Newfound 'Brutality' in Iran was the headline of a letter written by Statesian political scientist Michael Parenti and published in The New York Times on 10 May 1979. About four months earlier, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran was overthrown in a series of events known as the Iranian Revolution.
To the Editor:
For 25 years the Shah of Iran tortured and murdered many thousands of dissident workers, students, peasants, and intellectuals. For the most part, the U.S. press ignored these dreadful happenings and portrayed the Shah as a citadel of stability and an enlightened moderniser.
Thousands more were killed by the Shah's police and military during the popular uprisings of this past year. Yet these casualties received only passing mention even though Iran was front-page news for several months. And from 1953 to 1978 millions of other Iranians suffered the silent oppression of poverty and malnutrition while the Shah, his family, and the generals grew ever richer.
Now the furies of revolution have lashed back, thus far executing about 200 of the Shah's henchmen — less than what the SAVAK would arrest and torture on a slow weekend. And now the U.S. press has suddenly become acutely concerned, keeping a careful count of the "victims," printing photos of firing squads, and making careful references to the "revulsion" and "outrage" felt by anonymous "middle-class" Iranians who apparently are endowed with finer sensibilities than the mass of ordinary people who bore the brunt of the Shah's repression. At the same time, American commentators are quick to observe that the new regime is merely replacing the one repression with another.
So it has always been with the recording of revolutions: the mass of nameless innocents victimised by the ancien regime go uncounted and unnoticed, but when the not-so-innocent murderers are brought to revolutionary justice, the business-owned press is suddenly filled with references to "brutality" and "cruelty." That anyone could equate the horrors of the Shah's regime with the ferment, change, and struggle that is going on in Iran today is a tribute to the biases of the U.S. press, a press that has learnt to treat the atrocities of U.S.-supported right-wing regimes with benign neglect while casting a stern, self-righteous eye on the popular revolutions that challenge such regimes.
Michael Parenti, Visiting Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies Washington, May 8, 1979