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'No Watergate for the Media'

May 20, 1987

Price raises an interesting and profound issue about the function of the media. Is its function to support a particular administrative goal or is it to report the truth?

While it may appear that the answer is obvious (report the truth), this issue will in fact elicit widely diverging opinions. Gary Hart's decision to quit the presidential race is based on his perception that the press was too intrusive. Richard Secord's contention is that press coverage would endanger covert aid to the contras, and Price contends that we "lost" Southeast Asia because the press provoked popular disapproval for our efforts in that area.

These examples illustrate confusing the message with the messenger; confusing means with ends. Propagandists always strive mightily to wrap their actions in socially acceptable clothing.

Thus Hart talks about invasion of privacy rather than his own actions. Both Secord and Price talk about protecting American interest and democracy even though the means involved include lawbreaking, tax evasion, misrepresentation, voluntary ignorance and even outright lying. The ironic aspect is that all these efforts that purport to aid democrcy did just the opposite.

Finally, we have to acknowledge that the media represent the people's right to know all the facts in order to participate fully in the democratic process. It is this principle that needs to be jealously guarded, and it is this principle that is so vehemently objected to by those people who are sure that they know better than we what our democracy needs.

NICHOLAS R. RAY

Encino

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