The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Friday, February 04, 2005
Objectivity, the New York Times and the Bay of Pigs
I'm just wading through a Spanish thesis  Distensión, Retórica y Propaganda en la Política Exterior Norteamericana 1962-1980 by the equally snappily named María de los Desamparados Guerra Gómez - which looks at the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and SALT II.
There seems - I'm no expert in the topic, and my Spanish is proving rustier than expected - to be a fair amount of unnecessary theorising for the lay reader; and, most unhelpfully, the American quotes are translated into Spanish ; but I'm persevering.
I get to a section (starting at p196a of the first file) dealing with news management in the run-up to the Bay of Pigs fiasco (emphasis in the original):
Claro que las maniobras planeadas y ejercidas desde la Casa Blanca hubieran carecido de efectividad de no contar con la valiosa ayuda de los propios media; una ejecución en la que los periódicos más importantes del país, el New York Times principalmente, jugaron un papel decisivo.
Only on January 30 was I looking at the Orville Dryfoos/Tad Szulc business.
The thesis (p198a) mentions the military preparations made for an assault on Cuba under fag-end Eisenhower - the flotilla despatched to the Caribbean and the base established at Retalhuleu in Guatemala for training the invasion 'force'.
An editorial in Nation appeared on November 19 1960 commenting on a piece by one R Hilton in Hispanic American Report reporting on the Retalhuleu camp; the Nation editors apparently passed the documentation they had onto the Times, AP and UPI. The agencies did nothing with it (both participated in the USG media campaign in Latin America - p203a).
A Bay of Pigs Chronology says that a piece by Paul Kennedy appeared in the Times (front page!) on January 10 1961 on the subject under hed U.S. Helps Train an Anti-Castro Force at Secret Guatemalan Air-Ground Base.
The same chronology says that La Hora newspaper in Guatemala had reported the existence and purpose of the base at Retalhuleu on October 30 1960.
Apparently (p200a), journos reporting for the US press (the Times  and Time are namechecked) in Guatemala sought and obtained a denial from President Ydígoras - choosing stenography over actual journalism - hardly a shock!
The Democrats' Shining Martyr carried where Ike left off: the thesis quotes John Kennedy at his April 12 1961 press conference, saying nothing in particular and saying it very well (in para 20 ):
Q. Mr. President, in that same question, you said that--you pointed out that this Government has indicted a pro-Batista Cuban. But I am not clear from your answer, sir, whether this Government will oppose any attempt to mount an offensive against Castro from this country. Could you clarify that?
So successful was USG's campaign that, despite plans for the invasion being well known outside the US, the invasion was, according to the New York Herald Tribune of May 2 
a surprise for the vast majority of the American public
It's the August 6 PDB title ('hidden' on the front page of the Post) writ large.
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