The Iran deal as explained by Jack Black, Morgan Freeman, and people who actually know about it

Raise your hand if you think we should pass the Iran deal. Now raise your hand if you understand the Iran deal.

Have you heard about the "Iran deal"?

In case you missed it, the White House struck a deal with Iran to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons for the next 10 years. If you've been watching cable news, there's been no shortage of pundits yelling past each other about how awesome or awful it is. The Democrats love it and the Republicans hate it. But do you really want to base your decisions on what people in Congress say? I sure as hell don't. Congress doesn't really do nuance that well.

Based on the analysis I've read, the deal itself seems to be a good idea. But honestly, how many of us can say we truly understand how it works?


If only we had celebrities to explain it to us. WAIT! DON'T LEAVE!

Just watch this explainer video. The celebrities get fact-checked at 47 seconds in. (Don't worry, they're in on the joke.) If you don't want to watch the video, scroll down for the explainer.


The details of the deal are, frankly, over my head.

Often, when major issues are brought to the American public, marketing people trot out celebrities to scare you into changing your mind on an issue. In this satirical video, movie stars Jack Black, Natasha Lyonne, Farshad Farahat, and Morgan Freeman are here to scare you. They start by explaining how we'll all die if the Iran deal doesn't happen.

All GIFs via Global Zero.

But then the video takes a turn for the interesting.

First of all, America is not going to get nuked.

But the deal is still incredibly important to stability in the Middle East.

What makes this video different is that the celebrities get fact-checked by people with experience.

I was suspicious until I watched the whole thing (again, at 0:47 it gets interesting). This video is different not because of the celebrities, but because of the actual foreign policy experts who keep the celebrities honest. Their resumes are pretty impressive when it comes to these sorts of things.

Queen Noor of Jordan (who has extensive experience fighting for human rights), former CIA agent Valerie Plame (whose work included stopping Iran from getting the bomb) and former United States Ambassador Thomas Pickering (who was instrumental in making sure we didn't get embroiled in a decade-long war the first time we went into Iraq) fact check them.

What happens if we don't accept the deal that's on the table?

Former U.S. Ambassador Pickering (who was a Republican appointee) says:

And what happens if we go to war?

Former CIA agent Plame, who again, just to remind you, worked for the CIA on a mission to prevent Iran from getting nukes, says:

And we all know how well we do at long-term invasions in the Middle East, right?

Why is this deal a good one?

We'll be able to keep an eye on everything.

According to the White House, everywhere that Iran touches nuclear material, international inspectors will have immediate access.

Image via the White House.

And if they try to create a new secret location, the inspection team has a plan for that as well. According to at Slate:

"This makes it extraordinarily difficult for Iran to cheat. Iran might want to set up a covert enrichment plant, but where would it get the uranium? Or the centrifuges? Or the scientists? If 100 scientists suddenly don't show up for work at Natanz, it will be noticed. If the uranium in the gas doesn't equal the uranium mined, it will be noticed. If the parts made for centrifuges don't end up in new centrifuges, it will be noticed. Iran might be able to evade one level of monitoring but the chance that it could evade all the overlapping levels will be remote."

Morgan Freeman summarizes the deal more succinctly.

That's all well and good, but what do other experts say?

Having a celebrity-filled video is great but if you really want to verify that something is going to be successful, you have to see what the actual experts think.

James Fallows at The Atlantic did a great job of explaining who is for it and who is against it. I won't go into detail, but here's a summary.

People who are against the Iran deal:

The Republican candidates for president, the Republican members of Congress, a few American conservative Israel think tanks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and many conservative Israeli Netanyahu supporters.

People who are for the Iran deal:

Basically, everyone else — Democrats and Republicans from across the spectrum who have worked in foreign policy, more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors of every political stripe, including five former American ambassadors to Israel, over 60 highly respected American "national-security leaders," Hans Blix (the guy who ran inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq), a bunch of optimistic Iranian dissidents, and according to The Atlantic article, "numerous Israeli analysts and former military and intelligence-service officials."

You can see a more comprehensive and in-depth list of everyone who both supports the deal and is against it in James Fallows' astute piece.

But what can you do about it?

Basically, the only thing that can stop this deal now is Congress.

Many of them are saying, "We need a better plan." But they don't actually say what a better plan would be.

And we know that experts from across the political spectrum think this Iran deal is a good compromise. So I was hoping to ask you to do something you might not normally do.

We need you to call your member of Congress at (877) 630-4032.

Ask them to give diplomacy a chance. And then consider sharing this.

And just to thank you for doing that, I'm including a GIF of U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering grinning cheesily at the camera. You're welcome.

More

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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