It’s getting harder to be a hardliner in Iran. President Hassan Rouhani is making overtures to the West, and while he’s hardly revolutionized government—
All this has the Islamic Revolution’s most committed loyalists quite worried, and they’ve been working overtime to pressure the new administration to back away from the United States. That’s why, earlier this month, they held a big rally at the former U.S. embassy in Tehran to commemorate the thirty-fourth anniversary of its 1979 takeover. There were chants, burning effigies, burning American and Israeli flags, posters of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, bored dignitaries, and lots of banners and fun headbands. A nice anti-American outing for the whole family—bring your grandma, bring your kids! And, par for the course when hardliners gather, there were insinuations of a sinister American-Israeli-Nazi alliance. Several attendees carried signs, apparently professionally designed and printed, depicting a Star of David with a Swastika inside it:
Look closely at that logo—does it look familiar? If you have an interest in oddball religions or in cloning, it should—it’s an old symbol of the Raëlians, a UFO cult that shot to international notoriety after their 2002 claim that they’d successfully cloned a human being. The Raëlians use the symbol to represent infinities of space and time, occasionally swapping it with a slightly less creepy spiral variation:
The Raëlians have several beliefs that probably wouldn’t appeal to Iranian Islamist hardliners—they tend to be in favor of sensuality, sexual openness and revealing clothing, for example. And one of their major organizational goals is the establishment of an interstellar embassy to greet the aliens when they come back—probably a tough sell for a country that doesn’t seem to like embassies of any kind, especially not ones with big Stars of David on top.
It’s hard to say if parading around Tehran with the logo of a UFO sex cult is the biggest hardline flub ever—there was, after all, that time they put up a mistranslated banner that read, in English, “America Can Do No Wrong”—but it has to be in the top ten. This is hardly the only time the hardliners have stepped in it lately, either—the same day, they released a pair of “Death to America” songs. You can hear one of them here. It’s not the best music, staggering through techno, trance, rock and, briefly, Latin-flavored pop. And hardline outlet Fars News has been scrambling, too—with France having broken up the last round of nuclear negotiations, its editorial cartoonists have struggled to find a consistent message. They’ve blamed French obstruction on manipulation by the Saudis, the United States, and mysterious Jewish hands, some of them with claws (paging Borat Sagdiyev!). If the nuclear negotiations succeed this week, we can look forward to even more delightful gaffes from Tehran’s most tone-deaf propagandists.