Review: Jon Stewart's interview with Parazit


Review: Jon Stewart's interview with Parazit
by Ari Siletz

Hopefully Parazit will be on the Jon Stewart Show again, so just in case Kambiz Hosseini didn't catch it himself watching and re watching his performance, here's a suggestion: don't laugh at the host's jokes louder than the audience would. It doesn't help him. The feel good pats on the back and mutual admiration seemed sincere enough (and then some), so why push it with the kind of taarof Iranians are on to and Americans are confused by? Saman Arbabi was perfect, though. Other than that bit of feedback directed at Parazit, the rest is a review of this episode of Jon Stewart's show, not of the Parazit program.

Stewart bills the Dialy Show as comedy, but he must be fully aware that what he does is political commentary in a humorous package -much like Parazit. Though he is not a reporter, his audience thinks of him as also being in the journalism business. So he was ethically obligated to make it clear to those unfamiliar with VOA that this is a broadcasting service of the US government and not a typical TV station. Though this fact stands as an interesting interview question on its own and merits emphasis from the purely entertainment angle, we only get vague hints of it during the show.

As a matter of fact, not bringing up the matter seemed awkward at times. "I got a hold of your show on the web," said Stewart. Those unfamiliar with VOA would wonder why Stewart didn't respect the show enough to watch it as it was aired on satellite. Even if the host has watched the guest's show as an obscure rerun on the web, he would come across as arrogant to mention it-as though the show was not worth his quality time. Of course arrogance is not what Stewart meant to convey at all. He couldn't have watched the show on Satellite TV because of the following US law regarding VOA: Voice of America is forbidden to broadcast directly to American citizens. This law was passed in 1948 to protect the American public from propaganda coming from its own government. In other words VOA does real journalism when it serves the purpose but one of its missions is to distort the truth or lie if political circumstance demands it.

The most awkward result of this omission was when Stewart brought up the subject of vitriol in criticizing US politicians, and Hosseini took the Fifth. "Honestly," he said, "we don't care that much about American politics." Even if Parazit doesn't concern itself with American politics, Hosseini has lived in this country for over ten years. How could a political satirist be so inattentive to the important affairs of the American public? Is America not worth his attention or concern, despite his having lived here for so long? Again, this was far from what Hosseini wished to convey; the fiasco was the result of Stewart's incomplete disclosure about Parazit's US government funding. And he paid for it, laughingly expressing frustration with, "I worked on that question for fifteen bleeping minutes."

There were ways, however, in which this absence of explicit disclosure rescued the Iranian- American aberoo. Indulging my nationalistic demon as only Iranians can I would welcome it if everyone believed we Iranian-Americans are actually responsible for this groundbreaking show. I truly wish it was the Iranian-American community who had mustered the organization and funding to encourage these two bright talents to produce their primetime quality show. Hey, why not shut up and take credit for a show that sticks in the IRI craw as painfully as any resistance at home? Well, because the angels on both sides our Iranian-American hyphen would feel like crap if we didn't clearly disclose the relevant facts to those who would trust us to do just that.

As we say in Iran, "Daashtim Jon joon!" or as they say in America, "Say it ain't so Jon!"


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Niloufar Parsi

Ari, not quite

by Niloufar Parsi on

i understand where you are coming from, but you are ignoring half the story in a very american way.

somehow you claim that the americans should be 'proud' of the fact that American law sweeps what you describe as 'propaganda tools of warfare' under the carpet.

let me first say i am glad that you so explicitly see programmes like parazit as a part of america's warfare machinery. it certainly acts this way, and unfortunately, there is no shortage of boys like kambiz who will sell their own souls for a piece of the voa pie, leading to a 'triumphant' appearance on stewart's show. one that merited a congratulatory 'we did it' handshake with his own colleague before even sitting down to talk.

but in the midst of this treachery, there is bound to be plenty of shame and plenty of willingness to try and help each of these culprits to cover up that shame by references to 'clever' or 'proud' efforts at launching propaganda warfare on the world while shielding the american public from the nasty things that happen around warfare and propaganda.

it would be far easier to be a jolly participant in this ever so 'pleasant' discussion if i were one of you yanks enjoying the fruits of uncle sam's bloodthirsty warfare and propaganda. but being who i am i have to remind you that the war machinery that you are so happy to describe in such a passing manner with your engaging pen is responsible for more death and misery on earth than any other over the past few decades.

it may be time to stop being so blasé and to be a little harder on those who prostrate themselves at the alter of american greed and violence. have we not had enough of this murder and plunder?

you know what they say: what goes around, comes around. usa may wish to practice a little humility before it is too late.

but then again, who am i to be telling anyone what to do?! let's just agree to disagree...


Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

Your line of thinking visited the same areas as mine during the show. Would we support an independent TV station, satellites and all? The article doesn't say except to wish we did. We could start by demanding quality in commercial stations we have and worry about beaming it into Iran later. Demanding quality doesn't take money, just taste.


DavidET: All Jon had to do was explicitly disclose what VOA is, and everything is cool. VOA, Saman, and Kambiz were doing their jobs just fine, but Stewart slipped up and I called him on it. It is as mild a  Tazakor as he could expect for improper disclosure. I did not tear up Jon Stewarts picture on Ahsura, so your reaction seems out of proportion to the tone of the review.

OnlyIran: Technically you can't disagree, because I never addressed the foreign component of Iran's propaganda system. This example may be useful in future discussions: A truck is actually desiged to hold cargo, but it is also designed to hold an engine and move forward. Stating one fact by itself does not negate the other.



Ari- I disagree

by Onlyiran on

A propaganda apparatus is budgeted by many countries. In Iran this apparatus is actually designed to target her own people.

Not quite true.  In Iran, the propaganda is targeted not only at Iranians, but at the rest of the world.  Examples: Al-Alam (Arabic) and PressTV (English).  There are other propaganda outlets that are not directly broadcast out of Iran, but are funded by the IR as well, such as Al-Manar (and I am sure many others in other languages that I don't know of.)


Ari jan

by IRANdokht on

I enjoyed reading your review and agree on many points you made.

As an Iranian who doesn't have the Iranian satellite installed, I am not sure how else I could watch Parazit if not online just like Stewart mentioned.  Maybe knowing how big they are on the web and in facebook, some people in the audience would also feel compelled to do a search online and watch the program too...  who knows.

On the subject of the American politics, I didn't like their response either, then I thought maybe they are not allowed to comment on the American politics, being employed by US in the sensitive role of foreign relations media.

Would we, the hyphenated ones, support an independent TV station? I have a hard time getting people to sign petitions and those are free!



David ET

Anywhere, anyway

by David ET on

30 more years of I wish does not get us anywhere.

IR has financial resources of a petro-nation and we don´t.

If this peace wanted to promote an independent Iranian media, then discuss that but not by unfaily trashing these two Iranians who are doing something popular and positive using any microphone that they can get their hands on within the limits provided to them or by Trashing Jon Stewart who has addressed IR regime more than his counter parts.

The article was unfair and biased as I numerically listed why. 

If there is a Podium, a Camera,  a Mic, a Blog or a Paper anywhere from  Tehran to Tel Aviv , from VOA in Washington to DW in Germany USE it to counter those who have occupied our country and slaugheting our nation (one every 8 hours so far in 2011). It is much more effective than sitting at home criticising those who are doing it. 

// (not even ONE comment. Any other nation would have been in Roar) 

This is our horror and not Daily Show or VOA 

Mash Ghasem

Jonny Dollar jan, not for nothing

by Mash Ghasem on

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

but you avatar looks like Will Roger from
Lost In Space. And where do you get that name from? my "
Persian culture" friend: an American detective novel, and a
second rate American writer at that!

Besides Arbabi's pants were juss fine, I think it
went well with all that Guinness he had before the show. BTW me
thinks he's not funny, particularly bright, or could speak coherent

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

The criticism is levelled at John Stewart and not Parazit or VOA. A propaganda apparatus is budgeted by many countries. In Iran this apparatus is actually designed to target her own people. In the US precautions are taken to keep this apparatus from contaminating her own population. This is a good thing, and we are obliged as citizens of a democracy to stay vigilant that its contents do not come into contact with regular broadcast media, and if they do there is very clear disclosure. This issue has been discussed at length by folks who are serious about the American democracy. For example, Senator Edward Zorinsky (died 1987): "By law, the USIA [VOA parent agency]cannot engage in domestic propaganda. This distinguishes us, as a free society, from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity."


In 2010 terms, this distinguishes us from the IRI where domestic propaganda is a pricipal government activity. 


And no, the folks commenting on this blog are a fraction of the demographics watching the Jon Stewart show some of whom don't clearly know the difference between Middle Eastern countries, much less what VOA is. 

Jonny Dollar

Ari jon, thanks....

by Jonny Dollar on

I really am not concerned about what others have to say about me, I am only concerned about not to be cut off from this site again. I can live with deleting my comments, but I am running out of computers and names to come back with.

I must admit though that there are advantages of being kicked out too. I used to do more swimming, yoga.... reading books, but look, I am still typing this late and I missed my swimming today. I should cut down soon. Thanks for your suggestion!

 "In the end, a man's life is measured not by what he has but by what he has given!"

Jonny Dollar

Ari, I thought you meant if he was a real patriaotic Iranian!

by Jonny Dollar on

Since not all the iranians are patriotic like yourself. it is not enough to be iranian if one does not love his Vatan! I am not naming anoyone here, just making a point.   As always I enjoy your thoughtful articles.

"In the end, a man's life is measured not by what he has but by what he has given!"

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

I encourage you to have your say and not worry about how it may be taken. The label game is a natural nuisance of public debate. Often (though not always) they are not a response to your ideas but a sign of frustration at the state of affairs. And often I sympathize, though using labels isn't useful to the discussion or fair to the reader who has to sort through them to find out what the responder really means to say.

Ari Siletz

David ET.

by Ari Siletz on

Apologies. Following Anahid's comment I checked your profile and saw your Persian language articles. Once again, I regret the confusion and absent mindednes.


Thanks Anahid.


So what if they are U.S. government funded?

by Onlyiran on

It would be wrong if they had hidden it.  But as evidenced by the discussion here, everyone and their mother knows that VOA--and by extension, Parazit-- are U.S. gov't funded.  To raise that issue is just a red herring, and it plays to the simplistic, paranoid and  xenophobic elements of our culture (see Johnny Dollar below) who brought us the IRI brand of "independence" 31 years ago.

Someone has to counter the billions that the IRI pours into its massive, multilingual propaganda empire every year.  Who's going to afford to confront that- if not a foreign government, Zia, Hakha or Shabkhiz?  

To insist on a pure, Iranian only funded propaganda that can match IRI's propaganda machine is to hope for the proverbial "pie in the sky."  It also plays right into the hands of the IRI, which knows that no non-state funded entity can match its propaganda power.  I wouldn't even be surprised to find out that this line of attack on Parazit is initiated, disseminated and coached by the IRI itself.  It just makes sense.  Plus, Niloufar Parsi is pushing the line.  That should ring alarm bells in and of itself.

Anahid Hojjati

Ari, do you really not know David ET is an Iranian?

by Anahid Hojjati on

Ari, I was surprised and a bit disappointed that in one of your comments you wrote that if David ET is an Iranian. I have been on IC for two years and have seen all blogs and all work David does for Iran and secularism in Iran. You always mention how all people who are against IRI should be united so how questioning if David is an Iranian help with this being united? Seriously Ari, you don't know that David ET is an Iranian?

Jonny Dollar

Well said Ari!

by Jonny Dollar on

When on my comment about the show I mentioned VOA and elaborating as to why by them represneting VOA has tainted them, I had to go back and edit myself, before they delete my comment. Well, because any criticism of VOA wouldn't be tolerated here by little people like me who could simply be kicked out being accused of being an IRI stooge!  

I am so glad that you brought it up, because you can. Feels sad that we are not able to fund our own programs. Having an imperialist government to support them as part of the $86 million IRI regime change makes me think how these guys are being used to help the US achieve its goal of re-taking Iran. 

The guy with that hair cut and pants wants to overthrow IRI? He wants to intriduce that kind of funky culture to iranian youths in place of Persian culture? Lost generation indeed!

 "In the end, a man's life is measured not by what he has but by what he has given!"


Dear cousin Framarz: there is no obsession, only staying alert

by Bavafa on

I don't quite see it as a trap… for me, it is not an issue of either the this or that nor I believe we all need to accept all opposition to IRI with the same open arms. As an extreme and more obvious example, MEK is one group that is in opposition to IRI, yet hardly has much support within the Iranian people. But using this example should not be taken as I am by any means comparing Parazit with MEK , I believe if we have some thing good, which almost all of us feel that way about Parazit, and should build on it to make it better. That would only help our cause/aim. I believe objective self criticism will help us grow and be better.

But I also like to stay mindful of the boogey man and that it could be real as all Iraqis have come to find out. That sort of devastation is some thing that we ought not to allow for our home land.

And regarding the daily show, from the limited exposure and what I know of Jon Stewart show, I love him, I really like his show and his politic.


Ari Siletz

But as an aside

by Ari Siletz on


Stewart used Parazit to score a point against Olberman fans who are possibly Stewart watchers that Olberman's harsh words against American rightist extremists aren't even used against IRI hardliners. Parazit uses "good, bad, ugly" against dictators, whereas Olberman (when he had a show) used "worst person of  the day."

You may be aware of the politics that has been going on among liberal show personalities. Olberman's "walking away" follows his setbacks after Stewart publicly criticized him in front of a few hundred thousand people. Stewart can't be watched with the same eye anymore after he caused even more division among liberals standing against the extreme right. So disclosure about who he has on his show--particularly if they are US government employees-- is important for his continued credibility. As I stated in the first paragraph of the article, this is a review of the Daily Show, not of Parazit.

Regarding Simpsons and Fox. The parallel between Simpson/Fox and Parazit/VOA breaks down at a critical point: Simpsons earns Fox money, not the other way around as in Parazit./VOA. This gives the Simpsons power in the relationship with Fox. VOA isn't even interested in earning profits, nor is the audience even American so that a fan base would have any clout. None of the complex media politics you mention apply to VOA, as it does not live off of profits and its audience don't live in or have any say in this country.





My take on the piece and Jon Stewart’s role is that he wanted to give them the podium and a launching pad. Parazit guys are funny and great, but they are nowhere near the talent of the Daily Show guests, and you touched on it in your blog, but Jon was giving them all the support that they deserved.

And as for the Parazit guys getting into the domestic US politics; that’s way over their heads at this point! I mean, look at the competition.

Ari Siletz

Keith Olberman and Stewart

by Ari Siletz on


Did you catch Jon fishing for words of support from Hosseini regarding Jon's position on Olberman style commentaries? Hosseini had to disappoint him because he couldn't talk about US politics.


Why so Much Obsession with Shots Being Fired?

by Faramarz on

Cousin Mehrdad,

Why this obsession with the boogey man and the doomsday scenario of shots being fired and not focusing on the real problems of Iran today and the crimes being committed against the Iranian people by the Regime?

That’s a trap and I refuse to fall into it!

Jon Stewart is one of the smartest and funniest people around. He has a bright Iranian producer Ramin Hedayati on his team and he did a great series when he sent Jason Jones to Iran. The guy cares for us. Let's thank him for that.

The media market in the US is very complicated and I hate to see these guys (Parazit) get marginalized because they would only work for an independent, Iranian-American-funded outfit!


But can they be independent if it goes counter to US interest?

by Bavafa on

"as compared to the conflicts that maybe ahead for Parazit if shots are fired between US and Iran"

Do we need to guess which way VOA will be leaning in such unfortunate event?

So, I do agree with you that an independent program, made and paid by the [American]-Iranian people would have far greater chances of objectivity and unbiased programming. For minimum, it will address the conflict of interest issue which right now sticks out like a sore thumb.



I Completely Disagree!

by Faramarz on

I am sorry Ari, but I am not on-board with your criticism at all.

As long as these guys (Parazit) maintain their independence and their objectivity, I for one, do not care who pays their salaries. And I think that we are smart enough to figure out if they are a mouthpiece for the US Government or are free to do their comedy.

Case and point, we all watch Simpsons and other great comedies on Fox and I have yet to hear anybody saying let’s not watch Simpsons because of Rupert Murdoch and his right wing agenda.

Let’s focus on the content of Parazit and hope that if these guys have an issue with VoA or the US Government, they do as Keith Olbermann did at MSNBC and just walk away.

Immortal Guard

Iranian-Americans do what???

by Immortal Guard on

Ari you wrote:

"I truly wish it was the Iranian-American community who had mustered the organization and funding to encourage these two bright talents to produce their primetime quality show."

I bet even 30 years from now they won't have the principle, the logic and/or the courage to organize or fund anything of substance. It must be some kind of deep-rooted cultural characteristic. And then they blame everything on the man on top as if they can muster and accomplish any big project themselves. Those who are dumb or brave enough to venture some kind of project will in time regret that immensely if not commit suicide.

Ari Siletz

Thanks Bavafa

by Ari Siletz on

I'm sure you can appreciate that the Persian Gulf "incident" was barely a graze as compared to the conflicts that maybe ahead for Parazit if shots are fired between US and Iran. Actually, I was impressed that Parazit even brought up the topic, albeit timidly. The incident may indicate the ambivalence that Iranian VOA staff feel towards their jobs. My guess is that many of them would gladly quit to join an equally well funded unaffiliated Iranian broadcasting service.  


David ET, the article encourages Iranian-Americans to develop their own well funded quality resistance media.  One way for Iranians to feel more powerful is to actually become more powerful. Parazit's dependence on US money works against the Iranian-American sense of empowerment. So if you're Iranian, be selective in how you encourage Parazit. It is a brilliant program  that we should be making ourselves and beaming it into Iran oursleves. If you are Iranian, please note that your fondness for VOA is an example of the powerless mindset which you criticize.


brilliant show

by Fesenjoon on

Happy to see the Islamic regime's apologists and agents flocking like a bunch of vultures to pick out any flaws they can find with Parazit.

It shows that the boys at Parazit are doing their job right. 

Please continue to expose the GOH of civilization: the Islamic Republic of Iran.


"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction" --Blaise Pascal


Thank you Ari!

by Monda on

You wrote an excellent blog.

How much US propaganda is mixed into various media practicing their rights in the US or anywhere else?... I see Parazit's most valuable function as engaging at least the IC readers/soon the world, about the atrocities happening inside our motherland. So for that they have my Gratitude. Same goes for Jon Stewart. They both give me knowledge while making me laugh, so few more brownie points right there.

There's no ignoring the Big Brother any place on this planet! Don't we know that by now, hello?!!


brilliant review

by Fatollah on

excellent read, Thanks Ari Khan!

Nothing in these read that smell of conspiracy ... ! in doubt, read it agian! perhaps, Ari is giving too much credit to all three of em! having said that, I wish Parazit more power and future successes.

David ET

of course

by David ET on

Of course Daily Show has staff of people searching material for interiews and Iran/US relationship being a major topic they have devoted many segments to Iran including reporting from Iran an dof course VOA etc would be a natural part of the search. It is not like in 2011 we do not have Google!!

Yes we are debating but also this habit of consiparcy theory inherited by Middle Easterners sometimes goes too far. After all it all boils down to seeing ourselves as powerless and others and their conspiracies the cause of our own failures.

It is ONLY in the interest of Islamic Regime to reach a deal with any country- US or Brazil , China or Russia, EU or UN.

IR regime must be internationally, jointly and in the interest of Iranian people isolated, boycotted until it no longer exists. 

Their leader´s must be treated just as Nazis were  


Great review Ari and those are exactly my sentiment

by Bavafa on

Parazit would certainly gain a lot more popularity and independence if it was free of US influence. This influence perhaps was more evident during the good bad and ugly session where Parazit failed to identify the US Navy by name for the Arabian Gulf instruction.

Being funded directly by the US government will always have that shadow over this program as any program that is funded by IRI will have.



Does Jon Stewart know Persian?

by incognito on

How did Stewart find Parazit on the Internet? Does he have time to surf (foreign-language) Internet in order to find interesting guests for his program? Is there any doubt that guests who appear in programs like Daily Show are not found by happenstance on the net? Could they have appeared without being pushed by their promoters and PR men (in this case VOA)?

No matter whether we agree or don’t with the subject of Parazit’s vitriol, we cannot pretend that their appearance on the Daily Show was scrupulous. Siletz has a point.

Ari Siletz

Niloufar, I disagree regarding "shame."

by Ari Siletz on

You state:

"...the american military were too ashamed of their own propaganda channel to broadcast it to their own citizens."

On the contrary, the fact that US law makes an explicit distinction between journalistic broadcasting and propaganda tools of warfare is something Americans and the US legal system should be proud of. The failure to make this distinction is a black spot for the IRI.  Sadly there has been some effort to undo this legal protection in the US, the pretext being that VOA could act as counter propaganda against material targeting US citizens from abroad (particularly to American Muslims). I believe however that FOX news is already the workaround to this law, using the private ownership loophole to function as a PSYOP medium against American citizens. There is no need to unshackle VOA, and further deteriorate the already devastated free press in the US. This is why Jon Stewart got a slap on the wrist in the above article; his stated attitudes on freedom of the press contradict what he pulled with VOA's Parazit interview.


Anahid: If Americans won the fight to free their press again, lives would be saved everywhere in the world, particulary in Iran. So American day to day politics is important to stay interested in. Needless to add lives would be saved and enriched if the Iranian press was also liberated.