While the U.S. government made noisy preparations to go to war against Saddam Hussein, it was also purposefully planning another war. But this enemy, unlike Hussein, was strangely passive in the face of these threatening maneuvers. The government's other enemy was the American media, and the quiet assault on their constitutional freedoms during Operation Desert Storm was unprecedented in American history.
Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War documents in vivid detail the behind-the-scenes activities by the U.S. and Kuwaiti governments, as well as the media's own cooperation when their rights to observe, question, and report were increasingly limited.
In frank and startling interviews with, among others, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Ben Bradlee, Katharine Graham, Robert Wright, and Pete Williams, John R. MacArthur shows how the press corps was treated more like a fifth column than as representatives of a free people. MacArthur demonstrates how, despite the torrent of words and images from the Persian Gulf, Americans were systematically and deliberately kept in the dark about events, politics, and simple facts during the Gulf crisis.
With a reporter's critical eye and an historian's sensibility, MacArthur traces decades of press-government relations—during Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama—that helped set the stage for restrictions on Gulf War reporting and for a public-relations triumph by the government. His analysis of the issues that confronted the media in this war is frightening testimony to what happens when the government goes unchallenged, when questions go unasked.
John R. MacArthur is the author of several books. He is the president and publisher of Harper's Magazine, and a columnist for The Providence Journal and Le Devoir.
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