Lost in Translation: Iranians Baffled by Clint Eastwood's RNC Chair Rant

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Perplexed by the movie star's Republican National Committee outbursts? Try watching them from Tehran.


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Americans this morning seem alternatively shocked, puzzled, or bemused by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood's speech at last night's Republican National Convention, wherein he spent several apparently unscripted minutes scolding and questioning an empty chair that we were meant to imagine containing President Barack Obama. 

It was weird. But imagine how weird it would look from, let's say, Iran. The above image is currently bouncing around the lively Farsi-language Facebook community, active both in Iran and among the diaspora. Impressively, Iranians who are sharing and commenting on it seem even more baffled by the incident than are Americans.

Here's a translation of the Farsi lines that appear alongside the photo, provided by Arash Karami. (An independent translation, from an anonymous source, largely confirms Karami's wording.)

Nonsense from Clint Eastwood, anti-people Hollywood actor, in defense of Mitt Romney, the Right's candidate for the U.S. elections.

For friends who know English, if you understand what this guy said, let me know too.

The word "anti-people" sounds a bit clumsy in English but is more common in Farsi, in which it can mean something like the opposite of populist. Karami also suggested "inhuman." Another detail I love: the link at the bottom of the image goes to a copy of the transcript at ... Fox News. Not the first place you might imagine Iranians heading for their political news.

Maybe it's not so surprising that a non-English speaker from a far-away country would be puzzled by an incident that was, even in English, quite puzzling. And, to be sure, the relatively small number of Iranian Facebook users I've seen discussing this are certainly not representative of the entire, millions-strong Persian community in Iran and beyond it, but I can say anecdotally that this one seems to be spreading with unusual speed and interest. 

It's an interesting reminder of the world's fascination with America and with American politics that these Iranian Facebook users, many of whom seems to be in Iran, would even be sufficiently aware of the RNC and of Clint Eastwood's speech to ask about it. When's the last time you asked your Facebook friends to translate a bizarre speech at a political convention in, say, France or India or Japan? When's the last time you even knew about a political party's convention in another country? Of course, with stunts like this one apparently endemic to American politics, you can hardly blame foreigners for their curiosity.

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Max Fisher is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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