Sep 1 1995

By Any Means Necessary

The Ultra-Relativism of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page

With the largest daily circulation of any national newspaper, 1.8 million, and with an affluent and elite audience, the Wall Street Journal is one of the most influential mainstream media organs. Its large circulation is based in substantial measure on its high-quality news offerings, which gives Journal readers a better-than-average view of reality. The paper also has an editorial page, which is under separate operating direction from the news department.

A 1993 publisher’s report to Journal readers (presented in a full-page New York Times ad, 1/25/93) pointed out that “the Journal‘s editorial views do not guide or even influence the paper’s news coverage…. The news pages exist to accurately cover and impartially analyze events and trends. The editorial page, while often doing its own reporting, filters events through its philosophic lens and expresses opinions accordingly.” But the two sections, publisher Peter Kann claimed, do share the “fundamental value” of “integrity.”

News Vs. Editorial

Indeed, the two sections of the Journal often seem to be at odds. The news department frequently presents facts incompatible with conventional political lines, whereas the editorial page regularly ignores (“filters events”) or contests facts that don’t fit its editorial position.

Thus, in a famous expose of June 8, 1981, Journal news reporter Jonathan Kwitny showed that “Apparent Errors Cloud U.S. ‘White Paper’ on Reds in El Salvador,” whereas the editorial page was an unquestioning conduit for Reagan-era propaganda on El Salvador throughout the 1980s, as a matter of principle. (“We tend to give the benefit of the doubt to those resisting totalitarianism,” the paper once acknowledged—-8/17/84.)

When U.S.-backed guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi claimed to control a third of Angola, his word was enough for the editors (12/16/81); the claim was refuted by Wall Street Journal reporter Steve Mufson the next day (12/17/81).

The news department often features articles suggesting the imperfect workings of the free market (Tony Horwitz, “9 to Nowhere: These Six Growth Jobs Are Dull, Dead-End, Sometimes Dangerous,” 12/1/94) and the high social costs of regulatory weakness (G. Bruce Knecht, “Houston Firms Sold Risky Toxic Waste’ For Wall Street Giants,” 12/20/94), whereas the editorial department uniformly sings the praises of the free market and the merits of deregulation.

Occasionally the two departments collide almost directly, as with reporter Kwitny’s August 1985 series detailing the shady qualities of the Italian secret services and political culture and their U.S. connections. The artictes shed unflattering light on Michael Ledeen, a neo-con propagandist with close ties to Italian intelligence who frequently appeared on the Journal‘s editorial page, and undercut the papal assassination conspiracy theories that the editorial page was pushing, which were sourced largely to Italian intelligence.

However, the two sections of the paper do in fact complement one another. The news department probably has greater freedom of action by virtue of the editorial page’s aggressively reactionary support of an unfettered capitalism and each and every imperial venture abroad. And the frequently far-fetched positions staked out by the editorial page probably gain in prestige through their proximity to the high-quality news reporting.

Ultra-Relativism and Double Standards

Editor Robert L. Bartley, who has run the editorial page since 1972, has claimed (3/26/95) that the editorial page stands for a moral firmness and absolutism—”saying that some things are right and others wrong,” in contrast with a “liberal establishment” that is “seized by relativism…offering biases many now see merely as double standards.” Bardey does acknowledge that he indulges in “the outrageous,” which he learned from his supply-side guru Jude Wanniski (Jerry Rosenberg, Inside the Wall Street Journal), but he implies that this is an amusing and harmless oddity.

In fact, however, even a cursory study of the editorial page indicates that its “outrageousness” is not innocuous, but involves relentless name-calling and bullying in the service of a rigid right-wing ideology, helping cover over frequently tendentious and superficial analyses. Furthermore, the editorial page does not hew to a single standard of right and wrong—-“relativism” and double standards are absolutely integral to its operation, so much so that its basic practicecan be described as “ultra-relativism.” This entails the willingness to use any intellectual means to forward political aims; facts and claims that help are pushed without scruple, those that conflict are ignored or denied, and those who point out such inconvenient facts are attacked and smeared.

Bardey’s justification for his own incessant double standard is that he supports the forces of freedom against totalitarianism (8/17/84). But this doesn’t excuse a double standard in evaluating evidence, unless one is an ideologue who operates on the principle that the end justifies any means. (This is, of course, what the “totalitarians” are alleged to believe.)

Bardey’s use of “totalitarian” is essentially a device for labeling ideological enemies—-the elected Allende government of Chile was treated harshly because it was “Marxist,” hence incipiently totalitarian, whereas Gen. Augusto Pinochet, in the process of installing an actual totalitarian regime but viewed as on our side, was declared non-totalitarian by editorial fiat and received unrestrained apologetics.

The double standard is observable in word use on virtually any issue. Thus the editor castigates congressmen David Bonior and Richard Gephardt for their “soak-the-rich demagoguery” in proposing higher taxes on the affluent (6/15/95). But the word “demagoguery” was never used between 1972 and 1995 for proposed policies soaking the poor, or in connection with Reagan’s demagogic attacks on welfare mothers or the 1988 Bush campaign’s use of Willie Horton.

Bartley’s enemies are consistently given derogatory labels that are often misleading or absolutely wrong, whereas “friends” are free of such labels. Rebels in Guatemala and El Salvador, and the governments of Angola and Nicaragua (under the Sandinistas), were always described with epithets: “Marxists,” “Marxist-Leninists,” “Soviet-backed” or “Cuban-directed.” (e.g, 6/1/84, 12/9/83) Jonas Savimbi, trying to overthrow the government of Angola, was never referred to as “South Africa-backed.”

Killings by enemies are “savage episodes” and “atrocities,” whereas murders by friends are “combat” and mentioned tersely without any snarl words. The Sandinista “thugs” used “jackboot tactics” to run their “police state.” (6/30/89) The words “fear” and “terror” were used freely for Nicaragua, but not El Salvador or Guatemala, which were vastly more fear-ridden. U.S.-supported dictatorships like El Salvador, Guatemala or Chile under Pinochet are never police states, nor are they puppets.

Worthy and Unworthy Victims

The editorial page double standard and ultra-relativism in judging the value of human life was dramatically illustrated by the editorial treatment of the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador in December 1981, in contrast with the alleged deaths of “yellow rain” victims in Laos in the early and mid-1980s.

When Raymond Bonner of the New York Times and Alma Guillermoprieto of the Washington Post reported from El Mozote that the Salvadoran army had murdered some 700 to 800 civilians there, the Wall Street Journal editors wrote a furious attack, particularly on Bonner, for alleged gullibility and revolutionary romanticism (“The Media War,” 2/10/82).

The editorial itself was a remarkable illustration of neo-con convenient gullibility, taking the official denials as credible and never hinting at any possible bias in official sources. The editors expressed not the slightest concern for over 700 peasant victims, including several hundred children. In their editorial on the victims of yellow rain in distant Laos, on the other hand, the editors left tears strewn on the page over the “ghastiiness” of the cruel weapons employed against “helpless people,” with “children choking over their own blood.” (9/21/81)

Editorial ultra-relativism on the value of human life is illustrated by many other cases. When the military seized power in Chile in 1973, there was not the slightest expression of sympathy for the thousands of people tortured and murdered; the editorial aim was solely to contest alleged exaggerations. “It is amazing there has been as little bloodshed as there has,” the editorialists marveled (11/2/73), although the understated CIA figures at the time were already 2,000 to 3,000 deaths. (Lawrence Birns in The Nation, 1/19/74, gave a compelling analysis of how the Journal editors dishonestly attacked Newsweek‘s reporting on the large number of bodies found in a Santiago morgue.)

The same writer who was responsible for most of the articles playing down the human costs of the Chile coup, Everett Martin, did express worry about another group of potential “victims”—-the leaders of the Argentine military after the restoration of democracy there in 1983. Martin was greatly concerned about retribution against the Argentine generals (1/20/84): “Democracy means restraint,” he wrote, and President Alfonsin’s problem is to prevent the people “from committing their usual self-destructive excesses.”

Similarly, the editors mention that the Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo of Nicaragua is the “target of brutal attacks from the Marxists who run the regime” (9/21/84); another article suggests that the Sandinistas “may be setting the archbishop up for assassination.” (12/9/83) But the editors never compared his treatment with that of the actually assassinated archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, by the “anti-Communists” who ran that country.

The editorial page’s instrumental valuation of human life was also on view in its apologetics for Renamo, the Mozambican terrorist group. Organized in the 1970s by the white Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith to destabilize Mozambique’s post-colonial government, Renamo was adopted after the fall of Smith’s government by apartheid South Africa for the same purpose.

A leading historian of Mozambique describes it as “simply a mercenary unit of a white colonial army” with no political program or aspirations. Its terrorism was so terrible that even the Reagan and Thatcher administrations “refused to treat Renamo as a bona fide anti-communist movement” despite pressure from the far right. (Malyn Newitt, A History of Mozambique). The U.S. State Department itself put out a report in April 1988 claiming that Renamo had no observable political program and it “conservatively estimated that 100,000 civilians may have been murdered by Renamo” in the years 1986-88 (Robert Gersony, “Summary of Mozambiquan Refugee Accounts…in Mozambique”).

But for the editorial page, Renamo was bona fide anti-Communist, and thus no mention was made of these mass deaths, and Renamo was put in a benign light. Although Renamo had “a checkered past,” it was the “Marxist” and “Soviet-backed” regime in Maputo that is “repressing” and “as bloody as ever”; no negative adjectives were used to describe Renamo, which couldn’t have done so well “if it hadn’t tapped genuine democratic support” (4/1/85).

A complementary op-ed column castigated Margaret Thatcher for supporting the Mozambican government against “pro-Western” forces (Gerald Frost, “Why Thatcher Coddles Mozambican Marxists,” 8/12/87). No level of devastation and mass killing is beyond eliciting the apologetics of ultra-relativism.

Propagandist of the State

The editorial page has served as a virtual propaganda arm of the state in its imperial ventures, most openly and blatantly in the Reagan era. Throughout this period the Reaganites wanted to vilify the Soviet Union and its allies(the “Evil Empire”) and to cast all the designated “freedom fighters” in a good light. The editorial page provided this propaganda service with enthusiasm. The editors repeatedly expressed their approval of the Reagan Doctrine of supporting right-wing guerrilla movements (e.g., “Savimbi’s Success,” 6/30/89), and regularly engaged in extended propaganda campaigns geared to Reagan administration needs.

In September 1981 the Reagan administration announced that the Vietnamese military was using Soviet-supplied chemical weapons against Laotians. The evidence was a few leaf samples containing an allegedly non-native organic compound, plus claims of “yellow rain” dropping from the sky and subsequent medical disorders. The leaf samples, and especially the claims of rain and sickness related to it, were always of questionable authenticity.

Eventually it was established that the organic compounds in question were native to the area; and Professor Matthew Meselson also found that there had been earlier Chinese complaints of “yellow rain” that Chinese investigators traced to droppings of bee feces. When Meselson also disclosed that the dominant component of the leaf samples allegedly showing communist chemical warfare also was bee feces(Foreign Policy, Fall/87; Scientific American, 9/85), the case collapsed—-except in the Wall Street Journal.

The editorial page specialist in this subject, William Kucewicz, acknowledged that the Journal had responded to an appeal from administration officials to “keep this[issue] going,” and “we decided to take this on as a cause.” (Technology Review,

4/86; cited in New Yorker, 2/18/90)

The editorial page took up the Reaganite campaign immediately and put to work all its usual formulas: It accepted the official propaganda at face value, and went on to trumpet test results and experts supporting the party line, while ignoring or deriding conflicting evidence. Its gullibility was without limit in accepting data based on interviews that even U.S. Army officialscame to doubt (Foreign Policy, Fall/87). The editors never mentioned the Chinese yellow rain case, or the eventual finding that the organic compound claimed by the Reaganites to be non-indigenous to the area was in fact commonplace.

For opponents of the yellow rain hypothesis, the editors employed their usual ad hominems: An outstanding critical review of the case in the Chemical and Engineering News (1/9/84) was attacked because one of its 64 cited sources was allegedly biased. Meselson, a very distinguished biologist, allegedly had a “personal and intellectual stake in the issue.” Meanwhile, the editors celebrated Professor Aubin Heyndrickx, a right-wing Belgian specialist in chemical warfare (but no expert in organic-biological compounds, as was Meselson). They proved that he was as objective as Robert Bartley himself by citing his statement that his only concern was “protecting freedom and human rights from the totalitarians.” (2/15/84)

The editorial page also pitched in vigorously in support of the claim that the May 1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II had been sponsored by the Bulgarians and Soviet Union, in retaliation for the Pope’s support for the Polish Solidarity movement. Right-wing reporter Claire Sterling’s views on this subject were offered directly and indirectly, and all conflicting evidence and alternative models were ignored or caricatured. For example, the fact that the assassin Alt Agca had threatened to kill the Pope in 1979, before Solidarity existed, was unmentioned. (See Herman and Brodhead, The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection.)

Editorial page writer Suzanne Garment even wrote an editorial column (6/15/84) proclaiming the high credibility of Italians: “This is the Italians—-no American hawk paranoids but instead people who live with a new government every 30 days. You simply cannot doubt their word.” No, not if you are a propagandist building your case without scruple.

One of Sterling’s most remarkable claims was that the CIA and Reagan administration were holding back on pressing the Bulgarian Connection because of their devotion to detente!(They were trying “to shield the Russians from public view”—-Human Events, 1/26/84.) This lunatic idea found its way into a Journal editorial (12/21/83), as did Sterling’s claim that Agca appeared crazy during his trial as a “signal” to the Bulgarians to get him out—-or else (3/2/86). When Agca never produced the “or else,” Sterling and the editors were silent.

After the 1991 confirmation hearings for CIA chief William Gates disclosed how Gates and William Casey had pushed the theory over the protests of CIA professionals, who thought the case was fraudulent, the editors still allowed Sterling the final word (11/5/91). A letter to the editor by this writer pointed out Sterling’s failure to mention CIA official Melvyn Goodman’s testimony that CIA analysts had not taken her claims seriously because they had long since penetrated the Bulgarian secret services. The letter was never published.

Editorial Page as Enforcer

An important part of the editorial page’s service to the state is its role of enforcer, bullying into quiescence any media or independent institution that puts clients of the United States in a bad light. The Bonner case is the classic example of editorial help in silencing media criticism. The long editorial “The Media’s War” (2/10/82) was in fact a war on the media in the guise of a concern for media improprieties, and it closely paralleled the efforts of the Reagan administration’s Office of Public Diplomacy to intimidate the media into adherence to the party line.

The editorial accused Bonner of gullibility because Bonner got his information on the El Mozote massacre from peasants in rebel territory; he was therefore alleged to be a naive victim of “a propaganda exercise.” The only evidence mat the first-hand peasant reports were “propaganda” was that they disagreed with pronouncements of the U.S. embassy and Salvadoran army.

Bonner was removed from his Central America beat soon after the government/Journal assaults, a development widely regarded as an object lesson in the cost of reportorial integrity. Bonner states in his book Weakness and Deceit that a U.S. general in El Salvador credited the editorial with having “turned the press around.” “The foreign editor of one major newspaper sent copies of the editorial to his correspondents in Central America,” Bonner wrote. “‘Let’s not let this happen to us,’ was the message, according to one of the paper’s reporters.”

After the U.N.-sponsored Truth Commission on El Salvador vindicated Bonner’s reporting in early 1993, Bardey explained (3/18/93) that he never denied a massacre took place, only that “neither the press nor the State Department has the power to establish conclusively what happened at El Mozote.” This was dishonest evasion. Bartley never challenged State Department claims on this ground, and his operating principle was openly “giving the benefit of the doubt” to his side, a euphemism for intentional gullibility.

The other form of problematic dissent during the Reagan years came from the human rights groups, who regularly documented the mass killings of the official forces in El Salvador and Guatemala and the terrorism of the U.S.-sponsored contras attacking Nicaragua. The administration itself carried out a serious campaign of intimidation against Amnesty International, Americas Watch and the Washington Office on Latin America in the early 1980s, assailing their reporting on Guatemala as one-sided and apologetic for what Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders called the “ferocious” and “terrorist attacks” of the guerrillas.

The editorial page joined this campaign, parroting the Reagan line, accusing Amnesty International and Americas Watch of applying “a gentler standard to U.S. adversaries in Central America than to U.S. friends,” failing to apply “universal standards” and using “ad hominem attacks” on “those offering conflicting evidence.” (8/17/84) It is of course remarkable chutzpah for the editors, who never apply universal standards and use ad hominem attacks daily, to even use such words—but when they do use them in reference to others this merely tells us that others are criticizing something the editors support.

The editors criticized the Americas Watch charges of illegal mass displacement by the Salvadoran army, saying, “Goodness, one would almost think a war is going on,” ignoring the fact that there are rules of war on the point that can be violated (8/17/84).

In the same editorial, however, the editors were full of indignation for the Nicaraguan displacement of the Miskito Indians, failing to note that “a war is going on” and misstating the facts. Juan Mendez of Americas Watch pointed out in a letter to the Journal (9/21/84): “You have it backwards: the relocation did not ‘happen to have caused thousands of Miskitos to take up arms against the Sandinistas.’ The evacuation was ordered after the armed attacks by Miskito and non-Miskito contras had caused 60 dead in the Rio Coco villages.”

If Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte says that the rebels are using civilians as shields, that satisfies the editors, although in the very same article they savage the human rights groups for their failings on the use of evidence (9/21/84). The accusations of Americas Watch and Amnesty International gullibility by editors who were themselves gullible as a matter of principle was laughable. But these pitbull attacks, no matter how hypocritical and lacking in substance, were effective in putting the human rights groups on the defensive.

Editorial Page Vs. Democracy

Although the Journal claims to support political democracy, time and again the editors throw their weight in favor of authoritarian rule. Their true guiding principle seems to be service to the interests of the market. When this demanded a termination of democracy, as in Brazil in 1964, the Philippines in 1972, Chile in 1973 or Haiti in 1991, the editors could be counted on to lend moral support.

This is frequently put in terms of a Red threat in the old democracy, justifying its replacement with non-democracy right now, but with greater promise for the long run. AUende was allegedly mismanaging Chile’s economy, growth was slow, authoritarianism was looming, and the army understandably reacted (11/2/73). The editors’ tolerance of killing and terrorizing in response to such hypothetical threats of killing and terrorizing is seemingly without limit.

Contributing Editor Robert Barro happily calls attention to the fact that democracy doesn’t necessarily maximize “growth” (“Pushing Democracy Is No Key to Prosperity,” 12/14/93; “Democracy: A Recipe for Growth?” 12/1/94). Barro takes it for granted that growth, independent of questions about income distribution, economic security and public participation, is all we should be interested in.

Nor is the editorial page supportive of democracy at home. It does not call for its termination, but its neoconservative attacks on oppositional ideas, individuals and policies, its pitbull aggressiveness and intolerance, are subversive of the democratic spirit and, ultimately, democratic institutions. Its attacks are not merely disagreements; they are intended to silence.

The editors are not concerned with money in politics; if those who have the gold make the rules, that is the appropriate result of the free market at work and hence an area of silence. The same goes for media concentration and commercialization; after all, the “liberal establishment” is still “ensconced in…much of the media” (5/26/95), so pitiful giants like Robert Bartley, Rupert Murdoch and Newt Gingrich can barely be heard over the liberal din.

As the liberals have dominated “large sections of the judiciary” as well (5/26/95), the editors could sympathize with Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese’s suggestion that Supreme Court rulings are not necessarily binding on public officials (10/29/86), which American Bar Association president Eugene Thomas said would, if implemented, “shake the foundations of our constitutional system.”

Editorial Page Vs. Free Speech

The editors have expended great energy in assailing the threats to free speech posed by “political correctness” and the “liberal establishment’s” imposition of multiculturalist materials on victimized students and alumni. But once again the double standard and selective use of evidence call into question editorial interest in free speech per se.

Pinochet’s muzzling the press, killing dissident journalists and academics, and imposing military rule and standards of correctness on Chilean universities did not bother the editors at all. Jeffrey Hart, the Dartmouth academic and long-time editorial page favorite, was much concerned with the P.C. threat, but openly enthused over Pinochet’s dictatorial rule: His office featured a photograph of himself and Pinochet exchanging pleasantries (Counterpunch, 1/15/94). For ultra-relativism, free speech is for my side alone.

At home, the vast expansion of right-wing funding for “free enterprise chairs,” campus think tanks, law and economics programs, and lecture series with a clear and open bias (see Larry Soley, Leasing the Ivory Tower) has not bothered the editors at all. In neo-con mythology, the business community and conservatives are fighting a defensive battle against the left and the “liberal establishment” (“contemporary liberalism…is on the attack, forcing everything through the filter of politics”—12/13/94), so that although virtually all the money flowing to the university with an ideological bias and political agenda is right-wing, this merely serves to correct a serious imbalance.

Lee Bass’s $20 million gift to Yale to foster a Western Civilization program was considered an admirable idea by the Journal editors; no question was raised about an outside party pushing a specific program, if it was the right one. When Yale returned Bass’ gift after he insisted on helping to choose the faculty as well, the editors had problems only with the intervention of faculty “enforcers” (12/13/94).

The Enola Gay controversy also involved the editors in a remarkable display of intolerance and totalitarian attitudes. The Smithsonian’s proposed display had tried to put the atomic bombing of Japan in a historic context, rather than as a patriotic effusion, although it was on balance supportive of President Harry Truman’s decision to bomb. Air Force historian Richard Hallion called it “a great script.”

But the American Legion and especially the Air Force Association disapproved, and made it into a political issue, eventually succeeding in getting the contested program canceled, the program director ousted and a Senate resolution passed denouncing “revisionist” interpretations.

The editorial page of the Journal naturally entered this fray (1/31/95), asserting that “the people” had risen up to contest the “liberal establishment” The editors somehow confused “the people” with the American Legion and Air Force Association, the latter a longstanding lobby for the Air Force. Essentially the editors and AFA objected to real history; they wanted traditional uplifting, patriotic history, without the carping of the real thing. The editors thus considered the defeat of the contextualized exhibit a triumph.

The editorial statement that there was “the well-known political correctness problem with the exhibit” (5/3/95) demonstrates once again that for the editors P.C. simply means failure to conform to their ideological dogma. The editors did note (1/31/95) the fears of historians “that one set of assumptions is simply going to be imposed by fiat in place of their own…. That would be unfortunate, we guess. But we don’t plan to feel very sorry for these academics.”

Free Lunch Economics

The editorial page was notable in the Reagan era for its advocacy of supply-side economics and Reagan’s economic policies—-policies that resulted in a tripling of the national debt, soaring poverty rates and, most damning to supply-side theory, falling savings rates and net investment levels.

Numerous Journal opinion pieces have been devoted to rebutting claims that inequality increased during the Reagan/Bush years—although, given the number of other pieces actually praising the virtues of inequality (e.g., Barro, “Inequality and Its Charms,” 2/10/93), this may have been seen by the editorial board as cause for regret.

During the Reagan era, the editorial page strenuously defended the ongoing massive deficits, claiming they were exaggerated in size, importance and potential growth: “The real deficit story is that the deficit is shrinking away,” the Journal reassured in 1984 (6/28/84); in 1991, when the deficit hit $269 billion, the Journal declared (10/31/91) that its “role seems a lot bigger than it really is.”

Displaying its usual double standard, however, the Journal had consistently assailed the much smaller deficits of the Carter years; “deficit spending” was called the “fundamental cause of inflation” (3/22/78), and Carter’s low public esteem was blamed on his failure to bring deficits under control (6/1/78). But these were Democratic rather than Republican deficits, and did not serve the benevolent ends of the latter.

In his book The Seven Fat Years as well as in editorials, Bartley blamed the Reagan-era deficits on the Democrats, although Reagan’s budget proposals, if fully implemented, would have produced a total eight-year deficit of more than $1.2 trillion (New York Review of Books, 8/13/92).

The editorial page has been a proponent of deregulation, virtually without limit, and there has been a stream of editorials and guest columns proposing deregulation in environmental controls and many other spheres of activity. Guest Milton Friedman (5/16/95) proudly recalled his percipient Newsweek article of 20 years back (1/8/73) demanding the complete elimination of the Food and Drug Administration, now perhaps in the works thanks to Newt Gingrich and Robert Dole.

The great illustration of deregulation in action in the Reagan era, the loosening of the reins on the S&Ls, was greeted with enthusiasm by the editors in 1981 (6/29/81): The new authority to “make all types of loans and enlarge the scope of their investments” is a means of solving their problems that is “cheap.” When this cheap solution turned out to be quite expensive in the late 1980s, the editors characteristically placed all the blame on the Democrats, not on deregulation and not the Reagan administration’s handling of the issues.

Comics Page or Reactionary Headquarters?

Some people view the Journal editorial page as a kind of comics page complement to the news section. Indeed, its crude double standards, selective use of evidence and outright prevarication are often laughable.

On the other hand, in his analysis of the Enola Gay controversy, historian Mike Wallace refers to the page as “the GHQ of reaction.” This is equally valid: From their strategic position in a major media enterprise, the editors have been able to help lead the ongoing counterrevolution, with consequences observable to all. It is important to recognize, however, that leadership of this counterrevolution has been entirely incompatible with editorial “integrity” and support of democratic values.


Edward S. Herman, professor emeritus at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of several books, including Corporate Control, Corporate Power; Beyond Hypocrisy; and (with Noam Chomsky) Manufacturing Consent. A longer version of this article is available from FAIR.