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"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

June 25, 2007

Why Bother Buying New Propaganda When You've Still Got So Much Perfectly Fine Old Propaganda Lying Around?

Which well-known Iranian leader could be described as "wild," "erratic," "eccentric," "crazy," "gangster-like," "fanatical," "absurd," "dictatorial," "demagogic," "inflammatory," "cunning," "slippery," and "unbalanced"?

Answer below.

Actually, it's a trick question. According to an article by Baruch historian Ervand Abrahamian (via All the Shah's Men), these terms were all used by the British government in the early fifties to describe Mohammed Mossedegh. (In 1953, the UK persuaded the US to help them overthrow Mossedegh's government and install the Shah.)

Yet every single one of those thirteen terms has also been used by American and British media and politicians to describe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

What are the odds that we'd have to deal with TWO wild, erratic, eccentric, crazy, gangster-like, fanatical, absurd, dictatorial, demagogic, inflammatory, cunning, slippery, and unbalanced Iranian leaders? As I've said before, we really have the worst luck.

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"wild"—Washington Post

"erratic"—Washington Post, NPR



"gangster"—numerous blogs

"fanatical"—Fred Thompson, former Israeli president Moshe Katzav, The Sun (UK)

"absurd"—Toronto Globe & Mail


"demagogic"—Boston Globe


"cunning"—The Sun (UK), NPR


"unbalanced"—numerous blogs

Posted at June 25, 2007 11:29 AM | TrackBack

Well, now we know why the National Review picked the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" as the best conservative rock song of all time. Clearly Pete Townshend meant to say:
"Meet the new wild, erratic, eccentric, crazy gangster, fanatic, absurb, dictatorial, demagogic, inflammatory, cunning, slippery, unbalanced Boss. Same as the old w.e.e.c.g.f.a.d.i.c.s.u. Boss"

only Pete didn't have room for all those adjectives in the final draft.


Posted by: at June 25, 2007 03:13 PM

It's funny how oil makes some wild, erratic, eccentric, crazy, gangster-like, fanatical, absurd, dictatorial, demagogic, inflammatory, cunning, slippery, and unbalanced leaders. I supposed it's even worse when you don't have a democracy.

Posted by: coriolis at June 25, 2007 04:11 PM

Whew, for a second I thought they were attacking Daffy Duck again. The funny thing about all this is that we don’t mind those "wild," "erratic," "eccentric," "crazy," "gangster-like," "fanatical," "absurd," "dictatorial," "demagogic," "inflammatory," "cunning," "slippery," and "unbalanced" types as long as they are on our payroll. But then again this should be very familiar to all of us since our own leaders are "wild," "erratic," "eccentric," "crazy," "gangster-like," "fanatical," "absurd," "dictatorial," "demagogic," "inflammatory," "cunning," "slippery, and unbalanced" like for example (and there are so many to choose from) Ronny Reagan.

From today’s Tomdispatch:

"Even by local standards," reported the New York Times from car-bomb and shell-shocked Beirut, the explosion "was massive." Eighty-one people were killed -- men, women, and children -- and more than two hundred wounded. Fadlallah, the target of the attack, was unhurt. The next day, a notice hung over the devastated area where grief-stricken families were still digging the bodies of loved ones out of the rubble. It read: "Made in the USA."

The sign was more apt than even its furious makers knew. The terrorist strike on Bir El-Abed was a classic product of American covert policy. Behind the bombing lay a convoluted secret history and, beyond that, a longer legacy of power wantonly uninformed by "intelligence."

Agreeing, as usual, with the proposals of CIA Director William Casey, President Ronald Reagan sanctioned the Bir attack to avenge a devastating truck-bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport in October 1983 -- itself a bloody reprisal for earlier American acts of intervention and diplomatic betrayal in Lebanon's civil war that had cost hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian lives. The barracks attack slaughtered 241 Marines, part of an international peacekeeping force sent to Lebanon in the wake of the 1982 Israeli invasion of the country.

So who is "wild," "erratic," "eccentric," "crazy," "gangster-like," "fanatical," "absurd," "dictatorial," "demagogic," "inflammatory," "cunning," "slippery, and unbalanced" now?

Posted by: rob payne at June 25, 2007 06:48 PM

Call me crazy, but I actully like Ahmadinejad. He's handsome, presidential, articulate--even eloquent-- well tailored, married to an attractive woman, and father to five all-American boys.

Oh wait, I might be thinking of someone else. I may be confusing Ahmadinejad with what's-his-face, the Mormon dude.. Mitt Romney. THAT'S the one. Utah, Iran.. I just can't keep all this crap straight.

Posted by: vince_foster at June 25, 2007 09:01 PM

Damnit, I hate to hear that. You know how wher you're a kid and your HERO for sure hero (besides your Mom) is Roger Maris, or Babe Ruth, Roy Rogers, Mine (besides Mom) was DAFFY DUCK. I see his name is enshrined even unto this very day. Ah, childhood, back to the seven year itch called The Bush Administration (I supposr Regans too) This "tit for tat" covert war has been going on for a long long time and I suspect will just get worse as the DECADES ROLL ON. Personally I'm with the President on this one, settle on for the next 50 years of this crap at which point, if you strike a match, you'll see a light at the end of the tunnel. KEEP PAYING KEEP PLAYING

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 25, 2007 11:04 PM

Fifty years is probably about right because that is what scientists say about how long the oil will last. After the oil runs out so will America’s interest in the Middle East. But things will get worse way before then as nations starved for energy will begin to battle it out for what little remains perhaps in another thirty years or so. To think that instead of spending every forty cents on the dollar on making weapons we could be investing it in scientific research to come up with a practical alternative to fossil fuels but nooooo, that would make too much sense. I believe something like just over half of the electricity produced in America is done by burning coal which sort of means we are still in the Coal Age though the way things are panning out we will soon be back in the Stone Age.

Posted by: rob payne at June 26, 2007 12:26 AM

Never mind research - the technology exists to build large-scale solar projects right now at a cost not that much different than what is being spent on the military.

Quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: energy output from PV panels installed in Tucson, Arizona (lots of sun): 253 kWh/m^2 per year. Electricity consumption in the United States in 2003 was 3656 TWh (3656 billion kWh). 3656 billion divided by 253 is 14.45 billion, so 14.45 billion m^2 of panels would be required. Put another way, that's 14450 km^2. The square root of 14450 is 120. So, an area of 120 km by 120 km of solar panels would be able to satisfy the entire electricity requirements of the United States. Well, slightly larger than that, because the panels would have to be angled about 30 degrees.

Is this feasible? Technically, I don't see why not. There's at least that much sun-drenched desert out there, isn't there? PV panels are, at best guess, about $500 per m^2 ($500 million per km^2) to produce in bulk, so the whole array would be on the order of $7 trillion. That's clearly problematic, unless one considers that that is the same amount that would be spent on the military in 14 years at current rates.

You can start weaning yourself from oil if you add in the requirements for battery-electric vehicles and, hopefully, a whole bunch of far more efficient transportation infrastructure (namely, electrified rail lines). I think a combination of conservation, more efficient lifestyles (good bye suburbia) and a massive investment in renewables will make the transition away from fossil fuels possible.

I use solar as only one example - wind power and other alternatives (e.g. tidal, geothermal) can provide some help as well.

Posted by: JustZisGuy at June 26, 2007 12:26 PM

(Yes, I know the sun doesn't shine at night, and the wind doesn't blow all the time... Demand varies through the day as well. Basically, hydroelectric power has to provide a lot of the response to variable loads and supplies from alternative sources. Details, details...)

Posted by: JustZisGuy at June 26, 2007 12:29 PM


Your cost computations for solar panels might just get better if some newer technological techniques pan out. See this article from U.S. News and World Report.

The sort of economic logic that this pricing might introduce to the market could induce a lot of us to make moves to get off the grid (insofar as possible) sooner rather than later. And if it has the ancillary benefit of decentralizing electrical power generation, well that's just too bad for the monopolistically-minded among us. Can't hurt.

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at June 26, 2007 06:31 PM

It is not really quite true that the technology is already there. There have been problems with the efficiency of solar panels though there have been recent breakthroughs BY INVESTING MONEY IN RESEARCH rather than stupid wasteful wars and imperialism.

Obviously this recent 2006 breakthrough to a 40.7 percent efficiency rate for solar panels is important but it is imperative that we keep investing in and continuing research in so-called green energy. If we do not do this and the cost of production and maintenance remains high then only the more well off societies will benefit while poorer nations will be left out in the cold so to speak or as they already are. Otherwise it is not clear to me how the endless battle between those who have more than they need and those who live in poverty will change.

Americans use more energy than any other nation and we are going through our resources very quickly now and though recycling may help it just may not be enough. There will come a day when we just cannot keep to the standard of living that we now enjoy especially when the cost of that standard comes at a price that causes so much misery in other parts of the globe like the Middle East.

Posted by: rob payne at June 26, 2007 09:26 PM

Good thing Iran isn't a couple of thousand miles further east or we'd have to add "inscrutable" to the list.

Posted by: SteveB at June 26, 2007 09:27 PM

If one may point out, your MOST efficient car is less than 22% efficient. A Stirling engine is 39% at best and NO-ONE uses that design for anything other than a toy, model or experiment. I will not hazzard a guess as to how efficient a coal fired steam plant is in generating electricity with its' attendant power loss over the transmission grid. (but I'm thinking in the teens or less)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 27, 2007 12:16 PM

Everyone should read "OVERTHROWN" by: Stephen Kinzer. He also wrote "All The Shah's Men"

Posted by: Traeh79 at June 28, 2007 11:55 PM

Everyone should read "OVERTHROW" by: Stephen Kinzer. He also wrote "All The Shah's Men"

Posted by: Traeh79 at June 28, 2007 11:56 PM

Sorry about my double post everyone!

Posted by: Traeh79 at June 28, 2007 11:58 PM