11. REAGAN'S PROPAGANDA ON CENTRAL AMERICA

The violence in Central America dominated much of the print and electronic media in 1981. Unfortunately, much of the coverage, particularly on television, amounted to what has been called "bang-bang" coverage of sporadic and isolated gun battles.

However, there is considerable evidence that the Reagan administration has tried to mislead the American public with inaccurate propaganda. While the administration tries to manipulate public opinion into believing we are witnessing a massive Communist takeover of our neighbors to the South, others suggest that the real issue is a civil war between military-supported wealthy landowners and poor peasants. Much of the materiel which has appeared in small investigative publications tends to support the latter contention.

Conversely, our President offered a dubious but well publicized "White Paper" which purported to document aggression by Communist powers in El Salvador. Our Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, released a color photograph as evidence of current Nicaraguan atrocities against Miskito Indians; in reality, it was a 1978 photo from Nicaragua's civil war. Our State Department trots out a Nicaraguan "guerrilla" who, it turns out, wasn't trained in Cuba and Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, Robert White, the former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, a person with an almost legendary reputation as a diplomat, is unceremoniously fired by Reagan. In contrast to the "Alice in Wonderland" dispatches from the White House, White suggests that "Informed debate can help policymakers and help everyone judge what should be done."

We agree and suggest that it is the media's responsibility to put Central American events into a context which could help us better understand what is happening there. The administration's questionable propaganda and the media's inadequate coverage of Central America qualifies this story for nomination as one of the "best censored" stories of 1981.

SOURCES:

Mother Jones, 6/81, "White Hand of Terror" by Karen de Young and "Rereading Haig's Secret Documents" by Roger Burbach; 11/81, "Guatemala: The Muffled Scream" by Julia Preston; Ann Arbor News, 2/16/82, "Farmer, Nun Praise Junta in Nicaragua by Bonnie DeSimone; Food First Action Alert, "Nicaragua: The Revolution was the East Part; San Francisco Chronicle, (UP), 3/3/82, "Haig 'Example' Was a Phony; (UP), 3/13/82, "Captured Nicaraguan Jolts U.S. State Dept.;" Hartford Courant, 4/1/82, "Ex-U.S. Envoy Talks Bluntly on Salvador."