The Ironical Chronicle The Times' constituency differs from that of say, Rush Limbaugh, whose appeal is primarily to under-educated, fear-ridden, and thus psychologically vulnerable residents of dusty, poverty-ridden corners of America, whose legitimate fears have been cynically manipulated to make them think that they are threatened by gay marriage, evolution, and terrorism on Main Street.
The Times would be laughed at by its constituency if it criticized Darwin's theory of evolution, so the message on its pages must be dressed up differently, including even criticism of the state in measured proportion to its own declining credibility.

February 4, 2005

Even the Propaganda is Stale

The appended article is a verbatim transcript of a microfilmed article from the New York Times for September 3, 1967. The image was posted to the website:

The article is a revealing find in the archaeology of propaganda. It confirms the assertion that elections have a long and infamous history as a US response when its policy-determining elite perceives that it is losing the war against the indigenous resistance to its aggression. Its collateral use in the same circumstance is to shore up declining domestic support. It is in the latter campaign against its own population that the propaganda machinery on the home front plays an indispensable role.

The article's spin, placing Washington's cautious optimism alongside the reporter's gushing enthusiasm, is perfectly calculated to shore up the former's by-then-sagging credibility. Defense Secretary McNamara's remark early in the war of "having the troops home by Christmas" turned into his infamous remark, "the light at the end of the tunnel."

Compared to the modest 1967 article, the media megawattage expended on the Iraqi elections suggests that, 38 years later, the best the technocrats in charge of the domestic product could come up with was to turn up the volume.

The 80% criterion for a successful turnout hasn't changed either, nor has the utter lack of interest in the platforms of the candidates. This is as you would expect for a propaganda event. To be effective, it must be boiled down to a single, easy to grasp, and easy to falsify symbol.

Ironical Chronicle graphic
U.S. combat deaths in the Vietnam War by year, 1964-

Did this propaganda have real world consequences? One way of answering that question is to ask how many US soldiers' were killed in action after the Times' enthusiastic reportage of the September 1967 election. The presumption is that the purpose of the propaganda, namely to prolong public support for the war, was achieved.

The chart to the right has a vertical line at the date of the election. It intersects the cumulative deaths curve at 13,728. In other words, at the time of the election, that number of US soldiers had been killed in action. By the time the US withdrew its forces in 1971, the total number of combat deaths was 45,260. Thus, from the point in time that the NY Times was providing specific assistance to the administration to enable it to prolong the war until the war actually ended, an additional 31,532 US soldiers died in combat.

The Times is not solely responsible for these deaths, but, to the extent that its propaganda achieved its purpose, it shares responsibility for them.

Has it ever acknowledged that responsibility and expressed regret for its actions? It has not.

In fact, this shared responsibility characterizes a permanent U.S. socio-political class whose defining attribute is imperialism and which has at its disposal the military, police, intelligence, and propaganda apparatuses it requires.

How did the Times respond when it was caught promoting the Bush administrations lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? It lamely pleaded journalistic haste in not wishing to be scooped as an excuse for a long series of articles, mostly authored by Judith Miller, whose effect was to create the climate of public opinion that the government needed to support its latest imperialist war.

The conclusion is that these two examples of identical behavior by the Times in respect to two wars, separated by almost 38 years, are part of an underlying pattern which the paper goes to exquisite lengths to conceal.

In the early years of the Cold War, one of Radio Moscow's favorite anti-capitalist epithets was "Wall Street war monger." I suspect they applied the term to the NY Times. If they did, they were right.

The New York Times

September 3, 1967

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote

Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror


WASHINGTON, Sept. 3—United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the national election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting of the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Diem was overthrown by a military junta.

Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.

Significance Not Diminished

The fact that the backing of the electorate has gone to the generals who have been ruling South Vietnam for the last two years does not, in the Administration's view, diminish the significance of the constitutional step that has been taken.

The hope here is that the new government will be able to maneuver with a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics. That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development, or by the Vietcong's disruption of the balloting.

American officials had hoped for an 80 per cent turnout. That was the figure in the election in September for the Constitutuent Assembly. Seventy-eight per cent of the registered voters went to the polls in elections for local officials last spring.

Before the results of the presidential election started to come in, the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80 per cent because the polling places would be open for two or three hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.

Captured documents and interrogations indicated in the last week a serious concern among Vietcong leaders that a major effort would be required to render the election meaningless. This effort has not succeeded, judging from the reports from Saigon.

Copyright 1967 The New York Times Company