We have heard the word “moderate” often over the last several days. Perhaps it’s worth reminding ourselves of the essential meanings of the word.

mod·er·ate adjective \ˈmä-d(ə-)rət\
a : avoiding extremes of behavior or expression : observing reasonable limits

Sure, moderate is contextual. Sure, moderate is flexible. But all reasonable people are able to identify moderation when they see it. A kind of “Potter Stewart Standard” applies. So, let us consider the words of the “moderate” victor in Iran’s recent “election”. Via Sohrab Ahmari in the WSJ we have Rowhani speaking about the 1999 student uprising at Tehran University:

“At dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur. From today our people shall witness how in the arena our law enforcement force . . . shall deal with these opportunists and riotous elements, if they simply dare to show their faces.”

That statement says a lot of things. It says suppress dissent. It says strike out at your political opponents. It says destroy your enemies. It says I am ready to intimidate, hurt, and kill in the name of regime preservation.

What it doesn’t say is “I am a moderate”. If people want to pretend that this event is going to meaningfully change the status quo in Iran they are free to do so, at least in western democracies. That said, they shouldn’t do it on the thin branch of one man’s supposed moderation.

They should also learn to respect the language a little more closely. Let’s allow “moderate” to mean something.