Iranian Democracy ((( Up in Smoke )))

The Camel News Caravan — August 6, 1953

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | August 30, 2013                     

“The makers of Camel Cigarettes bring the world’s latest news events right into your own living room! Sit back, light up a Camel, and be an eyewitness to the happenings that made history in the last 24 hours. The Camel News Caravan presents: today’s news today! Produced for Camel Cigarettes by NBC....”

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh smoking at his trial after the coup So went the intro to the 15 minute program, airing each weekday at 7:45pm, that gave a young David Brinkley his start in television news. For a segment on the 60th anniversary of the 1953 coup in Iran, MSNBC’s ALL IN with Chris Hayes dug up an old clip of the show from August 6, 1953, covering Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh’s controversial referendum to dissolve the Majles. Hayes then talked to noted Iran analyst / cigarette aficionado Hooman Majd about the psychological impact of the 1953 coup in the region.

The unobjective vintage video clip clearly reeks of bias, but then, this was the 1950’s, an age when TV news personalities acted as both newsman and pitchman, personally endorsing products during their broadcasts.

Even distinguished journalists got into the act. Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent (and Mossadegh sympathizer) Marguerite Higgins could be seen in full-color magazine ads confirming R.J. Reynold Tobacco Co.’s claim that Camel was “America’s most popular cigarette”. “America’s preference for Camels is no surprise to me”, says Higgins in the ad. “...Nothing equals Camel mildness and flavor”.

There was little concern over ‘conflict of interest’, either. Camel News Caravan host John Cameron Swayze, for example, did print advertisements (presented as "NBC’s Chief TV News Analyst") ‘reporting’ news of Camel’s indisputable popularity among smokers.

John Cameron Swayze — 1954 Camel cigarettes advertisement

Cigarette commercials on television and radio were banned altogether in 1970. But people still smoke, and the mainstream media still performs dutifully as a mouthpiece of the political establishment. Actually, people (and countries) knowingly do a lot of things that have proven to be harmful.

Seven minute segment from the August 19, 2013 broadcast of ALL IN with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.


Chris Hayes: Here’s a’re not going to see this anywhere else. You want to know what’s really driving the White House approach to dealing with the chaos unfolding in Egypt right now? One theory being floated on Egyptian state television this week by a former constitutional court justice involves President Obama’s brother being one of the coordinators and founders of a Muslim Brotherhood investment. The idea being that somehow the President of the United States is through blood relations a secret Muslim Brotherhood supporter, an idea so daft, I don’t even think it would clear the editorial standards of Michelle Malkin. Almost a thousand people have been killed just since last week in the escalating conflict between what are the country’s ruling military forces and supporter Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader ousted from power last month. Amid all that, it is important to note that pretty much everyone engaged in this fight in Egypt right now is convinced utterly that the United States is already secretly aiding their enemies. Mark Lynch of Foreign Policy magazine took note of the astonishing level of omni-directional anti-American sentiment, writing, "even longtime observers of Egyptian rhetoric have been taken aback by the vitriol and sheer lunacy of the current wave of anti-American rhetoric”. The rhetoric spans the political spectrum denouncing the United States is politically useful to every Egyptian faction." it’s easy to look at that kind of stuff and dismiss it, ‘Oh, it’s the wacky conspiracy theories of the Arab street, people in that region are addicted to anti-Americanism.’

Chris Hayes tweet on August 19 But then we get news like we got today to remind us why conspiracy theories are so powerful. The CIA declassified a document showing that 60 years ago they did, in fact, help engineer a coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran. Quote: “The military coup that overthrew then-prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy.” As this network’s own contemporaneous coverage shows, Mossadegh, the head of a democratically elected government, was nonetheless regarded by the U.S. as a sinister and dangerous character, subject to Communist influence. Here’s a report from the – and I’m not making this up – Camel News Caravan, a news program sponsored by Camel cigarettes that aired on NBC just weeks before the CIA engineered coup that ousted [the] then-prime minister of Iran.

John Cameron Swayze: “Iran’s Premier Mossadegh, who creates strength through weakness, has accomplished what Hitler and Stalin could not. He received 99 910 percent of the vote in a carefully managed referendum.”

Announcer: “When weeping, fainting, bed-ridden old Mossadegh has trouble with the Majlis or Parliament, he goes to the people for a referendum to have it dissolved. There is no secret ballot. In fact, people supporting Mossadegh vote in one place, people opposed vote in another. Understandably, few oppose the skinny old man who controls the army and the police, and the supervisors at the opposition voting place have nothing to supervise. Final returns in Tehran: 101,396 votes to dissolve the duly elected parliament, 67 votes against. Mossadegh, who is not a Communist, has won with Communist support. Can he now get rid of his dangerous new friends?”

That was what the run-up to the CIA engineered 1953 Iranian coup looked like on American television. We’ve known for years the U.S. played a role in that coup, but only now, sixty years after the fact [100% false, the CIA “admitted” it The Shah smoking as early as 1954] do we know officially from the CIA itself, that yeah, they decided to get rid of the head of the democratically elected government in Iran, and help to re-establish the Shah, who was sort of an out of touch plutocrat with a completely brutal secret police force at his disposal, and who was so despised in every sector of Iranian society, he was ultimately overthrown in a revolution in 1979, that led to the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Iran we know today. So let’s keep all of this in mind as we watch the crisis in Egypt unfold. Joining me now is Hooman Majd, NBC news contributor, author of the upcoming book The Ministry of Guidance Invites You Not To Stay: An American Family in Iran.

Obviously, Iran and Egypt, very different places, different language, different histories, but in broadly the region of the Middle East in which the U.S. has had this outsized role for 50 or 60 years, as you watch the rhetoric coming out of Egypt and the American involvement in there, given the Iranian experience, how do you kind of make sense of how people are viewing the Americans as an actor in that region?

MAJD: Well, it’s what you said earlier about conspiracy theories gaining a lot of traction in the Middle East or people thinking, ‘Oh these wacky Arabs or wacky Persians, they believe anything....’ but conspiracy theories often come true, at least from the perspective of Iranians or Arabs or Turks or anyone else who’s been following American involvement in the region. I mean, for years and years ever since my childhood, we knew the CIA – and the British, by the way, CIA and the MI6 – conspired to overthrow Mossadegh and bring the Shah back to power. Everyone knew this and there’s been books written about it, and unless you were an American who was really interested in Iran, you kind of didn’t know about it or thought, ‘Oh, come on, that’s a conspiracy theory, we wouldn’t do that’. This really just tells you, as a fact, now, that they did, they’re admitting it, although the U.S. did kind of express some regret for some involvement, Madeleine Albright did....

HAYES: The President sort of mentioned it in his Cairo speech...

President Barack Obama smoking MAJD: ...Mentioned it in his Cairo speech, exactly. The thing that’s really interesting is the relation between what happened in 1953 and the hostage crisis in 1979, which all Americans know about, and especially after the movie Argo more Americans, young Americans know about it, and how those two things are completely related. And how that came to happen after, you know —

HAYES: Yet we know we don’t know the, the average American does know about the hostage crisis. Not necessarily what happened with Mossadegh in 1953. And I think there’s something similar right now in Egypt which is the prehistory of 30 years of governments apart from Mubarak is known by every single Egyptian everywhere....

MAJD: Exactly.

HAYES: ...And we are now watching this little sliver of history play out and thinking, ‘Why are they so mad at us?’

Hooman Majd smoking MAJD: Exactly. And it goes on and on and on. I mean, specifically with Iran, we’ve had 35 years of no relations with Iran, the nuclear crisis, we have all the kinds of fights we have with Iran, and Iran is the big enemy...and it’s because of these two events. First the coup, and then ’79, the hostage crisis. Not necessarily the revolution, itself, but certainly the hostage crisis was related to that coup, because the Iranians were convinced that the U.S. was going to do the same thing in 79. and the way to stop that was to take over the embassy... and initially they weren’t going to keep the hostages, it’s a longer discussion, it became a much more politicized event, but the two are very related. So the reason the Americans want the Iranians to apologize is the reason the Iranians want the Americans to apologize for the coup in the first place. So these things are related. If you look anywhere in the third world in the developing world where America has had an influence, whether it’s South America, Central America, look at Venezuela, other countries, not just the Middle East.... there’s this deep, deep suspicion of what American foreign policy is...

HAYES: And sometimes the full picture of that is occluded to us as we sit here in the U.S. NBC news contributor Hooman Majd, thanks for your time.

MAJD: Thank you.


Related links:


President Barack Obama on the Impact of the 1953 Coup in Iran

Comic Book Proganda: "T-Man in: Death Trap In Iran!" (1952)

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

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