Reed Irvine - Editor
|November B, 1983|
THE GRENADA CHASM
The chasm between Big Media and the American people widened to Grand Canyonesque proportions in the last week of October when President Ronald Reagan sent American Marines and Rangers to Grenada to rescue the Americans on the island and to liberate the people of Grenada. The president's bold action was greeted with cheers from the vast majority of the American people and jeers from the majority of our Big Media reporters and commentators. The latter labored to create the impression that the move was immoral, illegal, foolish and totally unnecessary.
One of the more vicious attacks on the operation was aired on taxpayer-supported National Public Radio on the morning of October 26. Rod MacLeish on "Morning Edition" said:
"Perhaps no president in history has relied so much on words to reshape the facts of life as President Reagan. Immense federal deficits become steps on the road to balancing the federal budget. Our hired subversives in Nicaragua are somehow not the same thing as our enemy's hired subversives in El Salvador. Washington is a political society where the mastication of reality and the use of polemics is regarded as an art form. But the climate around here yesterday after the invasion of Grenada indicated that the fact of what has happened is too obvious to be confused by artful blabber. The majority of Mr. Reagan's fellow politicians kept silent. But an embarrassing comparison leaped to many minds. December 27, 1979: The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan. Moscow explains it had to act to protect Soviet citizens. The Afghan government invited the Soviets in. Besides, peace-loving Afghan people were being threatened by imperialist agents. October 25, 1983: The United States invades Grenada.
"President Reagan explains he had to protect American citizens. Grenada's Caribbean neighbors invited us in. Besides, the place has been taken over by leftwing thugs. There was one immense difference. In 1979, Soviet critics did not argue about the Afghan invasion. Yesterday and last night America was roaring with arguments. The American chancellor of the medical school on Grenada kept saying wistfully that the American students had never been in danger. Instant historians kept pointing out that the present leftwing thugs in Grenada had murdered a former leftwing thug who had come to power in a coup against a rightwing thug. Mr. Reagan's dexterity with words now faces its supreme challenge. This great, lurebering, global superpower has sent 1900 of its crack troops and more flying machines than they've got at the Topeka airport against Grenada's fatty 1200-man army and some Cubans. If the president can explain why that bears no practical resemblance to Afghanistan, why it wasn't really a violation of laws and treaties and portray it like a great victory like Omaha Beach, he deserves first prize."
The first reaction of our Big Media was to challenge and even ridicule the reasons the United States gave for sending in the Marines and Rangers. The television networks brought us Mr. Charles Modica, the chancellor the St. George's University Medical School, who declared that his students were in no danger. This was enough to convince our carping commentators that the assertion that the troops were sent in to protect and rescue our citizens was nothing but a flimsy excuse for "gunboat diplomacy." The appeal from the six eastern Caribbean countries for U.S. intervention in Grenada was cavalierly dismissed or ignored. Columnist Mary McGrory dismissed Mrs. Eugenia Charles, the prime minister of Dominica, who had appeared on television with President Reagan to tell how Grenada's close neighbors felt, as "a woman whom nobody had ever seen from a country nobody had ever heard of."
Although 17 people, including Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, had been killed and 69 wounded only days before, some of our media stars had trouble believing that the Americans on Grenada had anything to fear. Chris Wallace of NBC said American officials had been able to cite only two "specifics" to support their claim that the situation in Grenada was approaching anarchy. Those two flimsy reasons, said Wallace, were that the airport hadn't opened and that "some medical students had told diplomats they were afraid."
Another NBC star, Bryant Gumbel of the Today Show, interviewed a mother of one of the medical students on Grenada. He asked her if she felt her daughter was in danger now that American troops had invaded Grenada. She said there was danger now, and there had been danger when the coup took place. Gumbel appeared not to like that answer, and so he tried putting it another way. The mother insisted that there was the possibility that the students would have faced even greater danger had the U.S. not acted. Gumbel next played a tape of gunfire on the campus as a result of the invasion. The mother disappointed him once more, saying in response to his question of whether that sounded like good news, that there was no way of knowing what dangers the students would have faced if the troops had not landed.
Gumbel was trying hard to get the mother to second what Mr. Modica, the chancellor of the medical school had been saying--that the students were more endangered by the invasion than by the coup. He failed, and as soon as the students disembarked in Charleston, S.C. and began kissing the tarmac at the airport, that line of "reporting" vanished. One of those who kissed the ground, Jeff Geller, a self-described lifelong "dove" said, "l just can't believe how well those Rangers came down and saved us. I don't want anyone to say anything bad about the American military. We thought we could be potential hostages. We just wanted to get out." It was reported that among the hundreds of students evacuated, only one was found who didn't share similar sentiments. Even Mr. Charles Modica changed his story and acknowledged that the rescue operation had been justified, saying, "This was certainly not a situation where they were safe."
On the CBS Evening News on October 26, the return of the students was covered in one minute and 40 seconds. CBS gave almost as much time to the Cuban reaction-- one minute and 35 seconds. That, of course, was totally negative. Dan Rather then followed up with a minute and 40 seconds of criticism from other countries, such as France, England and Italy, capped by a wild and impassioned statement at the UN by Grenada's ambassador. He was shown saying, "Blood will drip from their fingers when the truth comes out of what has taken place in Grenada. It is an international outrage that none of us can tolerate or accept." Mr. Rather did not point out that it was the gang of thugs this man was representing who had blood dripping from their fingers.
Jeff Geller kissing the tarmac and declaring that he didn't want to hear anyone say anything bad about the American military symbolizes an important change in America. In 1972 our media made famous a photo of a 14-year-old runaway girl kneeling on the ground and crying at Kent State University after students were fired on by National Guardsmen. Some have suggested that Gellet's photo ought to have been made just as famous, but our media have a different view of things. The students and their overwhelming gratitude to the men who rescued them and to the president who ordered the rescue operation were quickly brushed aside. The American people may have been impressed, but not our media stars. Washington Post columnist Philip Geyelin on November 1 wrote, "There is scant evidence that American lives were endangered... by the savage coup that replaced a relatively temperate 'Marxist-Lenthist' regime." In a column in The New York Times dated November 2, Anthony Lewis noted that "intelligence officials" had told Congress that "just before the invasion the students were not in 'imminent danger.'"
There was a widespread tendency in the media to downplay the fears of Grenada's Caribbean neighbors and the U.S. government concerning the security danger posed by the communist regime on that island. Even after the government released captured military aid treaties showing that the Soviets had committed themselves to providing Grenada with 4,000 AK-47 submachine guns, 2,500 carbines, 7,000 mines, 15,000 grenades, and 8 armored personnel carriers and the Cubans had agreed to station 27 military advisers in Grenada permanently, some reporters noted that these documents failed to support President Reagan's claim that Grenada was "a Soviet-Cuban colony being readied as a major military bastion to export terror and undermine democracy." Many of these weapons had already been delivered and were found in three warehouses. They are far in excess of what should be needed by the "rag-tag" 1,200-man army of this tiny island. The total military aid to be provided by Soviet bloc countries from 1980 to 1985 under these secret treaties amounted to $38 million.
Philip Taubman of The New York Times found a couple of former officials in the Carter administration who were willing to be quoted as saying such things as. "If you break it down over five years. $7 or $8 million a year in military aid doesn't buy control of a country" and "The Russians could take the United States military assistance program in El Salvador or Honduras... and make the propaganda argument that the United States is turning those countries into a military bastion."
The reporters did not seem interested in finding out why the Soviets had 49 "diplomats" on this tiny island, all under the control of a former Deputy Minister of Defense, Gennadiy I. Sazhenev. Nor did they note that the Cuban ambassador, Julian Torres Rizo, is a senior Cuban DGI official. Rizo was formerly first secretary at the Cuban Mission at the UN and was considered to be one of the top Cuban spies in this country. There were also 24 North Koreans, 16 East Germans, 14 Bulgarians and 3 or 4 Libyans on the island, in addition to some 90 Cuban "diplomats." That is a lot of representation to a country with a population of 110,000.
The Soviets and Cubans were more interested in Grenada's strategic location than in its tourism, bananas and nutmeg. Timothy Ashby, a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution, says in an article that will appear in the December issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute that within a 500 mile radius of Grenada are oil fields, refineries and tanker lanes that supply the U.S. with about 56 percent of its imported oil. Ashby says, "The Soviet Union seems to have realized that Central America and the Caribbean is an important theater that offers the Soviets both quick. easy propaganda and important strategic gains." He says the Caribbean offers "a plethora of the West's most vulnerable targets, which are now being exploited to upset the world balance of power." The article was released early and the UPI carried a story about it the same day our troops landed on Grenada, but it did not attract the attention of our major media organs.
Loren Jenkins, a Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post, went to extreme lengths to ridicule the idea that the Soviets had loaded Grenada with arms. In a front-page story in The Post on October 29, Jenkins discussed the weapons found in the warehouses. He wrote: "Many of the weapons dated as far back as the last century. One crate of rifles opened by a U.S. ranger corporal contained Marlin .30-30 carbines that had been manufactured, according to the stamped dates on their breeches in 1870." The story was headlined, "Stacked Warehouse Shelters Vintage Guns." It was widely quoted to ridicule the charge that the military build-up on Grenada was serious. For example, the leftwing Village Voice in its November 8 issue said that the claim of a big Soviet-Cuban presence "was finally criticized when journalists reviewed the ancient rifles--dating from 1870--piled in Grenadian warehouses."
The trouble with Mr. Jenkins' ingenious story is that there is no such thing as a Marlin .30-30 carbine made in 1870. The first Marlin repeating rifles were made in 1881 and .30-30 cartridges were not introduced until 1895. However. Marlin .30-30s are being produced and sold today. Assuming that is what Jenkins saw, the number he saw stamped on the breech was certainly not the date of manufacture.
The media were outraged that reporters were not included in the rescue operation. John Chancellor on NBC was almost apoplectic with rage, saying, "The American government is doing whatever it wants to in Grenada without any representative of the American public watching what it's doing." Dan Rather produced a similar eruption, saying, "If the press isn't there, the people aren't there." Louis XIV thought he was the state. Chancellor and Rather think they are the people.
The fact is that the American people were well represented on Grenada by the Marine Corps, Army and Navy personnel that were sent there by our elected commander-in-chief to carry, out an assignment requiring a high degree of secrecy. They carried out their mission to the satisfaction of the great majority of the American people. Excellent reports on their performance were brought back by another segment of the American public, the 600 medical students who were evacuated. There was an implication in Chancellor's statement, made the same night the students reported on the magnificent performance of our troops, that the Marines and Rangers were doing something in Grenada that was so bad that the government was trying to hide it. That is patent nonsense.
Chancellor and other journalists have said that the press could have been taken along on the operation with no security risk, and some have noted that in World War lI our journalists were included in the most sensitive operations, even commando raids. That's true, but there was a big difference between the reporters who covered World War II and the present crop. Then the reporters were on our side. They wanted to see the United States and its allies win the war. They wouldn't have considered writing stories that could aid Hitler or the Japanese, either by giving them valuable intelligence or by undermining the will of the American people to fight the war to victory. And even if they tried to do that, they would have had to get through very strict censorship.
All that changed with Vietnam. Jim Lucas, a veteran from World War II, returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam for the Scripps-Howard papers in 1967 to say that The New York Times had never had a reporter in Vietnam who was on our side. Turner Catledge, then the managing editor of The Times, didn't dispute this, but he said that you couldn't tell it from their reporting. But you could. After the war was lost, James Reston, a top editor and columnist for The Times, observed that "maybe the historians will agree that the reporters and cameras were decisive in the end" in forcing "the withdrawal of American power from Vietnam."
Karen DeYoung, the foreign editor of The Washington Post, is typical of many of our journalistic elite today. In covering the rebellion in Nicaragua that overthrew Somoza and brought the communists to power, she shamelessly covered up the communist backgrounds of the Sandinista leaders who had been trained in Cuba. Later, teaching a journalism class at the leftwing Institute for Policy Studies, DeYoung said, "Most journalists now, most Western journalists at least, are very eager to seek out guerrilla groups, leftist groups, because you assume they must be the good guys."
But the security problem doesn't arise only because many journalists (most, according to DeYoung) have leftist sympathies. Some of our top media figures, including Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the chairman and president of The New York Times, are on record as saying that they consider it their duty to ferret out and publish government secrets. Newsweek magazine has chided editors who say that they would not run stories exposing secret covert actions by the U.S. government if they decided those actions were "necessary, prudent, and moral." That's wrong says Newsweek. Run the stories. Don't make moral judgments!
On October 27, all three TV networks aired video tapes of action on Grenada provided by the Pentagon. CBS showed its great displeasure by labeling the pictures, "Cleared by Defense Department Censors," and Dan Rather said twice that they were "shot and censored by the U.S. government." The implication was that they were untrustworthy. But last August 3, CBS News used video tapes of the Soviet freighter, the Alexander Ulyanov, in a Nicaraguan port to try to prove that President Reagan had been wrong in charging that the Ulyanov was carrying military equipment from the USSR to Nicaragua. When CBS aired that footage it did not mention that it had been shot by a Cuban camera crew, nor was there any suggestion that it might have passed through Nicaraguan censorship. Some AIM supporters who have written to CBS about this have received letters back from Emerson Stone saying that the source of the footage was identified on the air. That is false. CBS apparently thinks it must take greater pains to warn its viewers when it shows footage obtained from the U.S. military than when it uses footage from a communist source. And yet they would have us believe that they should be trusted with secrets that may mean life or death for American fighting men.
With all the criticism of the Grenadian rescue operation centering on how Goliath was crushing David, one of the first things our media ought to have investigated was how the inhabitants of the island felt about all this. Dan Rather in his October 28 radio commentary cited this as an important story we were denied because the press had been excluded from the invasion.
The people weren't denied that story because the press was excluded. They got it late because our media showed a curious lack of interest in reporting the Grenadian reaction. UPI put a story on the wire the very same day that Rather made his comment, reporting that the people of Grenada couldn't be more pleased with the American invasion. We couldn't find any major paper that used it. A Washington Post reporter, Ed Cody, had been on the island the day of the invasion. He reported that the people seemed pleased, but he attributed it to the fact that they had been cooped up in their houses for a week and were glad to get outdoors. When The Post finally got around to covering the story in some depth, it found that the people regarded us as their liberators. It ran a long story on this--in the Style section.
The networks and the papers ran occasional brief items indicating that the Grenadians were very happy about our presence, but they treated the story gingerly. On November 3, CBS News polled 3O4 Grenadians to see how they felt. It found that 91 percent said they were glad the U.S. troops had come, and 85 percent said they had felt they were in danger after the coup. Seventy-six percent said Cuba wanted to control the government, and 65 percent thought the airport was being built for Cuban and Soviet military purposes. This was aired by CBS only at 11:30 P.M. on November 4. It was reported in The New York Times on November 6 on page 21. Strange treatment of an important story!
Television viewers on Sunday, November 20, will have the option of watching a two-hour ABC propaganda film on the horrors of nuclear war or a three-hour NBC film on the Kennedy years which viciously caricatures the late J. Edgar Hoover. According to Peter Farrell, a TV columnist for the Portland Oregonian, who has seen the program, J. Edgar Hoover is made to look like "a paranoid, sex-obsessed fruitcake." Farrell says, "This Hoover is bizarre. He keeps going on and on about sex. and keeps saying the word with a mixture of disgust and delight. His face is the mask of a decaying maniac. His movements are effete. If this man sat next to me on the bus, I'd move to a seat nearer the door. Television has given us more sympathetic Hitlers."
In one scene, John F. Kennedy is seen discussing the problems of the coming presidency with his father, Joseph Kennedy. The elder Kennedy warns his son to watch out for J. Edgar Hoover, whom he calls "a fag." Lee Teague, past president of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, says that he was in frequent touch with Joseph Kennedy during his years with the FBI, and that he knows that Mr. Kennedy always had the highest esteem for J. Edgar Hoover. He thinks it inconceivable that such a remark would ever had passed his lips.
In its own vicious attack on Hoover last year, ABC dragged in the rumor that he had been a homosexual, saying that these rumors are "discounted by friends and even enemies." However, the producers of the NBC program, which is billed as a "docudrama," claim that it has been thoroughly researched and that it is an accurate and honest portrayal.
Peter Farrell asked co-producer Andrew Brown if actor Vincent Gardenia's portrayal of Hoover was not much more extreme than what the writer, producers and director intended. Brown said the performance was exactly what they wanted. Another newspaperman said the result was a vicious cartoon. Brown denied that. saying that "some" former FBI agents had pronounced the portrayal as "entirely accurate."
NBC is not saying who those former agents are. In putting on its program on June 3, 1982, ABC had combed the country trying to amass all the criticism of Hoover that they could find. They did find some former agents who didn't like Hoover, but they didn't come up with any who pictured him as a sex-obsessed homosexual. Hoover was very much in the public eye for nearly fifty years. He was honored by the people of this country as few civil servants have ever been. It is strange that the view that NBC intends to portray on November 20 is one that escaped not only all of those who knew J. Edgar Hoover best, but also the myriad of newsmen who covered him for half a century.
Write to Thornton F. Bradshaw, Chairman, RCA, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10020 (RCA owns NBC). We will be able to provide the names and addresses of the advertisers only after the program airs. We will publish them in the next AIM Report, but if you want to get them sooner, write or call us.
AIM REPORT is published twice monthly by Accuracy In Media, Inc., 1341 G Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, and is free to AIM members. Dues and contributions to AIM are tax deductible. The AIM Report is mailed 3rd class to those whose contribution is at least $15 a year and 1st class to those contributing $30 a year or more. Non-member subscriptions are $35 (1st class mail).
THE "KNOCK-AMERICA" MEDIA SEEM NOT TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HAS HIT THEM IN THE WAKE OF their negative reaction to the Grenada rescue mission. Having failed to persuade the American people that Ronald Reagan had done a bad and foolish thing in sending troops to Grenada to protect American lives and, incidentally to rid the Grenadian people of their communist oppressors, John Chancellor, Dan Rather and a host of other media luminaries tried to stir up a little public hostility to the government by denouncing the military ban on reporters covering the troops in the first phase of the operation. To their great surprise and chagrin they quickly discovered that the people weren't buying what they were trying to sell. Public sentiment seemed to be with whomever it was who first said, "Reagan did two good things: the first was sending the troops into Grenada, and the second was in keeping the press out."
JUDGING FROM THE REACTIONS OF AUDIENCES THAT I HAVE ADDRESSED IN OHIO, TEXAS, Alabama and Georgia since the rescue operation and what I have heard on radio talk shows and seen in letters-to-the-editor columns, I would say that the media complaints about their exclusion have generated a strong negative reaction. John Chancellor, who unleashed the first blast on October 26, found his mail running ten to one against him. The New York Post, which was strongly supportive of the U.S. action and critical of the negative reaction of The New York Times, ran two pages of letters that were mostly critical of the media in general and The Times in particular. The Los Angeles Times ran ten letters, of which seven were critical of the media or supportive of the government. The Washington Post also found its mail running heavily against the media. Of the seven letters on the subject it ran, six were critical of the media.
HERE ARE SOME QUOTES FROM LETTERS PUBLISHED BY THE NEW YORK POST ON NOVEMBER 3, 1983. "Most Americans resent the network newspeople because 'news' has become too much a launching pad for their anti-American propaganda and advocacy journalism."--Elaine Leuci, Amityville, L. I. "Bravo for 'Why the News Blackout Made Sense' in Friday's Post .... Concern for the common good is often lacking in the observable priorities of the various media." Elizabeth Ayres, Manhattan. "The press has been acting like a spoiled brat, resorting to tantrums when it cannot have its way."--Bill Romero, Manhattan. "After emigrating from the USSR (where I spent my last years in the Gulag for exercising freedom of speech), I found with horror that western society is killing itself precisely in the same manner and with the same kind of intellectual elite as it was done in Russia. Lenin was the first evil genius who understood and used the media for fooling the 'simple' people. And now I see that CBS, NBC, ABC, New York Times, etc., are driven by micro-Lenins."--Dr. Ilya J. Glezer, City College, N.Y.
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT STRUCK ME ABOUT THE GRENADA COVERAGE BY THE PRINT MEDIA was the way in which our most important publications avoided using the photos of the American students kissing the ground when they deplaned at Charleston. This was a photo that ought to have been on the front page of every paper and on the cover of the news magazines. But no. It was not on the cover of any of the three news magazines, nor was it among the many photos they carried inside. It was not used by The Washington Post or The New York Times. Instead, these papers and Newsweek published the far less dramatic AP photo of a student kneeling on the ground with his arms raised as though he was surrendering to laughing soldiers standing in front of him. They chose this over the far more dramatic AP photo used by The Washington Times showing a student kissing the ground to express his love of America and his thanks for having been rescued.
THERE ARE TWO HIGHLY REVEALING INCIDENTS DESCRIBED IN THE LEAD STORY IN THIS AIM Report, both of them involving CBS News. The first is the heavy-handed way in which Dan Rather emphasized that film clips about Grenada that he was showing had been "shot and censored by the U.S. government." I was reminded of his failure to properly identify the source of the video tape of the Soviet freighter, the Alexander Ulyanov, that was used to try to prove that President Reagan had been wrong when he said the vessel was carrying military equipment to Nicaragua. CBS bought that video tape from a Cuban camera crew, but all it said on the air was that the tape came from "a source friendly to Nicaragua." When the tape was shown, it did not bear any reminder that it had been shot by Cubans and censored by the Nicaraguan government. But that cautionary note was prominently displayed when the Pentagon-supplied tape was aired.
THE SECOND NEFARIOUS CBS ACTION WAS THE VIRTUAL SUPRESSION OF THE RESULTS OF A poll that it took in Grenada on November 3. We mention in our story (last paragraph) that CBS did not air the results of this poll on the Evening News or the Morning News. They reported it at the unusual hour of 11:30 P.M. on the night of November 4. What makes this even worse is that they didn't even do a good job of reporting the poll results then. Here are the results as reported in The New York Times on November 6 and as reported by CBS at 11:30 P.M. on November 4. Both reported the same poll.
THIS POLL MAKES OUR COUNTRY LOOK VERY GOOD INDEED. IT MAKES SENATOR MOYNIHAN, WHO declared that our action hurt the cause of democracy, and others like him look downright silly. The Grenadians overwhelmingly regarded our action as one of liberation. This was the first time in history that a communist regime that had achieved total control of a country had been overthrown. There was no way it could have been done without outside help, and the people were clearly grateful to us. This must have been obvious to our reporters, but for the most part they didn't want to talk about it. When Ted Koppel asked Ed Cody of The Washington Post about the reaction of the Grenadians on ABC's "Nightline," Cody started to talk about the reaction of the Grenadian soldiers. Koppel interrupted to say that he obviously meant the people. Cody replied that the army was part of the people. He then conceded that the civilians seemed happy, but he thought that might have been because they had been cooped up in their homes for a week.
THIS SOUR, PERVERSE REPORTING WAS SEEN AGAIN WHEN PRESIDENT REAGAN INVITED THE rescued students to the White House on November 7. Some 490 of them accepted the invitation and expressed their great gratitude to the president, the military and their country. Here's how The Washington Post reported this: "President Reagan yesterday celebrated the 'heroic rescue' of American medical students from Grenada in a ceremony climaxing White House effort to put the best political face on the invasion of the Caribbean island and the terrorist bombing in Lebanon that killed at least 230 U. S. servicemen."