The First Amendment; Third World and Media
The First Amendment and the Free People Weekly examination of civil liberties in the media in the 1970s produced by WGBH radio Boston cooperation with the Institute for democratic communication at Boston University. The host of the program is the institute's director Dr. Bert it will be my guest for this edition is Professor William worthy professor of journalism at Boston University and director of the Afro Journalism Program at the university. Bill I'm especially delighted that you hear today because I want you to discuss with me the feelings and the sentiments that you had when you did some of your firsts. You know everybody's done first but I think that in the field of journalism you have courageously gone ahead when the dangers of going ahead were quite apparent. And for our listeners who are uncertain as to what direction I'm taking them in I am referring to the fact that in defiance of passport regulations of the day you were the first newsman an American newsman into China. And that was when China was always Red China or Communist
China in the lexicon. Secondly you are either the first or among the first into Cuba to see what was going on there. You were among the first or the first to really cover South Vietnam in its activities in the early 50s 1953 and 64 you went into 1964 you went into North Vietnam in the same period of the 50s early 60s you reported from Eastern Europe and Moscow now throughout this this adventure of being first in the field. You were first to brave the authorities to defy the passport regulations to say that a newsman should be allowed to go anywhere. My first question to the first man is what lessons do you derive that is that are of importance to to our situation today. What
did we learn about about the necessities of the First Amendment from your experiences. Well. I think there are several comments I might make in response to your introduction. I think it's only fair to say that and in other situations particularly China. Was I really expecting or anticipating the sustained negative reaction from the State Department. I knew they wouldn't like my going. I didn't expect the secretary of State Dulles and his entourage to make which my call a federal case out of it. You know the federal case was because the you know passports were not valid for travel travel to communist China et cetera. Right. And I really was taken by surprise that they turned the trip into a cause celeb. Once they
did I wasn't about to backtrack or apologize to them or anything else because I saw nothing wrong with having done with what I had done. But. I just want to make clear that I didn't anticipate a confrontation with the U.S. government or any consequence on the China trip in a more or less the same thing on the Cuba trip after the travel ban was extended to include Cuba in early 961. Even in 1964 which was about three months before the massive US intervention in the in Indochina situation even there I did not anticipate much of consequence because. Well I just didn't. What are the consequences. Well I'd meant
a rather extensive investigation. It meant another four years or so before I got my passport back. It had already been seven years. At that time. It meant the possibility of prosecution and they did not prosecute. But there were some arrests and they didn't become serious matters. Again I think because the country learned something I think from the two previous cases China Cuba case and I think the State Department just as a problem it probably had enough of me and enough of the embarrassment of life that I caused them. I'm firm believer in taking a hard line when you're in a fight. I don't think that I'm taking a soft line in any kind of fight involving principle. I get you anywhere at all. All right now Bill what is the principle because I want to be very clear I am I have an idea
of just what you're going to say but I'd like you to say what is the principle for a news person. The principle comes out of a statement. In the 50s the travel controllers thought controlled travel controls intellectual control jewels of Hosh in the Christian Science Monitor. Shortly after I came back from China I did an excellent piece that I always remember last did but I remember I lost a clipping but I remember well what he said that the dullest line that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles the Dulles line was that communism in China was a passing phase. Yes we were being told that repeatedly. And as he put in a memorandum to all State Department all U.S. embassies in 1959 the policy of embargo the policy of boycott of China. The policy of isolating China or
trying to it was designed to hasten that passing. That's an exact quote from that memorandum. And the jewels of harsh pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor this was nonsense that the Mao regime was very well established very popular with the people of China. They've done tremendous things in terms of eliminating mass starvation taming the rivers. Two Rivers which used to flood every year housing health education and women's rights and they were not about to be overthrown or to pass off the stage of history and the Dulles knew this and he knew that if journalists went then students would want to go. Businessmen would want to go. Religious people would want to go. Those who had had ties with missions and Chinese Christians and pride in 1989 those were the days when Justice Douglas was denied
the right to go on the grounds. This is Justice Douglas William O Douglass of the Supreme Court on the grounds that he was not a full time journalist and Harriman I think wanted to go for National Geo. Maybe Douglas wanted to go for National Geographic but Harriman was denied permission to go. Former governor New York and certainly one of the the establishment figures in the United States if you know it became absurd. But Dulles trying to keep his finger in the dike because he knew that any relaxation would mean the collapse of his myth. So a lot was at stake in the trip that I made. And I think as a matter of standing very. It's tough and unbending and I hate to use a sort of petty sounding phrase but giving tit for tat for everything the State Department did equal and opposite reaction on my part so that it reached a point where
the great constitutional lawyer who at that time was handling other passport cases or other unpopular figures. This was in the early 50s. I came back to New York once where his law office was and said to my attorney Bill Kunstler the State Department's afraid of Bill worthy and I get a great kick out of that. Well now I suspect that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had an attitude toward China. We all know he had certain attitudes and certain brinksmanship ideas and all the rest of it but it was also the period of McCarthy's strength at least 54 or so on she was not a factor in the environment there was a psychological environment in the United States really counterproductive to investigative reporters who wanted to go anywhere. I mean clearly. Were on watch at the time was general counsel staff counsel the American Civil Liberties Union which
handled my china passport case saying that I had timed my trip perfectly. The Korean War ended in July 53 I was a penguin John when it ended. I went to China exactly three and a half years later. Christmas 1956 and Rome which made the comment that if I'd gone even one year earlier the climate in the country would have been ready but enough time in the lab since the end of the Korean War so that the the war I fear was no longer. You might say clouding people's thinking. You know I think the country was ready to build on that on this question of the right to travel as you know the Soviets said Nairobi 50 in 76. You know Robi meeting you Nesco. We're behind a resolution that said in effect each state should have the right to determine
the flow of news from within its own borders and into its own borders. I'm paraphrasing that sentiment now. Many people think that that that resolution which did not pass at that time but which is coming up again later this year and another you know SCO conference which I think is going to be called for Paris now that should be opposed on the grounds that if it stops people from bringing the news in and out is this part of the same problem that is recurring or am I misreading the Nairobi statement in your view. I think it's a little ridiculous so what 60 years after the Russian herbal revolution the Soviet leader is still trying to control the flow of information to their people. Given the enormous improvement in the standard of living in the Soviet Union since the days of the US given the fact that they're not
buffeted by inflation and unemployment only kills a buffer in most western societies one would think logically that they would have more self-confidence in their own governance. So Russian people are not about to reap vote against the Kremlin leaders. The information does get in and there's no way in today's world that you can isolate a country certain countries allied to the Soviet Union with as much tourist in all the travel all the time going in and out isolate the Russian people. What's going on in the rest of the world and I just think the sensible thing with them would do would be to relax and let the information come in and if they're protecting their people from all the kinds of serious problems that western capitalist society is not really coping with I don't see what they have to worry about. Well now they're pressing this as an idea and it has certain popularity in the developing world and that's
why the president Nairobi. It has popularity in the developing world because there is as we know antagonism to the Western press into Western media services. Some of it unjustified and some of it quite justified. But at any rate do is there any way to get to the Third World leaders with a rational explanation as to why this procedure that they can find empathy for. Because they are in a certain stage of development is ultimately destructive to the very thing to the trying to achieve. Well I think there's a certain duty incumbent on us in the United States in terms of new the independent countries of the Third World. There is a legitimate fear of CIA and other intelligence activities and operations parading under a press banner or carrying
on with the use of a press card as it were. And since certain vested interest for us to colonial and imperial interests by definition have lost out when a country has become independent. The history books are very clearly that those vested interest do not take their defeat graciously and with any finale they are constantly conniving and very often with the help of Western intelligence agencies to get back into power. They factor what you are and when you have. And we now know to all the Senate and other investigations. Use the CIA has made the fraudulent use of press credentials given all that. I think it's incumbent on us in the United States to see to it that that kind of activity is stopped. Absolutely. Don't you think that the press services of the world the Western press of the Certainly
France Press the British press or UPI Associated Press after these these exposes these are are they not determined not to let this happen again in any way. I mean aren't they just as interested as anyone else and in the purity of their services now that the third world is suspicious. I would imagine a newspaper like The New York Times Washington Post Los Angeles Times very definitely. My guess would be this would be true of the Associated Press and United Press International. Also my guess. More conservative organs of U.S. public opinion. And organs abroad in Western Europe. I just don't know. I just don't know. I would not want to bet my last dollar bet my life
that every last publisher and every last television and radio executive who controls the Simon of reporters abroad has accepted the gospel and is resolved not to let the media be used again for intelligence purposes. I just don't think that that's true but. Probably because of the embarrassment there has been some determination that this kind of thing must stop. But I still think that even if it's stopped largely or for the most part in the last two three four years it's going to take quite a long time before you convince a lot of countries and you know Africa and Latin America that it is no longer going to be able to go on with this Third World theme but to bring it closer to home in my opinion and I'm sure in yours Americans far's the Americans far
as the media are concerned the mass media has its own third world of minority peoples who are facing discriminations and also facing a lack of training in unfair media coverage or perhaps the dearth of media coverage to whatever extent they need or deserve it. Now as the director of Boston University's Afro journalism program you're trying to do something about that I gather you're trying to do it on a rather crush basis to train people and so on just what are you up to. Well in the 60s Vietnam Newark Detroit. Watts Roxbury all those upheavals. Should have should have taught us the necessity of a sophisticated well-informed insightful
populace. I don't think that lesson has been learned. What minority hiring was done in the 60s was done under the pressure of cities in flames and people in the street looting rioting breaking store fronts threatening to burn down banks. All that kind of thing. And there's an old saying When the devil is sick the devil the monk would be when the devil gets well. A devil of a monk is he. When that kind of pressure relaxed the impetus to improve coverage to improve the quality of reporters covering the news to bring in minority groups that will not motivation is largely subsided and I don't think there's any real indication of. The press getting
religion again and there's another kind of sustained crisis. So you're pessimistic about what you can accomplish then on any large scale in the program at Boston University at most when it becomes its full program in full operation which maybe a couple more years down the road. You know as well as I do what it takes to introduce a new program into a big university. You don't do it overnight. It's not gone full blown. At most We'll be taking in a dozen students with scholarship money writing and training them in the regular departments of the university right with special and emphasis on urban problems racial problems. There are very few programs like this now I know Bob Maynard has got one on the West Coast. Do you have one at Boston University how many are there that are really significant. Well there are a few scattered around. University of Michigan and
of the journal's departments have things along this line Howard University whatnot. But in turns of a three semester dual master's degree program such as this journalism from American studies this is unique. I hope it's copied elsewhere or because of this heat turning out 12 or even 15 journalists a year is a drop in the bucket. But the. Sophistication that the public needs is just not there. I think this country is getting more and more into a frustrated mood which means quite often a right wing mood and to me right wing means simplistic dances. It means I'm striking out blindly in frustration. In many instances. Looking for scapegoats. And this can become extremely dangerous. We seem to be edging into another period of double digit inflation.
The unemployment figures are really appalling particular among us and I just think that a program like this has to do what it's what it can but it should never be rosy illusions that it's going to turn this country upside down. Nothing out. Two other things I would like to go back and point out. When we talk about the CIA and its operations abroad even if the news manages of the country newspapers newsmagazines news weekly radio television even if they made a unanimous decision they weren't going to allow their agencies or their organization to be used. There's nothing to stop the CIA in with all its freelance elements you might say uncontrolled elements from going abroad and using phony credit or not let me ask you a question on that bill. Let us say that obviously the presumption is that we cannot stop all of this kind doesn't it when we never know about it. You're only a spy if you're caught that sort of thing.
Doesn't the mass of news flowing back and forth into any country that permits news to come in and go out does not overwhelm in most every situation I'm not talking about in Angola now or what went on in some other situation like that but does not overwhelm any attempt to be clever. If you are free enough don't you purify the water. You mean that the sediments are there but the flow takes them along. Yeah all I'm trying to explain is there is a basis for the third world layer in this. If that's and I agree more about the purity of Western news operations. But are they to get back to that discussion. Will they fall into the Soviet trap on this resolution. I don't know. I just don't. You know for the dozens and
dozens of dozens of third world countries now I saw a map recently and it's just staggering how many countries are regarded as nonaligned what. I just don't know how the vote would line up on something like that. I really don't know. But I think we've got to also look for reporters with a lot more motivation to go beneath the surface. You just pointed out to me within the last week when I was in Philadelphia a couple things a little more old when he was prime minister had a cabinet that fell over the Lockheed scandal issue. I was completely. Got about that and for something like six weeks a gone by which for this was brought to my attention by an individual I think the American public should have instead of being given the picture of Maher as a purist no grand old man of Italian politics should have been put in perspective. I'm not saying there's any justification for his kidnapping and murder.
I do think the American public is entitled to know that he was a man whose cabinet within the last three or four years had fallen on if you will but this doesn't prove what we have been saying that that if you feel that way obviously once the the grip of the capture and murder story is lost reporters will come along under a free press system and make all the correctives necessary because they will now be free from the psychological bind of what was held to be a captive. And I think they should. You should have been out within 48 hours of the most of the abduction but but again there was no one to do it. There was no conspiracy to stop this news was there. No I'm not saying it was conspiracy but I think it's a serious lack of in-depth coverage gets back to your earlier point that we need journalists who really dig in. Yeah because investigative reporting is one of the most euphemistic phrases in the world is it not there's no such thing. I d a reporter are you not a reporter. If you know and if you're not an investigative reporter then you're a copy person or
a scribbler nothing more. I owe you a little bit more hopeful that we're going to develop this kind of reporter. Oh I think that there's a lot of pressure from working journalists on editors and publishers to let them do. Intelligent probing reporting. Would you agree with that. That is a lie I think so I think there's a lot of pressure from the readers to intelligent readers are beginning to open certain large circulation newspapers and yawn quicker than they did before. A lot of the reporting is boring repetitive or off the wires rather than a description or analysis. Some of our best newspapers don't give us much current news story you mention Christian Science Monitor's very good newspaper reads like a daily magazine is becoming more attractive every day because we want to know what's going on behind the fact in the moral case was just one because it was tragic. His murder and so on and
so forth. It is such a big story though and the consequences are going to be tremendous. I've read some things in the last week which would lead me to. Be not surprised if there's some kind of right wing military effort at a takeover in Italy. In fact the man who is presently the prime minister and reality when he was defense minister about three or four years ago investigated three separate serious right wing plots between August 70 and 174 to overthrow all the time there was an Air Force general that was put under arrest for selling secrets and taking money and you had a real head of Italian intelligence was fired I think. And so those right wing elements I think are going to exploit the murder we don't know what the Red Brigades are we don't know what do they perform. We don't know what the left wing whether they're right wing. We don't know whether they've been infiltrated by the CIA. I mean there are a lot of questions to be answered about what has been going on in Italy.
An individual with a machine gun who sprays bullets indiscriminately is not necessarily ideological for anybody that we don't even know whether they have any ideology to speak of or whether there is a rampage of murder for the Clockwork Orange reasons in any situation as serious as the economic crisis and it only becomes a very fine line between. Ideologically motivated terrorists quote unquote and outright Bergen's who are exploiting the situation for nothing more than money. This is traditional in that kind of situation. Well I wouldn't be surprised. William where are they. If you're not one of the first to go to Italy to you know what is going on and I must say it's been a delight as always you know an introspective conversation with you my guest has been William or the professor of journalism director of the Afro Journalism Program at Boston University for this edition. Bernard Rubin.
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