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

By William V. Kennedy | Go to book overview

during the televised press conferences would be tantamount to placing a loaded shotgun in the hands of a four-year-old.

There must also be a clear distinction between the access to U.S. military operations granted to competently trained American journalists and that accorded to foreign journalists. It is dangerous enough to grant access to an American who regards himself or herself as a "world journalist," free of such "middle class values" as patriotism. It is utterly impossible to determine the ultimate allegience of foreign reporters.

Do the restrictions on American journalists imposed during the Persian Gulf and certain to be imposed in the future if American journalism continues to resist change contain an element of danger for democratic government? Most certainly. To the degree that any aspect of government, in particular the military, is permitted to define how its activities are reported to the public there is a danger. But that danger must be weighted against the more immediate danger to the success of major military operations and to the personal safety of members of the armed forces.

It is the press itself, by adherence to outmoded concepts of organization and training, that has created the danger that now exists in the need for excessive military control, and it is only the press that can reduce those controls by beginning to act responsibly.


NOTES
1.
William E. DePuy, "Keynote Address", Armor ( July-August 1977): 34. In the same speech, fifteen years before his words would be confirmed in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, DePuy said, "There is only one real Cavalry left in the Army and that is Air Cavalry. . . . The only real mobility differential we have is air mobility. . . . When the Germans broke open the World War I combat [pattern] in Poland in 1939 . . . they did it with Armor. We haven't broken open the armored warfare [pattern] of World War II. . . . The real question of the future is whether or not somebody will break the shell of that. . . . I think that someday there may be another breakthrough. . . . We have just got to keep our eye on that." (p. 34)
2.
"The Keeper of Secrets in Chief", New York Times, 15 April 1986, p. B6.
3.
Leslie Maitland Werner, "Meese Favors Reducing Total of Classified Data", New York Times, 21 March 1985, p. A25.
4.
"State Secrecy Doesn't Help National Security" (Op Ed), Wall Street Journal, 18 June 1986.
5.
"It Isn't Spying" (Editorial), New York Times, 4 March 1985.
6.
U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Government Operations, Security Classification Policy and Executive Order 12356 ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982).
7.
"The American press makes me think of a gigantic, super-modern fish cannery, a hundred floors high, capitalized at eleven billion dollars, and with tens of thousands of workers standing ready at the canning machines, but relying for its raw material on an inadequate number of handline fishermen in leaky rowboats." A. J. Liebling, "Goodbye M.B. I.", The New Yorker, 7 February 1948.

-154-

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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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