Beyond Hypocrisy: Decoding the News
Interviewed by David Barsamian
July 14, 1993
Edward Herman is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He edits Lies of Our Times. He is a regular contributor to Z magazine. He has co-authored three books with Noam Chomsky, including Manufacturing Consent. He is the author of The Real Terror Network. His most recent book is Beyond Hypocrisy: Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda, which includes a doublespeak dictionary.
In 1973 you and Noam Chomsky wrote a monograph entitled "Counterrevolutionary Violence." It was to be published by Warner Modular Publications, a subsidiary of Warner Communications. 20,000 copies of "Counterrevolutionary Violence" were printed. An ad appeared in the New York Review of Books. What happened to the book?
The top brass got wind of this little document and was so horrified pained by it and that they insisted that it not be advertised any further or circulated. The thing was essentially not sold. Warner Modular was disbanded, that little suborganization was destroyed. The interesting thing about that incident is that one of the two principles of Warner was Stephen Ross, who recently died. He was the entrepreneur in the Time-Warner merger. This man who carried out this huge suppressive act, became the head of the biggest media organization in the world. The other thing about it that I've always found interesting is how it never got any publicity. Ben Bagdikian (The Media Monopoly) mentioned this story. A number of the civil libertarians, to whom we brought this information, said, Oh, they're not very interested. It's not a First Amendment issue. It's only a private act. I thought that was intriguing. A private act of suppression is not of interest to civil libertarians. It's only the government doing it.
What happened to the 20,000 copies that were printed?
They were transferred over to some other organization after Warner Modular was disbanded. This other organization never sold them, as far as I know. They were essentially destroyed.
However, Counterrevolutionary Violence did have an afterlife, as it were, because it was translated and published abroad.
That's true. Also, it inspired us to update it later. We turned it into a much larger work, a book called The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, which was a very large book, part of a two-volume set on the political economy of human rights, which we published in 1979. That did sell fairly well for a dissident work. (According to South End Press the book has sold 40,000 copies.)
In the world of media manipulation, control and censorship in the United States, this kind of incident, the pulping of a book, is rather atypical, is it not?
Yes, I think it is. There was a recent article in The Nation about the recent development of book suppressions based on the fact that the media conglomerates now are so complex and have so many interconnections with other organizations that if one finds that a book coming out is offensive to some powerful party elsewhere, the thing can be suppressed. There are a number of incidents where books in gestation or practically in print have been stopped. But I don't think that's anywhere near as important as the fact that the book business and the big media conglomerates are interested only in a very narrow range of books. They've been less interested in books that dig very deeply and criticize the establishment very seriously. So the fundamental suppression in America comes from the fact that books that would be really critical aren't entertained. They're not commissioned by the major publishers. They must come through South End Press or Sheridan Square Press or outfits like that.
These presses that you mentioned and others like Common Courage Press, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series are "organizations" that have very limited resources and find great difficulty in reaching a larger audience.
I'm very interested in the whole process of how books are reviewed and get circulation. I'm very impressed with the fact that the small publishers don't get their books reviewed very often. This is partly for political reasons, but also partly for reasons of strict commerce, that is, a big potential bestseller gets a lot of advertising. The publishers send the authors around on book tours and they get a lot of circulation. Frequently they're interested in selling books by people who are already TV names so that they have an automatic sale of 200,000 right off the bat. These books, the New York Times Book Review and the other book reviews will review partly because people will want to know about them because they're already well advertised, through money and knowledge of TV. So I think there's a political bias too. I'm doing a study of the book review process focusing on the New York Times. I'm convinced there's a political agenda. But it's complicated by the fact that the market makes large numbers of people interested in these potential bestsellers.
Also in terms of books and magazine articles, dissidents find their manuscripts are returned with regrets and perhaps a line about the piece being "unmarketable."
Yes, that sometimes happens. They may say "unmarketable." They may be reasonably honest about the fact that the sales potential is limited. They sometimes are not frank about that. Sometimes I think that's a cover for the fact that they don't like the political message. These big conglomerate publishers don't put forth an effort with advertising to have really good, important works put before the public. When the commercial imperative becomes so critical, the bottom line becomes critical, what happens is that these books that could sell, maybe even pay for themselves, maybe even have some positive rate of return, like 6% instead of 30%, they simply won't bother with them. So you have a marginalization process in which really serious critical works that would upset people simply will not make it into the media, into the bookselling business and thus into the conglomerate system.
There has been quite a bit of documentation about the increasing concentration of newspapers in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations. Most recently the Times bought the Boston Globe. Is the same trend discernible in book publishing?
Oh, yes. I don't have any numbers, but the concentration process is going on. The book business has not been a big growth industry. Therefore the bottom line oriented companies put more and more pressure on editors and publishers to come through, which means more and more constraints for profitability considerations to be dominant.
As this trend accelerates, there's also this countertrend that's going on, the aforementioned small presses, like South End, Common Courage, etc. How do you account for those little breakthroughs?
The system is not monolithic. Personally, I don't think it's that much of a breakthrough. South End Press has been in existence since 1978 or 1979. This is a big country. There are lots of little presses. There always were and always will be. I'm not sure that they have increased greatly in importance insofar as they do survive and to some extent prosper. South End Press, I think, has been doing fairly well because the big boys are leaving all the good dissident stuff to the small presses. They're the residuals. There are a lot of good books coming through for them.
In Beyond Hypocrisy, you quote George Orwell from his essay "Politics and the English Language." "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. ... Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer, cloudy vagueness." What is the relationship between politics and language?
That pretty well captures it. The politicians are trying to please an awful lot of people. They therefore are really opportunistic users of language. In a country like the United States the press is not doing a very good job. The use of Orwellian language has been allowed to proliferate. If you had a really first class media, an adversary media, a really good one, the use of Orwellian language would be under real constraints. When they talk about "collateral casualties" and "self-defense" in bombing Iraq, an honest media would attack this with frenzy and with a lot of laughter, too. But they accommodate very well to language that is supportive of the ongoing establishment. So Orwellian language can be effective.
You also comment in your preface that, "Media collaboration with the government in fostering a world of doublespeak is essential, and this collaboration has been regularly forthcoming." Given the political economy of the media and the propaganda model that you outlined in Manufacturing Consent, can you realistically expect anything else?
No, you can't.
So aren't you beating a dead horse, in a sense?
Yes, you're beating a dead horse. But most people aren't aware that the horse is dead. In a brainwashed society I certainly think the constructive role of the critical intellectual in America is very easy, because the media and the government are doing terrible things and they're very vulnerable. But the public is not informed of this. It's our function to call these things by their right names. The fact that this scene is so blatant makes it extremely easy for us to do devastating work. It's easy. But the problem is it's very hard to get it across. Access is very limited. But nevertheless I still think it's very useful to keep pointing these things out and to show the contradictions on issue after issue and to explore them. The hope is that we will be able to reach people, new people as well as people whose biases we're merely supporting. But this educational function is fundamental.
You say that Beyond Hypocrisy is about doublespeak. Is that a term from Orwell's 1984?
I think he talks more about "doublethink," the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in your mind at the same time.
As part of your dictionary, you define advocacy journalism as "reporting which does not merely transmit government and corporate press releases." A couple of others are aggression: "invasion of another country by someone other than ourselves without our approval." Also "providing aid and comfort to the side that we oppose in the civil conflict." Also "resisting a U.S. attack." You have naked aggression: "an invasion and occupation of another country that threatens our interests. Morally, legally and politically intolerable, this calls for immediate and complete ouster, reparations, and the teaching of a Lesson." You define terrorism as "the killing of civilians retail." What do you mean by that?
What I mean is the killing of small numbers of civilians, the joke in the definition of terrorism that I use is to distinguish between terrorism of the sort that the Western propaganda system attends to, that is, by the Red Brigade and people who hijack airplanes, where individuals and groups do the terrorizing and therefore very few people are killed. The contrast that I would make, for example, is with the killing by the Argentine government from 1976 to 1983, where they had sixty detention centers where they engaged in torture and killed large numbers of people, or even the U.S. war against Nicaragua, where thousands of people are killed. This is state terrorism, or state sponsored terrorism. I refer to this as "wholesale" terrorism as opposed to retail. The point is to show that the terrorism that the West has focused on has been relatively small scale retail compared to wholesale.
But you do acknowledge those acts as being acts of terror.
Yes, I do. I certainly think they're bad and terrible things and one has to try to control them. What impresses me is how when in the West, in the United States, all this energy and indignation are expressed at these retail terrorist acts, like these recent ones in New York, there's so little attention given to the root causes of these things. There's also this huge indignation which is not applied to the wholesale terror which may be going on simultaneously.
You write in The Real Terror Network that, "Retail non-state terrorists are frequently transitory and are often produced by the very abuses that state terror is designed to protect." Could you explain that?
Take the current situation, where we have this new threat of Muslim-based terrorism. A lot of the Muslim reaction is based on the fact that Arabs have been treated badly by the West. The Arab cultures of the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere have been misused by the West. The West is supporting states like Saudi Arabia to its convenience; Egypt and of course Israel and whatever actions it's doing. Israel has been engaged in what I would definitely call state terrorism for years. A lot of the terrorism in the 1980s came out of the Lebanese war: Sabra Shatila and other terrible acts that I would call state terrorism, state-supported terrorism. A lot of the retail acts that followed in the Middle East in the 1980s were rooted in the background of state terrorism. The Muslim reactions in the world now are connected to general policies that have been shattering to Arab prestige and in some cases even they involve terrorism.
The State Department has a list of terrorist states. I believe without exception that they are all Middle Eastern countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, etc. Is the United States on that list?
I don't think the State Department has put us on the list. They also have North Korea. Don't forget North Korea. That's one of the favorites. For years, it's been kind of a U.S. enemies list. It's been incredibly arbitrary. They have systematically excluded the states, which would include the United States, but even more intriguing is that while it includes Libya over the 1980s it never included South Africa, which was carrying out terrorist acts against its indigenous population but even more, South Africa fit so perfectly the definition of state-sponsored terrorism because it was sponsoring RENAMO in Mozambique and Savimbi in Angola. These are close border insurgents who were supported by a foreign government. South Africa was going across its own borders with armed forces all the time. It killed vast numbers of people directly and through its proxies compared to Libya and yet it never made it to this list. That is true wholesale terrorism, by South Africa. But the double standard is really spectacular. I think that's a most illuminating example.
Often in the mainstream media the term "terrorism" is paired with "Arab" or "Palestinian." It's hard to separate the two. What ideological function does that serve?
In the lineup in the Middle East, Israel is our ally, and there are certain Arab states that are our clients. The Palestinians and the dissident Arabs are enemies. They are a threat. The ideological function is quite clear. In the Soviet Union days we had the Evil Empire and communism. Now in the struggles in the Middle East the enemies are those opposed to Israel and to Western hegemony in the region. The Palestinians and the PLO fit the criterion of the needs of the West right now very nicely.
You've charted in one of your books the number of Israelis killed by acts of PLO terrorism vs. the number of Arabs and Palestinians killed by Israeli state terrorism.
I used a figure that was produced by the Israeli police from 1968 to 1980. The number of Israelis killed by Palestinians was something like 282. If you look at the number of Palestinians and Lebanese killed in Israeli acts in that period, it comes to a vastly larger number. I put up a table that just used certain incidents, assembled individual incidents, and that table itself yielded a ratio of something like 25 to 1. The Israeli actions that have killed civilians have been quantitatively vastly more important than the Palestinian actions. Of course, the treatment of them is rather different. The West is pretty settled that there are terrorists among the Palestinians but Israel only retaliates. That's a strictly ideological position. If you go back in the whole history of the affair, it's very hard to see who started the business, whether the chicken or the egg came first. In terms of the numbers, it's clear that Israel outdoes the PLO and the Palestinians by a huge factor. It carries out what I would call wholesale terror. Palestinians carry out retail terror operations.
There are two media watch organizations in the United States called FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East) and CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America). They are very critical of mainstream media coverage, particularly National Public Radio news reporting, for example, contending that it's very biased and anti-Israel. To what extent are the media anti-Israel?
The media are not anti-Israel at all. They've been extremely pro-Israel. Israel is an ally. Israel is supported by the United States. It gets more than three billion dollars a year in U.S. aid. The test of the media treatment of Israel is, to what extent do they allow a discussion of the budget which gives Israel 3+ billion dollars a year. This is a time of budget crunch, and limits on money and foreign aid. The media don't discuss it. They don't put that forward when the budget time comes around. It's completely secret. I consider that a sign of tremendous support and media connivance with the State Department and forces supportive of the state of Israel.
Talk more about media connivance with the State Department. How does that work? Does the Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East affairs call up Abe Rosenthal of the New York Times and say, Abe, we need an editorial supporting Israel and our policy?
It doesn't work that way at all. It works very naturally. The press simply accepts State Department views and passes them on and also is very generous in handling Israeli news releases. What the Israeli government says and wants to get across, the U.S. media usually supplies. It does not usually pay much attention to what the Arab states say or what the Palestinians say. Then of course many of the commentators in the media are very fanatically pro-Israel.
Can you give some examples?
Of course in the New York Times you've got Rosenthal and Safire as principal columnists. They're fanatical on the subject. In the Philadelphia Inquirer you've got George Will and Charles Krauthammer, who are also fanatical on the subject. You have nobody on the other side, almost nobody. I don't think of a single pundit in the U.S. who is a serious critic of Israel. You've had some who want Israel to behave more modestly and to do business with the Palestinians. But it's almost a completely one-sided picture. The editors go along with this. What they do is to accept sourcing from the U.S. and Israeli governments very generously and uncritically. They don't do much in the way of alternative sources. In the commentators' sphere, the bias is extraordinary. But I think that the whole thing is greatly affected by pressure groups, Israeli pressure groups, supporters of Israel who are very well organized in the U.S. They put on enormous pressure. In Pennsylvania Arlen Specter was running against a woman named Lynn Yeakel in the 1992 Senate election. The Israeli lobby was in a state of frenzy. They gave Specter a lot of money. The local supporters of Israel went all out for Specter. They wrote continuous streams of letters to the paper, they visited the Philadelphia Inquirer. The pressure was intense. The local head of the Zionist Organization of America, I was informed by an Inquirer insider, communicated with the paper every day by fax. He was always criticizing them for being anti-Israel. Every single day this man would fax a criticism. He terrorized them. He had many allies. It was a policy that got the paper in line. The paper had a reporter reporting on the Specter campaign who I think was incredibly biased in favor of Specter. He never reported on the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) campaign, which gave Specter at least $120,000. They lined up a lot of PACs to give him money. There were all kinds of mailing campaigns put out by the Specter campaign claiming that Yeakel was virtually an anti-Semite. They tried to raise money on that. All these campaigns were extremely powerful. The news coverage was very seriously biased. Specter's role in the Anita Hill hearings and especially getting Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, his support of capital punishment, he had done a lot of pretty bad things, but they were hardly discussed at all. They weren't raised by the local media. They did put huge attention on the allegation that Yeakel and her Presbyterian church were anti-Semitic because it had debates on the Middle East where anti-Israel statements had been made. This was converted into her or her church's anti-Semitism. It was amazing. But the pressure put on by this lobby and its individual members was intense. In my opinion the Inquirer really caved in.
From what you are saying, it sounds like you object to this campaign because the bias is not one that you support.
Not quite, no. People should write letters and complain. But this was incredibly large-scale and bullying. It had a genuine bullying quality, with threats. Its result was very biased reporting. I'm all for people writing letters and doing their thing. But this was one of such intensity and bullying character that it was twisting arms. The result was pernicious. I don't mean the result that Specter won. The result that the news coverage was really bad. It was not impartial, not quality news that addressed the issues.
Some years ago I was interviewing an official of the Anti-Defamation League in Denver. I asked him if by definition criticism of the state of Israel was anti-Semitic. His response was that since Israel is the state of the Jewish people, criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Have you heard that argument?
Usually it's not admitted to be so. Usually the defenders of Israel will say, No, it's not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. It's only anti-Semitic to do it unfairly, to tell lies about Israel, to attack Jews and Jewish organizations. I find that's not too common, although I think it's a valid picture of what supporters of Israel really believe and feel and act on. In the New York Times recently Thomas Friedman actually mentions that there's been a change in attitude along that line in that when the Likud government was in, the view of Norman Podhoretz and others was that you shouldn't criticize Israel, this is bad business. Now that the Rabin government is in and is engaging in certain accommodations, not very great, but it's talking and maybe doing business with the Palestinians and the PLO, the position of Podhoretz is that we should criticize Israel. So it appears that for them this powerful right-wing faction criticism of Israel is OK when the Israeli government is not fitting their particular vision of how Israel ought to be behaving, which is very hard line. But getting back to your point on anti-Semitism, there's a book by the Perlmutters called The New Anti-Semitism. It came out in the early 1980s. I haven't read it for a long time, but I remember that that book in fact defined anti-Semitism that would be hurtful to Israel across the board. If you're against the military budget, they were suggesting that since that might hurt Israel that might be classified as anti-Semitic. I think there has been this implicit new definition of anti-Semitism to be not hating Jews but doing something damaging to Israel. I think this has become very important. But it's not usually openly admitted. I find that statement that you quoted pretty remarkable. That's a terrible position. I think it's even terrible for Israelis or supporters of Israel to take the position that you can't criticize Israel. It's damaging to Israel's welfare. Israel should be capable to being subjected to criticism at home and abroad. I think that is one of the real problems of the world now, that because of that kind of attitude, that Israel can't be criticized, and the pressure put on American papers and politicians, Israel has had too much of a free hand. I think it would be much healthier if it could be openly criticized.
There's much discussion in the media about U.N. Security Council resolutions vis-à-vis Iraq. The U.N. Security Council has also passed many resolutions dealing with Israel, Turkey, Indonesia and the United States. What has been the level of compliance?
The double standard here is quite remarkable. The level of compliance is not great. The ones applicable to Israel have just simply not been enforced or complied with, running with some resolutions to fifteen or more years. The great powers don't choose to do anything about it. They're enforcing these rulings in a highly discriminatory way. Iraq finds that enforcement is strenuous. But the U.S. itself, or Israel, can get away with not complying. It's not discussed. This is OK for them to do. There's no sense in the American media that there's any double standard or hypocrisy or that the rules ought to be extending to everybody.
A high U.N. official earlier this week said that "Iraq cannot pick and choose how it implements U.N. resolutions."
That's a charming one. That's delightful. The U.N. can choose. The U.S. and Great Britain can choose which ones will be enforced. Of course, in the bombing of Iraq international law was simply ignored by the U.S. That also seems to be quite acceptable. We can pronounce ourselves the global policeman and say that Article 51 of the U.N. Charter allows us to bomb in self-defense. Nobody who studies this thing can buy that. It's a complete misinterpretation of Article 51.
In the Doublespeak Dictionary you define self-defense as: "Our, and our closest allies', right to attack anybody at discretion for any reason satisfactory to ourselves."
That's pretty literal.
In that late June bombing of Baghdad President Clinton announced, "The Iraqi attack against President Bush was an attack against our country and against all Americans." I may have missed something here, but I wasn't aware of an Iraqi attack against President Bush. There is an alleged plot which was never consummated.
Right. In fact, the trial is still on. It's probably not a very good trial.
It sounds like you don't have very much faith in the Kuwaiti justice system.
I don't have too much faith in the Kuwaiti justice system. But the amazing thing is that the Clinton Administration of course destroyed whatever integrity that trial had by bombing, and therefore saying these people are guilty. I don't think anybody's commented on that fact that by bombing while the trial was in process you destroy the integrity of the trial. The trial isn't finished, and the facts were not all in. As you say, an assassination attempt did not occur. Article 51 talks about self defense and all the interpretations of international law discusses self defense in the sense that somebody is attacking you and you don't have time to go to the U.N. to get it to do something about it so you must resist the attack which is overwhelming and immediate, which obviously doesn't apply at all to this case. The whole legal interpretation is completely fraudulent. The press doesn't point this out. The press has defended this from beginning to end.
In yesterday's New York Times there was an editorial: "Saddam Hussein Is At It Again," and the main front page story: "Once Again U.S. and Allies Try Diplomacy on Baghdad." This is written by Thomas Friedman, essentially saying that the U.S. and its allies are making great efforts to bring Saddam Hussein's regime into compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
I have argued in some things that I've written that in a sense what the U.S. and the U.N. are doing in Iraq is wholesale terrorism of a really enormous sort, because they're holding the whole Iraqi people as hostage and imposing damages on them. Thousands of children have died in this boycott process. In a very important sense this is hostage taking on a national scale. What do you think of that argument?
It sounds plausible.
A whole population is hostage. We are insisting on starving people in Iraq until those Iraqis get rid of Saddam Hussein. It's wholesale terrorism of a truly unique sort, as if a whole people is taken hostage instead of just fifty two people in an embassy.
Maybe the U.S. and the U.N. should consider bombing Ankara or Jakarta for their violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions?
Yes, or Washington.
There is a plan afloat, I understand, from "highly placed sources" that the Cuban air force is soon to launch an attack on Washington because it has documentable evidence that the U.S. not just planned assassination attacks on Fidel Castro but actually implemented them in the early 1960s, during Operation Mongoose.
There were quite a few of them. But again, the logic of the American position is that Nicaragua or Cuba or Libya had an absolute legal right to bomb Washington and to go after President Reagan or Bush or Clinton. That's the absolute legal logic of it. But again, the American press doesn't point this out. That's one of its beautiful services to the state, that the implications of the law and the violations of the law are not discussable, except in letters. They do have occasional letters where it's pointed out that the law is being violated. I haven't seen any letter yet in the Times on the history of assassination attempts. The logic that you're suggesting that Castro by our logic would be perfectly justified in bombing Washington.
Turn your attention to Somalia, where you have such events as U.N. peacekeepers killing Somalis, U.S. helicopter gunships attacking Somali warlords in strongholds.
I'm not following it with daily intense care, but it looks like an operation getting completely out of hand in which the U.S., first of all claiming that's it's going on a purely humanitarian mission has gotten into the position of tit for tat violence against one of the warlords, and one of the warlords that they're having this violence with is one they buttered up to earlier. They've tried to do business with him in the early politicking, and now they're trying to get him, and in getting him they do what the West always does in relation to backward people: they use advanced weapons that will minimize casualties for your side. Of course there are always collateral casualties. The Somalis seem to be getting mad at that and striking back.
It seems that the wogs don't know their place.
They don't know their place, and when they strike back, my God! Who do they think they are? What country do they think they're operating in? Leslie Gelb in the New York Times pointed out in our relations to Vietnam how they actually killed Americans! We sent over 500,000 troops and bombed the hell out of them, and they actually had the audacity to shoot back at our boys! Can you imagine them doing this? So we have a just cause from way back. It's incredible. The hypocrisy is unbelievable. The self-righteousness. We have a right to be anywhere and do anything and nobody has a right to defend themselves against us. But our self-defense includes n'importe quoi, no matter what.
The historian Marilyn Young has said that the U.S. attack against Indochina is a struggle against "willed historical amnesia." What about the endless reports, revelations of new sightings, new proof, new documents of U.S. troops being held prisoner in Vietnam. In the latest case, just a couple of days ago, a Senator from New Hampshire, Bob Smith, went to Vietnam and announced that he's convinced Americans are still being held captive in that country.
Bob Smith has been at this for a long time. He's a very conservative man. What exactly his individual motives are is hard to say. But there is a faction in the U.S. that still hates Vietnam and resents the fact that they resisted us and can't bear to have them reintegrated into the international community. So for that important right-wing faction it's very important that this pot be kept boiling. Politicians in America are very sensitive to selling out our boys. This has been made into a sensitive issue. Our boys are possibly still there, still being held. It's used to mobilize the right and to prevent normalization of relations with Vietnam. There are undoubtedly some people connected with that enterprise that are sincere. Some of the families were elated to believe that there were people held. But I think for a large number of the participants this is a means of maintaining a right-wing thrust and to maintain continued hostility toward Vietnam and punish Vietnam. My view is that something I would love to get across right now is that while there has been talk about the MIAs and their and our victimization is beyond Orwell because the U.S. was a monstrous aggressor and in fact this was one of the great cases of aggression and virtual genocide in the twentieth century and in fact we owe the Vietnamese reparations. We should be talking about reparations. War crimes trials should have been held involving significant numbers of American leaders. That never can be said in the American media.
It's interesting you should say that. You will recall that when Robert MacNamara was shown the Pentagon Papers he said, "They could hang people for what's in here."
Yes. There could be many scenes that would be so justified. We are talking about war crimes, tribunals, now for Bosnia.
And for Iraq as well.
And for Iraq. The hypocrisy here is mindboggling.
You carefully monitor the media. How many reports have you seen on Vietnamese, Laotians or Cambodians missing in action?
Very, very few. I read about a year that I had seen none. But I did see one or two mentions of the fact that the Vietnamese claimed 300,000 MIAs. But maybe two or three cases in the papers I read. The ratio of mentions is 1000 to 1. Their MIAs don't exist. The racist element involved here is really quite remarkable. There was in the Vietnam War a thing called the "mere gook" rule. The Vietnamese were "gooks." This "mere gook" rule was a phrase developed by U.S. lawyers in Vietnam who were cynically remarking on how what we did to the Vietnamese was subject to minimal penalty, even when we were killing our own Vietnamese. So they called this the "mere gook" rule: what happens to them is of very little consequence. They have very little feeling, you know. They don't value life as Westerners do. This was the cliché that was perpetrated by some American liberals as well as some of the military.
General Westmoreland made that infamous statement about how the Oriental doesn't value life the way a Westerner does.
He said it. But there was a whole number of intellectuals, liberal intellectuals, who actually suggested that, too.
Let's turn our attention to public electronic media in the U.S., National Public Radio and PBS. You have a couple of public radio stations in your hometown of Philadelphia: WHYY and WXPN.
We also have a new station, WYBE, Channel 35, which is a dissident PBS station. It's had a lot of trouble because the PBS stations in Pennsylvania have frozen it out of access to state money which is available to PBS stations. This station came into existence about four or five years ago. It applied to get PBS money, and the rest of the stations didn't allow it. They controlled access to the money. This station had to sue. It's just now going to start to get some money. The most interesting fact about these stations, revealing the whole picture of PBS and National Public Radio, is that when this new station came into existence, Channel 35, and other stations nationally, some new PBS stations have been being chartered to serve minority audiences, dissident views. When that first was proposed, PBS itself, the national system, commissioned some studies to see whether this would injure the existing PBS stations. Its internal and external studies suggested to their utter embarrassment that it wouldn't hurt them because they had moved away from their original purposes of serving minority audiences and that the existing stations had become mainstreamed. Therefore the new station wouldn't be competing very much with them. I think that's a very telling development. Part of the reason that they have abandoned their original purposes is that they've been under huge financial pressure. The Reaganites and even before that the conservatives have always hated PBS and National Public Radio because it poses a threat of something independent of the commercial nexus. Commercial stations have been much more conservative and cautious than the national stations, even though the national stations, the PBS stations are on the public payroll. I've always found that a very interesting fact, that state control should be exercised over PBS and National Public Radio and the commercial stations are free of the government, and yet during the Vietnam War the commercial stations were much worse than PBS in having dissident views. It's a very telling insight into the meaning of commercial processes and how they affect the media. But because the conservatives hated PBS and National Public Radio for these reasons, they've always tried to defund them, fund them low, keep them on a close string. In the Reagan era they did even more. They also tried to push them into reliance on the commercial advertisers.
To make them subject to the same set of pressures. And that all worked, although PBS and National Public Radio are still marginally better, maybe, than commercial. But I think they could be revived. It should be on the progressive agenda to get them back to their previous state or better. But there was a deliberate effort to make them more conservative. In Philadelphia WHYY is a very staid, mainstream, culture-orientated station that doesn't do much in the way of critical stuff. WXPN is a station at the University of Pennsylvania. It, too, has been brought into the commercial nexus by the process that it hired a guy to run it some years ago whose aim has been to increase its circulation.
Its audience share.
Yes. It wasn't the message, the substance, he was devoted to. He was devoted to getting its market share up. The station has deteriorated and become a kind of mainstream station too.