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August 14, 1976 - Image 7

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Michigan Daily, 1976-08-14

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SaturdayAugust 14, 1976

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Seven

The Nixon Assault' revisited

ASSAULT ON THE MEDIA:
THE NIXON YEARS, by Wil-
liam Porter. Ann Arbor. The
University of Michigan Press,
3 ,l pp., $11.95.
By JIM TOBIN
WILLIAM PORTER could
have written a textbook
on the Nixon administration's
relations with the media, but

he did not. He could have writ-
ten a scornful, one-sided dia-
tribe against Nixon and his sub-
ordinates, but he did not. What
he has written instead is a
careful work, scholarly but
pointed, which rests between
those two extremes without in-
cluding the excesses of either.
Porter, a professor in the Uni-
versity's journalism department,
writes with a combination of

deep-seated concern for the me-
dia and a full measure of fair-
ness to Nixon and his crew. This
is sometimes confusing, or frus-
trating at any rate, for Assault
on the Media: The Nixon Years
is neither pure reporting of one
aspect of an administration nor
partisan propaganda. It is some-
times difficult to tell where Por-
ter draws the line between these
different motivations of his. But

if the book has an attitude, it
is always fair, and an unshak-
able piece of journalism is the
result.
Porter is cautious. While he
has no love for Nixon, he is
careful to put the work in the
context of "the Nixon years,"
for it is apparent that the sus-
tained siege of 1969-74 on the
great newspapers and networks
was not caused by a single dia-
bolical strategy of the Nixon
administration or the leader
himself. It was more the result
of an attitude, a perception of
government which allowed for
only positive reinforcement, a
rather random series of attacks
made by Nixon subordinates
and their imitators who knew
the boss's contempt for the me-
dia and capitalized on it.
)ORTER puts the complex
combination of attitude and
action into an effective analogy:
"The situation as the Nixon ad-
ministration moved against the
media is somewhat comparable
to a well-organized military
force moving to occupy an area
where there is suspicion and
resentment but no organized re-
sistance. The force has a com-
mander who is clearly in
charge. The orders he sends
out are obeyed and carried out
without question.
Porter first sets down the
background for Nixon's attitude
toward the media - from his
early congressional days when
he actually received quite fa-
vorable treatment from the New
York Times and The Washing-
ton Post; through the infamous
Checkers speech, and through
his "last press conference" aft-
er being defeated in the 1962

California gubernatorial elec-
tion. It is interesting that the
author's summary is a descrip-
tion not just of Nixon's media
relations but of the major -
events of his political career as
well.
THE BOOK also includes a
detailed group of documents
and memoranda relevant to
Nixon - media relations; and,
looked at as a compilation in
Nixon's mind and memory, the
history of those relations be-
comes the mold for the way in
which his administration was
to handle the. Riding the tide
of one of the greatest poitical
comebacks in American history,
Nixon had learned his lessons-
Holding up Spiro Agnew's fe-
rocious harangues against the
press and the networks as in-
spiration. the Nixon forces miov-
ed in on three fronts "raising
the larger question of objectivi-
ty and ethics in the media as
an institution," in lI.. Ialde-
mans words; using the Federal
Cnommnssications Co m m ission
and the .tustice Department to
intisidate and harass the net-
works and communications con-
gloterates; and isolating Nixon
and his staff almost totally from
media access.
With particular cittcern Por-
ter documents the new 'public
relations" trend in executive
branch media relations. It came
with ad-men Haldeman and Ron
Ziegler, and Porter fears that
it is still around, emphasizing
the good toints of its presiden-
See THE MEDIA, Page 10
I i"T Tai, is Co-Dirt-c/ar of
te Fiorial Page.

Nixon and the press

Fallaci's newest: History, back-stage

AN INTERVIEW WITH HISTORY,
by Oriana Fallaci. New York: Live-
right Publishing Corporation, 376 pp.,
$10.95.
By ANN MARIE LIPINSKI
ONE WOULD do well to think twice
before consenting to an interview
with Oriana Fallaci.
Ask Henry Kissinger, Yasir Arafat or
Nguyen Van Thieu.
You see, the unremittingly unscrup-
ulots Fallaci decided one day a long,
long time ago that she didn't like power
or anyone charged with exercising it,
so now she tmakes it her business to ask
nasty questions of those who do this
thing she hates. And, oh, how she hates.
Fallaci, the celebrated international
correspondent for the Milan journal L'
Eiropeo, has been landed as one of the
most brilliant interviewers of our time
- a sometimes deserving appraisal.
True, she is equipped with a passion and
a skill for dissection and probing which
serve her well. Like a human X-ray ma-
chine, Fallaci expertly penetrates be-
neath the skin of her subjects - some-
times - victims, exposing the most pri-
vate of fears and dreams. But - and
Fallaci would rapidly list this as one
of her greatest assets - she has the
disconcerting habit of bringing to her
interviews a lifetime of political biases
and beliefs which she refuses to hide or
even quiet.
"ON EVERY professional experience
I leave shreds of my heart and
soul;" Fallaci admits, "and I partici-
pate in what I see or hear as though
the matter concerned me personally and
were one on which I ought to take a

stand (in fact I always take one, based
on a specific moral choice.)"
In Fallaci's latest book, somewhat pre-
tentiously titled Interview with History,
the Italian journalist offers an impres-
sive sampling of interviews which she
conducted with world political figures
from 1969-1974. Dedicated to her mother
"and to all those who do not like power"
the book is a collection of fourteen very
pointed and powerful interviews-a "doc-
ument straddling journalism and his-
tory," according to Fallaci.
The interviews are clever and ab-
sorbing, due to Fallaci's ability to ex-
tract the inextractable. She has a repu-
tation for garnering information from
her subjects which other reporters have
failed to undrape. But how much of Fal-
laci's winnings have come to her, like
an inheritance, merely because she is
the venerable Oriana Fallaci? How of-
ten have even the most unapproach-
able of political figures agrees to an
audience with Fallaci simply because
a, interview with her spells instant
publicity?
"Every journalist dreams of being
summoned at least once by those who,
when you go looking for them, run away
or spy no," Fallaci says. And, to be
sure, the powerful have hunted Fallaci
tit, requesting to be interviewed, offer-
ing to make that "dream" a reality.
PAKISTANI Prime Minister Ali Bhutto,
for instance, invited Fallaci for an
interview in 1972 quickly following re-
lease of the fact that Fallaci had inter-
viewed Indira Gandhi, the political op-
position. Fallaci dismisses the hypo-
thesis that Bhutto had intended to em-
ploy her as a courier, of sorts, and in-
stead maintains that Bhutto simply "in-

tended to let me interview him." Bhut-
to, however, wasted little time during
the interview in responding directly to
accusations Gandhi had made in the
published interview with her, and then
in launching his own personal attacks
against the Indian leader who had chas-
tized him. Furthermore, after Gandhi
read the complete text of the interview
with Bhutto and angrily canceled a
scheduled peace agreement signing with
the Prime Minister, Bhutto again called
upon Fallaci to deny that the interview
had ever taken place. "Miss Fallaci,
you must understand," he pleaded, "the
lives of six hundred million people de-
pend on you, they're in your hands."
"I cursed and told him to go to hell,"
she writes.
Such arrogance, such pomposity, such
power does not serve a journalist well-
a journalist who has been known to walk
out on Almirante, the reconstructer of
the Italian Fascist party, when he an-
nounced his love for Mussolini. 'I refuse
to stay one second more," she reported-
ly told him. "This bullshit -- you don't
think I'm going to publish this!" If Fal-
laci's intent is truly, as she claims, to
record history in the making, she should,
like a true historian, set her own pas-
sions aside to allow others to air theirs.
'CiI SIitORTCOMINGS, however, can-
not detract compIetety from Fal-
lacis pure interviewing ta-k-n, her abil-
ity to place herself in the trust of her
subjects and hence win their confi-
dence. Witness the following exchange
bet-.re, Fllaci and Golda Meir:
Fallaci: Mrs. Meir, that sense of guilt
that you feel toward your children, did
you also feel it toward your husband?
Meir: Let's not talk about that . . .

I don't want to talk about it . . . I never
talk about . . . Well, all right, let's try.
The most stunning display of Fallaci's
talents in the book are found in her in-
terview with Kissinger, a man whom
she called "an eel icier than ice." Kis-
singer, upon completing an answer to a
question concerning Vietnam says to
Fallaci, "And don't make me talk about
Vietnam anymore, please."
"Don't you even want to talk about the
fact that, according to many, the agree-
ment accepted by you and Nixon is prac-
tically a sellout to Hanoi?," Fallaci
quickly inserts.
"TIHAT'S ABSURD!" Kissinger replies
before offering an expanded ans-
wer. "But really that's enough talk now
about Vietnam," he later adds. "Let's
talk about Machiavelli, about Cicero,
anything but about Vietnam."
"Let's talk about war, Dr. Kissinger,"
she says, soon adding "And what do you
have to say aibout the war in Vietnam.
You've never been against the war in
Vietnam, it seems to me."
Kissinger answers, then again pro-
tests, "it are we still talking about
Vietnasssn?"
"Yes," Fallaci ssys. "And still steak-
ing of Vietnam . . And so the inter-
view contined.
A con artist? Maybe. But such is the
stuff giood detectives and reporters alike
are mode if. A pity Fallaci's talent for
drawing out her sibjects' fears and pre-
judices has been tainted by her inabil-
ity to ignore her own.
Ai Mari Lipiski is a Daily ni ht
idilor and C( Al/or of/;he rosh Sup-
plm/nt.

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