Your RDA of Irony

The Irony Cartel

I once was tempted to write a fan letter to the Shah of Iran. The Iranian tyrant was being interviewed on Sixty Minutes, and at the mercy of Mike Wallace. Wallace, whose journalistic approach has the subtlety of coaxing a handicapped child to commit suicide, read aloud the CIA’s psychological profile of the Shah: “According to this, you are erratic, unpredictable and a megalomaniac.” The Shah then was expected to respond, but this was all he had to say, “Would you rather than I was just an American stooge“? And it was Mike Wallace who was speechless!

Why am I now thinking of the Shah? Of course, I miss him; don’t we all! But his Aryan Majesty is particularly fresh in my mind because I just wrote a magazine article about the “Energy Crisis of 1973”. That was our first energy crisis: the Arabs’ oil boycott. The gang at OPEC was divided; our enemies wanted to strangle us while our friends only wanted to rob us. And our best “friend” in OPEC was the Shah.

The oil boycott began on October 19, 1973, the Arabs’ most effective weapon during the Yom Kippur War. In mid-November the Shah–again demonstrating his reckless courage with journalists–was interviewed by Oriana Fallaci. No doubting after subjecting him to a withering editorial, she asked the Shah his prediction on oil prices. He gave both a warning and an impressive justification.

Of course, the price of oil is going to rise. Certainly! And how! You can spread the bad news. The price of oil must rise. There’s no other solution. However, it’s a solution you of the West have wished on yourself…You’ve increased the price of wheat by 300%, and the same for sugar and cement. You buy our crude oil and sell it back to us, refined as petrochemicals, at a hundred times the price you’ve paid us. You make us pay more for everything, and it’s only fair that, from now on, you should pay more for oil.”

At the time the official price for a barrel of oil was approximately $3.50. That price had barely risen to 20 years; OPEC was not even keeping up with inflation. (Otherwise, oil would have been $5.00 a barrel.) With the oil boycott, however, the cruel reality of supply and demand caused a slight recalculation of oil’s worth. In December, the winning bid for Iranian oil was $17 a barrel.

Of course, quintupling the price of oil triggered double-digit inflation that lasted more than a decade. So in the end, the price of everything quintupled.

And we still have Mike Wallace to insult world leaders.

Leave a Reply