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

By William V. Kennedy | Go to book overview

peace. Indeed, there was an active debate for a time among prominent national journalists as to whether a major war could ever again be possible in the face of such media technology. Yet from the moment the president decided to intervene until the last shot was fired, the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 would prove to be the first war in U.S. history in which the press was so totally controlled that there would never be a timely public or congressional questioning of the presidential decisions that committed the country irrevocably to what could have been a nuclear war.

To anyone who truly values the democratic concept that must be a source of deep concern.


NOTES
1.
U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, "Statement of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara" (News Release), 2 March 1966.
2.
The degree of control McNamara had achieved over the press can be judged from the more normal, and professional, reaction of news reporters when hotelier and tax-evader Leona Helmsley attempted to bar a reporter from the New York Post from a news conference: "Alex Michelini, a reporter for The Daily News, went to the press room and suggested to other reporters that they walk out, which they did." "Chronicle," New York Times, 20 September 1991, p. B6.
3.
Clark R. Mollenhoff, Address at Iowa Wesleyan College, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, 28 May 1966. Reprinted in the Congressional Record, 11 October 1966.
4.
"Further limiting the independence of the press are orders [by which] the functions of the Army, Navy and Air Force information offices are being cut back and the information centralized in the Office of the Assistant Secretary, Arthur Sylvester." Clark R. Mollenhoff, in The Press in Washington ed. Ray Eldon Hiebert ( New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1967) 214.
5.
This description was given to the author by one of the pilots who participated in the Bay of Pigs support operations, Lieutenant Colonel James C. Elliott, Virginia Air National Guard.
6.
There were a few in the press who understood the dimensions of what the Kennedy administration was creating. "Mr. Kennedy", former New York Times Washington Bureau chief Arthur Krock wrote in the March 1963 issue of Fortune magazine, "prefers the intimate background briefings of journalists, and their publishers, on a large scale, from which [they] emerge in a state of protracted enchantment. . . . The "informational directives' prescribed for the Pentagon" inflate success or gloss over error "in the aftermath of half-won showdowns -- such as President Kennedy's with respect to the Soviet rearmament of Cuba." Quoted in Associated Press, "Newsman Accuses JFK of Cynicism in News Handling", Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News, 24 April 1963.
7.
Ben A. Franklin and Hanson W. Baldwin in companion articles, the New York Times, 27 April 1967, p. 1.
8.
The beneficiaries of such largesse are never quite content. According to Lieutenant Colonel George Kuhn, then assistant state maintenance officer of the Pennsylvania National Guard, Baker decided that none of the government vehicles on

-140-

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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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