Before There Was CNN, There Was CBS

Article excerpt

It didn't begin with Peter Arnett and CNN. Media falsehoods reached a crescendo in the 1980s -led by CBS specials on American defense policy. These specials ignored expanded Soviet adventurism - sponsorship of insurgencies, wars of so-called national liberation, subversion, KGB disinformation programs and, above all, deployment of new generations of Soviet missiles targeted on western Europe. CBS and other mainstream media exemplified an updated operational code - advocacy journalism and adversary politics, still in use in the phony story about American policy in Vietnam.

A few years ago, Dr. Ernest Lefever did a masterful case history analysis of CBS documentaries entitled, "TV and National Defense: An Analysis of CBS News, 1972-1973." The study opened with a startlingly revealing quotation from Walter Cronkite: "There are always groups in Washington expressing views over the state of our defenses. We don't carry those stories. The story is that there are those who want to cut defense spending [emphasis added]."

In other words, instead of objective reporting, Mr. Cronkite was ensuring that only one side of the story - his side, of course, the liberal-left side - was told.

The Lefever study arose from the fact that a large sector of the American public, according to Gallup and Harris polls, perceived TV network news coverage and public affairs programs to be one-sided advocacy.

For example, in one such documentary, "The Selling of the Pentagon," broadcast Feb. 23, 1971, CBS engaged in some shady editorial practices, all done so as to make pro-defense spokesmen appear in a bad light. The Washington Post editorially criticized CBS, noting that such practices do "in fact result in a distortion of the record."

Mr. Lefever's report condemned CBS for:

* Failing "to provide the basic facts essential to understanding the central national security issues confronting the United States."

* Excluding "views on key questions that ran counter to the broadcast opinions of its own newsmen."

Did CBS News contribute to a full and fair debate on national security questions? Mr. Lefever's answer: No.

An equally devastating attack on the way CBS dealt with U.S. defense came in a September 1981 article in Commentary Magazine entitled, quite appropriately, "CBS vs. Defense." The article by Joshua Muravchik and John E. Haynes analyzed a June 1981 CBS documentary, "The Defense of the United States," which ran for five consecutive nights on prime time. …