-year-old male who speaks fluent English, can do up to two push-ups per day, once fired an actual rifle, loves Persian food, and believes himself able to prove quantum lower bounds under combat conditions.

Mahmoud mulled it over for a while, and then replied that, while my qualifications were certainly impressive, unfortunately I did not meet his needs at the present time. I was devastated — and, I confess, I even started to wonder whether anti-Semitism might be at play. Except … how could he know? Throw in an extra “s,” and “Scott Aaronsson” could almost pass for Scandanavian. Then it hit me: like everyone else I’ve talked to over the past couple weeks, Mahmoud must be reading my weblog!

OK, look: is it “immature” to joke about these things, as several posters argued? Yes, it is immature. The mature response is to deplore evil, to be shocked by it — not to make a movie with Nazis dancing to the tune of “Springtime for Hitler in Germany,” or Woody Allen standing behind Hitler on a podium as part of his ongoing struggle to fit in. It’s just that all that deploring gets monotonous eventually. After a millennium or two, there’s nothing else to do except joke. As the story goes:

In 1936 in Berlin, a Jew is sitting in a cafe, reading Der Stürmer. His friend runs over to him: “Herschel, what are you doing? Don’t you realize that’s a Nazi paper?”

“Yeah, but in the Jewish papers, the news is always so depressing. Here it’s phenomenal: we control the banks, we control the media…”

12 Responses to “Mahmoud and me (continued)”

  1. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    There is that famous stanza in Tom Lehrer’s song, “National Brotherhood Week”:

    Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
    And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
    And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
    And everybody hates the Jews.

    The Pew Center recently investigated the truth of Tom Lehrer’s song with an international survey. (Of course they couldn’t be sure that Lehrer was being sarcastic.) Here are their results. The hard-to-read caption says, “Percent who say they have [a] ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ favorable opinion of each group.”

    So half the people in the world really do hate the Jews. On the bright side, even if you hate Jews, you can’t keep them in prison. They eat lox.

  2. Bram Says:

    My immediate thought was that you were criticizing a certain other politician for softpedaling, pussy-footing, and generally making inconsistent and dishonest statements as the current propoganda plan dictates.

  3. Cheshire Cat Says:

    Bram, that’s very mysterious! Whoever could you mean?

  4. Michael Mitzenmacher Says:

    Since your original post made me break out in hysterical laughter, with a laughter aftershock when reading the commments of people who couldn’t tell you were being sarcastic, please count me in the camp that would love to see these funny posts, from time to time.

  5. Scott Says:

    Michael: Thanks!

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Am I being oversensitive if those who love “the Jews” bother me almost as much as hostile ones? It depresses me no end how people find perfectly normal to mix religious (i.e. choice) and ethnic (i.e. fate) criteria. How manages somebody to judge abstractions, anyway? I kind of dig NP problems, but BQP irritate me? People are strange.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    is aaronson is an obviously jewish name?

  8. Anonymous Says:

    The joys of sarcasm! And the poor us who
    could not “get it.” Just when we thought
    Scott was not run of the mill …

  9. Bram Cohen Says:

    Cheshire cat, I was referring to a certain would-be autocrat here in the united states.

    Yes, Aaronson is a very jewish name.

    People sometimes try to suck up to me by talking about judiasm because my last name is Cohen. It’s a major pet peeve of mine.

  10. Cheshire Cat Says:

    What, you were referring to Dubya, that sulky, smirky boy-man? The one who listens so quietly and politely to his two uncles Rove and Cheney?

  11. Anonymous Says:

    This isn’t the first time that Scott’s sarcasm was lost on a blog…

    the fine line between prank and fraud

  12. Shtetl-Optimized » Blog Archive » It’s not radiation-poisoned, it’s just sleeping! Says:

    […] Since I hadn’t heard from my friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a while, I figured he must be busy with his new uranium-enrichment hobby. My suspicions weren’t alleviated by this excellent piece in the New York Review of Books. What I hadn’t realized is that Mahmoud is quite the joker! And no, I’m not talking about the obvious gag of funding a peaceful nuclear energy program by oil exports — I’m talking about the following Pythonesque routine, which I’m not making up: IAEA: Iran, if your nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, then why did we find traces of 36%-enriched uranium at the Natanz facility, whereas you’d only need 3% enrichment for a reactor? […]