1. The Propaganda Model: Some Methodological Considerations
2. On Critical Balance
Some methods for testing the propaganda model of the media were mentioned in
chapter 1, including the study of paired examples of crimes and of meritorious actions, and the harshest test: the investigation of those cases selected as their strongest grounds by those who take the opposing stand, arguing that the media adopt an adversarial stance. The model stands up quite well under these and other challenges.2
The study of paired examples reveals a consistent pattern of radically dichotomous treatment, in the predicted direction. In the case of enemy crimes, we find outrage; allegations based on the flimsiest evidence, often simply invented, and uncorrectible, even when conceded to be fabrication; careful filtering of testimony to exclude contrary evidence while allowing what may be useful; reliance on official U.S. sources, unless they provide the wrong picture, in which case they are avoided (Cambodia under Pol Pot is a case in point); vivid detail; insistence that the crimes originate at the highest level of planning, even in the absence of evidence or credible argument; and so on. Where the locus of responsibility is at home, we find precisely the opposite: silence or apologetics; avoidance of personal testimony and specific detail; world-weary wisdom about the complexities of history and foreign cultures that we do not understand; narrowing of focus to the lowest level of planning or understandable error in confusing circumstances; and other forms of evasion.
The murder of one priest in Poland in 1984 by policemen who were quickly apprehended, tried, and jailed merited far more media coverage than the murder of 100 prominent Latin American religious martyrs, including the Archbishop of San Salvador and four raped American churchwomen, victims of the U.S.-backed security forces. Furthermore, the coverage was vastly different in style -- gory details repeated prominently in the former case, evasion in the latter -- as was the attribution of responsibility: to the highest level in Poland and even the Soviet Union in the former case, and in the latter, tempered allusions to the centrist government unable to constrain violence of left and right, in utter defiance of the factual record that was largely suppressed.
To take another case, the prison memoirs of released Cuban prisoner Armando Valladares quickly became a media sensation when they appeared in May 1986. Multiple reviews, interviews, and other commentary hailed this "definitive account of the vast system of torture and prison by which Castro punishes and obliterates political opposition," an "inspiring, and unforgettable account" of the "bestial prisons," "inhuman torture," and "record of state violence" under "yet another of this century's mass murderers" (Washington Post), who, we learn at last from this book, "has created a new despotism that has institutionalized torture as a mechanism of social control" in "the hell that was the Cuba [Valladares] lived in" (New York Times). There were many other vivid and angry denunciations of the "dictatorial goon" Fidel Castro (Time) and his atrocities, here revealed so conclusively that "only the most lightheaded and cold-blooded Western intellectual will come to the tyrant's defense" (Washington Post). Valladares was singled out for his courage in enduring "the horrors and sadism" of the bloody Cuban tyrant by Ronald Reagan at the White House ceremony marking Human Rights Day in December. Subsequent coverage was pitched at the same level.3
Just as Valladares's memoirs appeared in May 1986, arousing great horror, most of the members of the nongovernmental human rights commission of El Salvador (CDHES) were arrested and tortured, including its director Herbert Anaya. While in the "La Esperanza" (Hope) prison, they compiled a 160-page report of sworn testimony of 430 political prisoners, who gave precise and extensive details of their torture by the U.S.-backed security forces; in one case, electrical torture by a North American major in uniform, who is described in some detail. This unusually explicit and comprehensive report was smuggled out of the prison along with a videotape of testimony right in the midst of the furor aroused by Valladares's memoirs, and distributed to the U.S. media. They were not interested. This material was suppressed entirely, without a word, in the national media, where more than a few "lightheaded and cold-blooded Western intellectuals" sing the praises of Jos?Napole¢n Duarte and Ronald Reagan. Anaya was not the subject of tributes on Human Rights Day. Rather, he was released in a prisoner exchange, then assassinated, probably by the U.S.-backed security forces; much of the relevant evidence about his assassination did not appear in the national U.S. media, and few asked whether media exposure might have offered him some protection in the U.S. terror state.4 Applying the standard test of sincerity already discussed, we know exactly how to evaluate the outraged commentary elicited by Valladares's memoirs.
No less remarkable than the extraordinary double standard is the inability to see it. In extreme cases, we read bitter condemnation of the "liberal media" for their unwillingness even to describe Castro as a dictator and for their "double standard" in focusing on human rights violations in El Salvador while ignoring the Cuban human rights violations exposed by Valladares.5
Numerous other cases that have been investigated reveal the same pattern. It is, of course, familiar elsewhere. The state-controlled media and human rights organizations of the Soviet bloc have rightly become an object of ridicule for their great indignation over enemy crimes while they manage to miss those closer to home. A minimal level of moral integrity suffices to show that the pattern should be reversed: one's own responsibilities should be the primary concern, and actions should be largely directed by an assessment of their actual impact on suffering people -- again, typically leading to a focus on one's own responsibilities -- while authentic human rights organizations undertake the charge of compiling a comprehensive factual record. Such elementary moral reasoning is well within the reach of our intellectual culture when it considers official enemies; extreme moral cowardice very efficiently bars the exercise at home.
Comparison of elections in enemy Nicaragua and the client states of El Salvador and Guatemala yields similar results, as has been shown by several studies. One approach has been to compare the U.S. coverage of the two cases; another, to compare U.S. and European coverage of the same case. The results provide a dramatic indication of the subordination of the U.S. media to the goals established by the state authorities.6
By any reasonable standard, the elections in Nicaragua were superior in circumstances, conditions, and procedure to those in El Salvador; the media overcame these facts by adopting the U.S. government agenda, which differed radically in the two cases. Freedom of speech, association, and organization, even massive state terror, were all off the agenda for the elections in client states, while attention was focused on long lines of patient voters (in elections where voting was obligatory, and the penalties for not participating could be severe), on alleged guerrilla threats (often fabricated), and so on. The very fact that elections were held at all under conditions of strife was considered a triumph of democracy. In the case of Nicaragua, the agenda was reversed: terrorist actions of the U.S.-run proxy forces to disrupt the elections were off the agenda, as were proper procedures, far less repression than in the client states, broad participation with no compulsion, and a wide range of choices constrained by no serious interference apart from U.S. pressures to induce its favored candidates to withdraw so as to discredit the election as "lacking any real choice." Any deviations from the performance of advanced industrial democracies under peacetime conditions were scrutinized and angrily deplored, and the only serious issue was the prospects for the U.S.-backed candidate for president, taken to be the measure of democracy. Apart from the U.S. government, the major news sources were the U.S.-backed opposition, who, along with the contra "civilian directorate" established and lavishly supported by the CIA, received extensive and favorable press; the fact that the U.S. candidates appeared to have little popular support, and little in the way of democratic credentials so far as was known, was also off the agenda.7 In the client states, there was no need to report on any domestic opposition, since they had not been able to survive the conditions of democracy, U.S.-style. Close analysis of coverage reveals these and related patterns quite dramatically.
The 1984 elections in Nicaragua were dismissed with derision or ignored, while studies by highly qualified observers and analysts were, and remain, beyond the pale, because they consistently reached the wrong conclusions: for example, the detailed examination by a delegation of the professional association of Latin American scholars (LASA), probably the most careful study of any Third World election, and the supporting conclusions by an Irish Parliamentary delegation drawn primarily from the center-right, among many others, all passing without mention.
The media even permitted themselves to be duped by a transparent fraud, the well-timed "discovery" of a shipment of MiG fighter planes to Nicaragua, which predictably turned out to be fanciful and was later attributed to Oliver North's shenanigans, but which admirably served its purpose of helping to efface the unwanted Nicaraguan elections. When it had become obvious that no MiGs had arrived, a new phase of disinformation began, shifting attention to the leak of secret information (that is, to the planned release of intelligence fabrications, so it appears), condemned as "criminal" by Secretary Shultz. The press again went along, taking the issue to be the alleged leak and not the propaganda exercise in which they had participated, even claiming that the MiG pretense had harmed the U.S. and anti-Sandinista groups. In reality, the exercise had succeeded in every achievable aim, helping to bury the results of the election "under an avalanche of alarmist news reports," as the LASA report observed. The media never returned to the matter to provide a meaningful report or analysis of the elections. Cooperation in the MiG fraud was, of course, only one ancillary device employed to eliminate the unwanted elections from official history, but it played its useful role.8
In contrast, elections at the same time in the terror state of El Salvador were effusively lauded as a bold and courageous advance towards democracy, on the basis of reporting of shameful bias and superficiality reflecting the U.S. government agenda and reliance on official observers who made barely a pretense of inquiry. There was virtually no concern over the fact that the political opposition had been murdered and the independent media physically destroyed by the U.S.-organized security forces while the population was thoroughly traumatized by extraordinary terror, and surely no mention of the conclusion by observers from the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group that the elections were held in an "atmosphere of terror and despair, of macabre rumor and grisly reality," or the evidence that justifies this conclusion. The same was true in the case of the elections in Guatemala, where state terror had reached even more extreme heights with constant U.S. support. New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer even suggested that the Guatemalan election offered a model for Nicaragua.9
Subsequent commentary, virtually exceptionless in the mainstream, contrasts the "fledgling democracies" of the client states and their "elected presidents" with totalitarian Nicaragua, run by the dictator Ortega, placed in power in a sham election, hence unelected. The performance merits comparison with the official media of totalitarian states.
Coverage of the 1982 Salvadoran elections was comparable. The three U.S. TV networks devoted over two hours to upbeat and enthusiastic coverage (the Nicaraguan elections of 1984, in contrast, merited fifteen minutes of skepticism or derision). The British networks had eighty minutes of coverage but the character was radically different. The U.S. networks reported with much fanfare the conclusions of the official U.S. government observers, who, after a cursory look, reported in a press conference their amazement at this thrilling exercise in democracy. In contrast, BBC's Martin Bell in his summary report commented that a fair election under the circumstances of state terror that BBC had reviewed was completely out of the question, while the commercial TV channel ITN featured Lord Chitnis of the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group, speaking not in a plush hotel but in a Salvadoran slum, where he pointed out that what observers see under army guard is hardly worth reporting under the prevailing conditions of hideous repression and trauma.10
More generally, the U.S. and European media gave radically different accounts of the Salvadoran elections. Analyzing the comparative coverage, Jennifer Schirmer concludes that the enthusiastic U.S. coverage was "remarkably different" from the reaction of the European press, which focused on the circumstances of terror that made an election meaningless, coerced voting, and other crucial factors suppressed in the euphoric U.S. commentary. She observes that "the major difference is that while the European press consistently emphasized the political context of fear and the climate of official terror in which the elections took place, the U.S. press predominantly focused on electoral mechanics and theatre, echoing U.S. and Salvadoran officials in labelling those who were legally and physically excluded from the contest as marxist, anti-democratic and violent." New York Times Paris Bureau Chief John Vinocur added to the deception by falsifying the European reaction to bring it into line with the upbeat U.S. response. Schirmer's conclusion is that the picture provided by the European media, apart from being accurate, was virtually barred in the United States, where "the `reality' created and assumed by the U.S. press is so one-sided and partisan that the U.S. government shall not need to censor its press in future coverage of the Third World."11
As for the media and Indochina, the facts are quite different from what is commonly alleged. Throughout the war, there were individual journalists who reported honestly and courageously, and made serious and sometimes successful efforts to escape the conventional reliance on government handouts and official premises, but the general picture presented by the media conformed with great precision to the official version.
In the early stages, several young journalists (David Halberstam and others) turned to officers in the field, whose accounts did not substantiate Washington rhetoric. Col. John Paul Vann was the major example, as is now regularly acknowledged. For this, they were bitterly attacked for undermining the U.S. effort. These facts helped create the picture of an adversarial press, but quite falsely. Reporters who turned to Vann for assessment of the military realities did not inform their readers of his conclusion that the government lacked any political base and that the rural population supported the NLF.12 Their reporting remained within the patriotic agenda; the South Vietnamese guerrillas were "trying to subvert this country" and it was only proper for the United States to defend its people against "Communist aggression" and to offer the peasants "protection against the Communists" by driving them "as humanely as possible" into strategic hamlets (David Halberstam, E.W. Kenworthy, Homer Bigart).13 The only issue was whether corruption and dishonesty were harming the prospects for a victory of U.S. arms, taken to be right and just. Contrary to what is often believed, there was little departure from this stand, and gross distortion and suppression in the interest of U.S. power remained a major feature of news reporting as of admissible commentary until the end, and indeed since. Reporters did not attempt to cover the war and the background social and political conflicts from the standpoint of the indigenous population, or the guerrillas; the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion, in contrast, was invariably and properly covered from this perspective. The media supported the U.S. attack with enthusiasm or at most skepticism about prospects, and within the approved assumptions of "defense of South Vietnam." It was well after elite circles had determined that the enterprise was too costly to pursue that criticisms were heard of these "blundering efforts to do good" (Anthony Lewis, at the outer limits of expressible dissent). Furthermore, again contrary to common belief, "the often-gory pictorial reportage by television" to which Landrum Bolling and others refer is largely mythical. Television played down such images, and the public impact of the media, particularly television, was if anything to increase public support for the war; this is true, in particular, of the coverage of the Tet offensive.
With regard to the Freedom House study of the Tet offensive that is widely assumed to have proven the case for the media's irresponsibility and adversarial stance, the massive evidence presented collapses under scrutiny. When dozens of crucial errors, misrepresentations, and outright falsehoods are cleared away, we find that the media performed very much in the manner predicted by the propaganda model: with professional competence in the narrow sense, but without any challenge to the doctrine that the U.S. forces demolishing South Vietnam were "defending" the country from the indigenous guerrillas.
The Freedom House critique reduces to the accusation that the media were overly pessimistic -- though in fact they were less pessimistic than internal assessments of U.S. intelligence, government officials, and high-level advisers. It is tacitly assumed by Freedom House that the responsibility of a free press is to cheer for the home team. Complaints of the Freedom House variety were voiced by the Soviet military command and Party ideologues with regard to Afghanistan. The Soviet Defense Minister "sharply critized the Soviet press for undermining public respect for the Soviet army" by its negative commentary. The mass circulation weekly Ogonyok was subjected to particularly sharp criticism because it had presented a "bleak picture" of the war in Afghanistan, describing "poor morale and desertion" among Afghan units, the inability of the Soviet forces to control territory, and drug use among Soviet troops, and publishing excerpts from a helicopter pilot's journal that describe "the sight and smell of colleagues' charred bodies" and imply that "helicopter losses are high." In December 1987, the Moscow News published a letter by Andrei Sakharov calling for the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops; similar statements in the U.S. press regarding Vietnam were rare to nonexistent until well after the Tet offensive had convinced U.S. elites that the game was not worth the candle. There was even the remarkable example of Moscow news correspondent Vladimir Danchev, who, in radio broadcasts extending over five days in May 1983, denounced the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and called on the rebels to resist, eliciting justified praise in the West and outrage when he was sent to a psychiatric hospital, then returned to his position. There was no Vladimir Danchev in the United States during the American wars in Indochina -- or since.14
In a review of media coverage of the U.S. and Indochina from 1950 until the present, Herman and I show that these conclusions hold throughout, sometimes in a most astonishing way.15 To the best of my knowledge, the same is true in other cases that provide a test of the competing conceptions of the media.
As noted in the text, one of the predictions of the propaganda model, quite well confirmed, is that it must be effectively excluded from ongoing debate over the media despite its initial plausibility and its conformity to the needs of propaganda as articulated by the substantial segment of elite opinion who advocate "the manufacture of consent." While initial plausibility and elite advocacy do not, of course, prove the model to be correct, they might suggest that it be a candidate for discussion. But neither this thought nor the substantial empirical support for the model allows it to achieve such status.
By and large, the possibility of studying the functioning of the media in terms of a propaganda model is simply ignored. Within the mainstream, discussion of the media keeps to the narrow conservative-liberal spectrum, with its assumption that the media have either gone too far in their defiance of authority or that they are truly independent and undaunted by authority, committed to "the scrappy spirit of open controversy" that typifies American intellectual life (Walter Goodman), with no holds barred.16 On the rare occasions when the possibility of another position is addressed, the failure of comprehension and level of reasoning again indicate that the conception advanced is too remote from the doctrinal framework of the elite intellectual culture to be intelligible.
One example, already noted, is the reaction of Times columnist Tom Wicker to a study of the range of opinion permitted expression in the national press. As in this case, the reactions commonly reflect an inability even to perceive what is being said. Thus, a discussion of how media access might be diversified through listener-supported radio and other local initiatives can be understood by the national correspondent of the Atlantic Monthly, Nicolas Lemann, only as a call for state control over the media; the idea of diversified public access in local communities offers a "frightening" prospect of "a politicized press," he continues, as where the press is "controlled by a left-wing political order," Stalinist-style -- unlike the current system of corporate oligopoly, where the press is thankfully not "politicized." Or, to take another case, the executive editor of Harper's Magazine criticizes Michael Parenti's analysis of the media on the grounds that he "overlooks a key feature of American journalism," namely, that "the press generally defines the news as what politicians say." Parenti's thesis is that the same groups -- the "corporate class" -- control the state and the media, so the criticism amounts to the charge that the thesis is valid.17
Willingness to recognize the bare possibility of analysis of the media in terms of a propaganda model, as in work of the past years cited earlier, is so uncommon that the few existing cases perhaps merit a word of comment. Lemann's critique of our Manufacturing Consent is, in fact, one of the rare examples. His review contains several allusions to the book, few of which even approach accuracy; the example just cited is typical. We may dispense with further discussion of the falsehoods,18 the stream of abuse, or the occasional apparent disagreement over facts, for which his evidence reduces to "the literature" or common knowledge, which allegedly does not confirm what he claims that we assert.
Consider, rather, Lemann's criticisms of our presentation of the propaganda model. His main point is: "in no instance do they prove" the claim that the press "knowingly prints falsehoods and suppresses inconvenient truths." He is quite right. In empirical inquiry, nothing is ever literally proven; one presents evidence and tries to show that it can be explained on the basis of the hypotheses advanced. A critic could then rationally argue that the evidence is mistaken, poorly chosen, or otherwise inadequate, or that there is a better theory to explain the facts. Lemann suggests no inadequacy of the evidence (when we eliminate false allegations), but does appear to suggest an alternative theory. It is that "the big-time press does operate within a fairly narrow range of assumptions" and "concentrates intensely on a small number of subjects at a time," shifting attention "unpredictably from country to country" and reflecting "what Herman and Chomsky, meaning to be withering, call `patriotic premises'." He does not, however, proceed to say how this conception of the media explains the facts we discuss, or others, if he regards these as poorly chosen for unstated reasons. Thus, to take virtually the only reference to the book that is accurate, he notes with much derision that we give actual figures (worse yet, in "tabular lingo") concerning the relative attention given to the murdered Polish priest Father Popieluszko and 100 Latin American religious martyrs. Clearly, the case confirms our hypothesis ("which, of course, turns out to be correct," he writes with further derision). Does the case support Lemann's alternative theory? Insofar as his proposals differ from ours, they plainly have nothing whatsoever to say about these facts, or about any others that might be relevant.
In response to a letter by Edward Herman raising this point, Lemann elaborates: "As for Father Popieluszko, he was killed when the U.S. press was most focused on Poland. Archbishop Romero was killed before the press had really focused on El Salvador. Popielusko's murder wasn't more important; the discrepancy can be explained by saying the press tends to focus on only a few things at a time." This, then, is the explanation of why the media gave far more coverage to the murder of Father Popieluszko than to the murder of 100 religious martyrs in Latin America, including Archbishop Romero and the four U.S. religious women raped and murdered, and why the coverage was so radically different in character, as shown in detail. Let us ask only the simplest question: how much coverage were the media giving to El Salvador and to Poland when Archbishop Romero and Father Popieluszko were murdered? We find that the coverage was almost identical, eliminating this proposed explanation without any further consideration of its quite obvious flaws.19
Once again, the only plausible conclusion is that it is the very idea of subjecting the media to rational inquiry that is outrageous, when it yields conclusions that one would prefer not to believe.
Confirming further that this is precisely what is at stake, Lemann condemns us for "devot[ing] their greatest specific scorn to liberal journalists...in the time-honored tradition of the left," particularly Stephen Kinzer, Sydney Schanberg, and William Shawcross. He does not, however, explain how one can investigate the coverage of Central America and Cambodia by the New York Times while avoiding the work of its correspondents there; or how one can explore the remarkable success of the idea that the left imposed "silence" on media and governments during the Pol Pot years -- by publications that went to press after the overthrow of Pol Pot, no less -- without reference to its creator. Quite evidently, it is the topics addressed that Lemann finds unacceptable, for reasons that can readily be discerned. These observations apart, Lemann appears not to understand the elementary point that discussion of the most dissident and critical elements of the media is of particular significance, for obvious and familiar reasons, in exploring the bounds that are set on thinkable thought.
Throughout, Lemann is particularly incensed by attention to fact, as his derisive comments about "tabular lingo" indicate. Thus he writes that we "dismiss the standard sources on the countries they write about," as in discussing coverage of the Nicaragua election, making use instead of such absurd sources as the report of the Irish Parliamentary Delegation of largely center-right parties and the detailed study of the professional association of Latin American scholars (whom we call "independent observers," he adds derisively, apparently regarding Latin American scholars as not "independent" if their research does not conform to his prejudices). Asked by Herman to explain why he finds our use of sources inadequate in this or any other case, he writes: "By standard sources, I mean the American press, which usually weighs the government handouts against other sources." What he is saying, then, is that in investigating how the media dealt with the Nicaraguan election, we must rely on the media that are under investigation and not make use of independent material to assess their performance. Following this ingenious procedure, we will naturally conclude that the media are performing superbly: what they produce corresponds exactly to what they produce. Quite apart from this, Lemann does not seem to comprehend that our account of how the media radically shifted the agenda in the case of El Salvador and Nicaragua in no way depended on the sources he finds unacceptable and exotic.
The same is true throughout. It is difficult to believe that such performances are intended seriously. A more plausible interpretation is that the questions raised are so intolerable that even a semblance of seriousness cannot be maintained.
It is sometimes argued that the propaganda model is undermined by the fact that some escape the impact of the system. This is an "anomaly" that the model leaves unexplained, Walter LaFeber alleges. Thus, a "weakness" of the model is "its inability to explain the anti-contra movement that has -- so far -- blunted Administration policy." LaFeber argues further that proponents of the model want "to have it both ways: to claim that leading American journals `mobilize bias,' but object when I cite crucial examples that weaken" their thesis; the only example cited, the "key exception," is the case of the nonexistent MiGs. He also puts forth a third argument against the model, as it is presented in our book Manufacturing Consent: "If the news media are so unqualifiedly bad, the book should at least explain why so many publications (including my own) can cite their stories to attack President Reagan's Central American policy."
This is one of the very rare attempts to evaluate a propaganda model with actual argument instead of mere invective, and is furthermore the reasoning of an outstanding and independent-minded historian. It is therefore worth unravelling the logic of the three arguments.
Consider the first argument: the model is undermined by the fact that efforts to "mobilize bias" sometimes fail. By the same logic, an account of how Pravda works to "mobilize bias" would be undermined by the existence of dissidents. Plainly, the thesis that Pravda serves as an organ of state propaganda is not disconfirmed by the fact that there are many dissidents in the Soviet Union. Nor would the thesis be confirmed if every word printed by Pravda were accepted uncritically by the entire Soviet population. The thesis says nothing about the degree of success of propaganda. LaFeber's first argument is not relevant; it does not address the model we present.
Turning to the different question of actual media impact on opinion, comprehensive and systematic studies are lacking, but there is little doubt that the impact is substantial, surely among the educated classes.20 Analysis of a kind not as yet undertaken would be required to determine more closely just how much impact to attribute to media distortion and filtering, and how much to narrowly conceived self-interest and other causes, in establishing the remarkable illusions that prevail on critical issues. It is also true that, with great effort, some are able to find ways to think for themselves, even to act effectively in the political arena, thus bringing about a "crisis of democracy." But that neither confirms nor refutes an account of how the media function.
Let us put aside for a moment the matter of "the anti-contra movement," and turn to the second argument, based on the "key exception." This we have already discussed. It is no exception, but conforms to the propaganda model (see note 8). This fact eliminates the second argument. But suppose that real cases had been presented of media failure to conform to the government line. Proponents of the model would not "object," as LaFeber believes; this is exactly what the model predicts, as we see when a persistent misinterpretation is overcome.
The propaganda model does not assert that the media parrot the line of the current state managers in the manner of a totalitarian regime; rather, that the media reflect the consensus of powerful elites of the state-corporate nexus generally, including those who object to some aspect of government policy, typically on tactical grounds. The model argues, from its foundations, that the media will protect the interests of the powerful, not that it will protect state managers from their criticisms; the persistent failure to see this point may reflect more general illusions about our democratic systems. In the present case, a propaganda model is not refuted if the media provide a platform for powerful domestic elites that came to oppose the contra option for destroying Nicaragua; rather it is supported by this fact. As noted earlier, by 1986 80 percent of "leaders" (executives, etc.) objected to the contra policy -- as flawed, too costly, and unnecessary to achieve shared goals, to judge by public discussion. A propaganda model therefore predicts that these views should be reflected in the media, thus conflicting with the government line. In fact, the model arguably does fail in the case of the contras, though in a manner opposite to what LaFeber believes: as we have seen, the media not only adopted without thought or question the basic doctrines of the narrow (and quite remarkable) elite consensus on Central America policy, but even kept largely to the extremist position of the incumbent state managers, thus showing a degree of subordination to state authorities beyond what the model expects.
Having clarified this point, let us return to the "anti-contra movement that has...blunted Administration policy." Here some care is necessary. There are two very different anti-contra movements, just as there were two very different movements against the Vietnam war. One opposed administration policy on tactical grounds, the other on grounds of principle. After the Tet offensive, much of the corporate elite came to oppose the war as unwise or unnecessary. The same has been true of the contras, as just noted. The popular and principled opposition to the U.S. attacks against Vietnam and Nicaragua did "blunt administration policies," but not through the media. These movements raised the costs to the perpetrators, and in this way were in large part responsible for the ultimate emergence of the narrowly based and self-interested elite critique. But however important these matters, we need not explore them more closely here. The point is that there were two very different kinds of "anti-contra movement"; the media reflected the narrow tactical objections in conformity with their societal function, but never offered more than the most marginal opening to the principled critique, as illustrated by the samples reviewed earlier. Again, the predictions of a propaganda model are confirmed.
What is more, a propaganda model is not weakened by the discovery that with a careful and critical reading, material could be unearthed in the media that could be used by those who objected to "President Reagan's Central American policy" on grounds of principle, opposing not its failures but its successes: the near destruction of Nicaragua and the blunting of the popular forces that threatened to bring democracy and social reform to El Salvador, among other achievements. Analogously, the assertion that the Soviet press transmits government propaganda and tries to "mobilize bias" is in no way refuted when we find in it -- as of course we do -- material undermining the claim that the heroic Soviet military is marching from success to success in defending Afghanistan from bandits dispatched by the CIA. The point is obvious in the latter case; equally so in the former. The third argument thus collapses as well.
Note finally LaFeber's belief that administration policy was unsuccessful. True, in the terms of official propaganda, the policies failed: the U.S. did not "restore democracy" to Nicaragua or establish "democracy" fully in El Salvador and Guatemala. As the propaganda model predicts, the media with virtual unanimity describe the policy as a failure, adopting official pretenses without skepticism or inquiry. If we permit ourselves a measure of critical detachment, thus granting the right to analyze the U.S. ideological system in the manner of other societies, then the conclusions are rather different. Administration policies met with substantial success in achieving the basic goals, though maximal objectives were not attained and the partial failures were costly to the interests represented by the planners -- not exactly an unknown event in history, the Indochina wars being another case.
Perhaps it is worth stressing a point that should be obvious. If the media function as predicted by a propaganda model, then they must present a picture of the world that is tolerably close to reality. Investors have to make judgments based on the facts of the real world, and the same is true of state managers. Privileged and politically active elites, who rely on the media, must have some awareness of basic realities if they are to serve their own interests effectively and play their social roles. Often, these realities demonstrate the ineptness, incompetence, corruption, and other failings of the state managers and their policies. These realities are detectable, even emphasized, in the media, and would be even if their sole function were to provide services to the powerful. To appeal to these facts to show that the media do not attempt to "mobilize bias" is to betray a serious misunderstanding of social realities, not to speak of the logic of explanation.
It is rare to discover in the mainstream any recognition of the existence or possibility of analysis of the ideological system in terms of a propaganda model, let alone to try to confront it on rational grounds. The failure of argument in the few examples that can be found again suggests that the model is indeed robust.
One of the most appropriate ways to test the propaganda model, or any other conception of how the media function, is by close comparison of paired examples. Of course, history does not provide perfect experiments, but there are many cases that are close enough to permit an instructive test. A number of examples are discussed in the text and appendices, many more elsewhere. To my knowledge, they confirm the propaganda model with a degree of consistency that is surprising in a complex social world, and in a manner that is often dramatic.
Some care has to be taken in selecting such examples. Thus, suppose we were to argue that the Boston Globe applies a double standard to the city of Boston, subjecting it to unfair criticism. To prove the point, we take paired examples: say, corruption in the city government in Boston and Seattle, or a murder traceable to the police in Boston and in Karachi. Doubtless we would find that coverage of the Boston cases is far greater, thus proving the point: the editors and staff are "self-hating Bostonians."
The argument is plainly absurd. Obviously, comparison must begin by setting as a baseline the ordinary level of coverage of affairs in Boston, Seattle, and Karachi in the Globe, and the reasons for the general selection. It must also consider such factors as the level of favorable coverage of the three cities. Correcting for the obvious errors, the theory of self-hating Bostonians quickly collapses.
These points are so trivial that it is rather startling to discover that they are commonly ignored. Thus, a familiar condemnation of the media -- very probably the most common, as measured by letters to the editor, impassioned commentary, etc. -- is that they are unfair to Israel and apply a "double standard" to it, perhaps because of anti-Semitism, or because the journalists are self-hating Jews or in love with left-wing fascists or Third World terrorists. The proof typically offered for the thesis is that Israeli crimes receive more coverage than comparable or worse crimes in Syria, South Yemen, and other Arab and Third World states.21
The fallacy is transparent; it is exactly the one just discussed. The level of media coverage of Israel is vastly beyond that of the examples cited to prove a "double standard," and is totally different in character. One would have to search a long time to find a favorable word about Syria, South Yemen, etc., or any word at all. Such coverage as there is is uniformly negative, generally harshly so, with no mitigating elements.
Coverage of Israel is radically different in scale and in character. The Israeli elections of 1988, for example, received extensive and prominent coverage in the national media, second only to the United States itself.22 The same is true of other cases one might select. Furthermore, coverage of Israel is extremely favorable, even obsequious, as illustrated by examples cited earlier and below; overwhelmingly, events are reported and interpreted from an Israeli point of view. Of course, it also follows that when Israeli atrocities become too extreme to overlook, the coverage will be more substantial than in the case of countries that are generally reviled or ignored, much as in the case of Boston and Karachi. Furthermore, if any country that approached Israel in the scale and laudatory character of coverage (none exists, to my knowledge) were to carry out atrocities of the kinds in which Israel has regularly engaged, or if Jews in the Soviet Union or elsewhere were subject to the kind of treatment regularly meted out to Arabs, there is little doubt what the media reaction would be. I return to some examples, and there is extensive literature demonstrating the protectiveness of the media towards Israel, which will be obvious to anyone familiar with them. My point here, however, is to clarify the methodological point. Once we understand it, this large literature can be dismissed, with scarcely an exception.
A fair number of examples that I think are properly selected have been discussed in the literature, in the references cited, and again here. There are enough complexities so that a challenge to any particular choice is always in order. No serious ones have been raised, to my knowledge. There are, however, some methodological issues that are worth thinking through carefully if the analysis of ideological systems is to be pursued in a serious way. Let us consider some of these.
A propaganda model makes predictions at various levels. There are first-order predictions about how the media function. The model also makes second-order predictions about how media performance will be discussed and evaluated. And it makes third-order predictions about the reactions to studies of media performance. The general prediction, at each level, is that what enters the mainstream will support the needs of established power. The first-order predictions are those we have been concerned with throughout. The second-order prediction is that media debate will be bounded in a manner that satisfies these external needs, thus limited to the question of the alleged adversarial stance of the media; the point has been discussed in
chapter 1, and I will return to it in the next section. But suppose that some study of the media escapes these bounds, and reaches unwanted conclusions. The model yields third-order predictions about this case as well: specifically, it predicts that such inquiry will be ignored or bitterly condemned, for it conflicts with the needs of the powerful and privileged. A few examples have already been mentioned,23 but a closer look is in order, because the matter is of some significance for inquiry into the ideological system. It is worth understanding the devices that are used to prevent such inquiry.
Since the matter can become intricate, let us take a concrete example. Consider the examination in Political Economy of Human Rights of three categories of atrocities: what we called there "constructive," "benign," and "nefarious" bloodbaths. "Constructive bloodbaths" are those that serve the interests of U.S. power; "benign bloodbaths" are largely irrelevant to these concerns; and "nefarious bloodbaths" are those that can be charged to the account of official enemies and are thus useful for mobilizing the public.
The first-order prediction of a propaganda model is that constructive bloodbaths will be welcomed (with perhaps some clucking of tongues and thoughts about the barbarity of backward peoples), benign bloodbaths ignored, and nefarious bloodbaths passionately condemned, on the basis of a version of the facts that need have little credibility and that may adopt standards that would merely elicit contempt if applied in the study of alleged abuses of the United States or friendly states. We presented a series of examples to show that these consequences are exactly what we discover.
The second-order prediction of the model is that within mainstream circles, studies of this kind will not be found, and that is quite correct. But now we have an example that escapes these bounds. We therefore turn to the third-order predictions: what will the reactions be?
At this level, the model predicts that exposure of the facts would be rather unwelcome. In fact, one might draw an even sharper conclusion: exposure will be ignored in the case of constructive bloodbaths; it may be occasionally noted without interest in the case of benign bloodbaths; and it will lead to great indignation in the case of nefarious bloodbaths. The reasons are clear: the welcome afforded constructive bloodbaths cannot be acknowledged, if only because it exposes the hypocrisy of the furor over nefarious bloodbaths and enemy abuses generally; exposure of the lack of attention to benign bloodbaths is not too damaging, at least if the U.S. role in implementing these atrocities is suppressed; and exposure of the treatment of and reaction to nefarious bloodbaths not only again reveals the hypocrisy and the social role of the "specialized class" of privileged intellectuals, but also interferes with a valuable device for mobilizing the public in fear and hatred of a threatening enemy.
The first-order predictions of the model are systematically confirmed. The constructive bloodbaths were welcomed and approved, the benign bloodbaths were ignored, and the nefarious bloodbaths were angrily condemned on the basis of evidence and charges of a kind that would be dismissed with ridicule if offered against the U.S. or its allies. Turning to the second-order predictions, as the propaganda model predicts, such inquiry is regarded as completely out of bounds and is not to be found within the mainstream.24 Turning finally to the third-level predictions, these too are confirmed. Our discussion of constructive bloodbaths has been entirely ignored, the discussion of benign bloodbaths has merited an occasional phrase in a context that exculpates the United States, and our exposure of the handling of nefarious bloodbaths has elicited a huge literature of denunciation.
These reactions are worth exploring; they have definite implications for the study of ideological institutions. To see why, let us look at the two cases that we investigated in most detail: the U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion of East Timor (benign) and the terror in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge (nefarious).
These two cases are well chosen for the purpose of testing the propaganda model. In both cases it was clear that there were horrendous massacres. Furthermore, they took place in the same part of the world, and in the very same years -- though the Indonesian violence and repression in Timor continue, with the support of the United States and other industrial democracies. The evidence in the two cases was comparable in accessibility, credibility, and character. This evidence also indicated that the atrocities were comparable in absolute scale for the time period under review, though larger in Timor relative to the population.25 The crucial difference was that the slaughter in Timor was carried out by a U.S. client with critical U.S. diplomatic and military support that mounted along with escalating atrocities, while the slaughter in Cambodia was conducted by an official enemy and was, furthermore, highly functional at that time in helping to overcome the "Vietnam syndrome" and to restore popular support for U.S. intervention and violence in the Third World "in defense against the Pol Pots." In fact, a few months after we wrote about this prospect, the deepening engagement of the U.S. government in Pol Pot-style state terror in El Salvador was being justified as necessary to save the population from the "Pol Pot left."
In our comparative study of the response to the Cambodia and Timor massacres, we drew no specific conclusions about the actual facts. As we reiterated to the point of boredom, an attempt to assess the actual facts is a different topic, not pertinent to our specific inquiry. That is a simple point of logic. The question we addressed was how the evidence available was transmuted as it passed through the filters of the ideological system. Plainly, that inquiry into the propaganda system at work is not affected, one way or another, by whatever may be discovered about the actual facts. We did tentatively suggest that in the case of Timor, the church sources and refugee studies we cited were plausible, and that in the case of Cambodia, State Department specialists were probably presenting the most credible accounts. Both suggestions are well confirmed in retrospect, but the accuracy of our suspicions as to the facts is not pertinent to the question we addressed, as is evident on a moment's thought, and as we repeatedly stressed.
Our goal, then, was to consider the relation between the evidence available and the picture presented by the media and journals of opinion; to determine the actual facts is a different task. The latter task, we emphasized, was well worth undertaking (it simply wasn't ours). Thus we took issue with the assertion of Jean Lacouture in the New York Review of Books that facts do not matter; we did not accept his contention that it is of no consequence whether killings under Pol Pot were in the thousands or millions (he had originally claimed that the Khmer Rouge boasted in 1976 of killing 2 million people, but in corrections a few weeks later stated that deaths might be only in the thousands, adding that the reduction of his estimate by perhaps a factor of 1,000 was of no significance26). We pointed out that this position, while widely praised and respected in this case, would be rejected with scorn if applied by others to the U.S. or its clients and allies; imagine the reaction if some critic of Israel were to allege that Israel boasted of killing several million people during its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, then conceding that perhaps the number was in the thousands, but that the difference is of no consequence.
Turning to the first-order predictions of the propaganda model, in the case of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge27 there were denunciations of genocide from the first moment, a huge outcry of protest, fabrication of evidence on a grand scale, suppression of the some of the most reliable sources (including State Department Cambodia watchers, the most knowledgeable source at the time) because they did not support the preferred picture, reiteration of extraordinary fabrications even after they were openly conceded to have been invented, and so on. In the case of Timor, coverage declined from a substantial level before the U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion to flat zero as the atrocities reached their peak with increasing U.S. support.
The importance of this suppression cannot be too strongly stressed. Because of it, few knew what was happening, or paid sufficient attention to the little that did seep through. As should be obvious, this is a criticism of great severity. I do not exempt myself from it, I must say with regret. The atrocities in Timor and Cambodia under Pol Pot began at about the same time, but I published my first word about the former nineteen months after writing about Khmer Rouge atrocities, though the Timor massacres were far more important by any moral criterion for the simple and sufficient reason that something could be done to terminate them. Thanks to media self-censorship, there were no substantial efforts to organize the kind of opposition that might have compelled the U.S. to desist from its active participation in the slaughter and thus quite possibly to bring it to an end. In the case of Cambodia, in contrast, no one proposed measures that could be taken to mitigate the atrocities. When George McGovern suggested military intervention to save the victims in late 1978, he was ridiculed by the right wing and government advisers. And when Vietnam invaded and brought the slaughter to an end, that aroused new horror about "the Prussians of Asia" who overthrew Pol Pot and must be punished for the crime.
The first-order predictions, then, are well confirmed. The second-order predictions were not only confirmed, but far surpassed; the doctrine that was concocted and quickly became standard, utterly inconsistent with readily documented facts, is that there was "silence" in the West over the Khmer Rouge atrocities.28 This fantasy is highly serviceable, not only in suppressing the subordination of educated elites to external power, but also in suggesting that in the future we must focus attention still more intensely and narrowly on enemy crimes. The third-order predictions are also confirmed. Our discussion of Cambodia under Pol Pot aroused a storm of protest.29 The condemnation is, to my knowledge, completely lacking in substance, a fact that has not passed without notice in the scholarly literature,30 and I am aware of no error or misleading statement that has been found in anything that we wrote. Much of the criticism is absurd, even comical; there was also an impressive flow of falsehoods, often surely conscious. But I will not pursue these topics here.31 Much more interesting was a different reaction: that the entire enterprise is illegitimate. It is improper, many felt, perhaps even inhuman, to urge that we keep to the truth about the Pol Pot atrocities as best we can, or to expose the ways in which the fate of the miserable victims was being crudely exploited for propaganda purposes.
Very strikingly, the second term of the comparison -- our discussion of the media reaction to the U.S.-backed atrocities in Timor -- was virtually ignored, apart from apologetics for the atrocities and for the behavior of the media, or a few words of casual mention. Again this confirms the third-order predictions, in close detail.
In short, the model is confirmed at every level.
Let us now examine the logic of the reaction that alleges it to be improper, inhuman, to expose the fabrications of the ideological system in the case of the Pol Pot atrocities. Evidently, it either is or is not legitimate to study the U.S. ideological system. Assume that it is legitimate. Then it is legitimate to formulate the propaganda model as a hypothesis, and to test it by investigating paired examples: media treatment of Cambodia and Timor, for example. But, the critics allege, the study of media treatment of Cambodia is illegitimate. Therefore, unless there is something special about this case that has yet to be pointed out, their position must be that it is not legitimate to study the U.S. ideological system. The fact that the reaction has been marked by such extraordinary dishonesty, as repeatedly exposed, merely underscores the obvious: the right to serve the state must be protected; the ideological system cannot be subjected to inquiry based on the hypothesis that its societal function is to serve external power. The logic is very clear.
To establish this conclusion even more firmly, we may take note of the fact that no objection is raised to exposure of false or misleading accounts of atrocities by the United States and its clients, whether in retrospect or when they are in progress. It is only exposure of fabrications about official enemies that is subject to general opprobrium. Thus, none of those who are scandalized by exposure of the vast flood of deceit concerning Cambodia raise a peep of protest over exposure of false charges against Israel; that is considered an entirely legitimate and praiseworthy effort. Or take a case involving Cambodia itself. Our 1977 review-article, mentioned above, included a review of Francois Ponchaud's French study of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, the first review that attended to the text, to my knowledge. We praised the book as "serious and worth reading" with its "grisly account" of the "barbarity" of the Khmer Rouge. We also raised several questions about it. We noted that some of the quotes Ponchaud attributed to the Khmer Rouge seemed dubious, since he had given them in radically different wording elsewhere and had attributed them to a variety of conflicting sources; it was later shown that his alleged quotes, widely and prominently repeated throughout the world, were either gross mistranslations or had no source at all. We also pointed out that Ponchaud had apparently misread figures and considerably exaggerated the scale of U.S. atrocities in Cambodia in the early 1970s. Our questioning of his quotes has elicited much outrage, but not a word has appeared on our questioning of his charges about U.S. atrocities; to challenge misrepresentation on this matter is taken to be quite obviously legitimate. The proper conclusion seems equally obvious: it is all a matter of whose ox is being gored.
To reinforce the conclusion still further, we can turn to other examples. I doubt that the New York Times Book Review has ever published a longer and more detailed study than Neil Sheehan's analysis in 1970 of Mark Lane's Conversations With Americans,32 a book that presented testimony of American soldiers on war crimes in which they said they had participated. Sheehan denounced this "wretched book" as based on unevaluated evidence, statements contradicted by Pentagon sources, conflicting accounts, failure to distinguish "understandable brutalities of war, such as killing prisoners in the passion of battle" from far graver atrocities, and other flaws that undermine its credibility. He went on to condemn the "new McCarthyism, this time from the left," that permits "any accusation, any innuendo, any rumor" to be "repeated and published as truth," while "the accused, whether an institution or an individual, has no right to reply because whatever the accused says will ipso facto be a lie." He bitterly denounced Lane for allegedly claiming that the details didn't matter, only the general picture of atrocities -- exactly the position that Lacouture and others were later to endorse, to much approval and acclaim, with regard to the Khmer Rouge.
Sheehan's detailed exposure appeared at the height of U.S. atrocities in Vietnam, at a time when such atrocities were being vigorously denied (as they still are). No objection was raised to his exposure, or his condemnation of those who claim that facts do not matter in a worthy cause.
Another relevant case is that of Bertrand Russell. Then well into his eighties, Russell had the courage and integrity to condemn the Vietnam war and its mounting atrocities when this was unfashionable, and to warn of what lay ahead.33 In retrospect, his commentary stands up well, certainly as compared to the falsehoods, evasions, and apologetics of the time, and it is a model of probity and restraint in comparison to standard condemnations of official enemies, as has been documented beyond serious question. Some of Russell's comments, however, were unjust, exaggerated, and incorrect. To criticize these statements would have been appropriate. What happened, however, was different. Russell became an object of contempt and obloquy; one would be hard put to find a word in his defense against the venom of the commissars. The denunciations were only heightened by Russell's willingness to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience in protest against the nuclear arms race, unlike others who shared his perceptions about the threat but contented themselves with occasional sage comments, then retreated to their work and personal lives. The attacks are not, of course, a reaction to Russell's errors and excesses. Rather, to the fact that he stood virtually alone against the herd and dared to tell truths that were then, and remain now, unacceptable, exposing by his example the behavior of those who chose the normal path of submissiveness to the state and support for its violence.
Putting aside the vulgar hypocrisy, we note again that no objection is raised to exposure of false or exaggerated charges against the United States, at the moment when it is perpetrating awesome crimes with near immunity from comment or critique. Nor should an objection be raised. Truth is worth the effort to uphold. For such reasons as these, it is hard to take seriously the show of indignation over the exposure of fabrications concerning enemy atrocities. If some error can be found in such exposures, that is a different matter, though one not relevant here, for no such errors have been found. But let us look further. If, indeed, such exposures are deemed illegitimate, then comparative study of paired examples is also illegitimate, and one promising avenue of study of the U.S. ideological system is barred. We see again the real issue lurking behind the barrage of rhetoric: it is the need to protect the ideological institutions and those who participate in them from analysis of their service to power. That intellectuals should adopt this stance will hardly come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the lessons of history and the nature of contemporary social institutions.
As just discussed, a propaganda model makes predictions about the performance of the media, but it also yields second-order predictions about debate over how they perform: these too would be expected to be bounded in a manner that fits the needs of established power. We should expect, then, that debate over the media will turn on the question of their alleged anti-establishment zeal: critics of these adversarial excesses will be pitted against those who defend the media as balanced and without bias.35 The possibility that the media conform to the propaganda model -- a natural expectation on uncontroversial assumptions, as discussed earlier -- should be excluded from the debate, as offensive to the interests of the privileged. This is exactly what we discover.
As always, a complex social order permits a certain range of variation. There is, in fact, one notable circumstance in which critics of the media for their submissiveness to power are welcomed. Generally, the media tolerate or even welcome denunciation of their hostility to authority, for obvious self-serving reasons. But there are times when such attacks can become a real threat. To defend themselves, the media may then turn -- briefly -- to critics of their conformity. If they are accused of being unpatriotic, or too harsh towards creations of the public relations industry of the Reagan variety, they may request -- even feature -- critiques of their subordination to the state and awe of powerful figures. Media spokespersons can then observe that they are being criticized from both sides, so it must be that they are right in the middle, doing their work properly. The argument might have some force if the "criticism from both sides" were actually evaluated. Such is not the case, however; to serve the purpose at hand, it is enough that criticism of media subordination exist.
Even this departure from the norm has its limits. The critics of media conformity must keep to matters of personality and secondary issues, steering clear of the nature and functioning of dominant institutions or such eternal verities as U.S. benevolence and yearning for democracy.
There are some interesting examples of these minor effects, but I will put them aside and keep to the main predictions of the propaganda model with regard to tolerable controversy over media performance.
A number of examples have already been noted. A report of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy of Georgetown University on media coverage of conflicts in the Third World, summarizing a series of seminars, is one of the most natural choices for a more careful test of these second-order predictions.36 The published report focuses on coverage of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and conflicts in Central America. The contributions offer little evidence to sustain the critiques that are offered, but the study does provide an enlightening view of how these matters are perceived by people in and close to the media.
The agenda is set throughout by those who condemn the media for their alleged anti-U.S. and anti-Israel bias. The colloquy and documents37 debate the validity of these charges, with virtually no recognition that the opposite criticism is at least a logical possibility.
The basic assumptions are laid down by editor Landrum Bolling in his introductory remarks. He states that
whatever else may be said about them, American media reports on international affairs cannot be counted on to echo the pronouncements of official spokesmen, our own or others...the official version of things has no monopoly in the public print... On matters of controversy, contrary opinions are avidly sought and may, indeed, on occasion be given an attention they do not merit. The media thrives on the reporting of debate and more strenuous forms of conflict.
Bolling notes the contention that "the failure to win in Southeast Asia...was directly related to the broad, unrelenting and detailed coverage of that war by the U.S. mass media," and "particularly the often-gory pictorial reportage by television," which "produced in time a popular revulsion." Then comes the basic question: "Can a `free-press', democratic society defend itself and its friends and allies, in a dangerous world, against the totalitarian adversaries that do not have to contend with a free press and uncontrolled television?"
The framework for the discussion of the media, then, is that predicted by the propaganda model. The same is true of the assumptions concerning the U.S. government and its international relations, presented as truths so obvious that no evidence, questions, or qualifications are in order. Bolling holds that in the Third World, "success has continued to elude us -- until Grenada... What is wrong? Why cannot a nation of such vast wealth, power and good intentions accomplish its purposes more promptly and more effectively? ...why haven't we been more successful in the carrying out of our foreign policies in support of freedom...?" (my emphasis). Examples of our disturbing failures are cited, specifically Cuba, a "particularly painful [story] to the people and government of the United States. How could these dreadful things happen to and through a warm-hearted people only 90 miles off the Florida coast?" That Cubans generally share this assessment of Castro's Cuba as compared with the good old days under U.S. dominance is perhaps less than obvious, just as one might question whether those affected by policies carried out "through Cuba" agree that the consequences have been "dreadful."38 One also wonders whether other "dreadful things" may have happened to warm-hearted people not far away in the Caribbean-Central American region, including stories that might be painful to the people of the United States, were they to learn something of the role their government has played, guided by its unfailing "good intentions." No such questions trouble the proceedings.
The question that is raised is whether the free press is to blame for the frustration of American benevolence. Is it true that "sentimental and naive media representatives have been slanting their reports in favor of underdog revolutions" and "are taken in by the humanitarian rhetoric of terrorists"? Bolling believes that "there may be some validity to these complaints," though being on the liberal side of the spectrum, he is skeptical.
I have argued throughout that the basic assumptions set forth as the premises for the debate have little merit. Thus contrary opinions are indeed "avidly sought," but only when they conform to doctrinal presuppositions. There has been no avid search for the opinion that the United States was attacking South Vietnam and that it has sought to undermine freedom, independence, democracy, and social reform in Central America in the past decade; or that Nicaraguan elections were at least as valid as those in El Salvador; or that the U.S. succeeded (with the aid of the free press) in demolishing the Central American peace accords, much as it had undermined the 1973 Paris peace treaty concerning Vietnam (again with critical media assistance); or that the U.S. has stood in the way of the peace process in the Middle East for close to twenty years; or other positions that are not at all difficult to support with ample evidence but that depart from the narrowly limited bounds set by the requirements of established privilege and power. Media coverage of the Indochina wars was far from "unrelenting"; pictorial reportage by TV was consciously subdued, and the effect of TV on public opinion, if any, was probably to increase hawkish sentiment, so public opinion studies reveal; the media were highly supportive of the war until well after the corporate elite had turned against the enterprise as too costly, and even then departures from the framework of the propaganda model were so marginal as to count as statistical error.39 Contrary to much "necessary illusion" fostered in later years, the media were almost entirely closed to principled critics of the war and representatives of the mass popular movements that spontaneously developed, considerably more closed, in fact, than they have been in the 1980s.40 I know this from personal experience, and others who have been part of the dissident culture will, I presume, confirm this judgment.
The other doctrines set forth as the basis for the discussion, however conventional they may be, are also hardly tenable. But my point here is not that these doctrines are false; rather, that they are beyond question or controversy, not subject to doubt. There is no need to sustain them because they are simply given truths that establish the framework within which discussion can proceed.
The report adheres closely to this framework. The twenty-two-page discussion of media coverage of Central America is introduced by Daniel James, an extreme hawk, who condemns the media for having "departed considerably from the traditional principles of journalism -- which is to say, of objectivity and fairness"; "the prestige media's coverage of Central America has been very biased [against the U.S. government and its allies], leading one to conclude that it comes under the heading of tendentious or advocacy journalism." Thus, "there is a distinct overplaying on this issue of human rights" in the coverage of El Salvador, James holds; recall that these discussions took place after an extraordinary outburst of atrocities backed and organized by the U.S. government and generally ignored by the media. And there is a corresponding failure, James continues, to face "the overriding" issue: "whether freedom or dictatorship will rule El Salvador," freedom being the goal of the United States, dictatorship that of its adversaries (by definition, evidence being irrelevant). But the situation is not entirely bleak. "Happily, the media have shown a capacity for self-criticism. In the case of El Salvador, and to some extent Nicaragua, a fair number of pieces have appeared, notably in the Washington Post, that criticized their own performance in the former country" -- meaning, their excessive concern for human rights and failure to adopt the U.S. government perspective. This is a "very healthy trend" that offers hope that the media will desist from their antagonism to Washington and support for its enemies.
Eighteen pages of colloquy follow, ranging from defense of media coverage of Central America as not "biased and tendentious" (Latin America scholar William LeoGrande) to support for James's contentions. Contra lobbyist Robert Leiken states that "It is U.S. policy to defend and help preserve democracy in Central America." No one hints at a different analysis. There is not a word suggesting that the media might be biased in favor of the U.S. government perspective. There is no discussion of the scandalous refusal of the media to cover massive atrocities in the U.S. client states during these years, their pretense that the killings were chargeable to the left and the extreme right but not to the security forces of the U.S.-backed regimes, and their apologetics for the political figures assigned the task of denying government atrocities and presenting a moderate image to Congress so that the killings could continue -- all well documented, but excluded from these proceedings.
My point here, once again, is not that the assumptions about U.S. policy and the media that bound discussion are false (though they are), but rather that the possibility that they are false cannot be raised; it lies beyond the conceivable.
Following the colloquy, there are twenty-three pages of documents, introduced by a condemnation of "The Foregone Conclusions of the Fourth Estate" by Shirley Christian. Concentrating on the war against Somoza, she claims that the Washington Post and the New York Times perceived it "through a romantic haze. This romantic view of the Sandinistas is by now acknowledged publicly or privately by virtually every American journalist who was in Nicaragua during the two big Sandinista offensives. Probably not since Spain has there been a more open love affair between the foreign press and one of the belligerents in a civil war." There follow responses by Karen DeYoung, who wrote most of the stories on Nicaragua in the Washington Post, and Alan Riding of the New York Times, whose reports had come under particular attack. DeYoung says she has "never met nor spoken to Ms. Christian" and refutes her specific claims point by point, and Riding also takes issue with her charges. Neither accepts what Christian claims virtually everyone reporting from Managua acknowledges.
Apart from some brief remarks on "the resiliency of Caribbean democracies in the face of economic hardship" and other matters not pertinent here, the only other selection is by Allen Weinstein. He condemns the failure of reporters to show concern over "the status of the press in Nicaragua," "the total repression of the free press" there, and "the many threats to the physical safety of journalists in that country." "Sandinista chic," he writes, "remains infectious in Western countries." "The Nicaraguan tragedy deserves at least as much attention from the press -- and the U.S. Congress -- as the question of American involvement in El Salvador," including the "state of emergency" (in Nicaragua, that is; the earlier and far more onerous state of emergency in El Salvador is not mentioned, just as it was ignored by the media), and the threat to "independent journalists," such as those of "the independent daily newspaper, La Prensa,...a beacon of free expression throughout Central America."
As discussed in the text, the physical destruction of the independent media in El Salvador by government terror was ignored by the media, literally not mentioned in news reports or editorials in the Times. The "censorship" exercised by government-backed death squads in the U.S. dependencies also received little notice. Nothing remotely comparable happened in Nicaragua, which has, throughout, been the prime focus of charges of government repression. The tribulations of La Prensa have been virtually the sole concern of alleged defenders of freedom of the press in Central America, and have received very extensive coverage. It is a considerable understatement to say that Weinstein's contentions are false. Whatever his motives may be, plainly concern for freedom of the press is not among them, and truth is not his business.
But again, falsehood -- even sheer absurdity -- is not the issue here. Rather, the point is that the documents collected, like the colloquy, remain entirely within the bounds predicted by the propaganda model: condemnation of the media for their adversarial stance and anti-U.S. bias, defense of the media as fair and balanced. This case of literally 100 percent conformity is particularly remarkable in the light of the overwhelming evidence of media submissiveness to the basic doctrines of the Reaganite propaganda system on the matter of Central America (with at most tactical debate), and of their suppression of the mounting atrocities as the Carter administration drew to its close.
The second subject investigated is what the editors of the New York Times hailed as the "liberation" of the Lebanese from the yoke of Syria and the PLO; or, to use the words introducing the discussion here, "the incursion of Israeli forces into South Lebanon" followed by the bombing and siege of Beirut. The discussion is opened by Ben Wattenberg -- like Daniel James, an extreme hawk -- who denounces the media for their "double standard" as they defamed Israel. The media, he continues, had "inflicted" the same double standard upon ourselves in Vietnam, and are doing so again in Central America, where they have turned "American public opinion, in terms of further Congressional aid and so on, against what I regarded as a relatively moderate and moral response on the part of the United States." Wattenberg's "relatively moderate and moral response" is what even Daniel James concedes to be a record of "unheard-of brutality" in El Salvador by the forces organized, trained, and supplied by the United States. Furthermore, contrary to what Wattenberg appears to believe, the unheard-of brutality for which he voices his approval proceeded with no lapse in congressional aid and aroused only limited public concern. This concern developed despite the apologetics and evasion of the media, relying on other channels of information: human rights groups, church sources, the alternative media, and so on. It is worthy of note that these apologetics for hideous atrocities are treated with respect on all sides, a fact that tells us a good deal about the prevailing moral climate and intellectual culture.
Milton Viorst, a dove, responds to Wattenberg's allegations about coverage of the Lebanon war, largely in agreement. One reason for the anti-Israel double standard, he suggests, is that "the Israelis have a reputation of not manipulating the press either as effectively or as deliberately as other nations" -- a perception that will surprise journalists and others familiar with the sophisticated operations of the Israeli hasbara ("explanation") apparatus, which easily surpasses any competitors.41 Viorst does not indicate which "other nations" are more effective in press manipulation. Presumably, he does not mean the Arab states. The double standard, he continues, also results from our higher expectations with regard to Israel. He does not explain how this accounts for the immense outrage over PLO terrorism and the muted response, or total silence, in the face of vastly greater terror by the state that remains "the symbol of human decency."
The twenty-three pages of colloquy that follow keep to the same terms: condemnation of the media for their alleged double standard, and responses to the charge of anti-Israel bias. The division is roughly fifty-fifty, with virtually nothing to suggest that the opposite charge is far more to the point, or even that it is conceivable.
The spectrum of discussion extends from Wattenberg and New Republic editor Morton Kondracke at the jingoist extreme to Viorst and Nick Thimmesch of the American Enterprise Institute at the outer reaches of dissidence. Kondracke condemns the "adversarial relationships which we are used to applying to our own government -- by which we rip our own society to shreds as best we can, believing it our professional duty," an attitude now applied to Israel as well. To illustrate, he offers two examples: "the Bulgarian/KGB involvement in the shooting of the Pope," which, he claims, "received very little attention in the American press" apart from NBC news; and the State Department "yellow rain" charges, which the press sought to undermine. These are interesting choices. The "yellow rain" charges, widely relayed by the media when they were produced by the State Department, are now generally conceded to have little merit. As for the Bulgarian/KGB connection, it received extensive and largely uncritical media coverage, far beyond the Marvin Kalb NBC documentary that Kondracke presumably has in mind. Furthermore, the line put forth by Claire Sterling, former CIA official Paul Henze, and Marvin Kalb has been thoroughly undermined, after having dominated coverage in a most effective government-media operation.42 That Kondracke should offer these two examples to illustrate the anti-establishment bias of the media reveals clearly the intellectual bankruptcy of the position he represents.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Nick Thimmesch questions Kondracke's judgment that "the American press somehow succeeded in ripping this country apart." He believes that
we've now come through a long metamorphosis from one-sided coverage to two-sided coverage. We now have a very honest and legitimate debate of crucial issues in an enlightened manner. For that we can be thankful for the more aggressive and more intelligent press.
In the colloquy, there is one limited departure from this spectrum. William Ringle of Gannett Newspapers agrees that "some people are accepting everything unquestioningly that comes from Arafat"; it would be intriguing to know just whom he had in mind. But, he adds, in the past there were "a number of reporters who accepted unquestioningly and ingenuously everything that Israel put out, or what they had been shown on government-sponsored tours of Israel." Apart from this last sentence, there is no suggestion in the colloquy that an alternative perspective might be considered.
There is, in fact, a great body of evidence showing that the media continued to adopt the basic U.S.-Israeli premises throughout the Lebanon war, and beyond, quite uncritically.43 But the relevant point here, once again, is that the possibility of pro-Israel bias in the media (hence pro-U.S. bias, since the U.S. government gave strong backing to the invasion until the last moment) is virtually not raised, even to be dismissed, and is clearly unthinkable.
Bolling does observe that "we had very little representation [in the meetings] of Arabs and pro-Arabs who feel, and have long felt, that U.S. media coverage of the Middle East is, basically, blatantly pro-Israeli and that Arabs and their interests and viewpoints are consistently denigrated -- and who see no reason to change their opinions on the basis of the coverage of the war in Lebanon." He does not explain why only "Arabs and pro-Arabs" could draw such conclusions from investigation of the media. The tacit assumption is that people have only passions, no thoughts. This assumption is not only remarkable, but also manifestly untrue; the contention that the U.S. media are heavily biased in favor of Israel is familiar among American, European, and Israeli commentators who are neither Arab nor pro-Arab and who are in many cases extremely critical of the Arab states and the PLO. Bolling also does not indicate what efforts were made to obtain views that depart from the framework of the seminars, but the selection is probably a fair sample of intellectual opinion in the United States.
Forty-eight pages of documents follow, keeping closely to the same framework. The initial essay, by Roger Morris, defends the media for highly professional reporting of the events of the war (a largely accurate judgment, in my personal view) and for "providing balanced comment" (which is another matter). To illustrate this proper balance, he cites a New York Times editorial of early August, which says: "Blame the P.L.O. for the torment of West Beirut and blame Israel no less." Recall that these words were written during the days when Israeli artillery and aircraft were killing thousands of people, overwhelmingly civilians, destroying hospitals and demolishing residential areas in the defenseless city, holding the population hostage under harsh siege and terror to coerce them to demand the evacuation of the PLO. Morris also observes that the journalists "showed genuine empathy for the suffering city, and dismay at the destruction wrought by the encircling army, however understandable its presence might have been" (my emphasis). Again, proper balance.
Throughout the documents, the media are bitterly assailed as anti-Israel, or defended for maintaining a high standard of objectivity under difficult conditions. Of the forty-eight pages, approximately thirty-two are devoted to denunciation of the media for their unfairness to Israel, twelve to responses to these charges, and the remainder to a media analysis by Middle East scholar Eric Hooglund, published by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, arguing that the coverage of the Israeli invasion "reveals a consistent pro-Israeli bias." Hooglund's analysis elicited no reaction.44 At one point, Roger Morris observes, quite accurately, that the media "continued to credit the Israeli justification for the invasion -- right up to the gates of Beirut"; and indeed beyond. Milton Viorst writes that "until recently, Israel hardly knew critical reporting." This exhausts the recognition that an alternative perspective on the performance of the media might be considered.
Of the total in the colloquy and discussion, then, over 60 percent is devoted to charges against the media for unfairness to Israel, about one-third to defense of the media against these charges, and 5 percent to (unanswered) charges of a pro-Israel bias. The balance is slightly better than the 100 percent devoted to charges of anti-U.S. bias and defense against these charges in the Central America section, but once again, we find strong confirmation of the propaganda model.
The specific issues discussed are no less instructive. Several contributions refer to the charge -- one of the staples in the barrage of media criticism -- that the press and TV were irresponsible in reporting figures on casualties and refugees in southern Lebanon. An Anti-Defamation League study charges that "no network reported" the Red Cross conclusion that the original figure of 600,000 refugees was an exaggeration, and that the correct figure was 300,000. Two sentences later, the ADL study cites the report of the revised 300,000 figure by John Chancellor of NBC; the example provides a fair indication of the quality of this critique, and the utter contempt of the ADL for its audience, as for elementary rationality and fact.45 Norman Podhoretz repeats the claim circulated by Israeli hasbara that the total population of the area was just over 500,000, so that the refugee figures are plainly absurd. Edward Alexander writes that the refugee figures are "a patent absurdity," since "the entire population" of the area "is under 500,000." Within a year, the Israeli army had revised the population figures that had received wide publicity from Israeli propagandists in the United States, estimating the population at close to a million46; but these facts are nowhere mentioned.
Alexander is also contemptuous of reporters who cite the International Committee of the Red Cross, because it works "with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (which happens to be headed by Yasser Arafat's brother)." He does not, however, conclude that we must also reject reports from any organization that works with Israelis, not to speak of Israeli sources. Suppose that someone were to make such a proposal, with a similar sneer. The cries of anti-Semitism would be deafening. But these remarks, published in the Washington Post and reprinted here, passed without notice, a reflection of the easy acceptance of virulent anti-Arab racism.47
As for the early casualty figures reported for southern Lebanon, provided by the Lebanese police and other sources, they appear to be plausible in retrospect. And there seems little reason to doubt the final estimates of close to 20,000 killed, overwhelmingly civilian, provided by the police, relief agencies, and the Lebanese Maronite government that Israel backed and helped install. Furthermore, as the Israeli army and others observed, these figures are probably an underestimate, possibly a serious underestimate, since they are based on actual counts in hospitals, clinics, and civil defense centers and do not include people buried in mass graves or in the wreckage of bombing.48
In their effort to prove anti-Israel bias, several commentators refer to inadequate coverage of the atrocities of the civil war in Lebanon, specifically, the destruction of the Christian town of Damour by the PLO in 1976, mentioned several times. Charles Krauthammer denounces the media for their failure "to recount the history of the killings by the PLO and their allies of the Christian villagers they drove from their homes." Kondracke recalls "no coverage until after the fact of what happened in Damour where the Palestinians virtually destroyed a Christian town." Wattenberg adds that "those things like Damour, that show the PLO's atrocities, did not get into the media loop as big items." Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post replies that Damour "was a page one story." No one brings up the Muslim Karantina slum, overrun by Christian forces shortly before the Damour attack, then burned and razed with bulldozers, with large numbers massacred -- not a page one story, or a story at all, and forgotten -- or the atrocities of Israel's Phalangist allies against Palestinians and Lebanese Muslims, which brought the PLO into the civil conflict.49 No one brings up the cluster-bomb attack on a U.N. school in Damour by Israeli jet fighters, leaving forty-one children dead or wounded (see
chapter 3). Again, partisans of the U.S. and its Israeli ally set the agenda; others respond, within the framework set by the critics.
PLO atrocities at Damour are a staple of Israeli propaganda, regularly presented in isolation from the background. The scale of the atrocities during the civil war is unknown, and all estimates must be taken with caution. Yale University political scientist Naomi Weinberger, in a scholarly study, gives the figure of 1,000 Muslim and Palestinian deaths in the Karantina massacre, citing standard sources, and no figure for Damour. Israeli Lt. Col. Dov Yermiya, reporting from Damour with the occupying Israeli forces and (Christian) Phalangist military in June 1982, estimates 250 massacred at Damour, and notes that the town was "partly destroyed by the Syrians and the terrorists [the PLO], and partly by our air force and artillery" in 1976 and 1982 respectively. Others invent figures to suit their fancy. Thus Walter Laqueur states that 600 civilians were killed at Damour, citing no source and avoiding the background; and journalist Eric Silver, citing "reliable Israeli sources," speaks of "the murder of thousands of Lebanese Christians" at Damour. An honest reference appears in a study of Israel's war in Lebanon by Israeli military specialist Ze'ev Schiff and Arabist Ehud Ya'ari, who describe the town of Damour as "the site of one of the many tit-for-tat massacres of that savage conflict" of 1975-76.50
Kondracke also complains about the limited coverage of "the 50,000 people who were killed in Lebanon before the Israelis invaded." Wattenberg asserts that "five to ten times as many people were killed in Lebanon" from 1975 to 1982 "as were killed during the 1982 Israeli action"; that would be a toll of 100,000-200,000 people killed from 1975 to 1982, given the conservative estimate of 20,000 killed during the "Israeli action." Israel's leading specialist on the topic, Itamar Rabinovich, writes that the death toll for the Lebanese civil war prior to 1982 was "well over 10,000, according to some estimates"; that is, about half the 20,000 or more deaths attributable to the Israeli invasion.51
While allegations of Arab atrocities are bandied about without analysis or comment, there is no mention of the death toll from the Israeli scorched-earth operations in southern Lebanon from the early 1970s. These were scarcely reported in the media, which were uninterested, and the usual skepticism about figures must therefore be even more pronounced. The meager evidence suggests that the toll was many thousands killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.52 Also unmentioned is the failure of the media to cite Lebanese opinion -- in particular, published opinion -- during the Israeli "incursion," another illustration of what can only be called racist bias. It was, after all, their country that was being "liberated," though anyone who bothered to check would have discovered that they were not too delighted about their good fortune, over a remarkably broad range. The New York Times hailed the "liberation of Lebanon," but managed to avoid the bitter denunciations of the liberation of his country by U.N. Ambassador Ghassan Tueni, the conservative Christian owner of Lebanon's leading newspaper who was speaking a few blocks away from their editorial offices; his name does not appear in the Times index for those months. And opinion within Lebanon, easily accessible in Western languages or by interview, was notably absent from media reporting, as it is in subsequent literature on the war.53 One can hardly imagine that if Israel were invaded by Syria and Tel Aviv were bombarded and under siege, the media would fail to cite Israel's U.N. Ambassador and would avoid Israeli sources.
Bolling remarks that the media made "no effort to compare the suffering caused by Israeli fighters with the even greater destruction and loss of life caused by the Arabs fighting among themselves in the Lebanese civil war of 1975-6" and the Syrian massacre in Hamma. Even if this were true, the relevance to the reporting of Israel's invasion is less than obvious, for reasons discussed in the preceding section. Media coverage of Syria and Arabs generally, slim at best, is extremely negative, apart from a few U.S. favorites. Syria and the contending elements within Lebanon are never depicted as "symbols of human decency" with exalted moral standards, who "care for human life," nor were they conducting their slaughters with U.S. material, diplomatic, and ideological support. Journalists covering the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan are not enjoined to temper their accounts of the suffering caused by the Soviet army by referring to the millions killed in the U.S. wars in Indochina or to Muslim atrocities -- except, perhaps, in Pravda. The logic of Bolling's statement seems to be that any criticism of what Israel does to Arabs must be balanced by some condemnation of what Arabs do to each other, though I doubt that he would suggest that every criticism of Arabs must be balanced by a condemnation of Israel; no such principle is suggested here, or anywhere -- nor, of course, should it be. This kind of argument sometimes reaches an astonishing level, as when Wolf Blitzer of the Jerusalem Post endorses Wattenberg's "double standard" charge on the grounds that the Washington Post sent no one to cover an earthquake in North Yemen. Blitzer's point about the "negative racism at work by which we tend to discount Third World people who are being killed" is well-taken, however, and -- though he does not appear to see this -- applies very well to the media reaction to Israeli violence for many decades. (For more on these standard fallacies, see
appendix I, section 1).
A related charge, also repeated by several commentators, is that the media failed to depict "the terror of six years of living under the PLO" (Edward Alexander, who believes that major media were "depicting Israel as the devil's experiment station, with its capital neither in Jerusalem nor in Tel Aviv, but in Sodom and Gomorrah," a fair indication of the hysteria induced among apologists for Israeli violence by the temporary breakdown of the usual norms on which they rely). The truth is very different. PLO oppression and atrocities in Lebanon were emphasized.54 But I found no reference in the U.S. media to the conclusions of Israeli journalists who toured Lebanon to inquire into these well-publicized allegations, finding much evidence of Israeli and Christian terror, but far less that could be charged to the PLO. Particularly revealing was the report in Israel's leading journal Ha'aretz by Attallah Mansour, a Christian Maronite and respected Israeli journalist who was well placed to give an accurate critical assessment. His account of atrocities by Israel's Christian allies as contrasted with much less repressive behavior by the "left-Muslim-Palestinian camp" drew entirely the wrong conclusions, and was ignored. The same was true of accounts by leading Israeli Jewish journalists, published in English and readily available, but with the wrong conclusions.55
Alexander denounces Newsweek for reporting that Israel's war against the PLO "sorely weakened its more moderate elements," another proof that the media were waging a "propaganda battle against Israel." He does not, however, remind us that respected Israeli scholars argued from the outset that a primary motive for the invasion was precisely to weaken more moderate elements in the PLO. PLO moderation was regarded "as a veritable catastrophe in the eyes of the Israeli government" because it posed the threat of a political settlement; the hope was that the PLO would be driven to terrorism, undercutting the danger of "future political accommodations" (Yehoshua Porath, Israel's leading academic specialist on Palestinian nationalism and a political centrist). "Dealing a major blow to the PLO as a political force was the raison d'etre of the entire operation," Israeli strategic analyst Avner Yaniv concludes (approvingly). It was necessary to apply "the fiercest military pressures [to]...undermine the position of the moderates within [the PLO] ranks," to block "the PLO `peace offensive'" and prevent Arafat from gaining PLO support for qualified acceptance of U.N. Resolution 242, and "to halt [the PLO's] rise to political respectability." The perceived problem was that "a moderate -- political rather than terrorist -- PLO...could become far more dangerous than the violent PLO of the previous years." Military action served "the purpose of weakening PLO moderates and strengthening their radical rivals." Yehoshafat Harkabi (ex-director of Israeli military intelligence, former Begin adviser, professor of International Relations and Middle East Studies at Hebrew University, and one of Israel's most highly-regarded specialists on these issues) writes that "Begin's principal motive in launching the war was his fear of the momentum of the peace process"; the 1982 war should be called "The War to Safeguard the Occupation of the West Bank," an occupation threatened by Palestinian moderation, not Palestinian terrorism, as understood on all sides, and a threat particularly grave with Israel's failure to elicit a violent response to its provocations in Lebanon through mid-1982. Chief of Staff Rafael ("Raful") Eitan states frankly that the action was a success: "we destroyed the PLO as a candidate for negotiations with us about the Land of Israel."56 Anti-Semitism reaches deep into mainstream Israeli circles, by Alexander's intriguing standards.
It is unnecessary to comment on the contributions of Martin Peretz and Norman Podhoretz, reprinted from the journals they edit (New Republic, Commentary).57
The point, again, is that the agenda is set by advocates of U.S. and Israeli violence, who condemn the media for their alleged anti-establishment bias. The most extraordinary charges against the media are voiced with wild abandon, and sometimes refuted. But there is little attempt at serious analysis of the events discussed or of media performance, and the idea of investigating a possible pro-Israel, pro-U.S. bias is off the agenda, apart from Hooglund's careful analysis.
The final chapter, "Reflections on Media Coverage of the Third World," is opened by Ambassador David Newsom, who says that "there is today in the press a strong tendency towards skepticism regarding official U.S. policy and those foreign officials abroad who are identified with it." He asks, "what is the effect in the public mind of the contrast between the ragged and open-shirted revolutionary and the well-dressed oligarch in contrasting scenes transmitted by television from Central America?" He would have us believe, then, that television presents a sympathetic portrait of the guerrillas in El Salvador and Guatemala. A response by David Lichtenstein of the right-wing media monitoring organization AIM condemns the media for their "instantaneous moral condemnation" of U.S. policy in Vietnam and El Salvador, and of Israel during "the Lebanon incursion." Much of the criticism of the press, he feels, "arises from this sort of...pro-Arab or pro-Israel bias -- sentiments in favor of Ho Chi Minh or in favor of the Communist guerrillas." He mentions no examples of critics of the press who favor Ho or Communist guerrillas, and does not explain why they are not represented in these seminars if they are so influential and numerous. He concludes that "You have within the media ideological conflicts which run all the way across the political spectrum," a position that can be sustained if we take the political spectrum to be determined by the needs of powerful elites. With regard to El Salvador, he says that "the whole uproar over human rights, for example, is often the shrill cry of the not-very-well-informed journalistic visitor who lacks historical perspective, who is not familiar with Latin American culture, or how an entirely different culture developed out of entirely different social conditions." Putting aside his judgment about the "uproar" in media that regularly suppressed U.S.-backed atrocities in El Salvador while praising the "moderate" Duarte regime that carried them out, he does not indicate whether similar considerations apply to the atrocities carried out by official enemies. The remaining discussion stays within the predicted bounds, without exception.
In summary, of the 155 pages, fewer than four fall beyond the bounds predicted by the propaganda model: the ADC contribution on pro-Israel bias, and a few scattered sentences. Naturally, there are matters of judgment, but I doubt that other standards would lead to a materially different evaluation. The conclusion is that the propaganda model is again very well confirmed in its second-order predictions. I will comment no further on the startling remarks by some of the participants, such as those sampled here, or what they indicate, except to note that justification for massive atrocities is considered quite normal and respectable.
Recall that the basic question raised in the seminar was the problem faced by "a `free-press', democratic society" that allows "open coverage of all the wartime events" (Bolling). There is no allusion to the fact that allowing "open coverage" is relatively cost-free when the media can be trusted to adopt the basic principles (if not, always, the tactical judgments) of state propaganda and keep closely within its bounds in what they transmit and how they interpret it, and to report from the standpoint of approved elements: the client governments of South Vietnam and El Salvador, but not the indigenous guerrillas; the guerrillas in Afghanistan, but not the Soviet client regime; the U.S.-supported opposition and the CIA-run civilian front for the contras in Nicaragua but not the elected government (described by Washington edict as unelected); and so on.
Bolling discusses one major exception to this policy of allowing "open coverage," one that the media generally found offensive: the barring of correspondents during the first days of the invasion of Grenada, the first occasion on which success in our noble endeavors did not "elude us," in his judgment. Bolling evidently regards "the overthrow of the callous and unpopular little Marxist dictatorship and the expulsion of the Cuban advisors, workers and soldiers" as meritorious, though the censorship raises serious questions. We may put aside his characterization of these events and turn to a matter more pertinent here. True, the media were briefly excluded, and condemned this infringement on their prerogatives. But more to the point, they exercised self-censorship so severe as to render the events unintelligible and to protect the U.S. government stance, a fact not mentioned in the volume under discussion, and rarely elsewhere.
U.S. actions in earlier years to undermine the government of Maurice Bishop were barely reported.58 The large-scale military operations simulating an invasion of "Amber and the Amberdines," clearly intended to intimidate the government of Grenada and the Grenadines, passed without mention in the New York Times. The only hint was a tiny item noting Grenada's charge that it was the target of "an imminent attack" by the United States, dismissed by the State Department as "ridiculous," with no further details or inquiry.59 There was no report of the refusal of the Carter administration to provide aid when 40 percent of Grenada's banana crop was destroyed by a hurricane in August 1980, and Carter's further condition that Grenada be excluded from rehabilitation aid provided to affected countries through the West Indian Banana Exporting Association (the Association refused the condition, and no U.S. aid was forthcoming).60 There was also no report of the termination of U.S. aid and pressures on the Common Market to terminate aid in early 1981. Also unreported were the other measures pursued to abort progress and development under a government now conceded to have been popular and relatively successful in early efforts. The media thus ensured that few would comprehend what took place in October 1983, when Bishop was assassinated and the invasion was launched, and the significant U.S. background role.
Turning to the invasion itself, the government role in censorship was the least of the story. Far more important is the fact that the most crucial information about the invasion was largely suppressed by media choice, even while the media were denouncing government censorship.
The invasion of Grenada took place on the morning of October 25. Various conflicting justifications were offered that we need not review. The tale on which the government finally settled was that U.S. troops on a "rescue mission" were fighting a bitter battle against Cuban military forces struggling to maintain this outpost of Soviet imperialism. The media gave enormous coverage to the events, basically keeping to this version while raising questions about the motives for the invasion and deploring the censorship. Prominent reports featured battles with Cuban forces, efforts to put down Cuban resistance, the exploits of the U.S. military, and so on. But there is more to the story.
As the U.S. invaded, Cuba released a series of official documents to the press. According to these documents, when the murder of Maurice Bishop was reported on October 20, the government of Cuba declared that it was "deeply embittered" by the murder and rendered "deep tribute" to the assassinated leader. The same official statement reported instructions to Cubans in Grenada that "they should abstain absolutely from any involvement in the internal affairs of the Party and of Grenada," while attempting to maintain the "technical and economic collaboration that could affect essential services and vital economic assistance for the Grenadian people." On October 22, Castro sent a message to Cuban representatives in Grenada, stressing that they should take no action in the event of a U.S. invasion unless they are "directly attacked." If U.S. forces "land on the runway section [of the airport that Cubans were constructing with British assistance] near the university or on its surroundings to evacuate their citizens," Cubans were ordered "to fully refrain from interfering." The military rulers of Grenada were informed that "sending reinforcements is impossible and unthinkable" because of the actions in Grenada that Cuba and the Grenadan people deplore, and Cuba urged them to provide "total guarantees and facilities for the security and evacuation of U.S., English and other nationals." The message was repeated on October 23, stating that reinforcement would be politically wrong and "morally impossible before our people and the world" after the Bishop assassination. On October 24, Cuba again informed the Grenadan regime that Cubans would only defend themselves if attacked, and advised that the airport runway be cleared of military personnel.
Surely Washington was aware of these communications, barring colossal incompetence. But we need not speculate on this matter. On October 22, Cuba sent a message to Washington explaining its policy "of not interfering in the internal affairs" of Grenada and suggesting that the U.S. and Cuba "keep in touch on this matter, so as to contribute to a favorable solution of any difficulty that may arise or action that may be taken relating to the security of [U.S. or other foreign nationals in Grenada], without violence or intervention in that country." There was no response to this message until October 25, well after the U.S. had invaded and attacked Cuban personnel. At that point, the U.S. stated that it "agrees to the Cuban proposal of October 22 to maintain contact concerning the safety of the personnel of each side." Several hours later, the U.S. delivered a message to Cuba stating its "regret" for the armed clashes and attributing them to "confusion and accidents." Cuba responded at once, calling again for cooperation to resolve the problems "without violence or intervention."61
These facts were known to the media at once, and even received some mention, though they were relegated to obscurity and did not interfere with pursuit of the patriotic agenda. Knight-Ridder news service reported Castro's October 26 statement that Cuba had rejected Grenada's request for reinforcements and had offered "Cuban cooperation to guarantee the safety of 1000 Americans on the island," though Washington had not responded until "90 minutes after U.S. troops had invaded Grenada and had begun fighting against Cubans on the island." On October 26, Alma Guillermoprieto reported in the Washington Post that at a "post-midnight news conference" with "almost 100 foreign and local journalists," Castro "released texts of what he said were diplomatic communications among Cuba, Grenada and the United States," giving the essential facts. U.S. sources "confirmed the exchange of messages," she added, but said they could not respond to Cuba at once because the telephone lines of the U.S. interest section in Havana were down from the evening of October 23 to late at night on October 24; how unfortunate that the U.S. government, so lacking in technical facilities, could not find some way to respond to the message of October 22, perhaps by carrier pigeon, thus rendering the invasion unnecessary (according to the government-media justification for it) and ensuring that there would be no clash with Cubans. White House spokesman Larry Speakes, she reported, said that "the U.S. disregarded Cuban and Grenadan assurances that U.S. citizens in Grenada would be safe because, `it was a floating crap game and we didn't know who was in charge'." The readers of the New York Times could learn the facts from an advertisement of the government of Cuba on November 20, placed, no doubt, in a vain effort to overcome media self-censorship. The facts were accurately reported by Alan Berger in the Boston Globe on the same day.62
In short, the story of Cuban resistance to the U.S. "rescue mission" was mere deception, and this fact was known from the start. The media, however, kept to the official line, with only bare recognition of the actual facts, which was quickly shelved. Cuban officials were sometimes cited accusing the United States of "manipulating information," but without reference to these crucial facts (Jo Thomas, New York Times). Editorials raised various questions about the "Orwellian arguments" offered by the Reagan administration, avoiding, however, the revelations that exposed the entire operation as a public relations fraud.63 The pattern was pervasive.
There are hardly serious grounds for accusing the U.S. government of censorship when the media themselves proved so adept in the process, without instruction or pressure -- as in other examples, so common as to be fairly called the norm.
1 Addendum to p. 9.
2 See the references of chapter 1, note 23, for extensive discussion of cases cited here without specific reference.
3 See the review of media coverage of Cuba in 1986 in Platt, Tropical Gulag (chapter 1, note 30, above). Quotes are from WP, Stephen Rosenfeld (July 18), Stephen Cohen (July 26), Charles Krauthammer (Dec. 14); NYT, Ronald Radosh, June 8; Time, June 30; Miami Herald, "President hails Valladares, raps Cuba on prisons," Dec. 11, 1986. The study reports that the national press accepted Valladares's charges without qualification or attempt at verification and ignored entirely the Cuban government version of the story and the documentation offered to support it, with one exception (Tad Szulc, WP, Aug. 4, 1986, who briefly notes that the book had "inaccuracies" and that "Cuban officials portray [Valladares] as unreliable and unsavory"). They found "professional coverage of the issue" with "lengthy columns pro [R. Emmett Tyrell] and con [Warren Hinckle] Valladares" only in the San Francisco Examiner (July 29, 1986).
4 See pp. 228f. The sole exception to suppression of the CDHES study, apart from Alexander Cockburn in the Nation, was, again, the San Francisco Examiner. See CDHES, "Torture in El Salvador," Sept. 24, 1986; and for further details, Culture of Terrorism, 227f.
5 See p. 12-13; Mona Charen, "A double standard on human rights," Boston Globe, Jan. 2, 1989.
6 For detailed examination by the former method, see Manufacturing Consent, chapter 3; also Spence, op. cit.. On the second method, see the references of notes 7, 8, below.
7 On popular support for the opposition parties even after years of war and suffering, see
appendix IV, section 5.
8 Alfonso Chardy, Miami Herald, July 19, 1987, citing "an intelligence source familiar with North's relationship with" the Office of Latin American Public Diplomacy, the main propaganda agency of the Reagan administration, later more fully exposed. For further comment, see Manufacturing Consent, 137f. See also Walter LaFeber's review of the book, NYT Weekly Book Review, Nov. 6, 1988, and an exchange of letters with Edward Herman, Dec. 11. LaFeber describes the later phase of the disinformation effort as a "key exception" to the propaganda model; as just discussed, it fits the model closely. He notes that a later Newsweek article (Nov. 26) "did question the MIG mirage" -- well after it was agreed, from top government on down, that there were no MiGs. That the media questioned what was openly conceded by the government to be false is not a very persuasive demonstration of their independence from power.
9 NYT, Dec. 27, 1985.
10 See a forthcoming study by Dennis Driscoll, Faculty of Law, University College, Galway, Ireland, for comparative analysis of the U.S. and foreign media in this and other critical cases.
11 Jennifer G. Schirmer, "What You See Is What You Get: Comparing Realities of the U.S. and European Press Coverage of the 1982 and 1984 Elections in El Salvador," forthcoming in Creating Reality: Media Coverage of International Affairs, based on Summer Seminar presentations at Center for International Affairs, Harvard (CFIA Publishers, Cambridge Mass., 1989), directed by Dennis Driscoll.
12 See For Reasons of State, 232-23; Manufacturing Consent, 181.
13 Ibid., 177, 191.
14 Bill Keller, NYT, Jan. 21, 1988; Paul Quinn-Judge, Christian Science Monitor, July 21, 1987; Extra!, monthly of FAIR, December 1987, for Sakharov letter. Danchev, see the excerpts from "Manufacture of Consent" in Peck, Chomsky Reader, 223f.
15 See Manufacturing Consent, chapters 5 and 6 and appendix III.
16 NYT, April 30, 1987.
17 Lemann, New Republic, Jan. 9, 1989; see chapter 1, note 32. Michael Pollan, NYT Book Review, April 6, 1986, reviewing Parenti, Inventing Reality.
18 I mention merely one, because Lemann gives it as the clinching evidence of our lack of "commitment to truth": "Herman and Chomsky say that `principled and courageous resistance' was a more common response of draft-age Americans to Vietnam than the seeking of deferments." The quoted phrase can be found on page 252, in the course of our discussion of how the PBS series on the Vietnam war gave "short shrift" to the peace movement. As one example, we noted that the search for deferments "hardly defined `the spirit of the times'" as the series claimed (interviewing Lemann's colleague James Fallows), "although it is a facet of this `spirit' that is far more acceptable to mainstream opinion than the principled and courageous resistance of many thousands of young people." Lemann's falsification of this accurate statement merely shows that he falls within the mainstream, as there described, putting aside the matter of "commitment to truth."
19 Letters, The New Republic, March 6, 1989. Romero was murdered on March 24, 1980; Popieluszko was abducted on October 20, 1984, then murdered. One natural comparison, then, is the columns of the New York Times index for El Salvador in 1980 and for Poland from August 1984 through July 1985 (the comparable period), obviously excluding the coverage of these incidents themselves. Coverage of El Salvador is slightly higher by this measure.
20 The few studies that do exist confirm the conclusion. See Manufacturing Consent on studies of the impact of the media, primarily television, in mobilizing support for the Vietnam war, including the self-refuting study published by Freedom House on coverage of the Tet offensive.
21 Cases offered are often quite absurd (see the next section for some examples), but real ones can be found. See my Fateful Triangle, 371, on major slaughters that were suppressed while the media briefly focused attention on the Sabra-Shatila massacres, before adopting the conclusions of the Israeli government's Kahan investigating commission. This selective focus does merit the charge of hypocrisy leveled by the Israeli government and its apologists, as discussed in Fateful Triangle. The Kahan Commission report was a shameful whitewash; see Fateful Triangle, chapter 6, and Shimon Lehrer, Ha'ikar Hehaser ("The Missing Crucial-Point"; Amit, Jerusalem, 1983). In a close critical analysis of the events and the Kahan Commission report, Lehrer shows that its conclusions were untenable and argues that the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff should have faced 20-year jail sentences for premeditated murder under Israeli law. While sharply criticized in Israel, in the U.S. the Kahan Commission report was depicted, without analysis, as most impressive or even approaching the sublime.
22 It would be interesting, for example, to compare the coverage of the Israeli elections with that of the Canadian elections at the same time, a neighboring country voting on an issue quite significant for U.S. business interests, the "free trade" agreements.
23 See Manufacturing Consent, chapter 1, for discussion of some others.
24 In fact, an early 1974 version of this study was suppressed by the conglomerate that owned the publisher, which even went to the extent of putting the publisher out of business to prevent distribution; see the prefatory note to the 1979 published version of Political Economy of Human Rights for details. The matter was brought to the attention of some noted civil libertarians, but they found it of no interest, presumably, because no state censorship was involved, only corporate censorship that is considered legitimate on the assumption that the distribution of power in the civil society is legitimate.
25 Recall that the book went to press immediately after the Vietnamese invasion that overthrew Pol Pot, just before a flood of refugee testimony became available. At the time we wrote, virtually all evidence had to do with the years 1975-77, and almost nothing was known about the 1978 massacres in the Eastern Zone, by far the most extensive of the Pol Pot period, according to the current scholarly literature. See Michael Vickery, Cambodia (South End, 1983), the most detailed scholarly source, widely and favorably reviewed in England by Indochina scholars and journalists, virtually ignored in the United States. On other studies, see my review in Inside Asia, reprinted in The Chomsky Reader, 289f. As Vickery observes, the great mass of evidence that subsequently appeared, while enriching understanding of the period, suggests no significant revision of what we published in 1979. Although the parallels between Timor and Cambodia, and the assessments by relief officials, other observers, and area specialists, were widely recognized by the early 1980s, it is unlikely that these facts will be permitted to survive the historical engineering of the future.
26 In fact, this was only one false claim. Lacouture's article was presented as a review of François Ponchaud's Cambodge année zéro, but there was barely a reference to the book that was near accurate. In a sequel that far transcends the predictions of a propaganda model, Lacouture's false claims were widely quoted as established truth long after his retraction appeared. See Political Economy of Human Rights for details on these revealing facts.
27 I stress: under the Khmer Rouge. Atrocities in the first half of the decade for which the U.S. bore primary responsibility were very much downplayed, and still are. See Manufacturing Consent, chapter 6, for details.
28 Ibid., for discussion.
29 There are actually two such discussions, a lengthy one in Political Economy of Human Rights, volume II, and a a 1977 review-article in the Nation that briefly raised similar points.
30 See Vickery, op. cit., 308, 310.
31 For examples of both absurdity and lies, see the Political Economy of Human Rights, vol II, chapter six, and Manufacturing Consent, chapter six, section 6.2.8; also
appendix V, section 5, below. For an example of a weird array of inventions and falsehoods in what some regard as "scholarship," see Leo Labedz, "Chomsky Revisited," Encounter, July 1980; the article is also notable for its apologetics for the Western-backed atrocities in Timor. That the lies were conscious in this case is indicated by the fact that the journal refused to permit a response that exposed the falsifications point by point, so that the article can therefore be quoted, reprinted with acclaim, etc. It is standard for dissidents to be denied the right of response to personal attacks, and it is reasonable to suppose that in such cases the journal recognizes the need for protection of fabrications that would be all too readily exposed if response were not barred.
32 NYT Book Review, Dec. 27, 1970.
33 For some examples, see Russell, War Crimes in Vietnam (Monthly Review, 1967); Barry Feinberg & Ronald Kasrils, Bertrand Russell's America: 1945-1970 (South End, 1983). The books also contain material on the hysterical abuse elicited by his exposure of unwelcome truths, for which he was never forgiven by the commissars.
34 Addendum to p. 12.
35 For completeness, we may also find those who explain why the media err in their defiance of authority, thus reinforcing the required premise by tacit assumption.
36 Landrum R. Bolling, ed., Reporters Under Fire: U.S. Media Coverage of Conflicts in Lebanon and Central America (Westview, 1985).
37 These are mostly excerpts, though a few are given in full.
38 One might, for example, test Bolling's judgments in the Third World countries that regard Cuba as "an international superpower" because of the teachers, construction workers, physicians, and others involved in "international service" (Michael Stuehrenberg, Die Zeit (West Germany), World Press Review, Dec. 1988.) In 1985, he reports, 16,000 Cubans worked in Third World countries, more than twice the total of Peace Corps and AID specialists from the United States; "Today, Cuba has more physicians working abroad than any industrialized nation, and more than the UN's World Health Organization." Most of this aid is uncompensated, and Cuba's "international emissaries" are "men and women who live under conditions that most development aid workers would not accept," which is "the basis for their success." For Cubans, he continues, "international service" is regarded as "a sign of political maturity" and taught in the schools as "the highest virtue."
39 On these matters, see Manufacturing Consent, chapters 5, 6.
40 Some have been misled by the fact that one journal, the New York Review of Books, was open to dissident opinion during the peak years of popular protest. Those doors closed in the early 1970s, however, and there were few other examples.
41 For an account of some of its exploits, see Robert I. Friedman, "Selling Israel to America: the Hasbara Project Targets the U.S. Media," Mother Jones, Feb./March 1987.
42 See Edward S. Herman and Frank Brodhead, The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection (Sheridan Square Publications, 1986); Manufacturing Consent, chapter 4.
43 See, inter alia, my Fateful Triangle and the references of chapter 3, note 23.
44 In my Pirates & Emperors, chapter 2, note 26, I stated erroneously that the ADC document was not included. Much of the same material appears, with the same error, in my chapter in Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens, eds., Blaming the Victims (Verso, 1988).
45 This citation is excluded from the excerpt that appears in Reporters under Fire. For a detailed analysis of the ADL report, see Fateful Triangle, 284f.
46 Reuven Padhatzur, Ha'aretz, Nov. 14, 1983; Ya'acov Friedler, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 24, 1984; Drew Middleton, NYT, Feb. 26, 1984.
appendix V, section 4, for some further comment.
48 See Fateful Triangle, 221f.
49 Ibid., 184f., and sources cited.
50 Naomi Joy Weinberger, Syrian Intervention in Lebanon (Oxford, 1986, 179); Dov Yermiya, My War Diary (South End, 1983, 62) (translated from the Hebrew original); Laqueur, The Age of Terrorism (Little, Brown and Co., 1987, 218); Silver, Manchester Guardian Weekly, Oct. 3, 1982; Schiff and Ya'ari, Israel's Lebanon War (Simon and Schuster, 1984, 87). On Laqueur's treatise, see
appendix V, section 3.
51 Rabinovich, The War in Lebanon (Cornell, 1984, 57). He is referring to the 1975-76 period, when the overwhelming majority of casualties occurred.
52 Fateful Triangle, 188f.
53 Ibid, 243f., for a sample, partly from the Lebanese press. I know of no other.
54 For reference to a few examples from the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Washington Post, see the reprinted comments by Post Ombudsman Robert McCloskey, who, however, feels that the Post report was belated. Also David Shipler, NYT, July 25, 1982.
55 Mansour, Ha'aretz, July 27, 1982. See also Benny Morris and David Bernstein, Jerusalem Post, July 23, 1982. Both reviewed in Fateful Triangle, 186f., among other sources. See Shipler, op. cit., during the same days, for a report of a very different kind in the U.S. press, focusing on PLO repression.
56 Porath, Ha'aretz, June 25, 1982; Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security (Oxford, 1987, 52-3, 67ff., 100-101). Harkabi, Israel's Fateful Hour, 100-1. Eitan, quoted by Rafi Ga'on, Ha'aretz, Dec. 27, 1983. Eitan also dismisses the protests by Yesh Gvul and others, asking where they were when Israel spent 6 years at the Suez canal, where "we destroyed three of their cities (Suez, Ismailia, Port Said), carried out deep-penetration bombing, killed civilians, and even shot down a civilian Libyan plane that wandered off course and all its passengers were killed." On the background of Israeli provocations leading to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, see Fateful Triangle and Schiff and Ya'ari, Israel's Lebanon War.
57 See Fateful Triangle for some discussion of the former.
58 Information here is from the Times Database.
59 NYT, March 29, 1983.
60 Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Nov. 23, 1988; the context is Washington's refusal to provide assistance to Nicaragua after the devastating hurricane of October 1988.
61 Center for Cuban Studies, New York, Oct. 28, 1983.
62 Knight-Ridder Service, BG, Oct. 27; WP, Oct. 27; NYT, BG, Nov. 20. Also Latin America Regional Reports Caribbean, Nov. 4, 1983; Michael Massing, Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1884, two sentences on an inside page.
63 Thomas, NYT, Nov. 1; editorial, NYT, Nov. 10, 1983.