How propaganda can overtake reality
By Hashem Hakimi
February 13, 2002
Given the enthusiastic response I received to the earlier piece published in
The Iranian about adverse propaganda by foreign press about Iran ["Oh yeah?
Take this"], I was encouraged by the younger readers to write more about
my experiences as a career diplomat. Here is another piece showing how propaganda
can overtake reality so easily in the Iranian psyche.
I entered the Service of the Imperial Iranian Foreign Ministry after I got my M.A.
in Political Science in autumn of 1951. I was a junior civil servant in the diplomatic
corps, starting right from the bottom of the ladder. After a few months Dr. Hossein
Fatemi was appointed as Foreign Minister by the then Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad
Almost a week after he took his post, we were called to assemble in the big hall
upstairs to meet the new minister. Some two hundred Foreign Ministry personnel from
the political undersecretary to the youngest civil servants such as myself had gathered
in the hall when Dr. Fatemi limped in with his stick. Without any introduction, the
new minister started a barrage of insult to the gathering. Among other things, he
called us, good for nothing layabouts who spent their time in cabarets and gambling
halls and did nothing worth mentioning.
While everyone was too stunned to react and before he finished the Political Joint
Secretary Amir Khosro Afshar Ghassemlou left the hall in disgust without taking his
leave. To this day I have a high esteem for this gentleman. Dr. Fatemi left the hall
the same way as he had come in. First there was a hush, and then slowly there were
murmurs about what they had just heard. I was so new that I did not understand what
was happening. I did not know most of the people who had gathered in the hall. Apart
from being confused, I was disgusted for what I had just heard.
Anyway, we all went back to our desks, and no one commented about the unbecoming
ungracious outburst of the newly-appointed Foreign Minister. As if there was unspoken
tacit agreement by all the employees not to refer to that ugly episode. After a week
or so we were summoned to gather in the hall upstairs, as the Foreign Minister wanted
to meet us.
We were wondering if Fatemi has got some more abuse for us up his sleeves. The limping
Foreign Minister came in the hall and abruptly started apologizing to the gathering.
He added that for years he was under the influence of adverse propaganda against
the Iranian civil service in general and the Foreign Ministry in particular.
But within a week, he found out that his outburst was impolite and unfounded. He
said he was amazed to realize that we were hard working, dedicated, highly educated
government functionary that he was privileged to work with. He then added that he
was indeed very sorry to have said what he had said one week earlier.
I am recounting this ugly episode for the purpose of indicating that how strong was
the extent of adverse propaganda against the Iranian government on the whole, that
people such as Dr. Fatemi who was an educated and reputable journalist, were influenced,
to such an extent that he made a fool of himself in front of his subordinates.
He foolishly squandered the good will of his staff and could never regain it because
of an unfounded prejudice