Letter FromnNew Yorknby Leo RaditsanWhose Voice Counts?n”I am teaching you to use a tool morendeadly than a pistol.” This is the messagenbeginning journalism studentsnhear from an instructor who spoke lastnyear at a conference on “Our Enemies’nUse of the Media,” sponsored by Accuracynin Media. In a world of Goliaths,ncount Accuracy in Media as onenof the Davids of our time. This handfulnof men have shown over and overnagain the incapacity of television networksnand newspapers to remembernsimple facts. Recently, it was onlynAIM’S complaints that forced ABC’snGood Morning America grudgingly tonretract its claim that Lenin overthrewnthe Czar instead of the democraticngovernment of Kerenski — only annAmerican would call this entire seriesnof events “the Russian revolution,”nand only an exile from Russia like LevnNavrozov would remember the facts.nThe lives of millions depend on thenmemory of such facts. Weapons arenuseless without such memory.nThe professional journalists at thenAIM conference insisted that incompetence,nnot bad faith, made thenmedia reckless. They readily admittednthat Soviet journalists (identified byndefectors as KCB agents) receive betterntraining in languages and the history ofnthe countries they cover. This casualnadmission of incompetence made menuneasy. “Other peoples’ misery is annopportunity for us journalists,” EdwinnDiamond, who writes on media for thenNew York magazine, remarked. Butnsurely he knew reporting disasters doesnnot cause them—in fact accurate reportingnhelps prevent man-made calamities.nMichael Pakenham, the editorialnpage editor of the Daily News,nreminded us of the necessary imperfectnessnof institutions in democracies.nBeautiful words. But he did not meannCORRESPONDENCEnthem. He used them to accuse thencritics of media in free countries ofnenvying the perfectionism of totalitariannregimes—as if there were no differencenbetween criticism and the Utopiannlust that most of all dreads doubt.nThe professionals also admitted thatnterrorists and their victims manipulatenthe media to keep governments fromnrisking the use of force: from June 15nto June 30 the networks devoted morenthan half the evening news to thenseizure of the TWA hostages in Beirut.nSixty percent of the images were ofngrieving families—“the pornographynof grief,” George Will calls it. Diamondncasually admitted that he wouldnyield to terrorist blackmail to save hisnfamily — though writers from thenGulag say such surrender never works.nThese professionals seemed to want tonconvince us they knew no shame.nHow can they feel shame while theynremain confident that their errors willnnever be criticized in media of equalncirculation—their ring of Gyges? Unacknowledgednshame was palpable.nThe criticism of independent writersnwent deeper than the self-criticism ofnthe professionals. Irene Boden Leacock,nleader of the “NicaraguannMiskito Indian Women of the Resistance,”na woman whose unassumingnsimplicity and beauty makes lying unthinkable,nmarveled that the barefacednlying of communist leaders like Orteganin Nicaragua escapes challenge bynWestern journalists intent upon exposingnthe minor duplicity of Americannpoliticians. In support of her point.nReed Irvine remarked that most Americannnewspapers had not bothered toncheck and deny a Soviet assertion at anGeneva-Summit press conference ofnrecent attacks on 350 synagogues innthe United States. John Rees, an editornof Early Warning, contrasted the lavishnattention newspapers pay to NelsonnMandela, who has not renounced violence,nto their silence concerning thenmurder of Bartholomew Hlapane, anformer South African CommunistnParty member, and his wife, and thennncrippling of his 15-year-old daughter,nin South Africa in 1982, three monthsnafter he had testified before the UnitednStates Senate’s Subcommittee on Securitynand Terrorism. They rarelynmention that the African NationalnCongress is a Marxist-Leninist organizationnwith Soviet-trained terroristsnunder KGB control.nPeter RoUin’s new film Television’snVietnam: The Impact of the Medianprovided the pith and marrow of thenAIM conference. This film bringsnback events of 17 years ago; the Vietcongnattacks throughout South Vietnamnat Tet and the siege of Khe Sanhnin 1968. It shows participants then andnnow in a contrast that works on viewersnlike a dream. For that past is halfnforgotten and at the same time justnbeneath the surface of consciousness:nGeneral Westmoreland now rememberingnin the uneasy comfort of civiliannclothes and in battle fatigues wanderingnabout the American Embassynin Saigon in 1968 to make sure thenVietcong had not broken into thenbuilding, as the media had reported; ansoldier who had returned to Khe Sanhnafter a month’s leave in the UnitednStates retells his bewilderment at thencontrast between the effective resistancenhe knew (199 Americans killed innaction, 1,600 wounded; 9,000 ton14,000 Vietnamese dead) and the intimationsnof a defeat on the scale ofnDien Bien Phu in the press and televisionnat home. A former high Vietcongnofficial, now in exile in the West,nexplains communist strategy: “Fightnand Negotiate. Fight and Negotiate.”nHe means the alternation of violencenwith the raising and disappointment ofnthe enemy’s yearning for settlement innorder to break his will—a strategy notnunlike the technique for “reeducation”nin totalitarian concentration camps.nThe communists realized that Tet hadnbrought them a military defeat innSouth Vietnam but had secured thenpolitical victory in the United Statesnnecessary for eventual conquest of thenSouth. You can win on the battlefieldnMARCH 1986/45n