Operation Mockingbird The Subversion Of America's Free Press By The CIA. March 24, 2000.
"You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month." CIA operative discussing with Philip Graham, editor Washington Post, on the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories. "Katherine The Great," by Deborah Davis (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1991)
As terrible as it is to live in a nation where the press in known to be controlled by the government, at least one has the advantage of knowing the bias is present, and to adjust for it. In the United States of America, we are taught from birth that our press is free from such government meddling. This is an insideous lie about the very nature of the news institution in this country. One that allows the government to lie to us while denying the very fact of the lie itself.
Who Controls the Media?
Soulless corporations do, of course. Corporations with grinning, double-breasted executives, interlocking directorates, labor squabbles and flying capital. Dow. General Electric. Coca-Cola. Disney. Newspapers should have mastheads that mirror the world: The Westinghouse Evening Scimitar, The Atlantic-Richfield Intelligentser . It is beginning to dawn on a growing number of armchair ombudsmen that the public print reports news from a parallel universe - one that has never heard of politically-motivated assassinations, CIA - Mafia banking thefts, mind control, death squads or even federal agencies with secret budgets fattened by cocaine sales - a place overrun by lone gunmen, where the CIA and Mafia are usually on their best behavior. In this idyllic land, the most serious infraction an official can commit __is a the employment of a domestic servant with (shudder) no residency status.
This unlikely land of enchantment is the creation of MOCKINGBIRD.
It was conceived in the late 1940s, the most frigid period of the cold war, when the CIA began a systematic infiltration of the corporate media, a process that often included direct takeover of major news outlets.
In this period, the American intelligence services competed with communist activists abroad to influence European labor unions. With or without the cooperation of local governments, Frank Wisner, an undercover State Department official assigned to the Foreign Service, rounded up students abroad to enter the cold war underground of covert operations on behalf of his Office of Policy Coordination. Philip Graham, - a graduate of the Army Intelligence School in Harrisburg, PA, then publisher of the Washington Post., was taken under Wisner's wing to direct the program code-named Operation MOCKINGBIRD.
"By the early 1950s," writes former Village Voice reporter Deborah Davis in Katharine the Great, "Wisner 'owned' respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles, plus stringers, four to six hundred in all, according to a former CIA analyst." The network was overseen by Allen Dulles, a templar for German and American corporations who wanted their points of view represented in the public print. Early MOCKINGBIRD influenced 25 newspapers and wire agencies consenting to act as organs of CIA propaganda. Many of these were already run by men with reactionary views, among them William Paley (CBS), C.D. Jackson (Fortune), Henry Luce (Time) and Arthur Hays Sulzberger (N.Y. Times).
Activists curious about the workings of MOCKINGBIRD have since been appalled to f__ind in FOIA documents that agents boasting in CIA office memos of their pride in having placed "important assets" inside every major news publication in the country. It was not until 1982 that the Agency openly admitted that reporters on the CIA payroll have acted as case officers to agents in the field.
"World War III has begun," Henry's Luce's Life declared in March, 1947. "It is in the opening skirmish stage already." The issue featured an excerpt of a book by James Burnham, who called for the creation of an "American Empire," "world-dominating in political power, set up at least in part through coercion (probably including war, but certainly the threat of war) and in which one group of people ... would hold more than its equal share of power."
George Seldes, the famed anti-fascist media critic, drew down on Luce in 1947, explaining that "although avoiding typical Hitlerian phrases, the same doctrine of a superior people taking over the world and ruling it, began to appear in the press, whereas the organs of Wall Street were much more honest in favoring a doctrine inevitably leading to war if it brought greater commercial markets under the American flag."
On the domestic front, an abiding relationship was struck between the CIA and William Paley, a wartime colonel and the founder of CBS. A firm believer in "all forms of propaganda" to foster loyalty to the Pentagon, Paley hired CIA agents to work undercover at the behest of his close friend, the busy grey eminence of the nation's media, Allen Dulles. Paley's designated go-between in his dealings with the CIA was Sig Mickelson, president of CBS News from 1954 to 1961.
The CIA's assimilation of old guard fascists was overseen by the Operations Coordination Board, directed by C.D. Jackson, formerly an executive of Time magazine and Eisenhower's Special Assistant for Cold War Strategy. In 1954 he was succeeded by Nelson Rockefeller, who quit a year later, disgusted at the administration's political infighting. Vice President Nixon succeeded Rockefeller as the key cold war strategist.
"Nixon," writes John Loftus, a former attorney for the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, took "a small boy's delight in the arcane tools of the intelligence craft - the hidden microphones, the 'black' propaganda." Nixon especially enjoyed his visit to a Virginia training camp to observe Nazis in the "special forces" drilling at covert operations.
One of the fugitives recruited by the American intelligence underground was heroin smuggler Hubert von Blcher, the son of A German ambassador. Hubert often bragged that that he was trained by the Abwehr, the German military intelligence division, while still a civilian in his twenties. He served in a recon unit of the German Army until forced out for medical reasons in 1944, according to his wartime records. He worked briefly as an assistant director for Berlin-Film on a movie entitled One Day ..., and finished out the war flying with the Luftwaffe, but not to engage the enemy - his mission was the smuggling of Nazi loot out of the country. His exploits were, in part, the subject of Sayer and Botting's Nazi Gold, an account of the knockover of the Reichsbank at the end of the war.
In 1948 he flew the coop to Argentina. Posing as a photographer named Huberto von Bleucher Corell, he immediately paid court to Eva Peron, presenting her with an invaluable Gobelin tapestry (a selection from the wealth of artifacts confiscated by the SS from Europe's Jews?). Hubert then met with Martin Bormann at the Hotel Plaza to deliver German marks worth $80 million. The loot financed the birth of the National Socialist Party in Argentina, among other forms of Nazi revival.
In 1951, Hubert migrated northward and took a job at the Color Corporation of America in Hollywood. He eked out a living writing scripts for the booming movie industry. His voice can be heard on a film set in the Amazon, produced by Walt Disney. Nine years later he returned to Buenos Aires, then Dsseldorf, West Germany, and established a firm that developed not movie scripts, but anti-chemical warfare agents for the government. At the Industrie Club in Dsseldorf in 1982, von Blcher boasted to journalists, "I am chief shareholder of Pan American Airways. I am the best friend of Howard Hughes. The Beach Hotel in Las Vegas is 45 percent financed by me. I am thus the biggest financier ever to appear in the Arabian Nights tales dreamed up by these people over their second bottle of brandy."
Not really. Two the biggest financiers to stumble from the drunken dreams of world-moving affluence were, in their time, Moses Annenberg, publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and his son Walter , the CIA / mob -anchored publisher of the TV Guide. Like most American high-rollers, Annenberg lived a double life. Moses, his father, was a scion of the Capone mob. Both Moses and Walter were indicted in 1939 for tax evasions totalling many millions of dollars - the biggest case in the history of the Justice Department. Moses pled guilty and agreed to pay the government $8 million and settle $9 million in assorted tax claims, penalties and interest debts. Moses received a three-year sentence. He died in Lewisburg Penitentiary.
Walter Annenbeg, the TV Guide magnate, was a lofty Republican. On the campaign trail in April, 1988, George Bush flew into Los Angeles to woo Reagan's kitchen cabinet. "This is the topping on the cake," Bush's regional campaign director told the Los Angeles Times. The Bush team met at Annenberg's plush Rancho Mirage estate at Sunnylands, California. It was at the Annenberg mansion that Nixon's cabinet was chosen, and the state's social and contributor registers built over a quarter-century of state political dominance by Ronald Reagan, whose acting career was launched by Operation MOCKINGBIRD.
The commercialization of television, coinciding with Reagan's recruitment by the Crusade for Freedom, a CIA front, presented the intelligence world with unprecedented potential for sowing propaganda and even prying in the age of Big Brother. George Orwell glimpsed the possibilities when he installed omniscient video surveillance technology in 1948, a novel rechristened 1984 for the first edition published in the U.S. by Harcourt, Brace. Operation Octopus, according to federal files, was in full swing by 1948, a surveillance program that turned any television set with tubes into a broadcast transmitter. Agents of Octopus could pick up audio and visual images with the equipment as far as 25 miles away.
Hale Boggs was investigating Operation Octopus at the time of his disappearance in the midst of the Watergate probe.
In 1952, at MCA, Actors' Guild president Ronald Reagan - a screen idol recruited by MOCKINGBIRD's Crusade for Freedom to raise funds for the resettlement of Nazis in the U.S., according to Loftus - signed a secret waiver of the conflict-of-interest rule with the mob-controlled studio, in effect granting it a labor monopoly on early television programming. In exchange, MCA made Reagan a part owner. Furthermore, historian C. Vann Woodward, writing in the New York Times, in 1987, reported that Reagan had "fed the names of suspect people in his organization to the FBI secretly and regularly enough to be assigned 'an informer's code number, T-10.' His FBI file indicates intense collaboration with producers to 'purge' the industry of subversives."
No one ever turned a suspicious eye on Walter Cronkite, a former intelligence officer and in the immediate postwar period UPI's Moscow correspondent. Cronkite was lured to CBS by Operation MOCKINGBIRD's Phil Graham, according to Deborah Davis.
Another television conglomerate, Cap Cities, rose like a horror-film simian from CIA and Mafia heroin operations. Among other organized-crime Republicans, Thomas Dewey and his neighbor Lowell Thomas threw in to launch the infamous Resorts International, the corporate front for Lansky's branch of the federally-sponsored mob family and the corporate precursor to Cap Cities. Another of the investors was James Crosby, a Cap Cities executive who donated $100,000 to Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign. This was the year that Resorts bought into Atlantic City casino interests. Police in New jersey attempted, with no success, to spike the issuance of a gambling license to the company, citing Mafia ties.
In 1954, this same circle of investors, all Catholics, founded the broadcasting company notorious for overt propagandizing and general spookiness. The company's chief counsel was OSS veteran William Casey, who clung to his shares by concealing them in a blind trust even after he was appointed CIA director by Ronald Reagan in 1981.
"Black radio" was the phrase CIA critic David Wise coined in The Invisible Government to describe the agency's intertwining interests in the emergence of the transistor radio with the entrepreneurs who took to the airwaves. "Daily, East and West beam hundreds of propaganda broadcasts at each other in an unrelenting babble of competition for the minds of their listeners. The low-price transistor has given the hidden war a new importance," enthused one foreign correspondent.
A Hydra of private foundations sprang up to finance the propaganda push. One of them, Operations and Policy Research, Inc. (OPR), received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the CIA through private foundations and trusts. OPR research was the basis of a television series that aired in New York and Washington, D.C. in 1964, Of People and Politics, a "study" of the American political system in 21 weekly installments.
In Hollywood, the visual cortex of The Beast, the same CIA/Mafia combination that formed Cap Cities sank its claws into the film studios and labor unions. Johnny Rosselli was pulled out of the Army during the war by a criminal investigation of Chicago mobsters in the film industry. Rosselli, a CIA asset probably assassinated by the CIA, played sidekick to Harry Cohn, the Columbia Pictures mogul who visited Italy's Benito Mussolini in 1933, and upon his return to Hollywood remodeled his office after the dictator's. The only honest job Rosselli ever had was assistant purchasing agent (and a secret investor) at Eagle Lion productions, run by Bryan Foy, a former producer for 20th Century Fox. Rosselli, Capone's representative on the West Coast, passed a small fortune in mafia investments to Cohn. Bugsy Seigel pooled gambling investments with Billy Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter.
In the 1950s, outlays for global propaganda climbed to a full third of the CIA's covert operations budget. Some 3, 000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts. The cost of disinforming the world cost American taxpayers an estimated $265 million a year by 1978, a budget larger than the combined expenditures of Reuters, UPI and the AP news syndicates.
In 1977, the Copely News Service admitted that it worked closely with the intelligence services - in fact, 23 employees were full-time employees of the Agency.
Most consumers of the corporate media were - and are -unaware of the effect that the salting of public opinion has on their own beliefs. A network anchorman in time of national crisis is an instrument of psychological warfare in the MOCKINGBIRD media. He is a creature from the national security sector's chamber of horrors. For this reason consumers of the corporate press have reason to examine their basic beliefs about government and life in the parallel universe of these United States.
How the Washington Post Censors the News
A Letter to the Washington Post by Julian C. Holmes April 25, 1992 Richard Harwood, Ombudsman The Washington Post 1150 15th Street NW Washington, DC 20071
Dear Mr. Harwood,
Though the Washington Post does not over-extend itself in the pursuit of hard news, just let drop the faintest rumor of a government "conspiracy", and a klaxon horn goes off in the news room. Aroused from apathy in the daily routine of reporting assignations and various other political and social sports events, editors and reporters scramble to the phones. The klaxon screams its warning: the greatest single threat to herd-journalism, corporate profits, and government stability -- the dreaded "CONSPIRACY THEORY"!!
It is not known whether anyone has actually been hassled or accosted by any of these frightful spectres, but their presence is announced to Post readers with a salvo of warnings to avoid the tricky, sticky webs spun by the wacko "CONSPIRACY THEORISTS".
Recall how the Post saved us from the truth about Iran-Contra.
Professional conspiracy exorcist Mark Hosenball was hired to ridicule the idea that Oliver North and his CIA-associated gangsters had conspired to do wrong (*1). And when, in their syndicated column, Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta discussed some of the conspirators, the Post sprang to protect its readers, and the conspirators, by censoring the Anderson column before printing it (*2).
But for some time the lid had been coming off the Iran-Contra conspiracy. In 1986, the Christic Institute, an interfaith center for law and public policy, had filed a lawsuit alleging a U.S. arms-for-drugs trade that helped keep weapons flowing to the CIA - Contra army in Nicaragua, and cocaine flowing to U.S. markets (*3). In 1988 Leslie Cockburn published Out of Control, a seminal work on our bizarre, illegal war against Nicaragua (*4). The Post contributed to this discovery process by disparaging the charges of conspiracy and by publishing false information about the drug-smuggling evidence presented to the House Subcommittee on Narcotics Abuse and Control. When accused by Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY). of misleading reporting, the Post printed only a partial correction and declined to print a letter of complaint from Rangel (*5).
Sworn testimony before Senator John Kerry's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations confirmed U.S. Government complicity in the drug trade (*6). With its coverup of the arms/drug conspiracy evaporating, the ever-accommodating Post shifted gears and retained Hosenball to exorcise from our minds a newly emerging threat to domestic tranquility, the "October Surprise" conspiracy (*7). But close on the heels of Hosenball and the Post came Barbara Honegger and then Gary Sick who authored independently, two years apart, books with the same title, "October Surprise" (*8). Honegger was a member of the Reagan / Bush campaign and transition teams in 1980. Gary Sick, professor of Middle East Politics at Columbia University, was on the staff of the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan. In 1989 and 1991 respectively, Honegger and Sick published their evidence of how the Republicans made a deal to supply arms to Iran if Iran would delay release of the 52 United States hostages until after the November 1980 election. The purpose of this deal was to quash the possibility of a pre-election release(an October surprise). which would have bolstered the reelection prospects for President Carter.
Others published details of this alleged Reagan-Bush conspiracy. In October 1988, Playboy Magazine ran an expose "An Election Held Hostage"; FRONTLINE did another in April 1991 (*9). In June, 1991 a conference of distinguished journalists, joined by 8 of the former hostages, challenged the Congress to "make a full, impartial investigation" of the election/hostage allegations. The Post reported the statement of the hostages, but not a word of the conference itself which was held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Auditorium (*10). On February 5, 1992 a gun-shy, uninspired House of Representatives begrudgingly authorized an "October Surprise" investigation by a task force of 13 congressmen headed by Lee Hamilton (D-IN). who had chaired the House of Representatives Iran-Contra Committee. Hamilton has named as chief team counsel Larry Barcella, a lawyer who represented BCCI when the Bank was indicted in 1988 (*11).
Like the Washington Post, Hamilton had not shown interest in pursuing the U.S. arms-for-drugs operation (*12). He had accepted Oliver North's lies,and as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee he derailed House Resolution 485 which had asked President Reagan to answer questions about Contra support activities of government officials and others (*13). After CIA operative John Hull (from Hamilton's home state), was charged in Costa Rica with "international drug trafficking and hostile acts against the nation's security", Hamilton and 18 fellow members of Congress tried to intimidate Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez into handling Hull's case "in a manner that will not complicate U.S.-Costa Rican relations" (*14). The Post did not report the Hamilton letter or the Costa Rican response that declared Hull's case to be "in as good hands as our 100 year old uninterrupted democracy can provide to all citizens" (*15).
Though the Post does its best to guide our thinking away from conspiracy theories, it is difficult to avoid the fact that so much wrongdoing involves government or corporate conspiracies:
In its COINTELPRO operation, the FBI used disinformation, forgery, surveillance, false arrests, and violence to illegally harass U.S.citizens in the 60's (*16).
The CIA's Operation MONGOOSE illegally sabotaged Cuba by "destroying crops, brutalizing citizens, destabilizing the society, and conspiring with the Mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro and other leaders" (*17).
"Standard Oil of New Jersey was found by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice to be conspiring with I.G.Farben...of Germany. ...By its cartel agreements with Standard Oil, the United States was effectively prevented from developing or producing [for World War-II] any substantial amount of synthetic rubber," said Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin (*18).
U.S. Government agencies knowingly withheld information about dosages of radiation "almost certain to produce thyroid abnormalities or cancer" that contaminated people residing near the nuclear weapons factory at Hanford, Washington (*19).
Various branches of Government deliberately drag their feet in getting around to cleaning up the Nation's dangerous nuclear weapons sites (*20). State and local governments back the nuclear industry's secret public relations strategy (*21).
"The National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and some twenty comprehensive cancer centers, have misled and confused the public and Congress by repeated claims that we are winning the war against cancer. In fact, the cancer establishment has continually minimized the evidence for increasing cancer rates which it has largely attributed to smoking and dietary fat, while discounting or ignoring the causal role of avoidable eposures to industrial carcinogens in the air, food, water, and the workplace." (*22).
The Bush Administration coverup of its pre-Gulf-War support of Iraq "is yet another example of the President's people conspiring to keep both Congress and the American people in the dark" (*23).
If you think about it, conspiracy is a fundamental aspect of doing business in this country.
Take the systematic and cooperative censorship of the Persian Gulf War by the Pentagon and much of the news media (*24).
Or the widespread plans of business and government groups to spend $100 million in taxes to promote a distorted and truncated history of Columbus in America (*25). along the lines of the Smithsonian Institution's "fusion of the two worlds", (*26). rather than examining more realistic aspects of the Spanish invasion, like "anger, cruelty, gold, terror, and death" (*27).
Or circumstances surrounding the U.S. Justice Department theft from the INSLAW company of sophisticated, law-enforcement computer software which "now point to a widespread conspiracy implicating lesser Government officials in the theft of INSLAW's technology", says former U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson (*28).
Or the "largest bank fraud in world financial history" (*29), where the White House knew of the criminal activities at "the Bank of Crooks and Criminals International" (BCCI) (*30), where U.S. intelligence agencies did their secret banking (*31), and where bribery of prominent American public officials "was a way of doing business" (*32).
Or the 1949 conviction of "GM [General Motors], Standard Oil of California, Firestone, and E. Roy Fitzgerald, among others, for criminally conspiring to replace electric transportation with gas- and diesel-powered buses and to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to transportation companies throughout the country" [in, among others, the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles] (*33).
Or the collusion in 1973 between Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-CT). and the U.S. Department of Transportation to overlook safety defects in the 1.2 million Corvair automobiles manufactured by General Motors in the early 60's (*34).
Or the A. H. Robins Company, which manufactured the Dalkon Shield intrauterine contraceptive, and which ignored repeated warnings of the Shield's hazards and which "stonewalled, deceived, covered up, and
covered up the coverups...[thus inflicting] on women a worldwide epidemic of pelvic infections." (*35).
Or that cooperation between Mc Donnell Douglas Aircraft Company and the FAA resulted in failure to enforce regulations regarding the unsafe DC-10 cargo door which failed in flight killing all 364 passengers on Turkish Airlines Flight 981 on March 3, 1974 (*36).
Or the now-banned, cancer-producing pregnancy drug Diethylstilbestrol (DES). that was sold by manufacturers who ignored tests which showed DES to be carcinogenic; and who acted "in concert with each other in the testing and marketing of DES for miscarriage purposes" (*37).
Or the conspiracies among bankers and speculators, with the cooperation of a corrupted Congress, to relieve depositors of their savings. This "arrogant disregard from the White House, Congress and corporate world for the interests and rights of the American people" will cost U.S. tapayers many hundreds of billions of dollars (*38).
Or the Westinghouse, Allis Chalmers,Federal Pacific, and General Electric executives who met surreptitiously in hotel rooms to fix prices and eliminate competition on heavy industrial equipment (*39).
Or the convictions of Industrial Biotest Laboratories (IBT). officers for fabricating safety tests on prescription drugs (*40).
Or the conspiracy by the asbestos industry to suppress knowledge of medical problemsrelating to asbestos (*41).
Or the 1928 Achnacarry Agreement through which oil companies "agreed not to engage in any effective price competition" (*42).
Or the conspiracy among U.S. Government agencies and the Congress to cover up the nature of our decades-old war against the people of Nicaragua
a covert war that continues in 1992 with the U.S. Government applying pressure for the Nicaraguan police to reorganize into a more repressive force (*43).
Or the conspiracy by the CIA and the U.S. Government to interfere in the Chilean election process with military aid, covert actions, and an economic boycott which culminated in the overthrow of the legitimately elected government and the assassination of President Salvador Allende in 1973 (*44).
Or the conspiracy among U.S. officials including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and CIA Director William Colby to finance terrorism in Angola for the purpose of disrupting Angola's plans for peaceful elections in October 1975, and to lie about these actions to the Congress and the news media (*45). And CIA Director George Bush's subsequent cover up of this U.S.-sponsored terrorism (*46).
Or President George Bush's consorting with the Pentagon to invade Panama in 1989 and thereby violate the Constitution of the United States, the U.N. Charter, the O.A.S. Charter, and the Panama Canal Treaties (*47).
Or the "gross antitrust violations" (*48) and the conspiracy of American oil companies and the British and U.S. governments to strangle Iran economically after Iran nationalized the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951. And the subsequent overthrow by the CIA in 1953 of Iranian Prime Minister Muhammed Mossadegh (*49).
Or the CIA-planned assassination of Congo head-of-state Patrice Lumumba (*50).
Or the deliberate and wilful efforts of President George Bush, Senator Robert Dole, Senator George Mitchell, various U.S. Government agencies, and members of both Houses of the Congress to buy the 1990 Nicaraguan national elections for the presidential candidate supported by President Bush (*51).
Or the collective approval by 64 U.S. Senators of Robert Gates to head the CIA, in the face of "unmistakable evidence that Gates lied about his role in the Iran-Contra scandal" (*52).
Or "How Reagan and the Pope Conspired to Assist Poland's Solidarity Movement and Hasten the Demise of Communism" (*53).
Or how the Reagan Administration connived with the Vatican to ban the use of USAID funds by any country "for the promotion of birth control or abortion" (*54).
Or "the way the Vatican and Washington colluded to achieve common purpose in Central America" (*55).
Or the collaboration of Guatemalan strong-man and mass murderer Hector Gramajo with the U.S. Army to design "programs to build civilian-military cooperation" at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Georgia; five of the nine soldiers accused in the 1989 Jesuit massacre in El Salvador are graduates of SOA which trains Latin/American military personnel (*56).
Or the conspiracy of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant administration to harass and cause bodily harm to whistleblower Linda Porter who uncovered dangerous working conditions at the facility (*57).
Or the conspiracy of President Richard Nxion and the Government of South Vietnam to delay the Paris Peace Talks until after the 1968 U.S. presidential election (*58).
Or the pandemic coverups of police violence (*59).
Or the always safe-to-cite worldwide communist conspiracy (*60).
Or maybe the socially responsible, secret consortium to publish The Satanic Verses in paperback (*61).
Conspiracies are obviously a way to get things done, and the Washington Post offers little comment unless conspiracy theorizing threatens to expose a really important conspiracy that, let's say, benefits big business or big government.
Such a conspiracy would be like our benevolent CIA's 1953 overthrow of the Iranian government to help out U.S. oil companies; or like our illegal war against Panama to tighten U.S. control over Panama and the Canal; or like monopoly control of broadcasting that facilitates corporate censorship on issues of public importance (*62). When the camouflage of such conspiracies is stripped away, public confidence in the conspiring officials can erode -- depending on how seriously the citizenry perceives the conspiracy to have violated the public trust. Erosion of public trust in the status quo is what the Post seems to see as a real threat to its corporate security.
Currently, the Post has mounted vituperative, frenzied attacks on Oliver Stone's movie "JFK", which reexamines the U.S. Government's official (Warren Commission. finding that a single gunman, acting alone, killed President John F. Kennedy. The movie also is the story of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's unsuccessful prosecution of Clay Shaw, the only person ever tried in connection with the assassination. And the movie proposes that the Kennedy assassination was the work of conspirators whose interests would not be served by a president who, had he lived, might have disengaged us from our war against Vietnam.
The Post ridicules a reexamination of the Kennedy assassination along lines suggested by "JFK". Senior Post journalists like Charles Krauthammer, Ken Ringle, George Will, Phil Mc Combs, and Michael Isikoff, have been called up to man the bulwarks against public sentiment which has never supported the government's non-conspiratorial assassination thesis. In spite of the facts that the Senate Intelligence Committee of 1975 and 1976 found that "both the FBI and CIA had repeatedly lied to the Warren Commission" (*63) and that the 1979 Report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations found that President Kennedy was probably killed "as a result of a conspiracy" (*64), a truly astounding number of Post stories have been used as vehicles to discredit "JFK" as just another conspiracy (*65).
Some of the more vicious attacks on the movie are by editor Stephen Rosenfeld, and journalists Richard Cohen, George Will, and George Lardner Jr (*66). They ridicule the idea that Kennedy could have had second thoughts about escalating the Vietnam War and declaim that there is no historical justification for this idea. Seasoned journalist Peter Dale Scott, former Pentagon/CIA liaison chief L. Fletcher Prouty, and investigators David Scheim and John Newman have each authored defense of the "JFK" thesis that Kennedy was not enthusiastic about staying in Vietnam (*67). But the Post team just continues ranting against the possibility of a high-level assassination conspiracy while offering little justification for its arguments.
An example of particularly shabby scholarship and unacceptable behavior is George Lardner Jr's contribution to the Post's campaign against the movie. Lardner wrote three articles, two before the movie was completed, and the third upon its release. In May, six months before the movie came out, Lardner obtained a copy of the first draft of the script and, contrary to accepted standards, revealed in the Post the contents of this copyrighted movie (*68). Also in this article, (*69). Lardner discredits Jim Garrison with hostile statements from a former Garrison associate Pershing Gervais. Lardner does not tell the reader that subsequent to the Clay Shaw trial, in a U.S. Government criminal action brought against Garrison, Government witness Gervais, who helped set up Garrison for prosecution, admitted under oath that in a May 1972 interview with a New Orleans television reporter, he, Gervais, had said that the U.S. Government's case against Garrison was a fraud (*70). The Post's 1973 account of the Garrison acquittal mentions this controversy, but when I recently asked Lardner about this, he was not clear as to whether he remembered it (*71).
Two weeks after his first "JFK" article, Lardner blustered his way through a justification for his unauthorized possession of the early draft ofthe movie (*72). He also defended his reference to Pershing Gervais by lashing out at Garrison as a writer "of gothic fiction".
When the movie was released in December, Lardner "reviewed" it (*73). He again ridiculed the film's thesis that following the Kennedy assassination, President Johnson reversed Kennedy's plans to de-escalate the Vietnam War. Lardner cited a memorandum issued by Johnson four days after Kennedy died. Lardner says this memorandum was written before the assassination, and that it "was a continuation of Kennedy's policy". In fact, the memorandum was drafted the day before the assassination by Mc George Bundy (Kennedy's Assistant for National Security Affairs) Kennedy was in Texas, and may never have seen it. Following the assassination, it was rewritten; and the final version provided for escalating the war against Vietnam (*74) -- facts that Lardner avoided.
The Post's crusade against exposing conspiracies is blatantly dishonest:
The Warren Commission inquiry into the Kennedy Assassination was for the most part conducted in secret. This fact is buried in the Post (*75). Nor do current readers of this newspaper find meaningful discussion of the Warren Commission's secret doubts about both the FBI and the CIA (*76). Or of a dispatch from CIA headquarters instructing co-conspirators at field stations to counteract the "new wave of books and articles criticizing the [Warren] Commission's findings...[and] conspiracy theories ...[that] have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization" and to "discuss the publicity problem with liaison and friendly elite contacts, especially politicians and editors "and to "employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics. ...Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. ...The aim of this dispatch is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists..." (*77).
In 1979, Washington journalist Deborah Davis published Katharine The Great, the story of Post publisher Katharine Graham and her newspaper's close ties with Washington's powerful elite, a number of whom were with the CIA.
Particularly irksome to Post editor Benjamin Bradlee was a Davis claim that Bradlee had "produced CIA material" (*78). Understandably sensitive about this kind of publicity, Bradlee told Davis' publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich ,"Miss Davis is lying ...I never produced CIA material ...what I can do is to brand Miss Davis as a fool and to put your company in that special little group of publishers who don't give a shit for the truth". The Post bullied HBJ into recalling the book; HBJ shredded 20,000 copies; Davis sued HBJ for breach of contract and damage to reputation; HBJ settled out of court; and Davis published her book elsewhere with an appendix that demonstrated Bradlee to have been deeply involved with producing cold-war/CIA propaganda (*79). Bradlee still says the allegations about his association with people in the CIA are false, but he has apparently taken no action to contest the xetensive documentation presented by Deborah Davis in the second and third editions of her book (*80).
And it's not as if the Post were new to conspiracy work.
Former Washington Post publisher Philip Graham "believing that the function of the press was more often than not to mobilize consent for the policies of the government, was one of the architects of what became a widespread practice:the use and manipulation of journalists by the CIA" (*81). This scandal was known by its code name Operation MOCKINGBIRD. Former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein cites a former CIA deputy director as saying, "It was widely known that Phil Graham was someone you could get help from" (*82). More recently the Post provided cover for CIA personality Joseph Fernandez by "refusing to print his name for over a year up until the day his indictmen twas announced ...for crimes committed in his official capacity as CIA station chief in Costa Rica" (*83).
Of the meetings between Graham and his CIA acquaintances at which the availability and prices of journalists were discussed, a former CIA man recalls, "You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month" (*84). One may wish to consider Philip Graham's philosophy along with a more recent statement from his wife Katharine Graham, current Chairman of the Board of the Washington Post. In a lecture on terrorism and the news media, Mrs. Graham said: "A second challenge facing the media is how to prevent terrorists from using the media as a platform fortheir views. ... The point is that we generally know when we are being manipulated, and we've learned better how and where to draw the line, though the decisions are often difficult" (*85).
Today, the Post and its world of big business are apparently terrified that our elite and our high-level public officials may be exposed as conspirators behind Contra drug-smuggling, October Surprise, or the assassination of President Kennedy. This fear is truly remarkable in that, like most of us and like most institutions, the Post runs its business as a conspiracy of like-minded entrepreneurs --a conspiracy "to act or work together toward the same result or goal" (*86). But where the Post really parts company from just plain people is when it pretends that conspiracies associated with big business or government are "coincidence". Post reporter Lardner vents the frustration inherent in having to maintain this dichotomy. He lashes out at Oliver Stone and suggests that Stone may actually believe that the Post's opposition to Stone's movie is a "conspiracy". Lardner assures us that Stone's complaints are "groundless and paranoid and smack of Mc Carthyism" (*87).
So how does the Post justify devoting so much energy to ridiculing those who investigate conspiracies?
The Post has answers: people revert to conspiracy theories because they need something "neat and tidy" (*88) that "plugs a gap no other generally accepted theory fills', (*89. and "coincidence ...is always the safest and most likely explanation for any conjunction of curious circumstances ..." (*90).
And what does this response mean? It means that "coincidence theory" is what the Post espouses when it would prefer not to admit to a conspiracy. In other words, some things just "happen". And, besides, conspiracy to do certain things would be a crime; "coincidence" is a safer bet.
Post Ombudsman Richard Harwood, who, it is rumored, serves as Executive Director of the Benevolent Protective Order of Coincidence Theorists, (*91) recently issued a warning about presidential candidates "who have begun to mutter about a press conspiracy". Ordinarily, Harwood would simply dismiss these charges as "symptoms of the media paranoia that quadrennially engulfs members of the American political class" (*92). But a fatal mistake was made by the mutterers; they used the "C" word against the PRESS! And Harwood exploded his off-the-cuff comment into an entire column -- ending it with:"We are the new journalists, immersed too long, perhaps, in the cleansing waters of political conformity. But conspirators we ain't".
Distinguished investigative journalist Morton Mintz, a 29-year veteran of the Washington Post, now chairs the Fund for Investigative Journalism. In the December issue of The Progressive, Mintz wrote "A Reporter Looks Back in Anger -- Why the Media Cover Up Corporate Crime". Therein he discussed the difficulties in convincing editors to accept important news stories. He illustrated the article with his own experiences at the Post, where he says he was known as "the biggest pain in the ass in the office" (*93).
Would Harwood argue that grief endured by journalists at the hands of editors is a matter of random coincidence?
And that such policy as Mintz described is made independently by editors without influence from fellow editors or from management? Would Harwood have us believe that at the countless office "meetings" in which news people are ever in attendance, there is no discussion of which stories will run and which ones will find inadequate space? That there is no advanced planning for stories or that there are no cooperative efforts among the staff? Or that in the face of our news-media "grayout" of presidential candidate Larry Agran, (*94) a Post journalist would be free to give news space to candidate Agran equal to that the Post lavishes on candidate Clinton? Let's face it: these possibilities are about as likely as Barbara Bush entertaining guests at a soup kitchen.
Would Harwood have us believe that media critic and former Post Ombudsman Ben Bagdikian is telling less than the truth in his account of wire-service control over news: "The largely anonymous men who control the syndicate and wire service copy desks and the central wire photo machines determine at a single decision what millions will see and hear. ...there seems to be little doubt that these gatekeepers preside over an operation in which an appalling amount of press agentry sneaks in the back door of American journalism and marches untouched out the front door as 'news'" (*95).
When he sat on the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, Judge Clarence Thomas violated U.S. law when he failed to remove himself from a case in which he then proceeded to reverse a $10 million judgment against the Ralston Purina Company (*96). Ralston Purina, the animal feed empire, is the family fortune of Thomas' mentor, Senator John Danforth. The Post limited its coverage of the Thomas malfeasance to 56 words buried in the middle of a 1200-word article (*97). Would Harwood have us believe that the almost complete blackout on this matter by the major news media and the U.S. Senate was a matter of coincidence? Could a Post reporter have written a story about Ralston Purina if she had wanted to? Can a brick swim?
Or take the fine report produced last September by Ralph Nader's Public Citizen. Titled All the Vice President's Men, it documents "How the Quayle Council on Competitiveness Secretly Undermines Health, Safety, and Environmental Programs". Three months later, Post journalists David Broder and Bob Woodward published "The President's Understudy", a seven-part series on Vice President Quayle. Although this series does address Quayle's role with the Competitiveness Council, its handling of the Council's disastrous impact on America is inadequate. It is 40,000 words of mostly aimless chatter about Quayle memorabilia: youth, family, college record, Christianity, political aspirations, intellectual aspirations, wealthy friends, government associates, golf, travels, wife Marilyn, and net worth -- revealing little about Quayle's abilities, his understanding of society's problems, or his thoughts about justice and freedom, and never mentioning the comprehensive Nader study of Quayle's record in the Bush Administration (*98).
Now, did Broder or did Woodward forget about the Nader study? Or did both of them forget? Or did one, or the other, or both decide not to mention it? Did these two celebrated, seasoned Post reporters ever discuss together their jointly authored stories? Did they decide to publish such a barren set of articles because it would enhance their reputations? How did management feel about the use of precious news space for such frivolity? Is it possible that so many pages were dedicated to this twaddle without people "acting or working together toward the same result or goal"? (*99) Do crocodiles fly?
On March 20, front-page headlines in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post read respectively:
This display of editorial independence should at least raise questions of whether the news media collective mindset is really different from that of any other cartel --like oil, diamond, energy, (*100) or manufacturing cartels, a cartel being "a combination of independent commercial enterprises designed to limit competition" (*101).
The Washington Post editorial page carries the heading:
AN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER
Is it? Of course not. There probably is no such thing. Does the Post "conspire" to keep its staff and its newspaper from wandering too far from the safety of mediocrity? The Post would respond that the question is absurd. In that I am not privy to the Post's telephone conversations, I can only speculate on how closely the media elite must monitor the staff. But we all know how few micro-seconds it takes a new reporter to learn what subjects are taboo and what are "safe", and that experienced reporters don't have to ask.
What is more important, however, than speculating about how the Post communicates within its own corporate structure and with other members of the cartel, is to document and publicize what the Post does in public, namely, how it shapes and censors the news.
Julian C. Holmes
Copies to: Public-spirited citizens, both inside and outside the news media, And - maybe a few others.
Notes to Letter of April 25, 1992:
9/11: Mae Brussell vs. Solomon and Parry
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More Spooks at Mt. Holyoke
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