by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker blog
What sad news that The Saker is shutting down.
How very far it has come! How much I learned here! What a rare place of intellectual honesty, openness and bravery!
Nobody ever wants to write a eulogy and they are always inadequate, so it will be easy to keep this short.
(I am often told – almost solely by non-regular readers of The Saker – that I write too long.)
Whatever praise I give Andrei – rightly referred to as “The Saker himself” – will feel tremendously inadequate. He has given me a true intellectual home for seven years, and a lifelong friendship as well. Journalistic copy is simply unable to describe what his encouragement and open support have meant to me.
In an age of hyper-partisanship, the current Third Red Scare and the always-present Western anti-socialism, hosting a “token lefty” like myself is truly exceptional, I hope you’ll realise. What Andrei has, and what I may love most about him, is intellectual openness, intellectual honesty and intellectual humility. I assume it’s part of his secret as to how he got to be so good at what he does, and I am immensely in his debt for showing me how well he walked this very uncommon path.
Thank you, Andrei. You allowed me to do the written journalism that I always wanted to; that just wasn’t possible in the medium of television journalism provided by my work at Iran’s English-language PressTV. I am a print journalist at heart – I never imagined I’d be on television – so you have my heart. Thank you, Andrei.
To the commenters: thank you. I read 99% of your comments, and they were truly appreciated. Above all, thank you for your intellectual rigour – I knew that if I was lazy in my fact-checking, logic or analysis that it would never get past you. You, dear commenter, may not believe me but you made me. You reminded me of the family members of the strangers whose obituaries I wrote back at my first job in newspaper journalism: Get the funeral visitation times wrong on someone’s obituary and you will be getting not just an angry call but maybe an angry visit. You are that exacting, that intelligent, that passionate about these ideas which many foolishly claim to be the exclusive domain of an intellectual “elite”. We journalists are given the incredible gift of being permitted to educate ourselves in public – this old saying reached a generous new level with your comments. In total sincerity: I tried to reach your level, and I hope I made it.
The tremendous intelligence of the commenters was a well-known feature of The Saker – this isn’t pandering. It is their intellectual stamina which directly produced my three books published since 2019 (on China, Iran and France): The readers of The Saker (and Andrei himself) were not put off by long essays, and so I realised there was an appetite and appreciation for long, multipart series, which then became books. Maybe I don’t get around the internet enough but I have seen very, very few multipart series-cum-books published on other political websites? If the readers of the Saker didn’t have such intellectual stamina then maybe my books never get written – you can see why I am so grateful to the commenters and readers at The Saker.
These are the thanks which I want to extend, and they are insufficient, but I hope everyone accepts my sincere gratitude, love, respect, appreciation and – you were so nice I have to say it twice – gratitude.
Whither Ramin Mazaheri?
I used to be totally opposed to blogs.
It wasn’t snobbery – journalism was the craft I studied and I refused to give my craft away for free. Why would I kill my own craft, I fairly objected?
Finally, I gave in – it seemed that the internet wasn’t going away.
I rationalised that if I was going to give away my work for free then at least I would only write what I honestly thought! And for as long as I want!
I immediately found that no one would publish my articles.
They were too leftist, too contradictory of the prevailing Western political wisdom and I’m sure many of my (rather foolish) journalistic peers found them flat-out dangerous (to their ladder-climbing). I was unprintable.
I understood. After all, who was writing about things like “Iranian Islamic Socialism”? True, that’s not a topic which is ever going to trend on Twitter, but The Saker allowed me write about such unpublishable topics and to give an unapologetically leftist analysis. You simply had to come to The Saker to find some of these topics in English, and this extends to many of the other great contributors to The Saker.
And people did come to The Saker. Its reach and respect is quantified and clear.
Need more proof? A highlight of my time with The Saker was this for-sale pamphlet published in 2018 by the Trotskyist World Socialist Web Site against my writings – first published on The Saker – on “Iranian Islamic Socialism”. The WSWS is likely the most popular socialist-inspired website on the planet, and they weren’t just reading The Saker but felt compelled to engage in highly public intellectual debate against it.
(I must note that I bear no ill-will whatsoever to the WSWS – ideas are made to be studied and questioned. Also, “point-counterpoint” is a long-standing journalistic convention which has, sadly, fallen into disuse. Lastly, leftists must just say no to the narcissism of small differences.)
The Saker had an impact. It’s a shame it’s shuttering. It’s a major loss, and I hope my brevity relates my disappointment.
To conclude this article: I don’t know where I’m going to publish my journalism now?
The Saker had a huge reach that will be hard for me to find. The Mainstream Media will never allow honest writing/reporting about things like Iran, Islam, Socialism, or even something in their own backyard like as France’s Yellow Vests. However, I assume that neither will the very few leftist websites as popular as The Saker, such as the WSWS, The Nation, Jacobin and others.
Hey, prove me wrong. If any website is willing to publish regular content from me then please contact me on Twitter (@RaminMazaheri2) or Facebook. Yes, this is me offering to be a regular contributor to your website!
Maybe my only choice will be Substack? I would rather be in a community than starting just another blog – it’s the trained journalist in me, perhaps – but how many people running popular political websites are truly as intellectually open-minded as Andrei to accept regular work from someone like me?
I guess I’ll find out.
But since I may not like the answer, may I make one last request to my deeply appreciated regular readers: please post a comment here, or contact me via Twitter or Facebook, if you have a genuine interest in following me on Substack, and perhaps even paying their lowest subscription fee possible. (Hey, I could do more and better content if I wasn’t so broke from being a journalist, and also doing free journalism, all the time.) If I see there’s actual interest, then I’ll seriously consider Substack and it’s “maximum freedom” virtue.
I think I can fairly speak for all of us when I say: It’s the ideas – and not the money, glory, power or praise – which is why we’re all here reading this article. The ideas promoted at The Saker, in my estimation, belonged to a truly selfless and loving order – or at least that was usually their noble aim. Trust the objective take of a daily reporter – that is so hard to find. Too bad it just got harder.
I can’t thank you enough for reading my ideas. Thank you.
Long live The Saker in our hearts!
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His latest book is ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values’. He is also the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’.