Reed Irvine - Editor
|November B, 1979|
OUR MEDIA: A WEAPON FOR THE ENEMY?
This issue of the AIM Report brings you an account of what took place at the AIM conference, "The Media and the Present Danger," which was held on November 2 and 3, 1979.
The accounts of the talks and panel discussions are too brief to do any of them justice. We have especially not done justice to some of the panel chairmen, notably Karl Bendetsen and Leopold Tyrmand, who presided over the luncheon sessions with wit and charm, Karna Small, who added both humor and beauty to the panel on coverage of the power centers, Dr. Allen Brodsky, who along with Drs. Cohen and Beckmann, showed that scientists can be excellent communicators as well as fighters, and Amb. Elbridge Durbrow, who at the last minute filled in for the ailing Charles Murphy as chairman of the panel on the media and the intelligence community.
We have also not done justice to the participants who made excellent comments and asked penetrating questions from the floor. Many of them ought rightfully to have been panelists themselves. A college professor who came as a guest of an AIM member told his host that he had never attended a conference where there were so many wellinformed people.
By all accounts, the conference was a great success. It was not just interesting; it was exciting, with outstanding presentations of conflicting points of view. The only disappointment was the virtual blackout by the media of the proceedings. The media not only don't do a good job of criticizing themselves, as Seymour Hersh noted, but to use Dr. Cohen's phrase, they do "a stinking, lousy job" of reporting criticism of themselves. (Exceptions were The News World in New York City, Washington Weekly. and Betty Beale in The Washington Star).
Tapes (cassettes) of all of the sessions may be purchased from AIM for $3.00 each, postpaid. The entire set of 13 tapes will cost you $39.00. Texts of the talks by Uwe Siemon-Netto, Lubor Zink, Rick Main and Cliff Kincaid are available. Send $1 each to cover duplicating and handling costs.
"The Vietnam war was the first one in history that was won by one side essentially via the media of the other side," according to a distinguished West German journalist, Uwe Siemon-Netto. Mr. Siemon-Netto, a former Vietnam correspondent and former managing editor of West Germany's largest Social Democrat daily, told the Accuracy in Media awards banquet on November 3, that this presented the free world with a new situation that would probably recur in the future. He said the West would have to come to grips with the problem, since under the rules of the new game the totalitarian side has a considerable advantage over the democratic side.
Siemon-Netto underlined this point by citing the all important differences between American involvement in Vietnam and the USSR's present involvement in a revolt against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan. He said that those who were calling Afghanistan the Soviet Union's Vietnam simply did not understand what had happened in Vietnam. He termed such statements "infuriating nonsense" which showed that the "historical meaning of the word 'Vietnam' has still not been understood."
Vietnam, he said, meant more than a superpower getting involved in a quagmire in some underdeveloped country. He said:
"Soviet television will never show its viewers the charred bodies of Afghan women and children killed by Soviet napalm.
"Pravda will never tell its readers of the corruption and cruelty of the Kabul government which is so staunchly supported by the Soviet regime.
"No Izvestia reporter will ever file a sympathetic story from a tribal village serving as headquarters of the Muslim guerrillas.
"Komsomolskaya Pravda will never come out demanding the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, saying that they had no business being there in the first place.
"And no Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Tatars, or, for that matter, Poles, East Germans and Outer Mongolians will ever be prompted by information from their media to march for peace in Afghanistan, even if the war there lasted 50 years!
"If the Soviet Union were to withdraw from Afghanistan, which is unlikely, it will certainly not do so because the Soviet people have grown tired of reading their own casualty figures every morning in the party press, tired of having that war piped into their dachas every evening.
"If the Soviet Union should withdraw, it will also not mean, alas, that due to adverse public opinion Moscow will abandon other allies in other parts of the world--that it will stop equipping the PLO with Kalashnikovs, for example."
The German journalist said that he and other reporters in Vietnam thought that they were being fair in reporting extensively on the My Lai massacre by American troops, but actually their reporting was very unfair. This was because they neglected to tell their readers back home that the other side committed "infinitely' greater war crimes as a matter of policy." They assumed everybody in America and Europe knew this, but they were violating a major commandment of the journalistic trade: never assume anything!
Siemon-Netto described the first military operation he had observed as a journalist in Vietnam in 1965. He accompanied a Vietnamese battalion to a remote village where the Vietcong had made a raid. He said: "Dangling from trees and poles in the village square were the village chief, his wife and their 12 children, the males, including a baby, with their genitals cut off and stuffed into their mouths, the females with their breasts cut off." They were told that the Vietcong had asked everyone to witness the execution. "They started with the baby and then slowly worked their way up to the elder children, to the wife, and finally to the chief himself... It was all done very coolly, as much an act of war as firing an anti-aircraft gun." This was terrorism with a purpose, the purpose of warning others what would happen to them if they cooperated with the Saigon government.
This was no isolated case, Siemon-Netto said. It happened day after day, and the reporters on the scene knew that it was happening. But they didn't report it because it happened so routinely. "It became routine like the mass graves we found after the Tet offensive, graves of women and children buried alive... Because it became routine to us, we didn't report it over and over again. We reported the unusual, like My Lai . . . Not that we meant to slant our copy. at least the more serious among us didn't mean to. We just assumed that everybody back home knew what bastards the VC were, while everybody may not have known that there were some bastards on our side too."
The trouble was, Siemon-Netto said, that people back home didn't know what bastards the Vietcong were. Moreover, it became fashionable to present the war as the struggle of courageous nationalists against a bunch of corrupt fascists. It became fashionable to ridicule the domino theory, even though it was obvious that a defeat for the U.S. in Vietnam would cause the dominoes to fall not only in Indochina but elsewhere, as the world would lose confidence in the resolve of America to stand up to the Soviet challenge.
All of this had its consequences. Siemon-Netto said that the fate of the Cambodians, Vietnamese and Laotians today "is related to the fact that I and others in my trade may not have done our jobs properly." He pointed out that detailed reports of mass-scale atrocities filtered out of Cambodia within months of the Communist takeover there. "That story was played down throughout the Western world." he said. "I suspect that we could have saved hundreds and thousands of lives if only we had given these reports as much prominence as the My Lai massacre." Siemon-Netto said that while the journalists that he regularly mixed with in Vietnam did not want to see communist regimes take over there. "I fear that the way we reported the war.., may in part be responsible for the fact that precisely this has happened." He said that he was sure that other responsible journalists shared that feeling, noting that he had been able to get 26 German journalists who covered Vietnam to sign an ad that appeared in West German newspapers appealing to the state governments in West Germany to accept refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia.
He said: "Our intentions were not dishonorable, but we failed to recognize that during the Vietnam era journalism had entered a totally new phase in which some of the most essential ground rules of our trade changed profoundly. I am convinced that if we remain oblivious to this change, our civilization will suffer catastrophic consequences."
Seymour Hersh, the reporter who first won fame for his work in breaking the story of the My Lai massacre and who later set off two congressional investigations of the CIA with stories in The New York Times about illegal actions on the part of that agency, sparked a heated discussion at the AIM conference panel on "The Media and the Intelligence Community."
"Guess who is the final arbiter of national security in this democracy," Hersh said. "We (the medial are. Isn't that a horrifying thought? We have the bottom line. We get a document. We don't have any committee to refer to. We don't have any clearances to get... The bottom line is that it's up to us. And that's the way it is. I'm sorry if you don't like it."
Citing the protection given the media by the first amendment, Hersh said: "The bottom line for me as a journalist is, it's your guys' job to keep it secret, and it's my job to find it out."
When a questioner said that this was strictly a legalistic approach and asked Hersh to provide some justification for the media being given such enormous power,Hersh said, "Ask Tom Jefferson." He conceded, however, that there might be abuses. He acknowledged that the tendency of the reporter who got a leak of secret documents was to publish the information. He said: "You tend to want to run it, get it in the paper, jump in, make a headline. There isn't enough assessment of why."
Hersh said that in writing the stories he had it was not his intention to undermine the CIA or destroy the United States. He said that over the past ten years he had published at least ten different stories over the objections of high government officials. He added: "Son of a gun! The Russians did not attack San Francisco the next day. What's national security?"
Asked if he thought we were in any danger he responded with a blunt "no." "We are in terrific shape," he said.
David Lichtenstein, a member of AIM's board, took issue with Hersh, saying: "You say that you are not out to destroy the intelligence agencies of the United States or the United States itself... I wish you were a person who was out to destroy the United States, because then we would have clear understanding of your social philosophy. You seem to keep stumbling onto stories... These are always stories which undermine confidence in the United States, they are always about the shortcomings of the United States. Your stories are unfair because they are never in perspective. You never tell a story about what happens on the other side of the border of North Vietnam..."
Mr. Hersh replied by pointing out that his stories had produced investigations, court martial, and won prizes. He added: "If the only way we could walk out of Vietnam with our heads held high is to say that the other guys were bad too, that's too bad."
John H. Maury, a retired high official of the CIA, scored the media attacks on our intelligence agencies on the ground that they were frequently based on inaccurate information. What was worse, the newspapers had shown a strong reluctance to correct this misinformation when the errors were brought to their attention. Maury cited numerous examples.
One example was a front-page story in the New York Times of September 18, 1969 by T.D. Allman, a writer who has been connected with the leftwing Pacific News Service, but whose by-line often crops up in the Times. The story was about a "confirmed battle death" of an American in Laos. This was big news because we were not supposed to have any troops in Laos, whose neutrality we were bound to respect under the Geneva agreement. Maury said this report was therefore a "windfall" for the communist propaganda mill. However, it turned out that the "confirmed battle death" was actually the death of a baby of an Air America employee. Allman had spotted the death certificate and made two false assumptions: that it was the father that had died and that he was a battle casualty. The Times never printed a correction.
Maury pointed out that our media had played up charges that the CIA had been involved in the drug traffic in Southeast Asia. He said there was not a word of truth in these stories. The head of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs had testified that the CIA was its strongest partner in running down the sources of illegal drugs. "But you wouldn't know that from what's been in the press," Maury said.
James Goodale, vice chairman and general counsel for the New York Times, in a luncheon address expressed views similar to those of Seymour Hersh on the power of the press. Mr. Goodale thought that there were cases in which the media should refrain from publishing national security information. For example during World War II a Times reporter had found out about the project which developed the atomic bomb. The Times kept this secret.
However, Mr. Goodale felt that it was up to the media themselves to determine what should be published and what should be withheld. Asked why, he said: "This is an impossible question to answer unless you are willing to accept the role that the press plays... Either you want the institution to function as a free institution or you are going to have to ask someone to make that determination for the press all the time. That would mean you would have to clear everything with the government. There isn't any answer."
Mr. Goodale also took a strong position against the media being obliged to turn over to the authorities information they might have on criminal activities. He said a paper that knew of a ring selling heroin to high school children should not be obliges to report that to the police. However, if they had information available from no other source about the identity of a presidential assassin, they should "cough up."
Mr. Goodale said it was no answer to have greater responsibility of the press to the government in any formal sense. "It is much better to have groups like this (AIM) picking and shooting, hollering and stamping." he said.
Former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Daniel O. Graham, told the AIM conference that he had learned from his experiences with the press in Vietnam that they were not exactly on his side.
Graham cited as an example a case in which the 196th Airborne Brigade had completely wiped out two North Vietnamese regiments that had made the mistake of trying to defend territory in a conventional military action. He said everyone from General Westmoreland, the commander of our forces in Vietnam, down was tremendously pleased with this important military victory. However. a reporter covering the story went to the trouble of finding a corporal who had been engaged in the action who commented that if this was a military victory, he wanted no more part of them. General Graham said that was the comment that made the headlines in papers across the United States.
Both Graham, who is now co-chairman of the Coalition for Peace Through Strength, and panel chairman Philip Clarke, Communications Director for the American Security Council, commented on the failure of most of the eastern media to report on the testimony of Adm. Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the SALT II treaty. They pointed out that Moorer had presented the committee with a letter signed by 1,676 retired admirals and generals urging that they reject SALT II because it is unequal and unverifiable.
Clarke said that although the wire services had put this story out to every daily in the country, not one word of Admiral Moorer's statement was picked up by The Washington Post, the most influential paper in the nation's capital. He said that only a handful of papers east of the Alleghenies ever mentioned the letter signed by the 1,676 admirals and generals.
Clarke said that he had been told by a producer on the NBC Today Show that they might do something about that letter when the number of signers reached 2,000. Clarke said the number was now up to 2,213, but that it was still being ignored.
Leslie H. Geib, a former diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times who recently resigned as the State Department's Director of Politico-Military Affairs, agreed with Graham and Clarke that the letter signed by so many admirals and generals was a good story that should have been reported. Gelb said it was undeniably true that the bulk of the correspondents for major newspapers and television networks are liberal. He said: "Anyone who would deny that simply does not know what the facts are." Gelb said that one's political beliefs did tend to influence the reporter's judgment of the kind of stories that he thought important. However, he said that he had always tried hard to be accurate in writing his stories. He did not think that those liberal reporters were any more likely to distort the facts than were conservatives. He said reporters tended to focus on the extremes and shortchange the center.
Tomas Shuman, who had been an employee of the Soviet news and propaganda agency. Novosti, before defecting to the West, observed that in his experience as a Novosti employee it was much easier to manipulate Western liberals to help spread the Soviet propaganda line than it was conservatives.
General Graham charged that the people who staff the media have a point of view that is essentially "anti- national." This is at odds with the military view that the welfare and security of the United States must be given the highest priority.
Clare Boothe Luce set the tone of the panel on the "Assault on Freedom" at the AIM conference when she put the blame on the media for much of the change in the spirit of America. She said that the belief that the common citizen could direct and alter his own course of action is waning, the confidence that her generation took for granted had faded. Mrs. Luce, the first woman in history to win West Point's coveted Thayer medal, said the press was one of our greatest problems. "We tend to attribute to these men a malice or ill will that is not there at all," she said. "It's just downright ignorance."
Murray Baron, the president of Accuracy in Media, echoed that view, saying: "We are less seized with subversion and conspiracy than with ignorance, hubris and conceit." Baron pointed to arguments found in the media for America not doing its utmost to defend freedom from the Soviet threat. On the one hand we are told that the Soviets are too weak to pose any danger and that claims that it aims at world domination are a joke. On the other hand, we are told that the Soviets are so powerful that we must not take action lest we provoke them. When freedom was under attack in Southeast Asia, we were told that it was too distant for us to be involved. When the threat comes from Cuba, 90 miles off our shores, we are told that it is too close at hand to present any serious danger to us.
Canadian columnist Lubor Zink, who experienced totalitarianism of both the Nazi and Communist variety in his native Czechoslovakia, said that the West was materially strong but was lacking in the will to stand firm. "Our governments." he said, "watching public support for defense of freedom eroded by hostile opinion manipulators, do not dare to use available strength for holding the line against a new wave of barbarism."
Zink said there were several factors in the loss of will. Education, literature, arts, entertainment and information industries all shared the blame, but the cutting edge, he said, was the media. The greatest strength of the Western world, freedom of speech, has been perverted into its greatest weakness, he said.
Zink said that the notion that freedom of speech is absolute and untouchable had led to the perversion of liberalism into license. Freedom of speech is misused to shield everything from subversion to pornography. He warned that if nothing were done, "the remaining free countries will be swamped by gushing mind- pollution of totalitarian propaganda."
He rejected the notion that there was a tightly controlled conspiracy behind this. "A loose ideological fraternity of individual zealots who regard themselves as pioneers of the latest fashion in abstract radicalism does the job quite well," he said. "It is also more likely to succeed . . . A large number of individual eager beavers who have been pre- programmed and synchronized by neo-Marxist educators and by 'radical' cultural climate, works quite effectively through a sort of ideological osmosis. without any tight organization and direction. When these zealots reach senior positions, they naturally hire kindred souls. Thus in a few decades this produces a remarkable synchronization of almost everything the public gets from the media. A brainwashing machine is created in the democracies and runs as smoothly as the totalitarian prototype. Its effectiveness is actually greater because its fuel of misguided idealism is far superior to coercion." Zink said.
This explains the amazing uniformity of news and comment--a phenomenon that Solzhenitsyn discussed in his 1978 Harvard address. Zink noted that reporters and commentators quickly learn what is wanted even if it is not spelled out in direct instructions. Those who want to make journalism their career naturally try to produce what's wanted and shun what harms their chances of advancement. Leslie Gelb came close to making this same point in his remarks on the "defense" panel, when he attributed the overwhelming liberal domination of Big Media to the "socializing" effect of living and working in a liberal environment. Zink said that most newsmen were the products of the prevailing culture and delivered the desired slant out of conviction. "The knowledge of what is wanted, what sells, what brings promotion, respect and material rewards strengthens the pre-programmed bias," he said.
Zink said there was an answer. He cited former British Labor Party leader Clement Attlee's dictum, "Democracy? Yes, but not for the fascists." Zink said this expresses the "obvious but almost completely overlooked truth that democratic liberties do not include freedom for their misuse for destruction of democracy."
Peter Worthington, editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun and a veteran journalist, said in his luncheon address at the AIM conference that the four horsemen of the modern apocalypse were the politicians, churchmen, academics and the media. Worthington, who has to his credit his expulsion from Moscow as a correspondent and being charged with violating Canada's Official Secrets Act for publishing documents exposing Soviet spying activities, observed: "There are no Marxists in the Soviet Union. They are all at Stanford, UGLA, or the University of Toronto." He noted that it was the academics who had worshipped at the altar of the bloody Stalin in the 1930s. Despite their many known errors, they still wield great influence over the politicians and the media, he said. He criticized religious leaders who journey to Moscow and report that the outlook for religious freedom is improving, overlooking the fact that a believer can be sent to prison for five years for teaching Sunday school or conducting a religious service in one's home or in the woods, or anywhere except in a state-owned institution.
Worthington described the media as the university of the masses. He said that you would think that the media would be staffed by the most responsible, the most educated, the best informed individuals in our society, but the opposite was true. "It's the only trade that takes absolutely no skills," he said. He said that objectivity was beyond journalists, but they had an obligation to strive for fairness and to put the news in perspective.
For example, he said we were constantly being told of the need for black majority rule in southern Africa, but how often do the media point out that there is no country in all of black Africa where majority rule exists, with the possible exception of Gambia and Upper Volta? What you have, he said, is universal black minority rule. He pointed out that the armed forces in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia are actually 75% black, but the conflict there is almost always presented in our media as a black-white affair.
Worthington charged that our media are fearless and resolute in defense of civil rights in free countries, but timid and cowardly in defense of these same liberties in totalitarian countries.
Professor Michael Lindsay, the distinguished Sinologist, said that the media coverage of Communist China had been highly misleading because of the very great restrictions placed on Western journalists in China. Until very recently virtually the only source of information for a journalist in Peking was the official Chinese press. Lindsay said that the Western media should have pointed this out to their readers and viewers. They might also have advised that the very existence of such severe restrictions was evidence that the reality was far different from what was being reported.
Lindsay said that the record of our academics on China was even worse than that of the media. He noted that Prof. Michael Oxenberg, who is now the Chinese expert on the National Security Council, was actually a defender of the "Great Leap Forward" that Mao had thrust upon the country, with disastrous results, in the 1950s. As late as 1976, Oxenberg was extolling this disaster as having brought economic security to the Chinese peasantry. As for Prof. Ross Terrill of Harvard, Lindsay said his books were practically a paraphrase of what could be found in the official propaganda magazine, China Reconstructs.
Eric Chou, who had occupied important journalistic posts on Chinese Communist publications prior to his flight to the West, said that he personally had helped deceive prominent Western journalists such as New York Times correspondents Tillman Durdin and Seymour Topping. He said all the communist journalists in Hong Kong had the duty to feed their Western counterparts with misinformation and disinformation. They were given generous expense accounts to facilitate this work.
Lev Navrozov, a dissident Soviet writer, said that the Western news media were totally lacking in the capacity to provide vital information about totalitarian societies. He said that the media view of the world was similar to that of a frog. To the frog the world is a blur, but its eye instantly registers any movement. A hundred million people may die, but it will not be registered by our media if it doesn't involve some movement.
Navrozov said that Western journalists in the Soviet Union were really living in a special country, which he called "Correspondentland." That was part of a larger country known as "Tourlandia." Occasionally the journalists were permitted to visit "Tourlandia" and they were free to report insignificant phenomena, including even flaws in the system. What they were absolutely prohibited from covering was the one big secret--perhaps the only secret--of the Soviet Union: its preparation for world conquest.
Navrozov said that even if our journalists reported accurately what they observed, they would still be spreading misinformation, since what they are permitted to see is a distortion. Igor Glagolev, another high ranking Soviet defector, pointed out that both Hedrick Smith and Robert Kaiser, former Moscow correspondents of The New York Times and The Washington Post respectively, had written books which had reached identical mistaken conclusions about the USSR. They agreed that living standards were rising, that the people supported the regime, and that the policies of the Soviets are not aggressive. Giagolev noted that this was the line of the KGB's disinformation bureau. On the issue of aggression alone, Giagolev said they ignored over 20 aggressive wars waged by the USSR.
Navrozov said that the Soviets now had the capability of taking over the Middle East and Africa, if they so desired. However, they don't want to make their move until they are absolutely certain that no risk will be involved. He said this is why they are building up their forces on a huge scale, making sure that when they strike they will win decisively.
Earl E.T. Smith, who was U.S. ambassador to Cuba when Castro took over, told the AIM conference that Nicaragua was Cuba all over again. He said the press had played a vital role, just as it did in the overthrow of Batista. Quoting from his book, The Fourth Floor, the ambassador described how Herbert Matthews of The New York Times had rescued Castro from obscurity and likened him to Abraham Lincoln. The media exaggerated the faults of Batista and didn't mention the terrorist activities of Castro's gang.
Smith said: "The media are doing everything in their power to overthrow rightist dictators who are pro- American and anti-communist. They look with favor on leftist dictators who are pro-communist." He said: "Panama is gone. Nicaragua is gone. El Salvador is about to go. Guatemala and Honduras will be next, and probably they will try to extend this as far as Mexico and Venezuela."
Max Kelly, who served as President Somoza's personal secretary during his last year in office, agreed that the media had been a big factor in the overthrow of Somoza. He said: "I know for a fact from our monitoring of Telex, satellite and telephone lines that a good number of stories filed from Nicaragua that were either objective or favorable to the government never got printed or shown." Kelly also said that there were many inaccurate and unfair stories filed, and corrections were few and far between. "Can this country afford to have its foreign policy influenced by this type of reporting?" he asked. "It lends itself to campaigns of disinformation, and we know who the experts are in that field."
John Maclean, diplomatic correspondent of the Chicago Tribune, did not agree that it was clear at this point that Nicaragua was another Cuba. He didn't exclude the possibility that it would become one. He said most reporters "didn't see Castro very well." They were more accustomed to reporting his recipe for lobster than his recipe for the Caribbean, Maclean said.
Maclean said that he didn't agree that there was any lack of exposure to Somoza's views, and he thought that the day-to-day reporting out of Nicaragua was satisfactory. He said there had been a great deal of reporting, since the takeover, on communist influence in the new government. He said it had taken a long time for the press to get to the point of reporting this, however.
He noted that a number of media "heavies" had attended a dinner thrown by Castro in New York recently. He said that if it had been Gen. Stroessner of Paraguay that had given the dinner, these people would not have been found in the same city. Yet the fact was that Castro had obliterated human rights in his country, and the right-wing dictatorships in Latin America had afforded far more human rights to their people than had Fidel Castro.
Carl Migdail, diplomatic editor of U.S. News & World Report, a specialist in Central America for 30 years, said that the key question in Nicaragua was why the middle class turned Marxist and supported the Sandinistas. Migdail suggested that the reason was because people were frustrated with the fact that the Somoza family had controlled the government for some 43 years. He also implied that Somoza had appropriated or misused hundreds of millions of dollars of relief supplies sent to Nicaragua after the 1972 earthquake that devastated Managua.
Migdail said that the middle class allied themselves with the Sandinistas more or less out of necessity. The Sandinistas won because they got support from all over the world, He said that when their troops moved into Managua nearly all wore crosses. "They were deeply religious," he said, "and the question important for us is what is it that happens when conservatives and deeply devout Catholics wind up with the Marxists."
Tomas Shuman, formerly of the Soviet news and propaganda agency, Novosti, noted the importance of understanding Soviet tactics in underdeveloped countries. He said that it was Soviet policy to recruit businessmen, journalists, important capitalists in those countries--not workers. Ian MacKenzie, formerly of the Nicaragua Information Service, pointed out that the allegations of misappropriation of the earthquake relief supplies had been disproven by official audits of the GAO and AID. He also said that Somoza's positive achievements in building schools, houses and roads had never been reported by the American press. It was also pointed out that when Castro's troops entered Havana they too were wearing crucifixes.
A visitor from Panama disputed Migdairs assertion that Panama's Omar Torrijos was not a communist. He pointed to Torrijos' close friendship and collaboration with Castro. He added that Torrijos was surrounded with men who were known to be Communist party members, including President Royo. He also pointed out that Torrijos was pushing an educational reform bill which would open the door to communist indoctrination of the children of Panama. He pointed out that on October 9, 350,000 Panamanians had demonstrated against this bill, something that had not been reported here.
Frank Fusco, President of Discount Data Products and co-chairman of the Mary Jo Kopechne Memorial Society, chaired the panel, "Media Coverage of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy." Noting that the paper at the last AIM conference dealt with the subject, "The Infiltration of the Media By the KGB and Its Friends," Fusco said: "This year the special paper is devoted to the infiltration from a domestic source. It too might be called the KGB--the Kennedy Groupie Bunch." Fusco said that, "These are people in the news media who have been promoting the sons of old Joe Kennedy ever since the days of that mythical Camelot, a kingdom that never was."
AIM assistant editor Cliff Kincaid, who delivered the paper, said that Sen. Kennedy's rise from the tragedy of Chappaquiddick to a campaign for president of the United States can be traced to the senator's support in the national news media. Although Kennedy has a lackluster record as a senator, Kincaid said, he has been mentioned on the evening news shows and in the pages of the New York Times and Washington Post many more times than has Sen. Robert Byrd or Sen. Howard Baker, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate. He said this media focus has become more pronounced as the 1980 election year has approached.
Despite all of this coverage, Kincaid said that the Big Media have ignored or downplayed key aspects of the Kennedy record. The media have been reluctant to probe the incident at Chappaquiddick and the resultant cover-up, he said. Kincaid noted that the memorial service held for Mary Jo Kopechne earlier this year had been completely blacked-out by the Washington-New York media axis. Kennedy's activities on behalf of left-wing radical groups. including the anti-nuclear movement, a pro-Castro network, and the pro-marijuana lobby, have been ignored or downplayed by the media, Kincaid said. He said that the senator's key role in the weakening of America's internal and external defense capabilities has also received too little attention.
That is how Dr. Bernard L. Cohen, Professor of Physics at the University of Pittsburgh, described the way the media had informed the public about the facts of nuclear energy and radiation. Dr. Cohen said that the scientific community has come to the conclusion that radiation is less of a health hazard than previously believed, but this good news has not been transmitted to the public. Instead, the media have grossly exaggerated the dangers of radiation. For example, a great deal of publicity was given to the Mancuso study which made allegations about radiations effects on workers. The fact that this study has been discredited has not been widely reported.
Dr. Cohen said the media tended to publicize minor accidents involving radioactive materials, giving them far more attention than serious accidents involving non-radioactive materials that kill thou- sands of persons each year. Dr. Cohen said that the fact that nuclear energy is far safer than coal as a source of electric power has not been driven home. Dr. Petr Beckmann, editor of Access to Energy and the author of The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear, underscored this point. He said that the only deaths caused by the accident at the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island are those that have resulted from substituting coal to generate electricity in place of TMI's two nuclear reactors. Beckmann estimated that this resulted in about one death per week for each of the two nuclear reactors that had been shut down. Beckmann said that half of these deaths were totally unnecessary, since there was no good reason for the NRC to refuse to permit the undamaged reactor to operate.
Dr. Cohen and Dr. Beckmann also criticized the media for exaggerating the difficulties associated with the disposal of nuclear waste. Dr. Beckmann said that the public did not understand that the much publicized closure of nuclear waste disposal sites in Washington and South Carolina impacted mainly on medical and research users of radioactive materials. If safe disposal for their waste materials is not provided there is the danger that they will simply dump it down the sewer, he said. Beckmann observed that the extremist proposals for banning the disposal of any nuclear waste in certain states would have the effect of barring people from going to the bathroom, since urine is radioactive.
Stuart Diamond, energy and environment reporter for Newsday of Long Island, said that there was a communication gap between reporters and scientists. He said that many scientists were unwilling or unable to communicate with the press. Both Cohen and Beckmann strongly disputed this. Cohen said he has offered to travel to New York at his own expense to make his expertise available to the TV networks. He has had no takers. Beckmann said that the only call he got from the press during the TMI incident was from the National Enquirer, which, he said produced a very good story about the accident. "I look forward to the day when the rest of the media measure up to the National Enquirer," Beckmann said.
The anti-scientific progress bias of some of the media also came under attack at the AIM conference panel chaired by Robert Krieble, Chairman of the Board of Loctite Corporation. Rick Main of the American Farm Bureau Federation compared those who try to impede the utilization of modern technology to the 19th century "Luddites," who tried to halt the industrial revolution by breaking up the new textile machinery.
Main cited as examples sensationalized charges that have been made by ABC television, Time magazine and others concerning the alleged danger that antibiotic feeds eaten by cattle and poultry may develop new strains of supergerms that are resistant to antibiotic therapy. Main said that there was not a single recorded case of human illness caused by bacteria that had been made resistant to antibiotics by the use of antibiotics in animal feed.
Another useful chemical that has come under heavy attack in the media is the herbicide, 2,4,5-T. Main said the most recent attack was over public television in a program in the NOVA series called "A Plague on Our Children.' The program focused on the charge that spraying this herbicide in West Coast forests had caused an increase in spontaneous abortions among women living in the area. Main said that NOVA had overlooked the possibility that there might have been other causes of the miscarriages. He noted that many of those who had reported miscarriages in the area where the herbicide was used admitted being long- term users of marijuana. Studies with monkeys had shown that marijuana caused a high rate of spontaneous abortions.
Patrick McCurdy, editor-in-chief of Chemical Week was also highly critical of the media treatment of chemicals. He said they had produced scare stories and phony crises. The problem had even surfaced in what were supposed to be entertainment programs. He cited two television entertainment shows that had dealt in a very unfair and misleading way with the chemical industry. One was on CHiPs and the other on Quincy (see the AIM Report, November I, 1979).
McCurdy listed numerous scare stories that had been given prominence in the media that had failed to materialize. These ranged from predictions of century-long damage to beaches resulting from oil spills to talk of a cancer epidemic. McCurdy said there was no cancer epidemic and no evidence that man- made chemicals were causing cancer on any broad front. Instead of analyzing and explaining, the media too often confused and frightened people. McCurdy said that industry should fight back and was increasingly doing so. Mr. Krieble suggested that one way industry might fight back was by making more careful use of its advertising dollars to reduce the anti-business bias of the media.
Ron Nessen, former NBC correspondent and press secretary to President Ford, was concerned about the failure of the Washington press corps to communicate to the public information necessary for intelligent decisions. He felt that there was a lack of expertise, a tendency to shallowness, and severe limitations on the detail possible given the severe time constraints of television reporting.
Phil Jones, who covers Congress for CBS News, agreed with Nessen that newsmen often lacked the expertise to cover technical stories, such as the TMI nuclear power accident, but he had some question as to whether those who were expert in highly technical subjects could also communicate to a mass audience.
His main concern was with the obstacles that Congress, and particularly the Senate Majority Leader, Robert Byrd, is putting in the way of TV coverage of congressional debates. Jones was critical of the House for insisting that House employees had to man the cameras covering debates in the House. However, the situation is even worse in the Senate, where no coverage by TV is yet permitted.
Jones felt that it was essential that television be permitted to cover the Senate debate on the SALT II treaty. However, Senator Byrd is trying to barter TV coverage for an agreement on the part of the Senate to limit debate. Jones thought this linkage was unconscionable. He noted that Byrd had been prepared to permit TV coverage of impeachment proceedings against President Nixon in 1974. Now he is saying that the TV lights would be too strong.
Lea Kinsolving, editor of Washington Weekly, noted that the politicians and bureaucrats had considerable power to manipulate and punish reporters. For example, they could simply refuse to return phone calls. That could be very rough on a reporter who depended on them for information. Some reporters responded by making sure that they never offended a news source. If they asked any questions at all at news conferences, they made sure they were "U.S. Government Approved." Kinsolving also charged that reporters for Big Media were often helpful to government officials in intimidating reporters who asked embarrassing questions. They would interrupt or make insulting remarks. Kinsolving said that the reporter so treated should "try to transmute bitterness into determination, to keep asking questions, and to publish the answers, no matter how evasive."
Pat Buchanan, syndicated columnist and talk show host, asked at the AIM conference luncheon on November 3, why the average American who earns $7 an hour should subsidize establishment journalists, many of whom are making $50,000 a year, to appear on public television. Buchanan charged that public broadcasting had become a giant CETA program for washouts from the commercial networks. Rather than provide alternative programming to that available on the commercial networks, it had gone in for programs that were radical and propagandistic, he said.
Buchanan cited as examples of such programs the anti-nuclear documentary, "Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang," and a program that had lauded Castro's Cuba and its program for developing athletes. Buchanan said public television was elitist, an unfair competitor of commercial broadcasting, and he urged that it be phased out.
Lawrence K. Grossman, president of the Public Broadcasting Service, said that America has a long tradition of subsidizing the arts. He said: "Television ú.. is too important to be monopolized by those who simply want to sell products to people." Public TV, he said, was designed to "serve as a kind of competition, as a model, as a symbol of excellence for our commercial networks."
Grossman denied that public TV was one-sided and elitist. He noted that AIM was giving an award to Ben Wattenberg for his public television series, "The Search for the Real America." He also pointed to such programs as "Wall Street Week," William F. Buckley's "Firing Line," and the MacNeil-Lehrer Report as conservative or balanced programs. He said that next year a new show featuring conservative economist Milton Friedman would be aired over public television.
Ben Stein, author of The View from Sunset Boulevard, regaled the 200 people who attended the Accuracy in Media Awards Banquet on November 3 with a description of the good guys and bad guys as seen by the writers and producers of television entertainment shows.
Stein said that there were about 200 people who wrote all the situation comedies seen on TV and another 100 who wrote all the adventure programs. He said they were extremely well paid, but they nevertheless take a very dim view of rich people and businessmen. Stein said that in a TV comedy the businessman can be either a knave, a buffoon, or both. He can also be a racist, a hypocrite and often a sexual deviate, he said. On adventure shows, however, the businessman has just one role--the murderer.
Stein said that a typical plot will have three suspects--a Mexican-American janitor who is a heroin addict: a criminal just released from prison who has a long record of murders; and a vice president of Exxon. The killer will always be the vice president of Exxon.
Stein said that military officers are "very, very bad men on TV." They are generally pictured as thieves, stuffed shirts, who are usually plotting a rightwing coup. On the other hand, police officers are pictured sympathetically. Only as you go up the line to the higher ranks, they get to be like military officers-- pompous and stupid.
According to Stein, the poor are "uniquely wonderful people on TV." They are never poor through any fault of their own, or because they won't work. They have had their jobs taken away from them by the capitalist exploiters. The criminal is never a poor ghetto youth, except in cases where he is acting as a pawn of some rich person.
Stein argues that these stereotypes reflect the actual philosophy of the writers of TV shows, and he believes that they are using these shows to bombard the TV viewers with messages which reflect a coherent set of ideas, for more detail, read The View from Sunset Boulevard.
Leopold Tyrmand, editor of the Chronicles of Culture and Associate Director of the Rockford College Institute, summed up his impressions of the conference at the Awards Banquet. Noting that representatives of Big Media generally said their pieces and departed. They did not want to stay and listen to our views, he said. He said: "This conference has given me the impression that we are more intelligent than the other side. Being more intelligent. we must and will win."
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