The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War

By William V. Kennedy | Go to book overview


Managing the "Right to Lie"

Early on March 2, 1966, the U.S. Department of Defense alerted the Washington press corps that a major announcement would be made at a secretarial press conference later that day.

The briefing room was filled, with overflow connected by intercom in an adjoining room. The reporters were handed one of the most remarkable documents ever released by a government at war -- nothing less than the entire troop deployment schedule for U.S. forces being sent to fight in Vietnam, as well as what was available, down to the last battalion, for worldwide contingencies, not least of them a possible Soviet offensive into Western Europe. 1

"Recently articles have appeared in the press," the announcement began, "which give the impression that because of the major deployments of U.S. military forces to Southeast Asia the United States is now militarily overextended and would not be able to meet other contingencies. . . ."

The recent articles were reports by Hanson W. Baldwin of the New York Times that Senate Armed Services Committee investigators had concluded U.S. forces worldwide had, indeed, been gutted to support the deployments to Vietnam. The press conference was designed to refute that charge.

A quick scan of the seven-page, closely typed statement revealed something else: The deployment schedule described could not be achieved without fifteen National Guard divisions that Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara had been proclaiming for at least a year to be "excess to military requirements." That was part of an elaborate effort to demonstrate that, while conducting the war in Vietnam, the administration was achieving large savings in overall defense management.

Sitting in front of McNamara as he presented the written statement and

-129-

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The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xi
  • 1 - Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover A War 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Roots of Conflict 13
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Television: The Here, Now, and Obituary Medium 21
  • Notes 39
  • 4 - The Dailies: Shaky Bedrock 41
  • Note 58
  • 5 - The Wire Services: The Weakest Reed 61
  • Notes 71
  • 6 - The Magazines 73
  • Notes 85
  • 7 - Vietnam: The Watershed 87
  • Notes 104
  • 8 - Aftermath 109
  • Notes 125
  • 9 - Managing the "Right to Lie" 129
  • Notes 140
  • 10 - How to Defeat the "Right to Lie" 143
  • Notes 154
  • Epilogue 157
  • Select Bibliography 159
  • Index 163
  • About the Author *
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