"Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other / Edition 1

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The United States and Iran have been estranged for 25 years. They have carried out a mutual process of demonization that is unprecedented in modern history, based on cultural hot buttons that have the power to galvanize the populations of both countries. Iranian leaders have characterized the United States as the Great Satan—an evil corruptor that pollutes society and destroys personal morality. American leaders characterize the members of the current government of the Islamic Republic of Iran as Mad Mullahs, wild-eyed and irrational. Giving a thorough account of the background of U.S.-Iranian relations, Beeman claims that the current accusations of both Iran and the United States are baseless, consisting largely of public invective and symbolic rhetoric according to their own mythologies of evil.

American leaders characterize the members of the current government of the Islamic Republic of Iran as Mad Mullahs, wild-eyed and irrational. They accuse them of fomenting the hostage crisis, in which American embassy personnel were held for 444 days at the end of the Carter administration, dealing a severe blow to U.S. national honor. The Bush administration has further accused the Iranians of being part of an Axis of Evil on the basis of their alleged support of terrorists, oppression of women and minorities, and development of nuclear weapons. Giving a thorough account of the background of U.S.-Iranian relations, Beeman claims that the current accusations of both Iran and the United States are baseless, consisting largely of public invective and symbolic rhetoric according to their own mythologies of evil.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[B]eeman is a good writer, who eschews the scholarly jargon that frequently makes academic books and articles unintelligble to all but specialists in a specific field. He is writing for the non-specialist, and he is more interested in informing the reader than in impressing his peers. The other strength of the book lies in the author's knowledge of Iranian history and culture. Beeman's discussion of economic development under the Pahlavi monarchy and how Americans in the country lived at the time is imformative, and his observation that Iranians hate being told what to do by people with whom they have no relationship should be taken under advisement by everybody….The Great Satan vs. the Mad Mullahs raises many questions and is problematic, those are additional reasons for reading it. It challenges the reader and forces him to question stereotypes about Iran and Washington's perspective on the country. It also encourages the reader to consider Tehran's perceptions."


Middle East Journal

"Regardless of the reader's viewpoint, this book is a challenging analysis by an anthropologist of an international conflict that threatens to get out of control. For that reason alone, this is a timely book."


MultiCultural Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275982140
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/30/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM O. BEEMAN is Professor of Anthropology and Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University. He has lived and conducted research for over 30 years in all areas of the Middle East. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense, and has testified before Congress on Middle Eastern affairs. He is the President-Elect of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association (2005-2006) and will serve as President from autumn 2006 until 2008, then as Outgoing President from 2008 to 2009.

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Table of Contents

1 Discourse and demonization 1
2 American myths 13
3 Middle Eastern myths 23
4 Discourse and rhetoric 35
5 Images of the great Satan 49
6 Images of the mad Mullah 69
7 The framework of U.S.-Iranian relations : modernization and development as an index of national worth 91
8 The sins of the United States 119
9 The sins of Iran 137
10 The birth of postmodern conflict : how Iranian media came of age 165
11 Living with Iran : resistance as postmodern discourse 189
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005

    An exceptionally important book

    I have been puzzled about the relationship between Iran and the United States, because it makes no sense. The two countries just keep insulting each other, and then nothing else happens except more insults. Well, this book explains it all in a way that makes sense. The two nations are simply serving their own internal political needs for consolidating power by using images of evil that frighten and manipulate their own domestic populations. If it works in the U.S., it should certainly work in Iran! Anyone who is as confused as I was needs desperately to read this book. It is so intelligent, so clear, and even inspiring. I am getting several for my relatives for Christmas.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2005

    Stunning, fantastic book brings clarity to U.S.--Iranian relations

    I have been waiting for this book all summer. I pre-ordered it, and got it last week. It exceeds all my expectations in a spectacular fashion. I read it like a novel, and could not put it down as I lept from astonishing insight to astonishing insight. So much of the murky mystery of the U.S.-Iranian relationship was revealed with steel-trap logic and (gasp) actual documentation and support, it cleared out all the cobwebs from my mind on this topic. The author puts all the instant Iran pundits to shame with a nuanced, startlingly original analysis of the tortured U.S.-Iranian relationship. Both the U.S. and the Iranian government need to read this book to understand themselves as well as each other, and the U.S. public needs desperately to inform themselves before the two nations plunge into another useless and debilitating conflict.

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