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
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
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
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."