FotosAbdel Gamal Nasser, Margaret Thatcher, JF Kennedy, The Economist, Unesco director-general Mahtar M’Bow, The Dily Nation, Standard, John Baptist Abuoga, Charles Kulundu, Fide[ Castro
Ken: By means of stars, I have indicated where you can break this into two and use the two parts in consecutive issues. But, of clourse, I will be much happier if you can use the whole piece at once because, in only in that way, can you maximie its impact. I am still work on a 700-word piece as we discussed. Call me in the morning. Thanks – PO.(Continued from last edition)The media as arm of governmentEditors give in to demands by statesmen while claiming all the time that they enjoy “total freedom” to publishBy PHILP OCHIENGThe Western critic of the Third Word’s media stands on a basic premise. It is that, in the West, the constitution really does order the state to keep off the internal affairs of the private sector, including the media houses. This, we are told, is constitutionally “guaranteed”. The Third World’s media consumer has heard it so often, he simply takes it for granted. But how does this claim tally with the fact that, at critical times, John Fitzgerald Kennedy – the most glamorous president in the history of a state which never ceases to boast that it has the freest media in the world – regularly commandeered the newsrooms of America’s “private” media to do regimented government work? Across the Atlantic, in America’s closest ally in this business, the allegation by Britain’s liberal intelligentsia that 10 Downing Street and Whitehall never interefere with media activities frequently refutes itself through some very unsophisticated behaviour by thatgovernment. A good example occurred in London early in 1979. The Margaret Thatcher government slapped a ban on the Sunday Times from publishing an article describing certain nefarious effects of thalidomide, a drug heavily advertised in the media as a sedative and hypnotic. The London newspaper went to court. On 7 April, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights determined that, as a result of intense media advertising, a large number of children born between 1959 and 1962 had incurred severe deformities. And, by finding Whitehall “…guilty of gagging the Press…”,\ the court raised an immediate question. Why should a government as “democratic” as London’s want to ban an article alerting the public to an extreme public health hazard posed by a private company? The suspicion thus became rife that there had been a “kickback”. The manufacturers – it was alleged – had used “the lobby” system to buy government favour against a public interest. Because of the huge cash involved in it, the lobby system always works against the weak majority. But, as a “tool of democracy”, lobbying is possible only because, by and large, the private sector and the political class belong to the same financial plutocracy. More accurately, statesmen and women are but a well paid stratum of the corporate family. A Briton called Noreena Hertz has recently published the book The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy in which she adduces solid evidence to show that, in the West, the state has long surrendered all political power to the corporations. The question was: Had somebody prevailed on Premier Thatcher to thwart the publication of the thalidomide story? Otherwise, why should a government as powerful as London feel threatened by the publication of facts which, although gruesome, did not seem to accuse the government itself? Seemingly, only the “purely private” organisation’s name stood to be tarnished by the planned artiles. Did somebody pay a large sum to somebody else at Whitehall or 10 Downing Street? It is not essential to know. Any intellectually honest editor in Britain will readily confirm that the government continually pokes its long nose into media processes, and that what we get through the columns of newspapers and screens of television sets and cinema houses is nowhere being the whole truth. What is printed or aired is, at best, a quite unrecognisably doctored version of the truth. It is either an embarrassing compromise, or, at worst, a patent lie. Their so-called independent news media, agencies and individual operators have also willingly lent themselves as instruments of the British state in the promotion of regimented ideas in the Third World. Three years after the thalidomide case, Africa Now, a London-based monthly magazine for African readership, reported three scary cases linked to British intelligence. In one, the writer had been let in on an old Unesco manuscript by Richard Fletcher and Tony Smart, an unpublished work called Free Flow of News: A Case Study in Government Intervention, which had been subjected for more than two years to what Marx and Engels once described as “the gnawing criticism of the mice” – namely, filed into oblivion. In 1938, wrote Africa Now, Leslie Sheridan, a Daily Mirror editor, joined the “D” (for “destruction”) section of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) as personal assistant to its head, Sir Charles Hambro. By 1941 Sheridan “…had built up a network of agents in the principal ‘neutral’ capitals, including Stockholm, Lisbon, New York and Istanbul, using old Fleet Street contacts either given cover by British newspapers or accredited to the first of the bogus news agencies, Britanova Ltd., launched with secret government funds. Sir Edward Hulton, the owner of Picture Post, agreed to lend his name as chairman…” Britanova’s main duties, we are told, were to create false news that would mislead the Nazis and their allies during World War II. The mission even of its first agency in Africa, the Cairo-based Arab News Agency (ANA), was to generate anti-German rumours in the Middle East and North Africa. But ANA and its later sisters throughout the Arab and black African world were to play direct confusion roles in the areas in which they were based to help secure those areas for the British Empire. SOE was wound up at the end of the war. But it left “skeletons in the cupboard in every country”, all “handed over to SIS, among them ANA and Sharo al Adna, one of the most powerful radio stations in the area”. Both organs helped create and disseminate false stories against such true nationalists as Egypt’s Abdel Gamal Nasser, especially afterr 1952, when he led a coup against the corrupt British-backed monarchy of King Farouk, and in 1956, when he nationalised the Suez Canal away from Anglo-French hands. During the Suez crisis, the Nasser government hanged ANA’s office manager after the manager had admitted spying for Britain. Other British and American journalists accused of espionage and deported were Sefton Delman of The Daily Express, Ann Hapley of The Evening Standard and Eileen Travis of The Daily Mail. ANA itself was banned and moved to the Gulf area to continue its activities against patriotic voices throughout the Middle East.Between 1948 and 1971, the story goes on, eight more news agencies were formed in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and black Africa, all linked to British intelligence and Fleet Street, a connection which Africa Now established by tracing the kinds of personal ties that those manning the agencies had.Tom Clarke , chairman of Near and Far East Ltd., had until 1933 been editorial director of News Chronicle, during 1939-40 deputy director of the news division of Britain’s Ministry of Information and, until his death in 1957, chairman and London editor of the Britanova group. Adelaide Mateurin, company secretary who also acted as such for Britanova, had always been a career SOE-SIS official who, into the bargain, went on to marry Leslie Sheridan. The company’s legal papers were prepared by Victor Cannon, who had been principal private secretary for SOE affairs in the Ministry of Economic Warfare. And the directors included Conservative MP Maurice Macmillan, son of and heir to prime minister Harold Macmillan as chairman of Macmillan publishersPublishers; Lord Gibson, chairman of Pearson Longman, the holding company for the Financial Times, The Economist and Westminster Press; Alan Hare, who had during 1947-1961 worked for the Foreign Office and was now chairman of the Financial Times.There were also Tory MP Cranley Onslow and Labour MP Woodrow Wyatt. Nearly every director interviewed said he did not know who had paid for his share, and Africa Now reported young Macmillan as being nonchalant about it: “Why should I pry into who chose to provide it?” The second case involved Reuters – one of the four Western news agencies which – with Russia’s Tass – monopolise the lucrative news trade throughout the world, and whose representatives have always denied that there is a serious imbalance in the international news traffic, leave alone that they have consciously been involved in the historic distortion of the Third World’s image. Describing Reuters as “by far the biggest fish” in the game of conscious deception, Africa Now wrote: “In the First World War, Reuters’ managing director, Sir Roderick Jones, accepted a subsidy for £120,000 [at that time quite a sum] to distribute government-inspired news. Jones [also, nota bene] held the post of director of propaganda in the Ministry of Information…” In 1937, the report continued, Jones entered an agreement with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain by which the agency received a regular subvention throughout the Second World War, an arrangement which meant that Reuters was now a department of the Ministry of Information – a tie from which it has never really divested itself – where, we recall, Tom Clarke was deputy director of the News Division. All this took place under a veil of secrecy, although in 1930, the managing director had boasted: “Reuters news in some form or another finds its way into every country in the world … I do not think there is any other factor that has been consistently working directly or indirectly … with such effect for the advancement of British influence…” In other words, while professing to report the world objectively, the agency was admitting that the cultivation of subjective official British interests was its main aim throughout the world; that it was nothing but a propaganda instrument of the state, spitting forth huge volumes of soot for the consumption of the Third World’s ever avaricious educated elite. It was through the auspices of Reuters that the South African News Agency (now called South African Press Agency) was formed in 1912. Right here in Nairobi, Reuters had close connections with the rise of the East African Standard Newspaper Limited, publishers of Nairobi’s still existing East African Standard newspaper.With such subordinate sisters as The Mombasa Times, The Uganda Argus, The Tanganyika Standard, The Times of Zambia and The Southern Rhodesian Herald, this white settler organ dominated print information in colonial Kenya, carrying ideas which promoted only white settler interests. Faced with these overwhelming facts, Gerald Long, who had for a long time denied that the trade in world news was anybody’s monopoly, was only recently forced to admit that these arrangements with the British and Third World governments existed. He said, however, that he had not known of them until he himself became managing director in 1961. Said he: “I didn’t like it and determined to put an end to it as soon as possible…” And yet the agency’s connections with Whitehall remain to this day. An end was put only to the form in which those connections existed, and this not until six years later, in 1969, causing the link between it and Britanova to reveal itself through Britanova’s sudden collapse. Yet until these disclosures in a Unesco manuscript, Gerald Long had taken great exceptions to an oft-repeated statement by that time’s Unesco director-general Mahtar M’Bow of Senegal that – as Africa Now put it – “ … communication often appears as the privilege of a tight-knit group of professionals or technocrats who hold populations at their mercy, and can direct, if not manipulate, them at will …” Although Reuters had been doing just that ever since the beginning of the 20th century, including for a whole six years under Gerald Long, Long could still deny it in the following remarkable manner: “I would like the director-general [M’Bow] to tell us how the manipulation is brought about, how it works, to give us some example of it. I know none…” Apparently, when Long stated that denial, he was still unaware of the existence of the Unesco manuscript. Else he would not have exposed himself in this way as a compulsive liar, a charge proved by his more recent stint as managing director of Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London (exposed in Harold Evans’ book Good Times, Bad Times). At the 1969 collapse of Britanova, the operations of the company were left in the hands of a former affiliate known as INRAR (International News Rights and Royalties). Yet Africa Now reported that no such company was to be found in any business or charitable directory. So it was impossible for anybody to confront it with the question of what its main business was to be, now that Britanova had died. Reuter is not alone in this perpetration of spurious “objectivity” when reporting the Third World, especially Africa. Africa Now’s series dealt with yet a third instance of collusion between the British government and a London-connected features agency operating in and catering for Africa. In 1968, a year before Britanova’s collapse, the magazine informs us, INRAR “…bought 35 out of 90 £1 shares in a Kenya[-based] company called Africa Features. Victor Cannon Brookes had registered Africa Features in 1973 “…as a British company at the same address as the World Features Service. Its first directors were James Holburn, The Times chief correspondent in the Middle East from 1952 [to] 1955; Sir Kenneth Granville Bradley and John Collier. Bradley had spent a lifetime in the British colonial service, editing the Colonial Service Journal after retiring from service…” In 1968, John Baptist Abuoga, a veteran Kenyan journalist, published his Kenya Press Directory, in which he describes Africa Features as “…unique. It is the only Africa-based and African editorially-staffed service on the continent serving the continent…” Abuoga, who has since died, may have been misled by the fact, as Africa Now says, that “…the two staff correspondents at that time were John Dumoga and Charles Kulundu…” The one was a Ghanaian, who had earlier served Nairobi’s Nation as foreign editor, and the other a Kenyan. Two years earlier, in l966, Ugandan journalist Boni Lubega had been appointed its editor. But Africa Now does well to point out that “None of these [journalists] need have known that they were working for British intelligence…” Stephen Spender, the noted British poet, similarly pleaded ignorant when the exposure came in 1967 that Encounter, the highbrow London-based journal with which Spender had been involved for many years, was receiving CIA funds through a Paris conduit. I myself have worked for a book publishing firm in Nairobi later said to have been receiving CIA funds without my knowledge of it. Despite the claims that Africa Features had nothing else but the interests of Africa at heart, Africa Now reports that the agency’s “Weekly file of material airmailed to clients was being edited, and in some cases written, in London in 1969. We have been told by … former AF employees that their material was taken by nearly every English-language paper in Africa and we have traced a considerable amount of AF and WFS copy in magazines with a Third World orientation published in Britain.” It adds: “Both in the African press and in Britain this material is published without attribution – a procedure which is difficult to explain for a genuine commercial agency trying to build up its business…” We learn, too, that before turning to Nairobi to start Africa Features as its managing director, John Collier had been assistant editor of Visnews, the world’s leading supplier of TV news film to certain networks known to behave at critical times as propaganda organs of Washington, London, Jerusalem and Tokyo, including the BBC, the (American) NBC and the (Japanese) NHK. ******\ This summarises the subjective link between the media and a particular state. But what is its objective expression? For what reason do editors, as a rule, give in to demands by statesmen, especially at critical times, while claiming all the time that they enjoy “total freedom” too publish? In an amazingly simple-minded book published by the Internatioal Press Istitute (IPI), even Kit Coppard affirms: “Censorship, of course, has been a central concern in IPI’s continuing fight for the free flow of information. It takes many forms and can occur … in ‘democratic’ as well as authoritarian regimes.” Yet meddling is the norm even in the world’s “most democratic” regime, the United States. In The Other Government, William Rivers quotes David Broder of the Washington Post as commenting as follows: “Weekly file of material airmailed to clients was being edited, and in some cases written, in London in 1969.” What Broder does not say is that, because the statesmen and the corporations, which include the media, have identical econo-material interests, the media owners and managers usually willingly allow their possessions to function as instruments of the state, especially during a crisis in an overseas situation in which the entire corporate family has a deep interest. As James Aronson puts it in The Press and the Cold War, “The national interest was [and still is] interpreted for them [the newspapers] by the managers of the syndicates and the owners of the newspapers, businessmen who identify themselves, because of their conglomerate financial concerns, with national policies that protect these financial concerns – including investment in the huge war plants sweetly described as defence industries.” In l968 the Boston Globe conducted a survey which, in Aronson’s words, found that “…not one newspaper advocated withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, although millions of Americans had expressed themselves in favour of withdrawal.” Aronson’s story is corroborated by many other sources. On l2 November, l962, I.F. Stone spoke of a “… readiness of the press corps to be the willing conduit of all kinds of official misinformation and mischief as dished out in the capital’s 57 varieties of off-the-record-but-please-use-it press conferences.” Herbert Schiller sums it up as follows: “What exists, for the most part, in advanced market economies, is a varying mixture of governmental regulation and subsidisation of the mass media. The government itself constitutes a powerful news-generating agency. Beyond it is a more or less free-wheeling private sector that dominates communication activities outside the official sector. In this sector are included film-making, TV production, newspapers, books, records, advertising, public relations, opinion polling and market research.” Aronson quotes US newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst as summarising it thus neatly: “Our editorial policy has not changed much. It’s still basically our country’s interest way above anyone else’s. I don’t fall into that one-world, do-gooder class.” It is an amazingly honest remark by a member of the perennially mendacious corporate intelligentsia. Aronson comments: “In a monotonous sea of group hypocrisy, this chip-off-the-old-block candour was almost refreshing.” Yes, for “our country’s interest”: read: “Our profit interest abroad”. Among the reasons the corporate press originally supported the Vietnam Wwar all the way till it was no longer supportable was that the war industry was so lucrative to fellow-corporations, especially the “defence industries”, the arms manufacturers. Journalist Richard Rovere (in Senator Joe McCarthy) and law and political science professor Robert Carr (in The House Committee on Un-American Activities) try to exonerate the US media by arguing that the media merely reflect the American mind. It does, it does! But this only because the corporate media are the foster mother of the American mind so long ago created by the same corporate classroom. Listen to Aronson’s retort: “Both the Carr and Rovere … seem to me to be alarmingly misleading. The American press does not reflect the American mind – it reflects the views of established power which in turn seeks to mould the American mind to accept its prejudices. The American press seeks to shape public opinion, or even to replace public opinion, by fostering and presenting a unanimity of views which it then offers as public opinion.” And again: “The American press does not reflect the American mind – it reflects the views of established power which in turn seeks to mould the American mind to accept [the unanimity] … The press of the United States has to a large degree become a voluntary arm of established power…” If Lyndon Johnson often enjoyed the benefit of the doubt, his predecessor, the “charming” John F. Kennedy, was never so lucky. Kennedy was a crude dabbler in double-speak and a grotesque meddler in the so-called “private” or “independent” media. That the media themselves were willing accomplices in attempts by all US administrations to gag them was admitted through astonishing statements on Kennedy by two of the most famous and most powerful newspapermen even before Kennedy was inaugurated as president after the l959 election. In a syndicated column published on 25 October, l960, Walter Lippmann, an otherwise self-respecting journalist, wrote as follows: “What Mr Kennedy advocated looks toward doing in Cuba what the [Eisenhower] Administration, as all the world knows, did do in Guatemala. The difference is that Mr Kennedy very unwisely said what he would do about Cuba in the future, whereas the Eisenhower Administration has been boasting about what it did in Guatemala. “What this shows is that neither side [the reference is to the two “contrasting” political parties] seems to have learned the lesson so flagrantly illustrated in the U-2 affair, that when a government goes into a political black market it must keep its mouth shut.” The U-2 was an American aircraft, manned by one Gary Power, which in the 1960s Khrushchev’s Moscow shot down as it hovered heinously above the Soviet clouds on an espionage mission. Aronson quotes James Reston – the notorious pro-government journalist who was then the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times – as writing in a column the same day: “Senator Kennedy would have done better to keep quiet … for we are now probably in for another big splashy debate involving not only Cuba, but Guatemala and the activities of the CIA, and a lot of other things that could well be left unsaid.” This was a reference to a statement by Kennedy many months before the 1959 election revealing to all and sundry what he would do to Cuba if elected president. Dwight Eisenhower had overthrown a democratically elected Guatemalan president to replace him with a leader more quiescent in America’s corporate interests in that country. A number of carrots are dangled in the face of the unwary, including “independent private-sector people” and “free flow of news”. And yet, here, two doyens of American journalism say directly and openly that the American people should not have been told about Kennedy’s plan to invade Cuba. Kennedy clearly internalised this piece of wisdom. Aronson cites two examples in which the president directly prevailed on owners and editors not to publish a story concerning planned US aggression on Cuba: “Early in April l96l, [Arthur] Schlesinger [then a close aide to the President, writes in his book A Thousand Days that] Gilbert Harrison, publisher of the New Republic, sent to him galley proofs of an article slated for publication. It was a “careful, accurate and devastating account of CIA activities among the [Cuban] refugees [in Florida].” “Schlesinger showed the article to the President and, at the President’s request, it was suppressed by the New Republic. This, said Schlesinger, was a “patriotic [act] which left me oddly uncomfortable”. About the same time [as] Schlesinger wrote, a story was filed to the New York Times by its own correspondent, Tad Szulc, telling of CIA recruitment in Florida among the [Cuban] refugees and reporting that a landing in Cuba was imminent. “Here the drama begins. Turner Catledge, then managing editor, called James Reston, chief of the Washington bureau, for guidance. Don’t print it, Reston advised – the Times will bear the burden for dead invaders – or the expedition will be cancelled outright. “‘Another patriotic act,’ wrote Schlesinger, still a mite uncomfortable, ‘but in retrospect I have wondered whether if the press had behaved irresponsibly [!], it would have spared the country a disaster’…” It seems not to have occurred to Schlesinger that the lack of responsibility lay in the first instance with an administration which had planned and launched this enterprise. “Elie Abel, a journalism professor at a California university, reported, according to Aronson: “Both the Washington Post and the New York Times had put together a fairly shrewd notion of what was coming. So the President telephoned Orvil Dryfoos, then publisher of the Times, and Philip Graham, publisher of the [Washington] Post, asking them not to give the game away in Monday morning’s papers. “[Secretary of Defence Robert] MacNamara made a similar appeal to John Hay Whitney, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune. Publishing less than it knew, the Times that night carried a front-page story about preparations for an unspecified major crisis.” We read as follows: “The president instructed [Pierre] Salinger to say that there was “nothing to” such reports. The portly press secretary was not himself persuaded. But, having been told nothing more, he passed the word to inquiring reporters. The Pentagon, fending off queries later in the day about a published report by [syndicated columnists] Paul Scott and Robert S. Allen about missiles in Cuba, took the occasion to issue a two-in-one denial. “It said the government ‘has no information indicating the presence of offensive weapons in Cuba’, adding that no alert had been ordered to ‘any emergency measures’ set in motion against Cuba. The alert, in fact, had just been ordered. Messages went out at 1.20 p.m. on Friday to the Atlantic and Caribbean commands, warning on possible air attacks on the Panama Canal Ramsey Air Force Base, and the Naval Station at Roosevelt Road, Puerto Rico. “Hawk anti-aircraft missile batteries were directed to increase their readiness for possible action. Somehow the president’s secret remained a secret; the Pentagon’s deliberate double lie probably helped.” Aren’t they just wonderful these champions of absolute freedom from censorship and from the state? In a l982 report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s News Study Group, which revealed that the electronic media were not left out of this media-state conspiracy to lie so pathetically to the American people and the rest of the world concerning an international crisis in which the United States government was thickly involved. The study, by Edwin Diamond, Stephen Bates, John Boyer, David Cheney, Anne de Felice, Libby Handros, Brita Hougland and Seval Oz and published in the magazine TV Guide of August 7-13, revealed that during the Cuban crisis, “…a willing American press … withheld news developments, turned over radio facilities to the government and in general relayed [only] the administration’s version of events of that crisis in the Caribbean…” According to TV Guide: “In 1962, for example, ten radio stations around the US allowed themselves to be taken over by the government for three weeks so that Voice of America programmes in Spanish could be broadcast to Cuba. On 22 Oct[ober], the day … [of] President Kennedy’s speech to the nation, the administration had arranged for special phone lines to be strung to the stations without the owners’ knowledge. “At 6 pm, with the speech less than an hour away … Salinge … called each station to ask that their facilities be turned over to the government. Until mid-November, all ten stations remained under government control. This was only the most visible sign of media-government co-operation…” What the writers are saying in this last sentence is of supreme significance. Because they have in common the same wishes and goals overseas, the media and the government co-operate all the time. But what the media report of this co-operation is always only the tip of the iceberg. The report went on to describe the collusion in this activity by the largest newspaper in the United States, the New York Times, a newspaper which never tires of condemning media-government co-operation in the Third World. “Privately,” said TV Guide, “the administration also made calls to newspaper publishers – including one by President Kennedy himself to the New York Times – asking them to hold back on stories in the interest of ‘national safety’. The papers agreed…” (italics mine). Two cheers, then, for Leonard Sussman’s constitutional “guarantees” on “liberties” in the US! In The Other Government, William Rivers reports that, in fact, it was James Reston who, in Washington, DC, took the initiative to alert Kennedy to the fact that the paper was about to print the story on Kennedy’s imminent invasion of Cuba. Kennedy, says Rivers, would not have [needed to plead] with the editor not to publish had the editor not telephoned him. According to Rivers, “John Kennedy admitted that he [had] acquired new information from the New York Times about his own secret sponsorship of [Cuba’s] Bay of Pigs invasion. Eleven days before the invasion that the CIA had been shepherding so carefully, the editors of the Times informed Kennedy that their correspondent, Tad Szulc, had discovered the secret and that a detailed news report was imminent. “Kennedy persuaded the publisher to postpone publication until after the landing in Cuba.” What is special about this is that it was the newspaper itself informing the government that the newspaper had a story about it. The New York Times’ managing editor of the time, Clifton Daniel, was to admit it in a speech to the World Press Institute. In The Kingdom and the Power, a biography of the New York newspaper, Gay Talese reports: “[Kennedy’s] had been a remarkable speech. It told of Times editors fuming and disagreeing with one another over how the pre-invasion story should be played on the front page on that particular evening in l96l. Originally, Daniel recalled, the story had been scheduled for the lead position on page one. “But then the publisher of The Times, Orvil Dryfoos, following the advice of his close friend James Reston, ordered the story toned down, moved to a less prominent place on the page, its headline minimised and any reference to the imminence of the invasion eliminated. “It was in the national interest to withhold certain vital facts from the American people, including the CIA involvement, Dryfoos and Reston felt, but other Times editors strongly disagreed. One of them … became so infuriated that he quivered with emotion … turned “dead white” and demanded that Dryfoos himself come down from the publisher’s office and personally order the Times’ self-censorship. “Dryfoos did, justifying it on grounds that national security and concern for the safety of the men preparing to offer their lives on the beaches of Cuba. But after the invasion had failed … even President Kennedy conceded that perhaps the Times had been overly protective of American interests; if the Times had printed all it knew about the Cuban venture beforehand, Kennedy suggested, the invasion might have been cancelled and the bloody fiasco avoided.” If you have to wait for the President of a country to give you that piece of wisdom, you must be extremely short-sighted even about your own narrowest interests. What Talese reveals about the goings-on at the Times on that day should remind us that our condemnation of the collusion between the media and the politicians is institutional. It does not prevent individual journalists from taking a principled position on particular cases or throughout. The Times editorial dissenters protested as a matter of principle on that particular occasion. People like Anthony Smith, Phil Harris, Herbert Schiller and James Aronson do it consistently. But the Florida activities were only part of this general CIA-operated plan to invade Cuba and overthrow the government of President Fidel Castro using Cuba’s own exiles in the US and Guatemala. The Guatemala story was first broken in the Hispanic American Report by Dr Ronald Hilton, director of the Stanford University Institute of Hispanic American and Luso-Brazilian Studies, after a visit to Guatemala. Because of the narrow readership of that publication, however, few people noticed the report. It was only after the Nation, a respected New York weekly, had editorialised on it, that it began to cause waves. Wrote the Nation: “The US Central Intelligence Agency has acquired a large tract of land at an outlay in excess of $l,000,00, which is stoutly fenced and heavily guarded.” Dr Hilton was informed that it was “common knowledge” in Guatemala that the tract is being used as a training ground for Cuban counter-revolutionaries who are preparing for an eventual landing in Cuba. It was also said that US personnel and equipment are being used at the base. The camp is said to be located in Retalhuleu, between Guatemala City and the coast. Fidel Castro may have a sounder basis for his expressed fears of a US-financed “Guatemala-type” invasion than most of us realise. The words in quotes (“Guatemala-type”) are a reference to the l954 invasion of Guatemala by US President Eisenhower to install there a regime more pliant to the District of Columbia. Nine days after the Nation’s editorial, the New York Times blandly reported the Guatemalan leader as denying the report about Cuba. It wrote: “President [Miguel] Ydigoras branded the reports as a ‘lot of lies’. He said the base … was one of several on which Guatemalan army personnel was being trained in guerrilla warfare. The object of the training, he said, was to combat invasions of the type that had occurred recently in Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.” Of course, the president was lying and the newspaper was trying to cover him up. Victor Bernstein and Jesse Gordon wrote as follows in the Columbia University Forum: “In lying to both the Times man [Paul Kennedy] and the AP reporter, President Ydigoras displayed the virtue of consistency, at least [he was a consistent liar]. “ But there is another, more significant, observation to be made about these two dispatches. Neither reporter took the elementary journalistic step (or, if they took it, failed to report that they had done so) of interviewing anyone on the staff of La Hora [the Guatemalan newspaper], which had published the story the previous 30 October. “At the very least, they should have seen – or reported an attempt to see – the newspaper’s publisher, Clemente Marroquin Rojas, who was then a member of the Ydigoras cabinet [and was to become Guatemala’s vice-president]. “Moreover, according to Dr Hilton, the base and its purpose were “common knowledge” in the country; should not the reporters have been instructed, at the very minimum, to test this “common knowledge”? … But both correspondents chose to go to the one man who would be sure to deny the story – the president.” On l0 October, the Nation posed a stark question: “Is it really beyond the power of the US press to discover who is fomenting the Cuban crisis – Castro, or the United States?” The US newspapers had given themselves the task of covering up for Kennedy and, therefore, were not expected to tell the truth, though they knew it very well. Aronson reports that, although the New York Times had dismissed the story as “hearsay”, the paper was now constrained to send a reporter, Paul Kennedy, to Guatemala. His story, confirming the truth, was published on l0 January. “The [Paul] Kennedy story was somewhat muffled in the customary Times style of ‘balancing the news’,” writes Aronson. “It spoke of ‘Guatemala’s military preparations for what Guatemalans consider will be an almost inevitable clash with Cuba’.” Notice the slant. It would be a “clash” for which both sides would be responsible. And the “clash” would be between Cuba and Guatemala, not between Cuba and CIA-trained and CIA-funded Cuban reactionaries. No evidence is given for these assertions: No evidence can be given because they are pure inventions by the newspaper. But the facts in Paul Kennedy’s story made it clear that the preparations were being organised by the United States and had nothing to do with Guatemala, except, of course, for the fact that Guatemala, a client US state, had surrendered its sovereignty to be used as a base of aggression against Cuba. Voluntary newspaper collusion with the White House was revealed in this other story. According to Aronson, “…the Bay of Pigs invasion proved a spectacular fiasco, thanks to the CIA’s well-known ineptitude and penchant for acting on poorly conducted field studies … The day after the Kennedy article appeared, the Miami Herald published its first story on an airlift operation from Miami to Retalhuleu.” He adds that the article carried the following telltale “explanatory” statement: “Publication of the accompanying story on the Miami-Guatemala airlift was withheld for more than two months by the Herald. Its release was decided upon only after the US aid to anti-Castro fighters in Guatemala was first revealed elsewhere.” He then comments: “Thus the Herald acknowledged that it had the facts on Retalhuleu even when the Nation was breaking the Hilton story in November. Whether it sat on the story at the request of the government or on its own decision it did not say. In any case the story was withheld until after the Times, pressured by [commercial competition], had decided that the “secret” had become public enough to print.” John Kennedy, we’re told, went livid with rage, blaming it all on the press. Aronson retorted: “…if the press was shielding the president from the basic responsibility for the debacle, Kennedy himself knew where the blame lay and his embarrassment was great. “He sought to cover it with bluster in a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors on 20 April 12 in which he delivered a virtual ultimatum to the Latin American nations to help Washington overthrow Castro or face the consequences – direct intervention by Washington in their countries to safeguard the ‘security of our own nation’. “The speech and the invasion itself were widely endorsed in the press. A straw vote poll of the editors the morning after the speech, asking the question, “Do you consider that President Kennedy is doing a good job?” got a yes vote by a margin of l20 to l0. In the speech, he actually began by accusing the Press of failure to see the dangers of Soviet activities both in the Soviet Union itself and abroad. He said of the neo-Stalinist state: “Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. “No expenditure is questioned, no rumour is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a wartime discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.” Perhaps “hope”. For, as for “wish”, Kennedy has himself just gasped aloud for the Soviet system. As Aronson comments, “Kennedy, who had drastically attributed to the ‘enemy’ the very characteristics the United States had demonstrated in the Bay of Pigs situation, got down to what was really on his mind.” He quotes Kennedy as warming up to his speech in these remarkable terms. “Every newspaper now asks itself with respect to every story: ‘Is it news?’ All I suggest is that you add the question: ‘Is it in the interest of national security?’ (It was a question which the inimitable journalist Walter Lippmann and the journalistic flak James Reston had already asked themselves and answered. Kennedy stressed it: “I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to re-examine his own standards, and to recognise the nature of our country’s peril. In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort, based largely on self-discipline, to prevent unauthorised disclosure to the enemy. “ In times of clear and present danger, the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public’s need for national security.” The corporate-state needs are here stated very clearly, even though, as usual, an attempt is made to euphemise them as “the public’s needs”. The President says openly here that, in times of war, even the vaunted “separation of powers” is thrown overboard with alacrity and the judiciary is turned into an arm of the executive’s military array. On ll November, Warren Rogers commented in the New York Herald Tribune: “For more than three weeks, the United States government has been operating under a clampdown on news that has no parallel in modern history.” Aronson remarks of it: “Rarely has a government official in the United States – and in this case the nation’s highest official – expressed more clearly the concept that the press should voluntarily become an arm of government.” That brings us to the question: How did Washington’s newspaper people react to this acquiescence in government appeals for “restraint”? One indication came in an apologetic statement on the crisis coverage by John Lindsay of Newsweek magazine, in the March 1963 issue of Nieman Reports of Harvard University: Wrote he: “It is no great surprise to me that despite the red herring dragged across the trail, cover stories and other devices used, two newspapers nailed the story of the administration’s plan for the handling of the introduction of Soviet missiles into Cuba. That they sat on this at the request of the administration may be news management, but if it was, the precedents are clear and unassailable.” As Aronson reports, the president did not give any example of the “clear and unassailable” precedents. But maybe he did not need to. State-press co-operation during crises is a self-evident fact, which reached its most embarrassing proportions during George Bush II’s ravishment of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The sad commentary on Lindsay’s position is that, even as a newspaperman, he is completely untroubled by what it implies for freedom of the Press. Not the principle, but only the latter-day “investigative reporter’s” bag of tricks to get at a story – the “curiosity, imagination, boldness and the insight” the two newspapers “employed to get past the administration’s screen” – that is what overwhelms him. In Aronson’s words, “He professed himself ‘green with envy”’. Others were more concerned [about] the whole practice.” To which a more conscientious journalist commented: “While even many newspapermen may tend to pass off the present flap [over news management, it is] a passing phase that is only a product of the Cuban crisis, and will disappear with it,” wrote Murrey Marder in the Washington Post of November 22, 1962 He reported that “… administration officials frankly acknowledge in private that this is not true. They concede – in fact, assert – that long before the Cuban crisis many officials in the administration were seriously rethinking the whole government-press relationship.” And we are told that this “rethinking” was anything but beneficial. To make the dictates of “national security” take precedence over everything else whatsoever, they were thinking of how to gag the press altogether during war, but in such a way as to make it look in every way benign and in every way in line with the country’s vaunted list of “liberties”. But, of course – and this is the point – what happens during every international crisis makes this completely unnecessary. Being a vital member of the corporate family, the media are always willing to co-operate with the state on fundamental questions. For the state is the political expression of the corporations collectively. The national security theme is a persistent one whenever a government feels constrained to try to regiment the press in this manner. Here is just one more example of direct intervention by the US government in newspaper activities, this time concerning the ignominious American bestialities in South-East Asia from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. In a short self-clarification piece called “A Letter to My Daughter”, David Halberstam, the famous American journalist, describes in moving terms his own experience as the New York Times’ reporter of the Vietnam War. Published in Parade and reproduced in the 2 May, 1982, edition of the Oakland Tribune, the story begins:”…I lost my innocence in Vietnam. Ideals of egalitarianism, I decided, were not easily exported, and often the people in Washington most eager to export them were in fact those who most clearly failed to live up to them at home…” The thing about this happy realisation of the hypocrisy in Washington and throughout the US was not that he had decided that the American system needed drastic changes to rid it of the Pharisees choking the pores of that society. No, egalitarianism remained for him a purely abstract ideo-political concept devoid of any econo-material substratum. All that Halberstam was saying was that America’s own political “dream” was not being pursued to cover the Vietnamese; that the Vietnamese – in whose name Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon alleged to be fighting the so-called “Vietcong” – were being subjected by US soldiers to horrendous brutalities for no other reason than what Philip Slater, in his book In Pursuit of Loneliness, calls “perverted national beliefs”. After some time, the happy discovery had forced Halberstam, a man of relative intellectual honesty, to write just that in his New York Times dispatches, for which reason certain officials in Washington had decided to bludgeon the young reporter into telling lies. He wrote in his Parade piece: “ …Because I was reporting for the New York Times, the most influential of the country’s newspapers, I became the main target of all the people who had a vested interest in making the war effort look better than it actually did. “I was attacked for being left-wing, which I was not; attacked for cowardice, though I had been on 50 missions by then (including a stint in Leopoldville [now Kinshasa] to cover the Congo crisis); attacked even for my manhood and my patriotism. Nor was it just ambassadors and generals and magazines and newspapers. Soon it was two presidents as well. “President Kennedy, whose vision of our national responsibility had so challenged me, asked the publisher of the Times to pull me out of Saigon [now Ho Chi Minh City]. Lyndon Johnson was more blunt. I, like my colleague and friend Neil Shoehan, was a traitor to my country, he told reporters…” That, then, is the general picture. As we have seen, many journalists eagerly work with the government as flaks. Thus the most painful thing about Halberstam’s story was that a fellow journalist was the one used by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to break Halberstam’s spine. In his own words, “A well known journalist from Washington named Marguerite Higgins, who was very much a voice for the Pentagon [the US ministry of Defence] came out to Saigon for a brief tour. She soon went around telling other reporters what she had been told by a marine general in Washington. “Halberstam, she said quoting the general, had been shown a photo of a bunch of Vietcong bodies and he had burst into tears. Tears were for women, of course, and not only had I wept, but I had wept for the other side. I was stunned; the story was completely untrue and it was, I feared –for I was young and vulnerable – potentially damaging.” In other words, he had come from a tradition in which it is at the height of insolence for a man to be accused of shedding tears, however touching the cause may be, and where tears could only be treasonous if they were shed for the “enemy”. What’s more, for Halberstam, these accusations were not even true but cooked up in order to ruin him. No wonder he felt completely destroyed. He reports that, in later life, he wished he had poured profuse tears over such Washington acts of savagery as had taken place at My Lai in Vietnam. He wrote: “I have decided that the true innocents are not those – as Washington would have it – who are afraid to use force and thus do not understand the real world, but those who still think that in this day and age we [official America] can impose our values and our will upon peasants by force.” Yet nobody seems willing or able to benefit from such a clear lesson. Neither Reagan nor Clinton nor yet the two Bushes would pay any attention. They went on to ride roughshod over other peoples no matter what it cost the American people in terms of blood and money. Since they don’t see beyond their noses and will not listen to what Kwame Nkrumah called “the news broadcasts of history”, they often do things that go directly against their own long-term interests. They are in every country in the world, trying, by pure brawn, and sometimes for astoundingly short-term gains, to impose their will on all mankind.