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Iowa Newspaper Pans Elvis (Can't Sing), Mossadegh (Red Dupe)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| January 28, 2014    


Elvis Presley Memphis, Tennessee, August 1953: An eighteen year old Elvis Presley records his first ever songs on a double-sided acetate disc for four dollars. While the future King of Rock & Roll’s career was just beginning, Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh’s long political career was coming to an abrupt and inglorious end – the result of a bloody, Anglo-American-backed military coup in Tehran.

With a hit debut album and movie, plus several TV appearances with record-viewership in the tens of millions, 1956 would be the year Elvis Presley exploded onto the cultural landscape. It was also the year Mossadegh completed his three year jail term and was returned to Ahmadabad to spend the rest of his days under house arrest. His pursuit of the takeover of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company had overlapped with a similar fight in Egypt over the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, finalized in July 1956 weeks after Gamal Abdel Nasser assumed the Presidency.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette, an Iowa newspaper established in 1883, didn’t like Nasser, Mossadegh, or Elvis one bit. When a reader corrected a claim that Mossadegh had been killed by mobs in Iran, they conceded the error – but produced new ones in their rebuttal. While they might be excused for not knowing of the CIA role in the coup (even though it had been revealed in a 1954 Saturday Evening Post article), the charge that Mossadegh was “Red-backed” was a contrivance, unsupported by evidence. Nor was his life “spared” by the Shah, since it was unlawful to execute a person of his age.

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh The Gazette was misguided on more than just the Middle East. Opposite their reply to the letter in "The People’s Forum" was an original editorial about Elvis (seen below). It seems they just couldn’t recognize his talent. “He can’t sing and he can’t strum his guitar with any great musical skill”, they wrote of the young man who would become one of the most iconic and influential vocalists of all time. Mossadegh, in turn, continues to be widely regarded as “a great popular hero” and one of the most significant individuals in the history of Persian civilization. There’s a phrase for this kind of myopia – it’s called being on “the wrong side of history”.

For what it’s worth, The Gazette would sing a different tune nearly 24 years later. In a June 1980 editorial, they endorsed a U.S. investigation into “American interference in Iranian affairs”, a possible criminal trial for the ‘pariah’ Shah in international court, and stated plainly that the CIA role in the 1953 coup was “common knowledge”.




The Cedar Rapids Gazette — September 14, 1956


Mossadegh’s Ghost

In your overwhelming desire to show your readers that President Nasser is a ruthless dictator, and is conniving for power as a new Hitler, I would suggest that you study both sides of the issue in the Middle East a little more carefully.

To quote a statement in your Sunday editorial you claim that former premier Mossadegh of Iran was killed by a mob in Iran.

However, if you were to check a newspaper competitor of yours about two weeks ago, you would notice a picture of Mossadegh’s recent release from prison.

This is but one of several blunders in your recent editorials, in your one-sided attacks on the Arab world, and the Middle East.

R. Y. Joseph,
1833 D street SW.

Editors note: Mr. Joseph is right and we were wrong. On Aug. 19, 1953 the Red-backed government of former Premier Mossadegh was overthrown by angry mobs who burned and sacked strongholds of the regime. Mossadegh escaped from his burning home as besieging forces broke into it, but over 300 persons, some of them officials of his regime, were killed. Mossadegh was arrested shortly thereafter. His life was spared by the request of the Shah. The former premier was sentenced to three years in prison, and was recently released. Our editorial was in error in saying Mossadegh was killed, but the contention that his ouster and the bankruptcy of his country were caused by the kind of Red-inspired, dogmatic policies now being followed by Nasser of Egypt is still pertinent.



Between the Grooves?

WELL, THE city council of San Diego, Calif., says it wants no further truck with Singer Elvis Presley unless he stops wiggling. Now if all the other city councils in United States would come to the same decision the country might be freed of one of its greatest threats to teen-agers.

He can’t sing and he can’t strum his guitar with any great musical skill. The only thing he reportedly does well is wiggle. Therefore, we are at a loss to understand why his records have such appeal that he has sold over a million copies of four of them. A wiggle doesn’t show up well on phonograph records.

Since the wiggling doesn’t reproduce, what is there to make those recordings go over?





Related links:

Mossadegh Portrayed As Chief Enemy of Communists in U.S. Army Radio Drama (1953)

TIME Readers Complain About Mossadegh as 'Man of the Year' (January 1952)

Singer Bette Midler on 1953 Coup in Iran — Her Two Degrees of Separation From Event



MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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