— The Great Pretender(s) —
Mossadegh the Actor (Dec. 3, 1953 — The Times Record)
Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadegh was often accused of “acting” and other such “histrionics”, but rarely as pointedly as in this Thursday evening editorial from Troy, NY newspaper The Times Record. And its editors, who previously labeled him a “madman” and a dictator, would have known something about playing make-believe.
Without a shred of evidence, the paper fibbed that Mossadegh had “called on the Russian Communists for aid”. In August, the Record made up the yarn that Mossadegh “held the Shah under house arrest” in his own palace. After the coup, they baldly stated that the entire Iranian nation was demanding he be executed as a traitor. Talk about pretending...
Whomever was using it, the thespian theme was clearly meant as a dig against Mossadegh, depicted variously as a shameless faker and an emotive, tragi-comic figure straight out of fiction.
In September 1951, one commentator opined that “Mossadegh has established a clear claim to the international Oscar for great emotional acting.” The references even got Shakespearian — columnist James Marlow dubbed him an “Iranian Hamlet”, while British political cartoonist Leslie Illingsworth once portrayed the Prime Minister as Shylock, the enigmatic character from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
In his memoirs, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson offered the backhanded compliment that Mossadegh was “a great actor and a great gambler”. Americans would later send a former Hollywood actor to the White House twice, but of course that was fine. To quote Ronald Reagan, “How can a president not be an actor?”
What is true is that Mossadegh’s military trial indeed became a stage of sorts, and the fallen leader certainly gave his captive audience quite a show (TIME described him as its “writer, producer, director and star performer”). The proceedings were largely a show trial to begin with, prosecuted by the same entity that had attacked and nearly killed their elderly defendant.
Even the prequel resembled a distasteful burlesque show. The CIA had, after all, carefully choreographed and financed a coup, launched a promotional campaign featuring planted black propaganda, bribed street mobs containing wrestlers and prostitutes, and staged other action-packed theatrics.
Mossadegh “Puts on an act”, Theorized Foreign Analyst Edgar Ansel Mowrer
A Good Show Expected — The Knickerbocker News, October 10, 1951
Elvis Presley “Can’t Sing”, Mossadegh “Red-Backed” Claimed The Cedar Rapids Gazette
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”