National Review Quietly Edits Blunder
An Embarrassing Moment, Saved by An Unlikely Source
An Embarrassing Moment, Saved by An Unlikely Source
This past weekend I had the honor of becoming an unwitting guest editor for the venerable conservative publication National Review, something I’ve always longed to add to my résumé. While I sincerely doubt they were eager to accept my unsolicited advice, they apparently couldn’t deny my usefulness.
Obviously, I wasn’t paid for my services, nor was I even credited — but permit me to bask in the notion that William F. Buckley, Jr., who founded the magazine in 1955, is nodding politely at me from above. Or up at me from below? Anyway...
It all began on Saturday morning, July 24th, when I came across a new piece of historical revisionism in National Review. The article claimed that Iran’s former Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, was a lame and unscrupulous leader who had been overthrown not by the CIA, but by angry Iranians in favor of the beloved, capable and progressive Shah, who, as dictators go, was among the world’s finest.
“The common wisdom is wrong; a history lesson is in order”, it crowed, proceeding to explain that the myth prevails because America-hating leftist academics have successfully pressed this narrative to advance their warped agenda. “So why do so many people believe the imperialist-calamity version of modern Persian history?”, asks the author in its conclusion. “Because the world is filled with freshmen and sophomoric adults.”
I’ve scrutinized the exasperating coup-denial phenomenon before, and was already expecting more outrage to come given the approaching anniversary of the the 1953 coup and the intense focus on Iran in the current election cycle, following the historic and controversial Iran nuclear deal.
This latest entry, Iran: The Truth about the CIA and the Shah by Josh Gelernter, is an extremely pedestrian effort even by the Denier’s standards. It was inspired by — and mostly reliant upon — the discredited screeds of self-refuting Ray Takeyh, who happens to be the Rev. Jim Jones of the freakish Coup-denial cult.
The number of simple factual errors in the piece, which should have been incredibly easy to avoid, is astonishing, especially because Gelernter went to such lengths to sermonize from on high about the supposedly naïve, “widely believed nonsense” propagated by the academic establishment in America.
Here is the comment I hastily added to the National Review Online (N.R.O.) page before I rushed off for the day, randomly selecting one mistake to correct in order to reveal its ironically slipshod scholarship:
Now, at the bottom of the page, it reads: “EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been amended since its initial posting.”
Naturally, they don’t indicate what portion has been corrected, as is the standard practice of most reputable newspapers and magazines, nor do they acknowledge the Mossadegh Project for coming to their rescue.
Yet there is no question that the note from the Editor specifically refers to my contribution alone, because when you compare both versions, you’ll find that it was the only edit made. Imagine if I had corrected more mistakes, how many other edits there might have been!
Now, the prison sentence detail may seem trivial out of context, but it’s actually more significant in view of how it was abused by the writer. Throughout the piece, Gelernter was building upon a narrative that the Shah had always been a merciful, tolerant guy, perhaps even a mensch. Gelernter thinks Mossadegh was lucky not to be executed, and should have been thankful to the “liberal” Shah for sparing him. So the actual verdict matters as it pertains directly to his point.
Compare the whole paragraph to see it in proper context:
You’ll notice that the editors still chose not to indicate that Dr. Mossadegh’s prison term was in solitary confinement — a far crueller fate — and that his house arrest term was for the remainder of his entire lifetime, not some temporary period as implied. That’s because the purpose here is to soften the Shah’s actions and make him seem as benevolent as possible.
That’s why you’ll not hear a word from National Review about the fate of Mossadegh’s young Foreign Minister Hossein Fatemi, who was beaten up, knifed and finally executed by the Shah’s firing squad. Nor will you learn of the numerous other individuals who were executed, jailed, or exiled after the coup, such as Iran’s best known restaurateur / philanthropist, Hassan Shamshiri (Even Shamshiri’s funeral was violently disrupted by the Shah’s security forces). Another loyal Mossadegh adherent, Karimpour Shirazi, was thrown in prison — simply for his political beliefs — and later burned alive.
Besides, the article is largely just a lazy summary of another writer’s work — self-refuting Ray Takeyh (Gelernter repeatedly passes the ball to Takeyh throughout the piece, quoting hunks of his revisionist ramblings). This technique — light on original research, heavy on sprinkled mooching — might not even fly in most universities.
As I mentioned earlier, Josh Gelernter could have easily avoided making pathetic blunders like the one about the verdict against Mossadegh in his military trial, which he stated was merely “three years’ house arrest”.
And here’s proof — remember that New York Times article he quoted loftily as the basis for his statement? It was a December 22, 1953 report by Welles Hangen titled Mossadegh Gets 3-Year Jail Term. And this is the very first sentence of that article:
If it were a snake, it would have bit him.
SENTENCED TO HANG: Mossadegh’s Media-Contrived Death Verdict
The CIA on Twitter: A One Year Retrospective by Arash Norouzi
THE FOLLY OF COUP-DENIAL | Negating History for Political Expediency
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”