Iran

By Clifford R. Barnett; Wendell Blanchard et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX DIFFUSION AND CONTROL OF INFORMATION

Iranians are masters at weighing news to determine whether it is information or propaganda, and the men spend most of their leisure time discussing the significance of what they read or hear. They listen to a man of wisdom in their judgment of it. This "news analyst" may be the father of the family, the leader of a friendship group, or a guild master. Men of wisdom are not to be confused with the mere "clever" man who gathers information for his own use. Most administrative leaders fall in the clever category.

While Iranians distinguish between information and propaganda, they do not share the common American distaste for propaganda. The distinction is not one of truth or falsehood, for this question they tend to treat as beside the point. Information becomes propaganda when it serves a special interest. Most public utterances and newspaper stories are recognized as serving special interests.

The Iranian expects special interest to be served. For example, they cannot conceive of the technical knowledge which the United States technical assistance (Point Four) program attempts to impart as anything but propaganda. Roads are built not to open up undeveloped areas but for American military advantage, they feel sure. Similarly, American technicians are regarded initially with suspicion as the advance guards of economic domination. Communists, of course, do everything possible to increase this reaction, but the basic reaction is natural to the Iranian.

Likewise, information broadcast by the Voice of America (VOA) program is received as propaganda, unquestionably. Those who regard communism as an enemy find the "progaganda" acceptable as ammunition. A typical listener's letter to the VOA from an Iranian in Khvoy, Azerbaijan, states: "If you knew how effective your political talks and commentaries

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