Accuracy in Media, which Alan Wolfe and Michael Massing dissect and analyze extensively in this issue, works for the Reagan Administration in this country the way governments work for themselves in many other countries. AIM seeks by pressure, threats and blackmail to create the kind of cultural and political consensus that allows the authorities to rule without regard for honesty and to retain power without fear of successful opposition. Accuracy is the least of its concerns.
When governments themselves assume the consensus-building function, jails and gulags are likely to bulge with the bodies of those deemed inaccurate for daring to propose their own, unauthorized, versions of history or current events. In this country, until recently, the dissenters have remained free but marginalized, isolated and unemployed by the major media. Now that the Administration is beginning to enforce a spurious official secrets act, even that freedom may be jeopardized. The conviction of Samuel Morison for leaking information relating to defense policy does not match the widespread use of state sanctions against writers and journalists in the Soviet Union (of which the arrest of Nicholas Daniloff is a bizarre example), but it grows out of an antipathy to dissent that is shared by the superpowers in a time of heightened tension between them. Accuracy in the media is an inevitable victim of the cold war.
What is amazing in this country is the speed and the enthusiasm with which the national media adopt official values and promote the consensus almost before it is put forth by the authorities. …