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January 14, 1986 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-01-14

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Tuesday, January 14, 1986

Page 4

The Michigan Daily


Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
Vol. XCVI, No. 73 420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Understanding AD

Media ignores atrocities

SUPPORT FOR James Martin,
a law school professor who died
last week of Acquired Immunity
Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS),
should be applauded. Law School
Dean Terrance Sandalow has
provided a model for the Univer-
sity community in his decision to
retain Professor Martin despite
previous knowledge of his illness.
Much of the objection to this
decision and others like it grows
out of an uninformed fear thatAIDS
is highly contagious through
minimal contact. But since resear-
chers have presented no evidence
that AIDS spreads through casual
daily contact, the University
should not expel afflicted teachers
and students.
In addition, it is unnecessary to
publicize individual cases. The
traumatic experience of coping
with a fatal illness is not lessened
through public scrutiny. In light of
the homophobic, often judgemen-
tal response to AIDS victims, in-
dividual privacy should be of
primary concern.
People must focus on AIDS, not
as a homosexual problem, but as a
Carbide 's
I N THE aftermath of the Bhopal,
India gas leak of December 3,
1984, Union Carbide presented an
orchestrated public image by
recognizing responsibility for the,
disaster. Having caused the deaths
of over 2000 people and the injuries
of another 200,000, Union Carbide
calculated that international
opinion and the courts would judge
Carbide harshly if it did not appear
to care.
The press has since lost interest
in the Bhopal incident, and GAF
threatens to take over Carbide.
This combination of reduced
publicity and increased economic
pressure has resulted in Carbide's
decision to shirk its responsibility
to the Indian people.
Fearing that the Indians will
collect crippling damages, Carbide
has resorted to legal bargaining
which focuses around a racist,
blame-the-victim strategy. Car-
bide has implied that by settling
around the Bhopal plant Indians
were accountable for their own
In the November 26 edition of the
Wall Street Journal, Carbide

sexually transmitted virus which
has the potential to affect
everybody. Although AIDS has
been prevalent in the homosexual
and bisexual community, it will
soon spread to the heterosexual
community. Recent studies con-
ducted in Haiti show an increase
from 12 percent in 1979 to 30 per-
cent in 1985, of women who have
AIDS. In Africa, where the virus
originated, AIDS affected men and
women on an almost equal basis.
AIDS is one of the most feared
and least understood diseases in
the 80s. Most people who contract
AIDS do not recover and resear-
chers agree that no vaccine will be
found before the year 2000. Until
then, it is essential that people
learn the facts about AIDS, deter-
mine if they are in a high risk
group, and take appropriate
preventative action.
AIDS research and support for
victims as disabled but still a vital
part of their community, are
essential to the stress reduction
and myth destruction surrounding
Chairman Warren Anderson
remarked, "That's what they do in
the Third World." In addition, the
corporation has said that the In-
dian subsidiary of Carbide is in-
ferior to branches in the United
States because the Indians them-
selves control operations and adopt
lower standards.
Carbide hopes to confuse judges
by proving that India changed the
plant's safety design. However, the
documentation they presented
shows that American Carbide took
command in past accidents.
Former Carbide officials and
some courageous employeeshave
testified that India Carbide
followed American Carbide's in-
structions immaculately. Indeed,
it appears that India Carbide wan-
ted to keep the fatal gas in smaller
tanks to limit the potential of leaks,
but American Carbide overruled.
Now Carbide is faced with losing
all its American assets in
American courts instead of just its
Indian assets in Indian courts. The
difference, between $10 billion and
$100 million is the impetus to blame
the Indians for Carbide's negligen-

By Brian Leiter
Although U.S. foreign policy has been the
most ruthless and brutal in the post-WWII
world, this is distinctly not the picture that
emerges from the American media. Yet
given the former claim, it remains to be
seen how the media can "cover" the news
while still maintaining the three-part belief
system discussed in yesterday's article (1.
America promotes freedom and
democracy; 2. America is justified in inter-
vening in other countries to promote these
ends; 3. American atrocities are anomalous
and misfortunate occurences.) We may
identify a number of techniques employed
by the media.
Ignoring events is certainly the simplest
and most common practice of the American
media: many nasty things that happen sim-
ply do not show up in American news
coverage - or they appear in obscure
places (e.g. two paragraphs on p. A9 of the
Times) or with numerous qualifications
and/or distortions. For example, the In-
donesian genocide in East Timor received
almost no coverage in the major U.S.
media, though reporting on this event in
Europe was widespread. More recently, the
extensive bombing of the civilian-
countryside in El Salvador has failed to
draw U.S. coverage; it is worth noting that
this military strategy parallels exactly that
employed following the U.S. invasion of S.
Vietnam in 1962. More generally, American
coverage of the terror and torture cam-
paigns of South and Central American
police forces has been spotty at best and
perversely indifferent at worst, despite the
fact that the available evidence indicates
that these campaigns are far worse than
any events going on in the communist
world. Jacobo Timmerman, the Argen-
tinian journalist and author who was tor-
tured by the Argentinian government
during the 70s, has remarked that in Argen-
tina a Lech Walesa would have been killed
immediately. Yet despite voluminous
reports on Poland, we hear almost nothing
about the violent attacks on labor
movements in Chile and Guatemala, just as
we heard little about the Nazi-like bloodbath
in Argentina during the 70s.
Perhaps the most recent and interesting
turn of events has been in Grenada.
Everyone surely recalls the gleeful recep-
tion by the American public and shortly
thereafter by the media of the U.S. invasion
in 1983. Yet a recent report by the
Washington-based watchdog group, the
Council on Hemispheric Relations, in-
dicated that Grenada is quickly becoming
one of the worst human-rights violators in
the Western hemisphere - this, by the way,
on a list of rights abusers that includes such
gems as the governments of Guatemala and
El Salvador. To my knowledge, this report
has yet to receive any headline attention. Of
course, to any attentive student of
American foreign policy this development
comes as no surprise: it fits a long-
established pattern.
Leiter is a graduate stuaent in law and

Of broader interest, also, is the whole pat-
tern of coverage of events in El Salvador.
First, the media has been unfailingly loyal
to the U.S. government's characterization
of Duarte as a moderate, despite his 15-year
history as essentially a civilian mouthpiece
for military rulers and his apparent failure
to take any action against military terror
tactics. Similarly, many will recall the
enormous attention given to Duarte's land-
reform program: a program that affected
10-15 percent of the privately-owned land
and which did not even touch the land
belonging to the coffee magnates, who also
happen to control the Salvadorean banks
and are the most important civilian power
constellation in El Salvador. Interestingly
enough, the program turned out to be so
laughably superficial that even the Reagan
administration has stopped waving the
land-reform flag.
Most disgraceful, however, has been the
failure to report on the brutality of the
Salvadorean government itself. Many will
recall the initial attempts five years ago to
blame most of the violence on the rebel
movements; this, however, became such an
implausible claim that it has been aban-
doned on the whole in favor of the two-
pronged strategy: 1. Blaming the violence
on the right wing military, an entity
distinct from the government and 2. Spotty
reporting of the atrocities being committed.
Perhaps the most perverse example of the
media's conduct in this regard: on the day
of the Lempa River Massacre (3/16/81), an
orgy of slaughter of thousands of refugees
by Salvadoran and Honduran troops, the
New York Times ran an article entitled
"For Salvadoran Peasants, Fruits of
Change Seem Good." Subsequent coverage
of the Masscre itself was, not surprisingly,
The American reporter T.D. Allman,
following a visit to Salvadoran refugee
camps in Honduras, remarked with regard
to Reagan that it is "difficult- to find an in-
stance of an American president standing
quite so resolutely behind a regime that
quite so shamelessly tortured peasants and
castrated doctors of philosophy and disem-
boweled little children and raped nuns and
shot archbishops dead while they
celebrated mass."
The American media is also notable for
its short memory. Kissinger has been
elevated in the last five years to the status
of wise elder statesman without any regard
for his responsibility for the American
genocide in Laos and Cambodia beginning
in 1970 or his role in the installation of the
brutal Pinochet regime in Chile or his role
in giving the go-ahead and providing
military aid for the Indonesian invasion of
East Timor and the ensuing genocide in
Similarly, despite the anti-terrorism
rhetoric of the Reagan administration, it is
worth recalling that George Bush was head
of the CIA when CIA-trained Cuban exiles
bombed a Cuban passenger plane in 1976
killing all 73 on board - for that year it was
the single worst act of terrorism.
Another strategy of the American media
is to make the best of bad situations. For

example, any bit of evidence, no matter how
insubstantial or unreliable, that suggests a
turn away from established brutal policies
is pounced upon - consider the recent.
coverage of El Salvador and Guatemala in
this regard. The democratic election in
Brazil received highly laudatory coverage
in the U.S. despite the fact that the original
democratically nominated candidates of
both parties were nixed by the military jun-
ta and had to be replaced with acceptable.
candidates. Surely one can imagine the
critical coverage such an event would have
received had it occurred in Nicaragua!
When all else fails, the media, following
the government line, invokes the com-
munist bogey man. In the name of preven-¢
ting the evils of communism, the U.S. has
killed or sponsored the killing of an
estimated three million people since WWII
and facilitated, sponsored and justified the
maintenance of totalitarian regimes under
which some one billion people live.
But this only scratches the surface of the
perverse disingenuousness of the Com-
munist Bogey Man Theory. First,
whereever the U.S. encounters populist op-
position of any political persuasion, i
"discovers" communism. Second, the
reliability of U.S. opposition to all
democratic and egalitarian movements
that threaten U.S. policy interests insures
that in order to survive populist movements
must ingratiate themselves with the Soviet
imperialist system. Finally, the media and
the government use the atrocities required
for Soviet hegemony to distract allattention
from the atrocities regularly required for
U.S. hegemony.

The prevalence of this latter strategy is
evidenced by the oft-employed response to
any criticism of American foreign policy
which is: "Look what awful things the
Soviets do!" Of course, the point is that
everyone knows what the Soviets do; yet the
comparatively more brutal foreign policy
record of the U.S. remains enshrouded in
myths and moralistic rhetoric. The
American media would rather devote
headlines to Sakharov than to Lempa River


Finally, the media employs the Anomaly,
Theory to explain away even the most
grotesque U.S. behavior. For example, the
escalating U.S. war in Nicaragua, while of-
ten vigorously criticized, is treated as a
distinctly Reagan phenomenon instead of a
very natural continuation of ordinary U.S.
behavior in the region. Similarly, widely
acknowledged past events - like the over;
throw of the Guatemalan government in
1954 or the Chilean government in 1973 -
are cited as unique examples *of bad and'
disagreeable American conduct which are
not to be emulated, rather than as examples
of the systematic conduct of U.S. foreign
policy which are paralleled by events in
almost every other Third World country
with which the U.S. has had dealings.
Tomorrow, Leiter considers a more
plausible framework for understanding
U.S. foreign policy.








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