Pope-a-dope

The chapter starts out with a conspiracy theory about Menahem Begin instructing his fellow elites to tie terrorism to the Soviet Union.

Terrorism and communism were the propaganda message of the Reagan era. Chomsky claims that it was implausible that the Soviets would do this as there was little for them to gain, and the shooter was associated with the right rather than the Soviet left. This is true, but the USSR was extremely opaque and unpredictable. The USSR allied itself with the right as early as the Molotov-Ribentrop pact.

Chomsky describes a Strategy of Tension where right wing groups commit terror,and governments blamed the left. It sounded a little conspiratorial. Wishing to learn more I checked out the wikipedia article on Strategy of Tension. The article had multiple issues. It doesn’t site many references. Probably a conspiracy by Jimmy Wales to keep article sounding conspiratorial.

The suspect seems to have wanted attention. He changed his story, at one point seemed coached, some of the things he said seemed to be lies.Essentially Chomsky claims that he was coached on what to confess. I’m not sure about police work, but from what I’ve seen on the TV that seems to be the usual way about things. The police get an idea in their head about how a crime was committed and then they push it on the perp.

Interesting line about news reports: “…the charges never seriously examined but merely regurgitated and elaborated with odd facts and opinion, and with no departures from [the standard storyline].” This fits perfectly with the lazy reporter model.

“As one network official told one of the authors, if a critic of the Bulgarian Connection were allowed on the air, the official would “have to make sure that every i was dotted t crossed; but with Sterling [someone that pushed the standard model], there were no problems.” Finally a quote from someone on the inside of news production! I wish there was more of this. This is more informative about the news process then the previous 158 pages. And yet, there isn’t any follow-up. I guess they already “know” everything they need to know at that point.

I have a hard time following all the minutia that is summarized that points to a different conclusion than what the press reports, but close to the end Chomsky claims “An honest press would have pursued this relentlessly”. Maybe an honest and energetic press. But an honest and lazy press would take the story that was given to it and publish it.

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2 Responses to “Pope-a-dope”

  1. Jon Says:

    I find your arguments to be sort of scattershot and tough to follow, but let me say something about your supposed “lazy” theory.

    I don’t think H&C would deny that laziness is a factor. Concentrated power will of course attempt to make it easy for journalists to report useful news. It’s useful to blame the left for the papal assassination attempt. Journalists can easily sit back and regurgitate information coming from well funded sources, whether the government or other special interest group.

    The key is that the product we get is highly tainted by service to power. It should basically be called propaganda. All kinds of different mechanisms create these conditions, including your “lazy” theory that says that it takes less effort to regurgitate propagandistic lines than to do real investigative journalism.

    But the media can get very non-lazy in service to power as well. So the Smother’s Brothers had to submit their product in advance to CBS executives for screening prior to air time so as to cater to the war mongering sensibilities of power. Chomsky tells a good story of his efforts to get on NPR. When the producer found out last minute that it would air he canceled it and replaced it with music. An uproar ensued and NPR said OK, you can come in and read a prepared statement, you have exactly 90 seconds, we’ll record it and air it after. When he ran a few seconds long they had him re-read it. That’s a lot of work and a lot of explaining. If they just wanted to be lazy they’d lay back and let him have an interview or let the Smother’s Brothers say whatever they want, especially given that the majority of the viewing public agrees with them. Why the extra effort? Service to power.

    Or take East Timor. The hacks would pretend it’s difficult to get there and report. Is Cambodia easier to access? And what about the atrocities in our own back yard, like Latin America? Shouldn’t that be easier? Nope. Supposedly Cambodia is easier. But not while Nixon was bombing it. Only when Pol Pot was around. And then when the US shifted again to support of Pol Pot, I guess at that point it was hard to report from Cambodia once again.

    Iran may not be the greatest, but it’s a people’s paradise next to Saudi Arabia. Why do we hear so much about their abuses but almost nothing from Saudi Arabia, a US ally which would presumably be easy to access? It’s not like there are travel restrictions to Saudi Arabia, but there are in Iran. But it’s all Iran bashing all the time. Part of that is laziness as people just repeat the US government’s criticism or AIPAC’s criticism. So that’s a factor, but the over arching H&C thesis would embrace that as a relevant part of their model.

  2. darfferrara Says:

    I was tired when I wrote it so I doubt that there was a coherent argument in my post.

    I’ll try to get to the rest of your posts points at some point in the discussion of the book, but right now I just want to focus on the “laziness hypothesis”. Both of the examples that you gave are actually very good examples of laziness. In fact, laziness is embedded in Chomsky’s flak. What is more work, recording Chomsky again, taking two minutes, or having to put up with government harassment for months after. In the case of the Smothers Bros, what’s more work for the network, keeping up with all the government censors, or putting on a different show that doesn’t have the political angle? In both cases they took the lazy way out. Theory proved.

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