My writing process varies. Some things I research rigorously, and some things I just think I know. Usually I’m pretty good at double checking these assumptions, and verifying that what I’m publishing is correct and worth putting out there. Last week I screwed up. For the first time in five years I published something that is flat out incorrect. As I mention in today’s video there are occasionally small errors. I mention some of the recent ones that have been caught by viewers, and there are probably many more that go unnoticed.
Last week though I got something major wrong. I claimed that the Shah of Iran killed “10s of thousands” of his own citizens. If you believe the current government of Iran that’s true, but they are not trustworthy on this topic. The consensus is probably more along the lines of thousands, but it’s impossible to be sure. When I uploaded the video last week the response was immediate. Four or five viewers commented on the statistic. After a week of looking into it, I have to conclude that I was wrong.
One of the most annoying things about US news media is its inability to acknowledge when it has screwed up. A correction might be issued on page 30, but most folks just move on and pretend that they never did anything. I’d like to do better. Today’s video acknowledges the problem, and will be linked directly to the video that needs correcting. I hope I don’t screw up again, but if I do I think this is the right way to deal with it.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey There. Well this is uncomfortable. Today for the first time, I have to issue a correction. We don’t have editors or even proofreaders here at the MFF. It’s just me, and it’s you, the viewers and commenters. You guys helpfully point out when I get the minor details wrong, and I’m proud to say it’s almost always minor details. Unfortunately, today it goes beyond my consistent mis-spelling of Wahhabi, or an argument over whether or not Dubai is a country. With last week’s video I legitimately screwed up, and I screwed up big.
His secular regime mercilessly crushed all dissent from 1953 to 1979. 10s of thousands were killed. The Shah ruled absolutely, and built up incredible pressure and anger within Iranian society.
One part of that is very wrong. I stand by the video, and my general read on the Shah, but he did not murder 10s of thousands of Iranians. Over the past week I’ve been combing through the records. If I took the larger estimates of the body counts of the Russian British Invasion that installed him, the shah’s response to various uprisings, and the amount of people killed during the revolution that unseated him, then maybe I could get to the 10s of thousands. But I wouldn’t be being honest. I was wrong, and I am sorry. The Shah of Iran was not a mass murderer on the scale I portrayed him to be. It seems likely that he only murdered hundreds, and probably didn’t make it into the thousands until he was losing his throne to a revolution in the late 1970s.
I think the problem here is that I mistakenly relied on propaganda from the current Iranian Regime. If you ask them, the Shah killed hundreds of thousands. It’s no secret that I’m much more sympathetic to Iran than most of the War-Mongers in US Media and government. In this instance I think that sympathy led me wrong, and I’m sorry. The Shah did not kill tens of thousands of people.
That does not mean he was a good guy. There were thousands of political prisoners. He was a merciless absolute ruler. There was torture, there were disappearances. Most importantly for last week’s video, he was a puppet of the United States, which made people angry enough to have an Islamic revolution. He did not kill tens of thousands of his own people, however, and I’m sorry for saying that he did.
And thanks to the viewers who called me out this. I take getting things right here very seriously. And when I do screw things up, and I probably will screw things up in the future, it’s important to me that I set the record straight very quickly. And the viewers, even the viewers who are very angry at me, help me to do that and I’m grateful.
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