The Iranian government regularly trumpets its technical achievements. This in and of itself is unsurprising, because states are always conscious of the inherent propaganda value of impressive advancements in military or civilian technology. For isolated autocracies like Iran, this propaganda is particularly valuable. However, there’s one problem: Iran’s celebrated “achievements” are usually amateurish fakes. In 2008 an Iranian government photograph of a missile barrage was revealed to partially be a clumsy photoshop cut-and-paste job. Last week the Iranian announcement that it successfully launched a monkey into space was undercut by the obvious fact that the monkey that entered the spacecraft was not the same monkey paraded to the press afterwards. Similarly, Iran’s recently self-proclaimed “stealth fighter” is a bizarrely unprofessional fiberglass mockup too small to fit its pilot.
Given the level of mockery these draw, it’s difficult to argue that the Iranian government’s international prestige would be worse if it refrained from faking the technical achievements it is unable to actually accomplish.
So the question is: why do Iranian leaders continue to pursue such unconvincing propaganda campaigns, and why are they so amateurish? Who are their intended audiences?