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Pompeo’s Revisionist Propaganda

Earlier today, the State Department’s Twitter account posted an insulting piece of revisionist propaganda that whitewashes the abuses of the Pahlavi monarchy and claims that “Iran has a rich history of human rights from the time of Cyrus up until the 1979 revolution.” I’m not embedding the video here because it is such an absurd piece of propaganda, but it does deserve a few comments. First, this is a ridiculous rewriting of history that tries to portray pre-revolutionary Iran as if it were some sort of egalitarian paradise. The text in the video tells quite a fantastical story:

Before the regime, Iran was a place of peace, of joy, of equality. A land of unlimited potential and endless opportunity for every Iranian.

This is simply hogwash. One might wonder why Iranians overthrew their monarchy if the conditions had been so idyllic. Everyone with even a cursory knowledge of that period understands that the government engaged in extensive repression and torture. This is what the State Department wants to laud as part of a “rich history of human rights”? All of this smacks of a policy that being misinformed by nostalgia at best. It may even be part of an attempt to lay the groundwork for promoting some sort of Pahlavi restoration. The son of the last shah is at the Hudson Institute today cheering on regime change. That seems like more than a coincidence.

The video underscores how cynical and selective the Trump administration’s use of human rights rhetoric is. The current Iranian government is guilty of many human rights abuses, and it is responsible for wrongfully detaining, torturing and killing many of its own citizens. Ignoring the serious abuses that took place under the previous regime doesn’t show respect for the Iranian people or their rights. It undermines legitimate criticism in the present by distorting and misrepresenting the past for ideological reasons. The fact that this propaganda video went out from an official department account shows the extent to which ignorant ideologues are controlling the department’s communications, and it reflects the administration’s shallow and sophomoric understanding of Iran and the country’s history that we have come to expect.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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