Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War

Overview

Second Front documents in vivid detail the behind-the-scenes activities by the U.S. and Kuwaiti governments which limited the American media’s constitutional right to observe, question, and report on activities during Operation Desert Storm. In frank and startling interviews with, among others, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Ben Bradlee, Katharine Graham, Robert Wright, and Pete Williams, John R. MacAuthur shows how the press corps was treated more like a fifth column than as representatives of a free ...

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Overview

Second Front documents in vivid detail the behind-the-scenes activities by the U.S. and Kuwaiti governments which limited the American media’s constitutional right to observe, question, and report on activities during Operation Desert Storm. In frank and startling interviews with, among others, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Ben Bradlee, Katharine Graham, Robert Wright, and Pete Williams, John R. MacAuthur shows how the press corps was treated more like a fifth column than as representatives of a free people. He demonstrates how, despite the torrent of words and images from the Persian Gulf, Americans were systematically and deliberately kept in the dark about events, politics, and simple facts during the Gulf crisis.

With a reporter’s critical eye and a historian’s sensibility, he traces decades of press-government relations—during Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama—which helped set the stage for restrictions on Gulf War reporting and for a public-relations triumph by the government. His analysis of the issues that confronted the media in this war is frightening testimony to what happens when the government goes unchallenged, when questions go unasked.

Based on interviews with Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Ben Bradlee, Katherine Graham, Pete Williams and others, Second Front documents in vivid detail the behind-the-scenes activities by the U.S. and Kuwaiti governments, as well as the media's own cooperation when its rights to observe, question, and report were increasingly limited.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The publisher of Harper's magazine here decries what he sees as the Pentagon's efforts to sanitize the Gulf war. First he reviews the Defense Department's technique during Grenada of creating a media pool and ensuring that it arrived after the action, and in Panama of virtually imprisoning the pool on an army base. He then turns to ``Operation Desert Muzzle,'' as he calls it, a ``devastating and immoral victory'' for military censorship and a ``crushing defeat'' for the press and the First Amendment. MacArthur expresses revulsion at the media's timid acquiescence to the Pentagon's tight control of news, combined with its ``out-and-out boosterism and jingoism.'' He criticizes Dan Rather's casual but heartfelt ``salute to our young men and women out there'' as offensive. In a final scene, for which his puzzling metaphor is Nathanael West's Day of the Locust , MacArthur describes how reporters at a postwar Washington banquet fawned over Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf: `` . . . the Fourth Estate bowing to a man who had treated them with contempt.'' The tendency in the media, the author warns in this somewhat shrill treatise, is toward more and more supine, ``suck-up'' coverage of military operations. (June)
Library Journal
The United States was partly pushed into the Persian Gulf war by a slick public relations campaign on behalf of Kuwait. Concurrently, the Pentagon coolly executed a censorship program accepted by a timid, divided American media. That is the thesis offered by MacArthur, publisher of Harper's magazine, in his solidly documented indictment of media performance during the war. He faults both print and broadcasting for ineffective or nonexistent protests against censorship and for poor war reporting. (On obstacles to strong reporting in recent years, see Peter Stoler's The War Against the Press , LJ 12/86.) MacArthur deserves credit for illuminating interviews with CBS anchor Dan Rather and others, though his sarcastic tone, particularly on the subject of Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams, somewhat detracts from his argument. Recommended for media collections.-- Bruce Rosenstein, ``USA Today'' Lib., Arlington, Va.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809085170
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 6/19/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

John R. MacArthur is publisher of Harper's Magazine.

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