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Almost 2,500 protesters gather on the Dartmouth College green to protest the conservative, off-campus Dartmouth Review, a student newspaper given to extremes of racial and political rhetoric (see 1980). The protest is sparked by the Review’s recent publication of a selection of Nazi propaganda on Yom Kippur, one of the highest of Jewish holy days. The selection, printed on the paper’s masthead, was from Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, and read: “I therefore believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator: By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord’s work.” The protest is led by Dartmouth president James Freedman, and made up of a wide swath of students, faculty, and alumni. “This has been a week of infamy for the Dartmouth community,” Freedman says. “The Dartmouth Review has consistently attacked blacks because they are black, women because they are women, homosexuals because they are homosexuals, and Jews because they are Jews,” he says; two years before, the Review had compared Freedman, who is Jewish, to Hitler, and compared his policies to the Holocaust (see November 9-10, 1988). College trustees call the Hitler publication “a criminal act of sabotage.”
Trustee Accuses University President of Using Incident to 'Incite Hatred' - The Boston Globe describes Review trustee and former editor Dinesh D’Souza, a former policy adviser in the Reagan administration, as both “contrite and combative” over the incident. D’Souza apologizes for the publishing of the Hitler selection, then moments later accuses Freedman of using the incident to incite hatred against the Review. “This case is Dartmouth’s Tawana Brawley,” he says, referring to the 1987 case of a young African-American woman who some believe falsely accused several white men of raping her. “You have a sabotage, a hoax, a dirty trick that is being ruthlessly and cynically exploited by the college leadership in order to ruin the lives of many innocent students. President Freedman has emerged as the Al Sharpton of academia.” (Sharpton, a New York pastor and civil rights leader, was one of Brawley’s most public advocates.) Protesters line up one after another to urge the college to repudiate the newspaper. Dartmouth officials say that the newspaper has damaged the college’s reputation and diminished the school’s ability to recruit top students and faculty, particularly minorities. Religion professor Arthur Hertzberg calls the Hitler quote another “act of ongoing hooliganism” in a string of politically and racially explosive actions by the Review, and tells the crowd: “This is not a hating college. This is not an anti-Semitic college. This is not an institution of infamy. It is a community of warmth and love.”
Professor: Responsibility Lies with Conservative Funders - Hertzberg says his quarrel is not with “the 20 or 30 misguided young people who edit the Review.” Rather, he says, it is with the prominent conservatives who support the paper. The Review is financed mostly by off-campus, conservative organizations and foundations; it has an annual budget of some $150,000, and faces high legal bills. Hertzberg says the paper’s key backers include former Treasury Secretary William Simon; former Chase Manhattan Bank chairman George Champion; National Review editor William F. Buckley Jr.; and conservative commentator and former Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan. “My quarrel is with those out there who put up hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with which to contaminate this campus,” Hertzberg says. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”
Board Member Accuses Liberals of Planting Hitler Quote - Review advisory board member George Gilder, a conservative economist, says the Hitler quote was planted by someone who wishes the newspaper ill: “Do you think any conservative in the world would deliberately put that into the magazine? It’s obviously an attack by somebody who infiltrated the ranks.” Gilder says Freedman and liberals at Dartmouth are using the Hitler incident “to try to kill the Review, just as they try to kill conservatism whenever it rises up on campus.” Editor in chief Kevin Pritchett collects the issues of the newspaper, and, with three other senior staffers, publishes an open letter denying any involvement in publishing the quote and accusing a staff “insider” of somehow inserting it. Review supporters in New York and Washington, DC, demand that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) conduct an investigation to find the “saboteur,” and Review adviser Jeffrey Hart releases a written response that attacks Freedman for falsely accusing the Review of racism (see March 15, 1982, 1983, and August 2002) and intolerance (see 1981, 1984, 1985, and July 1990). (Hohler 10/5/1990; Waligore 9/20/2006) Days later, Simon publishes an editorial in the New York Times decrying the Review’s reference to Hitler, but calling the publication of the quote “sabotage” and saying: “[s]omeone secretly gained access to the production process.… Since the slur was deviously implanted in a section that remains unchanged from week to week, the subterfuge eluded the proofreaders.” He describes Pritchett as “horrified” by the incident, says that any accusations of anti-Semitism on the Review’s part are “preposterous,” and accuses Freedman of orchestrating a protest against the Review “that quickly metamorphosed into an instrument of hate—hate directed against student journalists who, as a result, suffered death warnings, threats of violence, as well as mean-spirited accusations.” The Review serves to “question, challenge, and even deride the dominant liberal orthodoxy on the campus, exposing its hypocrisies,” Simon writes, and calls any attempt to call the Review to account “political opportunism.” (Simon 10/20/1990)
Investigation Finds Quote Included by Staff, Editors - The ADL will indeed conduct an investigation, and will find that the Hitler quote was from a well-thumbed book in the Review’s office. It will conclude that a Review staffer had inserted the quote with the knowledge and apparent complicity of the senior editors. The ADL will call the publication of the quote “obviously an anti-Semitic act,” and write, “Prior acts of the Review and the past conduct of its members have contributed, the commission believes, to the creation of an environment which condoned and even encouraged a member of the Review to include the offensive Hitler quote.” The investigation notes that the Review has frequently published other offensive comments such as “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” and “genocide means never having to say you’re sorry.”
History of Anti-Semitism - The Review has a history of anti-Semitic publishings (see October 1982 and November 9-10, 1988). D’Souza says Review trustees have repudiated such actions, which he calls the work of unpolished and overzealous staffers who sometimes run the Review like “a half-baked, ramshackle student paper.”
Review President, Contributors Resign over Furor - C. Tyler White, president of the Review, will soon resign in protest. “I cannot allow the Review to ruin my life any further,” he will write. “The official Review response, which I co-signed and helped distribute, avoids the main thrust of the issue. It does not emphasize our sorrow in this dreadful act of malice, nor does it claim responsibility for letting it reach newsprint.… The editor in chief has failed in his job, and now we must wear the albatross of anti-Semitism because he won’t take responsibility for the issue’s contents.” Review contributors David Budd and Pang-Chun Chen resign along with White, writing, “We are conservatives, but we are not Nazis.” Budd writes that the Review’s apology implied “let’s put the blame on someone else.”
Congressional Involvement - US Representative Chester Atkins (D-MA) delivers a letter concerning the incident to Freedman, accusing the Review of “fomenting hatred and intolerance.” The letter is signed by 84 of Atkins’s fellow Congress members. Atkins is running for re-election against a Review board member, John MacGovern. Atkins says MacGovern should step down as a board member; MacGovern refuses, saying the Review’s senior editors are not responsible for the Hitler quote. (Hohler 10/5/1990; Waligore 9/20/2006)
Investigative journalist Robert Parry speaks at a conference in Heidelberg, Germany concerning the progression of journalism from the 1970s to the present. Parry tells the gathering that American investigative journalism may have hit something of a zenith in the 1970s, with the media exposure of the Pentagon Papers (see March 1971) and the Watergate scandal (see August 8, 1974). “That was a time when US journalism perhaps was at its best, far from perfect, but doing what the Founders had in mind when they afforded special protections to the American press,” he says. “In the 1970s, besides the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, there were other important press disclosures, like the My Lai massacre story and the CIA abuses—from Iran to Guatemala, from Cuba to Chile. For people around the world, American journalism was the gold standard. Granted, that was never the full picture. There were shortcomings even in the 1970s. You also could argue that the US news media’s performance then was exceptional mostly in contrast to its failures during the Cold War, when reporters tended to be stenographers to power, going along to get along, including early in the Vietnam War.” However, those days are long past, Parry notes, and in recent years, American journalism has, he says, gone “terribly wrong.” Parry says that the American press was subjected to an orchestrated program of propaganda and manipulation on a par with what the CIA did in many foreign countries: “Think how the CIA would target a country with the goal of shoring up a wealthy oligarchy. The agency might begin by taking over influential media outlets or starting its own. It would identify useful friends and isolate troublesome enemies. It would organize pro-oligarchy political groups. It would finance agit-prop specialists skilled at undermining and discrediting perceived enemies. If the project were successful, you would expect the oligarchy to consolidate its power, to get laws written in its favor. And eventually the winners would take a larger share of the nation’s wealth. And what we saw in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the United States was something like the behavior of an embattled oligarchy. Nixon’s embittered allies and the Right behaved as if they were following a CIA script. They built fronts; they took over and opened new media outlets; they spread propaganda; they discredited people who got in the way; ultimately, they consolidated power; they changed laws in their favor; and—over the course of several decades—they made themselves even richer, indeed a lot richer, and that, in turn, has translated into even more power.”
Building a Base - Right-wing billionaires such as the Koch brothers (see 1979-1980) and Richard Mellon Scaife, along with Nixon-era figures such as former Treasury Secretary William Simon (a Wall Street investment banker who ran the right-wing Olin Foundation) worked to organize conservative foundations; their money went into funding what Parry calls “right-wing media… right-wing think tanks… [and] right-wing attack groups. Some of these attack groups were set up to go after troublesome reporters.” Parry finds it ironic, in light of the CIA’s interference in the affairs of other nations, that two foreign media moguls, Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch, were key figures in building and financing this conservative media construct. Some media outlets, such as Fox News (see Summer 1970 and October 7, 1996), were created from scratch, while others, such as the venerable and formerly liberal New Republic, were bought out and taken over by conservatives. When Ronald Reagan ascended to the White House, Parry says, he brought along with him “a gifted team of [public relations] and ad men.” Vice President George H.W. Bush, a former CIA director, enabled access to that agency’s propaganda professionals. And Reagan named William Casey to head the CIA; Casey, a former Nixon administration official, was “obsessed [with] the importance of deception and propaganda,” Parry says. “Casey understood that he who controlled the flow of information had a decisive advantage in any conflict.”
Two-Pronged Attack - Two key sources of information for Washington media insiders were targeted, Parry says: the “fiercely independent” CIA analytical division, whose analyses had so often proven damaging to White House plans when reported, and the “unruly” Washington press corps. Casey targeted the CIA analysts, placing his young assistant, Robert Gates, in charge of the analytical division; Gates’s reorganization drove many troublesome analysts into early retirement, to be replaced with more malleable analysts who would echo the White House’s hard line against “Soviet expansionism.” Another Casey crony, Walter Raymond Jr., worked to corral the Washington press corps from his position on the National Security Council. Raymond headed an interagency task force that ostensibly spread “good news” about American policies in the foreign press, but in reality worked to smear and besmirch American journalists who the White House found troubling. According to Parry, “Secret government documents that later emerged in the Iran-Contra scandal revealed that Raymond’s team worked aggressively and systematically to lobby news executives and turn them against their reporters when the reporters dug up information that clashed with Reagan’s propaganda, especially in hot spots like Central America.” It was easy to discredit female journalists in Central America, Parry says; Raymond’s team would spread rumors that they were secretly having sexual liaisons with Communist officials. Other reporters were dismissed as “liberals,” a label that many news executives were eager to avoid. Working through the news executives was remarkably successful, Parry says, and it was not long before many Washington reporters were either brought to heel or marginalized.
'Perception Management' - Reagan’s team called its domestic propaganda scheme “perception management.” Parry says: “The idea was that if you could manage how the American people perceived events abroad, you could not only insure their continued support of the foreign policy, but in making the people more compliant domestically. A frightened population is much easier to control. Thus, if you could manage the information flows inside the government and inside the Washington press corps, you could be more confident that there would be no more Vietnam-style protests. No more Pentagon Papers. No more My Lai massacre disclosures. No more Watergates.” The New York Times and Washington Post, the newspapers that had led the surge of investigative reporting in the 1970s, were effectively muzzled during the Reagan era; Parry says that the two papers “became more solicitous to the Establishment than they were committed to the quality journalism that had contributed to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s.” The same happened at the Associated Press (AP), where Parry had attempted, with limited success, to dig into the Reagan administration’s Central American policies, policies that would eventually crystallize into the Iran-Contra scandal (see May 5, 1987). Few newspapers followed the lead of AP reporters such as Parry and Brian Barger until late 1986, when the Hasenfus air crash provided a news story that editors could no longer ignore (see October 5, 1986). But, Parry says, by the time of the Iran-Contra hearings, few news providers, including the Associated Press, had the stomach for another scandal that might result in another impeachment, particularly in light of the relentless pressure coming from the Reagan administration and its proxies. By June 1990, Parry says he understood “the concept of ‘perception management’ had carried the day in Washington, with remarkably little resistance from the Washington press corps.… Washington journalists had reverted to their pre-Vietnam, pre-Watergate inability to penetrate important government secrets in a significant way.” The process accelerated after 9/11, Parry says: “[M]any journalists reverted back their earlier roles as stenographers to power. They also became cheerleaders for a misguided war in Iraq. Indeed, you can track the arc of modern American journalism from its apex at the Pentagon Papers and Watergate curving downward to that center point of Iran-Contra before reaching the nadir of Bush’s war in Iraq. Journalists found it hard even to challenge Bush when he was telling obvious lies. For instance, in June 2003, as the search for WMD came up empty, Bush began to tell reporters that he had no choice but to invade because Saddam Hussein had refused to let UN inspectors in. Though everyone knew that Hussein had let the inspectors in and that it was Bush who had forced them to leave in March 2003, not a single reporter confronted Bush on this lie, which he repeated again and again right through his exit interviews in 2008” (see November 2002-March 2003, November 25, 2002, December 2, 2002, December 5, 2002, January 9, 2003, March 7, 2003, and March 17, 2003).
The Wikileaks Era and the 'Fawning Corporate Media' - Parry says that now, the tough-minded independent media has been all but supplanted by what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern calls the “Fawning Corporate Media.” This has increased public distrust of the media, which has led to people seeking alternative investigative and reporting methods. Parry comments that much of the real investigative journalism happening now is the product of non-professionals working outside the traditional media structure, such as Wikileaks (see February 15, 2007, 2008, and April 18, 2009). However, the independent media have not demonstrated they can reach the level of influence of institutions like the Washington Post and the New York Times. “[I]f we were assessing how well the post-Watergate CIA-style covert operation worked,” Parry says, “we’d have to conclude that it was remarkably successful. Even after George W. Bush took the United States to war in Iraq under false pretenses and even after he authorized the torture of detainees in the ‘war on terror,’ no one involved in those decisions has faced any accountability at all. When high-flying Wall Street bankers brought the world’s economy to its knees with risky gambles in 2008, Western governments used trillions of dollars in public moneys to bail the bankers out. But not one senior banker faced prosecution.… Another measure of how the post-Watergate counteroffensive succeeded would be to note how very well America’s oligarchy had done financially in the past few decades. Not only has political power been concentrated in their hands, but the country’s wealth, too.… So, a sad but—I think—fair conclusion would be that at least for the time being, perception management has won out over truth. But the struggle over information and democracy has entered another new and unpredictable phase.” (Parry 5/15/2012)