“Argo” as Pre-War Propaganda: Ethnic Stereotypes, Incomplete History and ‘Conspiracy Theories’


“Argo” as Pre-War Propaganda: Ethnic Stereotypes, Incomplete History and ‘Conspiracy Theories’
by Ernst Schroeder

“In power, I believed that my alliance with the West was based on strength, loyalty and mutual trust. Perhaps that trust had been misguided.” – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, in his memoirs, Answer to History, © 1980, p. 12.

“The fact that no one [in the Carter Administration] contacted me during the [revolutionary] crisis in any official way explains everything about the American attitude. I did not know it then – perhaps I did not want to know – but it is clear to me now that the Americans wanted me out.” – Ibid., p. 165.

“A few days after the Shah left [Teheran], I embarked on a trip to the Middle East. My first stop was Egypt, where I was to meet with Anwar Sadat in Aswan on January 22, 1979. Sadat was late and apologized, explaining he had been at the airport bidding farewell to the Shah, who was bound for Morocco at the invitation of King Hassan. Sadat said he had urged the Shah to remain in Egypt so that he could return quickly to Iran if conditions changed. The Shah had shrugged off his advice, claiming the Americans ‘had forced him out’ and would never allow him to return.*

*Chase officer Archibald Roosevelt, cousin of Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA officer who had engineered the 1953 coup that restored the Shah to the throne, was with me on the trip. Archie, who had also worked for the CIA, had an astonishing political and historical knowledge of central Asia and the Persian Gulf region. Archie said he thought the ‘game was up’ for the Shah in Iran.” – David Rockefeller, Memoirs, © 2002, p. 363, paperback edition.

The latest in the relentless corporate media demonization efforts towards Iran and its people arrives courtesy of the ambitious Warner Brothers production Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck. The film is produced by Affleck and the ubiquitous Favorite Hollywood Hand of the CFR and Foggy Bottom, George Clooney.

Based on the formerly classified account of the CIA’s retrieval of a handful of American diplomats during the earliest days of the Iranian Revolution via the ruse of a Canadian film production, the film tactically sheds light upon a nation of very high strategic interest to the Western Establishment. The end game for this perception management of Iran could very well involve eventual attack, balkanization, resource appropriation and occupation (in order to ultimately circumscribe Russia and China, of course). Efforts like Argo conveniently help reintroduce modern West Asian history to a public retaining the attention span of doved up rave revelers so that public opinion and, eventually, warm bodies, can be mobilized rapidly in the event of a Western attack on Iran.

Argo’s tethering of sanitized Iranian “history” to the Anglo-American Establishment’s war and intelligence machinery further reveals an ongoing yet understudied union of government and Hollywood. The film unabashedly reconfirms the longstanding ménage à trois between the Beltway, Langley and the TMZ. In a showing of increasing sycophancy towards Washington, ‘A-list’ Frat Pack actors display an obsession with playing spooks. [Is this some sort of required initiatory rite for induction into the Council on Foreign Relations’ special ‘Artists’ Temple Wing’ in New York?] Clooney wins an Oscar for playing a real-life CIA case officer in Syriana; Matt Damon’s Good Shepard lionizes the earlier Skull and Bones-molded company man in Langley; and now Damon’s Good Will Hunting co-writer, costar and (former?) Boston-Best-Buddy follows suit by immortalizing another aging spy. What’s next, Casey Affleck playing the younger David Petraeus to Chris Cooper’s older, scandal-ridden one in the compulsory Showtime biopic?

Of course, the real CIA technical operations officer profiled in the film, Tony Mendez, looks nothing like Ben Affleck. But then, that’s Hollywood. I.E. You can’t have (better) actors Luis Guzman or Michael Peña ‘open’ a film like Argo and fill Cineplexes with vacuous suburbanites that need a crash course in psychic conditioning over foreign affairs. No, anatomically correct thespians would muddle perceptual efforts behind vital instruments for statecraft such as Argo, a film which could be considered as amongst the subtler and shrewder modern versions of Capra’s Why We Fight, or even, indeed, Riefenstahl’s definitively effective Triumph des Willens. All three films were/are aimed to mobilize.

Argo starts with yet another trite overview of modern Iranian history, where a tired woman’s accented voice, embarrassingly reminiscent of the narrator in this ‘short bus’ online historical abbreviation, recites the hows and whys of white hot Iranian rage against the United States. Also animated is the 1953 CIA removal of Iran’s nationalist Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossedegh, and his replacement with the tentative, timid, Swiss educated, peacock-emulating Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, replete with his ‘milk-bathing Empress’ in tow. The alleged national humiliations, medieval-worthy tortures and general dehumanizing totalitarianism introduced by the Shah are mentioned to the exclusion of any testimony of the rapid educational and industrial progress achieved by Iranians under the combined rule of the Shah and his father over merely a few decades. To reveal the latter would presumably interfere with the prescribed historical narrative, which in part paints the Shah as having genuinely been overthrown by a spontaneously popular uprising…….without any Western involvements whatsoever.

The filmmakers include this animated primer to contextualize, per Affleck, the film’s narrative reminding audiences of a pivotal historical event putatively at the origins of perpetual “Middle Eastern rage”. Yet the coup against Mossadegh remains merely one of a myriad interventionist episodes in the M.E.N.A., while the wider recorded history of the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis remain incomplete, obscured, or outright omitted.

What the film expectedly fails to cover is any of the suppressed history surrounding the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Where is the reference to the dethroned and disgraced Shah finally being permitted entry to the US courtesy of David Rockefeller’s and Henry Kissinger’s overriding the hesitancies of the Carter Administration? His entry was formally granted “on humanitarian grounds” due to his deteriorating health, yet considering that the Shah had hundreds of millions stored with Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank, which practically shoehorned itself into Iran’s banking sector in 1974, it’s the least these druid Illuminists could’ve done. Where are the character actors depicting the 1978 Bilderberg Group attendees and obscure backstage CIA and MI6 handlers who decided to cut off, and then help remove, respectively, the Shah from power in 1978-79 while simultaneously coordinating Khomeini’s arrival in Iran? How about the news footage of a travel-weary and dying Shah proudly defending (to a cynical, Establishment-assigned David Frost) his memoirs’ accusations of Western abandonment and betrayal of his decades-long sense of fidelity? Or the antidotes of Western Elites’ preference for an obscure cleric who was kept in the geopolitical bullpen for years until Washington, London and Paris tired of the Shah’s services, his rising perceived hubris and arrogance (Rockefeller’s words, mind you) regarding economic development, and his ambition for increasing (dare say, Mossadegh-like) Iran’s global influence?

To its credit, Argo accurately portrays intelligence agents – er, US Embassy diplomats in Teheran – hurriedly instructing their staff to burn every document in the building once the Iranian mob breaks into the sealed U.S. Embassy. Yet critical questions remain unanswered, such as: What on earth could the embassy staff have feared being discovered? Plans for the removal of the Shah from power, perhaps, in favor of a conveniently compliant and vetted (at least as initially believed) aged cleric who had promised his Western liaisons noninterference in energy policies, no regional ambitions, and the dismantling of a rising domestic armaments platform (indeed, the Shah sought nuclear power first)? Perhaps classified documents linking the names of old CIA hands like Richard Cottam – then a professor at the University of Pittsburgh and ‘advisor’ to the State Department, but earlier a field agent on the ground in 1952 Teheran prior to said coup – with Khomeini’s Texas-sourced handler and exiled Iranian dissident Ebrahim Yazdi (along with Yazdi’s understudy and future Iranian Foreign Minister, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, who was briefly featured in newsreel footage in Argo)? Oh, and nothing is provided in the nugget-sized historical texts at the end of the film regarding how the American hostages’ eventual release was delayed by the incoming, occultist-drenched Reagan Administration until after Reagan’s inauguration. All of that vital “October Surprise” data was also omitted to retain the Agency’s lustre.

In a piece aired on CBS News nearly two years ago, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who housed the Americans, Ken Taylor, acknowledged espionage duties conducted on behalf of the CIA in order to assist the Carter Administration’s flawed commando rescue attempt of the hostages. This begs another question: If Western “diplomats” break protocol by performing espionage against their host nation, then by what right can the West claim that the invasion of such demonstrable “den of spies” or foreign embassies violates international law?

Argo is essentially a propaganda piece meant to subconsciously condition and re-focus a perennially distracted American public towards eventual conflict with Iran. Western Elites are so desperate to make the public care more about Iran nowadays that they’re exploiting – for the second time - a public ‘breaking of the code’ in the intelligence world. The first time involved the 1997 revelation by the CIA of the six Americans’ rescue as an intelligence triumph; the second was the urging of Warner Brothers to immortalize it with a feature film. What ever happened to, as Tony Mendez himself so aptly put it recently, “never celebrating your successes, or explaining your failures” in the world of espionage? Since this success is so publicly celebrated, it calls for a deliberate spelling out of the film’s strategic intentions along with the wider ‘failures’ behind the West’s ultimate ‘dropping the ball’ with Iran.

Stock propaganda tools used in Argo include news footage from the era consisting of irate rural and suburban American yokels in the streets lambasting Iran, beating immigrants and generally channeling their early-80s-high-inflation-and-unemployment-triggered rage towards a convenient “other”. A sense of entitlement is assumed in the narrative, as in real life, over the presence of operatives that even the filmmakers admit were in Iran primarily to exploit. The film also tragically employs that core war film tactic of dehumanizing one’s targets: Affleck’s lead character imagines a film production as pretext for his mission while watching a TV episode of Planet of the Apes. Really? Apes? Because those hirsute, irrational, enraged Persians are essentially mutinous primates, breaking out of their assigned cages and capturing their legitimately superior Caucasoid human handlers, right?!?

Affleck would claim that the make-up artist John Chambers, who designed Mendez’ Hollywood cover, also worked on Planet of the Apes, hence that TV reference. Yet watch that scene again – one of armed, dark-hued, stern, uniformed apes guarding and walking Americans along a mountain ledge into captivity – and you’ll sense how the film subtly programs audiences to subconsciously view “the enemy”. Somewhere, Charlton Heston is wetting his best polyester, arm-in-arm with Establishment historian and rabid anti-Iranian Bernard Lewis, as well as that late ‘70s Iranian theater’s more direct Western interloper (and bottom-liner of the Shah’s imperial fate!) General Robert Huyser…

Politicized historiography and subconscious crowd mustering of the sort offered by Argo beckons a new era of cinematic state propaganda, where the Frank Capras of the world are A-list CAA or WME clients, ‘packaged’ together with other leading or ascending talent courtesy of the combined guidance of the corporate media and an increasingly entrepreneurial, private sector-reliant military and intelligence machine. In this sense, Argo, 300, Syriana, Crash and even the older, cartoonishly bad Twinkie Standard of the Irano-xenophobic film genre, Not Without My Daughter, are the theatrical counterparts to Langley’s reliance upon Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, et al. for carrying out the State’s “soft power” technological mobilization and data collection goals. Internet technologies are used to mobilize Jasmine Revolutions abroad while titular fawners to an enduring Anglo-American Empire, posing as mere patriotic screen artisans, assiduously follow the creative dictates of government spooks who understandably prefer the tonier surroundings of Bel-Air to Beirut. Even Affleck cockily admits while promoting the film that he “is sure” the CIA is alive and well in Hollywood. Shocker. As if Hollywood actors’ means of meeting ossified spies, diplomats, former presidents and prime ministers are due solely to the diligent footwork of the likes of Patrick Whitesell and Barry Meyer.

In celebrating a small victory against the backdrop of the wider diplomatic and intelligence failure in Iran, Argo is, in a sense, today’s geo-cinematic equivalent of Rambo: First Blood Part II, which although fictional, nonetheless fantasized a latter-day victory in the brutal Vietnam theater via an ass-kicking return for Johnny. Relatedly, Hollywood and Washington have recently teamed up again to reissue 1984’s seminal Brat Pack jingoistic standard bearer, Red Dawn, only with updated chiseled Teutons battling an invading Asian horde rather than the Ruskies of old. With similar subtleties to Argo, Red Dawn takes care not to target the Chinese per se (what with their holding so many US Treasury Bonds while simultaneously importing as much gold and silver bullion as possible, best not to offend the bank!), but implants the modern red villains as North Koreans (!!). Never mind that Pyongyang can barely feed its citizens let alone conduct an invasion of American strip malls and corn fields. Asian is Asian in the inebriated eyes of Washington/Hollywood, and Cineplex goers must be conditioned to fight them along with those towelheads! Because if stale Marine Corps TV ads won’t recruit as well as they used to, dammit then high tech propaganda via gory video games and glossy studio films will.

Some will state that this author’s claims regarding the West purposefully removing the Shah in favor of a West-appraised Ayatollah Khomeini is ridiculous conspiracy theory. But then, someone claiming back in 1980 that the smuggling of those six Americans from Teheran was the work of the CIA, rather than merely due to the good graces of the Canadian ambassador alone, would’ve been accused of suffering from conspiratorial delusions as well. In fact, claiming back in 1955 that Mossadegh was removed by a CIA-staged coup WAS considered paranoid conspiracy theory. All until such events are formally ‘declassified’ by the government, that is, only to then be codified into the Zeitgeist by the mainstream media.

Thus, Argo and its cinematic kin raise a salient question: To whom should the task of interpreting and recording history fall? The Western Establishment and its multi-billion dollar press, media, technological, military and academic tentacles? Or independent historians such as William Engdahl, Robert Dreyfuss, Dean Henderson and others who fear not sanctions from said Establishment, critically thinking students of history who investigate anomalies, and actors from the center of events like the late Shah himself?

Our modern aristokratia, who are self-charged with the production of ‘credible’ historical and political knowledge, are preoccupied with the euphoria of their evolving technocratic methods more so than focused on any potentially weighty, unpredictable consequences resulting from their efforts. The deciphering of historical “truths” via the kinetic medium of cinema certainly presents all parties with excitement. Yet the vertically integrated team of government and entertainment industry producers behind Argo must ultimately consider this: That war with Iran would draw in Russia, China and plenty of other powers. Period. How proud of their propaganda would said parties be when conscription is re-introduced, thereby forcing otherwise trust-fund-coddled children of studio executives to fulfill combatively what their armchair general parents had only urged cinematically? Better yet, how will those leagues of Iranian-American sellouts involved in Argo’s production – from the extras, to smaller part players, to even some presumed uncredited historical advisors (Abbas Milani, you out there?!?) -- feel when bombs start falling on Teheran as they have on Gaza, Pakistan and Yemen lately? Will they still post their proud film set photos with Affleck and Clooney as their Facebook profile pictures while their cousins are incinerated by Israeli ‘smart nukes’?

Because unlike the premise of Argo, that geopolitical catastrophe will hardly involve, in any fashion, a contrived film production.


Soosan Khanoom

a crash course in psychic conditioning over foreign affairs

by Soosan Khanoom on

indeed ! 

I really truly enjoyed your analysis of this film. One of the best I read so far.

Sorry that i did not make a comment sooner and thank you for this insightful and well written article.  

You have brought up many valuable points that i would like to highlight a few of those . They are so good and need to be read over and over !

" the film also tragically employs that core war film tactic of dehumanizing one’s targets: Affleck’s lead character imagines a film production as pretext for his mission while watching a TV episode of Planet of the Apes. Really? Apes? Because those hirsute, irrational, enraged Persians are essentially mutinous primates, breaking out of their assigned cages and capturing their legitimately superior Caucasoid human handlers, right?!?"

Exactly ... you are right on the point here.. Unless Iranian are all collectively like that ( which we know they are NOT) , no one in her or his right mind can fail to notice this deliberate portrayal of the Iranian people in the movie .. hostage takers or not .  even those in the bazar and streets were not portrayed better !

The only good Iranian in the movie was the maid at the Canadian Ambassador house who helped them out and was mentioned as a friend to the U.S.  It was a deliberate innocent portrayal, cause at the end of the movie the red scarf girl entered Camp Ashraf In Iraq ..  The year, however, is not adding up !    Complete Bull Shit .. Seriously .. a fiction perhaps but a well calculated one!  

Everyone knows that  MEKs , 24 / 7, were demonstrating behind the embassy doors in support of the hostage takers and their action. ( The student who did it  , however, were not from this group. )

Besides, how is it that among millions of Iranians who became refugees in the U.S and Europe not even one was portrayed in this movie.  Only the refugee ones to the camp Ashraf in Iraq were portrayed as the good guys and friend to the U.S?  Is it a coincidence? or is it just manipulating the American public opinions especially now that Hillary has delisted MEK from the terrorists list?  

you well said it when you mentioned:

Argo’s tethering of sanitized Iranian “history” to the Anglo-American Establishment’s war and intelligence machinery further reveals an ongoing yet understudied union of government and Hollywood .....

Argo is essentially a propaganda piece meant to subconsciously condition and re-focus a perennially distracted American public towards eventual conflict with Iran. 


I have more to point out here and discuss. For sure, I'll  stop by again later to go over the rest ...


Thanks again 

: ) 

p.s.  (  Hostage taking was by itself a very questionable act. One wonders who really was behind it !!!  It did achieve nothing for the Iranian people but years of war and destructions  )