Malcolm Muggeridge in his day was one of the rare foreign correspondents who reported what the Soviet Union was really like under Stalin. And what satirical scorn he reserved for those who thought they were wandering in Utopia. Listen to this extract from a book of his about the rich idiots then to be encountered:
There were earnest advocates of the humane killing of cattle who looked up at the massive headquarters of the OGPU [the secret police at the time] with tears of gratitude in their eyes, earnest advocates of proportional representation who eagerly assented when the necessity for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat was explained to them, earnest clergymen who walked reverently through anti-God museums and reverently turned over the pages of atheistic literature, earnest pacifists who watched delightedly tanks rattle across Red Square and bombing planes darken the sky, earnest town-planning specialists who stood outside over-crowded, ramshackle tenements and muttered: ‘If only we had something like this in England!’
The credulity of these fellow-travellers, Muggeridge recorded, astonished even hardened Soviet officials.
This anthology passage has come to mind several times recently in connection with present-day fellow-travellers visiting Iran in just that same spirit of willing self-deception. Here are advocates of human rights enthusing over the general happiness of Iranians even while disgusting crimes of murder and rape are routine in the prisons. Here are ecologists promoting windmills everywhere at home, obsessed with their carbon footprint while oblivious to the Iranian nuclear program. Socialists and Leftists in a permanent fury about American foreign policy have nothing to say about Iranian sponsorship of terror far and wide. Pacifists and aesthetes are so eager to see the splendours of Qom and Mashhad that they are oblivious to the Islamist Republic’s testing of long-range missiles and repeated threats to exterminate its enemies. Feminists eager to uncover gender discrimination in their own sphere respond to the plight of Iranian women by praising the attractive colours of their clothing. Tourism to Iran is apparently the latest fashion among rich Westerners, and they come back saying that the country is peaceful, prosperous, no danger to anyone but altogether a brilliant success. My dear, let’s meet up at Isfahan, you have to see those mosques.
Only a few short years ago, these very same rich Westerners were adamant about refusing to go to South Africa for fear of seeming to condone apartheid. As for Franco’s Spain, it was out of bounds for such people for decades on the strict moral principle that the regime’s violence was intolerable. Even Salazar’s Portugal was forbidden. Iran is a great deal more vicious, indeed fascist, than those formerly pariah states, yet it is excused as they were not. There doesn’t seem to be anyone with Malcolm Muggeridge’s powers of mockery to explode this latest odious example of double standards.