Synopses & Reviews
While the United States 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 its 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 its 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, author 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 a historian's sensibility, he traces decades of press-government relations during Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama which 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.
"MacArthur writes in fury at what he sees, correctly, as the press's failure to respond effectively during the gulf war to the Pentagon's well-rehearsed and openly revealed designs. With the help of the Freedom of Information Act, he presents a treasure trove of evidence of official deception." Michael Janeway, New York Times Book Review
"Wonderfully readable....In Second Front, Mr. MacArthur insists that from the White House on down the idea was to beat the Vietnam syndrome with a winning war, blame the messenger as unpatriotic for any bad news, and keep the American press under control and the public in the dark." Herbert Mitgang, New York Times
"A brilliant look at the way images are shaped today under the pressures of deadlines and jingoistic war fever." Dan Fesperman, The Baltimore Sun
While the United States 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. John R. MacArthur scrutinizes the government's unprecedented assault on the constitutional freedoms of the American media during Operation Desert Storm. With a reporter's critical eye and a historian's sensibility, he traces decades of press-government relationsduring Vietnam, Grenada, and Panamawhich helped set the stage for restrictions on Gulf War reporting and for a public-relations triumph by the government.
Now updated with a new preface that examines the current conflict in Iraq, this brilliant work of investigative reporting reveals the government's assault on the constitutional freedoms of the American media during Operation Desert Storm. John R. MacArthur's engaging and provocative account is as essential and alarming today as when the first paperback edition was published ten years ago.
About the Author
John R. MacArthur is President and Publisher of Harper's Magazine and the author of The Selling of "Free Trade": NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy (California, 2001). Ben H. Bagdikian is Dean Emeritus of the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley. He is the former assistant managing editor for national news at the Washington Post and is the author of a number of books.