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by Robert Knight

Welcome to "MediaWatch," an occasional column devoted to media contradictions and curiosities. Having been volunteered for this task, the author casts a jaundiced eye toward electronic and print media, and related topics proposed by WBAI listeners and the Folio's usually well-informed readers.

Deeply distressed by the prospect of being required to dredge the Times on a regular basis, the author devotes the premier episode of "MediaWatch" to network coverage of the Reykjavik Summit, in which President Fisher snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, scuttling Premier Spassky's unprecedented arms reduction proposal in favor of fond dreams of his Strategic Defense Initiative, which stretches the bounds of computer science, if not reason.

It must be noted here, since mainstream media often misses the point, that "Star Wars" is  not a "defensive" system - its prime purpose being to protect missiles from nuclear attack, and only incidentally (and ineffectively) the American public. More to the point is the vision of SDI as a "bulletproof vest" from which to: (1) launch a nuclear first strike; (2) enforce a U.S. policy of global nuclear domination; and/or (3) foment a military spending frenzy in hopes the Soviets will go broke before the Americans do.

That said, "MediaWatch" gives its Adrenaline Award for best spot coverage of Sunday's summit session to ABC where Peter Jennings, standing outside the meeting hall, masterfully led a multi-correspondent discussion of agreement options. He outshone his colleagues, detailing the potential arms reductions and proposed delay of "Star Wars" deployment. In short, ABC "got there fastest with the mostest."

Runner-up CBS featured Dan Rather, seated in an outdoor rooftop set overlooking beautiful downtown Reykjavik. His comments were adequate (for what passes as network analysis), although delivered with more excitement than factuality. Example: "Star Wars is primarily a laser defense system, isn't it?" (Yes, Dan, but only if one ignores the atomic detonation which causes the X-ray device to lase microseconds before it's destroyed by its own nuclear trigger!)

Vincent Smith dialogues with contemporary artists

Over the years WBAI has been a favorite listening post for artists of all disciplines. Painters, in particular, say the station keeps them company during long, sometimes lonely studio hours. In an effort to bring more artists to these air waves, Vincent Smith Dialogues With Contemporary Artists will be introduced as a regular bi-weekly feature of the arts magazine.

Smith, himself a painter (named to Who's Who in American Art 1978), promises to bring a refreshing, international, and multi-disciplinary perspective to his dialogues. Among his first guests will be James Gwynne, writer, editor of Stepping Stones Press - A Literary Anthology Towards Liberation; Amiri Baraka - poet, playwright, activist; and Ernest Crichlow - painter and educator. Dolores Brandon will produce the Dialogues.

NBC's spot coverage was the worst with Tom Brokaw's mealy-mouthed Amerigocentric catechism of the arms race, which carried few new or timely details. Of course, a deceleration of the arms race is a matter of no small concern to NBC's corporate overlords at General Electric, whose military weapons systems are some of its "most important products."

Brokaw and Rather both signed off with the irritating "We'll see you later" (which they didn't, since I already had plans for the evening). This kind of false familiarity violates Knight's First Rule of news reporting: Never descend below the third person (i.e., avoid the presumptuously personal pronouns 'I/we' and 'you'). Sloppy grammar breeds sloppy thought (such as where "we" should place "our" missiles), and makes the supposedly independent press rhetorical members of the government's negotiating team.

CBS did well with its supporting cast, retaining a pair of well-informed beards (one of them belonging to Columbia's Johnathan Sanders) who pragmatically placed human rights and regional issues in their properly pessimistic context. While Soviet emigration and the occupation of Afghanistan were frequently mentioned by the networks, there was less talk of U.S. violations of international law and human rights, particularly in Nicaragua and South Africa.

NBC's Marvin Kalb intoned about "the Russians," in a linguistic and ideological refusal to acknowledge the proper name and contemporary reality of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Kalb (who spearheaded a legendary effort to label right-wing crazy Nehmet Ali Agca's pope shooting as a Bulgarian communist plot) can be forgiven for his neanderthal news instincts. But such understanding does not extend to Secretary of State George Shultz, who later referred to "Russia" and "the Russians," repeatedly and without challenge on ABC's "Nightline." Is it any wonder the Reaganoids are so busy building weapons of the future to fight wars of the past?

Freudian Slip of the Month

"I don't believe I have credibility."
-National Security Advisor John M. Poindexter, commenting on his anti-Libyan disinformation campaign [NBC "Today," 10/15/86].
Covering the summit for U.S. News & World Report was repatriated journalist Nicholas Daniloff, who surely must have mused about the role of the working press as political pawns when State Department spokesperson Bernard Kalb quit over his employer's planting of lies in news reports about Libya and Muammar Qadaffi. Perhaps conscience comes better late than never, but the least Kalb could have done to reaffirm his loyalty to the free press was identify when and where his government's disinformation feeds were planted. Otherwise, how can one believe anything one reads?

It's unfortunate there was not a similar outcry over the Reagan administration's 1983 decision to include journalist cover in its foreign intelligence operations. Now, with the latest disinformation campaign, it is apparent that the government is using reporters as both "input and output devices," as they say in systems biz.

Oh, well. Enough talk about disinformation and data. Until the next encounter, "MediaWatch" welcomes reader comments, suggestions and gripes.

Star Wars is over If you want it...

Listen to a great WBAI half hour 

A sparkling program of international, political and domestic interviews and comment, featuring among others Senators Ted Kennedy, Tom Harkin, Congressmen Ted Weiss, Ron Dellums, Ed Markey and Jessie Jackson, Jane Fonda, Ben Spock, William Sloane Coffin and Marcus Raskin. Sponsored by Sane Education Fund.
225 Lafayette St., Room 207, N.Y.C. 10012 (212) 219-9527 

Fall Strike Commemoration 1936/1986
Monday, November 3, 8 p.m.
Great Hall, Cooper Union (8th St. & 4th Ave.) 


Produced by the Marine Workers Historical Association

November 3, 1986: 
Actors will recreate the strike vote fifty years ago that touched off the Fall-Winter 1936-37 Seamen's Strike and gave birth to the legendary C.I.O. National Maritime Union

Veteran seamen,
Bill Bailey,
Bob McElroy &
Joe Stack 
-will recall their first-hand experiences during the brutal 83-day strike that captured the imagination of New York City. 

Tickets: $5

Reservations: (212) 242-5890

General Manager ---- John J. Simon
Program Director --- John Scagliotti
Assistant Manager/Administrative Director --- Julie Brinckloe
Bookkeeper --------- Gloria George
Subscription/Computing ---- Allen Markman
Receptionist ----- Fred Kuhn 
Margaret-Carmen Ashhurst, Mordecai Bauman, Marilyn Clement, Theodore Conant, Renee Farmer, Kathy Goldman, Steve Post (Chair), Caryl Ratner, Rosemarie Reed, Paul Robeson Jr., Milton Zisman

E.L. James, Frank Millspaugh, David Rothenberg, Jackie Shearer

Executive Producer - Arts ------- Gisele-Audrey Mills
Executive Producer - Information --- Ivy J. Young

Bob Campbell, Dennis Coleman, Barbara Journer, Greg Schmitz, Dorothy Altman 

News Assignment Reporters
Deborah Begel, Bryn Friedman, Amy Goodman, Andy Lanset, Judy Shimel, Becky Thorne
Contributing Reporters
Steven Bosh, Paul DeRienzo, Merle Jawitz, Dima Joseph, Jesse Keyes, Robert Knight, Maurice Rosen, Bob Sinclair

Jim Freund, Bill O'Neill, Tom Tortorella, Anthony Sloan, Paul Williams, Lynn Samuels

"After the News" (Mon.-Fri. 7:30 p.m.)
Michio Kaku (Science and Peace), Samori Marksman (International Affairs), Ruth Messinger (City Politics), Mimi Rosenberg (Community Issues), Bill Tabb (Economics), Maarten DeKadt, Richard Schrader, and Barbara Solow (Econonews).

Margot Adler, Ted Amory, James Brown and David Jackson, Fred Herschkowitz, Mary Houston, Robert Knight, Alfred Webre, Will K. Wilkins, Simon Loekle, Katy Keiffer, John Scagliotti, Marilyn Sokol, Rosko

Weekend Producers
Hernando Alverici and Mickey Melendez, Al Angeloro, Peter Bochan, Kate Borger, Bill Farrar, Bob Fass, Mike Feder, Paul Gorman, Ed Haber, Mary Houston, James Irsay, David Rothenberg, Lynn Samuels, Habte Selassie, Sidney Smith, Marty Sokol, Max Schmid, Chris Whent, Jim Freund, Paul Wunder, Jack Shugg, R. Paul Martin, The Creative Unity Collective, Ted Bonitt

Information and Services
Lotsu Amenuvor, Max Antoine, Jim Aronson, John Atlas, Richard Barr, Mary Boger, Jennie Bourne, Elmobe Brath, Dave Burstein, Dennis Coleman, Blanche Weisen Cook, Andrew Cooper, Lloyd D'Aguilar, Diane Decorah, Maarten DeKadt, Vernon Douglas, Bob Eng, Geoffrey Fox, Angela Gilliam, Fred Goldhaber, David Gordon, Mark Green, Joan Greenbaum, Ken Grossinger, Larry Gutenbergy, Ron Habin, Lorraine Hale, Craig Harris, Allen Hershkowitz, Susan Heske, Lex Hixon, Paul Hoeffel, Gerald Horne, Gladys Horton, Linda Johnson, Rose Jordan, Carolyn Jung, Barbara Juppe, Michio Kaku, Judith Kallas, Kamado, Harris Kimball, Joe King, Hank Kee, Lisa Knauer, Utrice Lieds, Marvin Lynch, Diane Mancino, Allen Markman, R. Paul Martin, John Mason, Bob McDonald, John McDonough, David Mendelson, Ruth Messinger, David Metzger, Jim Montavalli, Blossom Neuschatz, Sam Neuschatz, Santiago Nieves, Bertell Ollman, Bob O'Sullivan, Judie Pasternak, Alex Paul, Victor Perlo, Andrew Phillips, Jane Pipik, Liston Pope, Sheldon Ranz, Rosemarie Reed, Al Rivera, Lee Ryan, Sheila Ryan, Kirkpatrick Sale, Stuart Schaar, Oliver Schoen, Richard Schrader, Richard Siegal, Jim Sleeper, Sidney Smith, Barbara Solow, David Sprintzen, William Tabb, Rod Taylor, Paula Tedesco, Edith Tiger, Jordyn Tyson, Valerie Van Isler, Ralph Vega Jr., Gloria Waldman, Annette Walker, Abe Weisburg, Richard Wheeler, Tom Whelan, Tom Wisker, Robert Yuen, Kathy Ann Kersey

Jan Albert, Hernando Alvaricci, Al Angeloro, Alina Avila, Cynthia Bell, Rachel Berghash, Joe Bevilacqua, Dolores Brandon, Susan Browne, Bill Cannaday, Ted Cohen, Ceal Coleman, Dennis Coleman, David D'Arcy, Ken Davis, Marjorie DeFazio, Barbara DeMauro, Vernon Douglas, Suzie Drews, Stephen Erickson, Yale Evelev, Regina Fiorito, Jim Freund, Phil Garfinkel, Charlie Gilbert, Patricia Hankoop, Rick Harris, Joseph Hurley, Mahmoud Ibrahim, Chet Jackson, Manya Lu Bruja, Cid Kafka, Katy Keiffer, Dave Kenney, Oleg Kerensky, Lauren Krenzel, Simon Loekle, Sharon Mattlin, Mickey Melendez, Courtney Monroe, Bill Moore, Diane Morris, Charlie Morrow, Mike Nelson, Joanna Ney, David Nolan, Mildren Norman, Kofi Pendergrass, Tom Pniewski, Tom Pompasello, Sue Radacovsky, Spencer Richards, Don Scherdin, Peter Seeger, Cliff Seidman, Habte Selassie, Laura Simms, Anthony Sloan, Sidney Smith, Martin Sokol, Susan Stone, Jim Theobald, Jordyn Tyson, Tom Vitale, Joyce West, Malika Lee Whitney, Anne Sergeant Wooster, Paul Wunder, Elizabeth Zimmer, Sharon Griffiths, Pat Rich, Jack Shugg, Max Schmid, R. Paul

Adam Brand, Natalie Budelis, Dennis Coleman, Ken Davis, Stephen Erickson, Daniel Finton (recording engineer), Dean Gallea, Edward Haber, Dana B. Hanford Jr., R. Paul Martin, Bill O'Neill (Production Director), Bob Parrett, Jane Pipik, Sue Radacovsky (recording engineer), Peter Shuler (recording engineer), Miles Smith (studio technician), Peter Cedric Smith, Bill Wells (chief engineer), Paul Wunder, Anthony Sloan, Sharon Mattlin, Rocco Lovascio, Faith Day, Brandon Whitney

Julie Brinckloe ------ Editor
Sharon Griffiths ---- Listing Editor

Violet Chen, Vanessa Johnson, Jennifer Loeb, Brian Sanet.
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