CounterPunch touts itself as “America’s best political newsletter.”
It’s building a reputation for indulging in media-driven myths, too.
Since mid-March, essays posted at CounterPunch have:
- presented Watergate’s most famous invented line, “follow the money,” as if it were genuine. The phrase was in fact written into the screenplay of the Watergate movie, All the President’s Men.
- cited the mythical tale that the New York Times, at the request of President John F. Kennedy, censored itself in the run-up to the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.
- invoked the false narrative that the Pentagon concocted the story about Jessica Lynch’s battlefield heroics in Iraq. The bogus hero-warrior tale about Lynch’s was in fact thrust into the public domain by the Washington Post.
According to CounterPunch, Hearst said: “Get me the photos and I’ll get you the war.”
That was, CounterPunch added, “Hearst’s 1898 dictum to help start the Spanish-American War.”
Provocative tale. But it’s pure media myth.
Among the reasons: The telegram that supposedly contained Hearst’s vow — a cable sent to artist Frederic Remington, on assignment to Cuba — has never turned up.
More significantly, as I point out Getting It Wrong, the anecdote about Hearst’s purported vow suffers from “an irreconcilable internal inconsistency.”
That is, it would have been absurd and illogical for Hearst to have vowed to “furnish the war” because war — specifically, the Cuban rebellion against Spain’s colonial rule — was the reason he sent Remington to Cuba in the first place.
In addition, the Spanish colonial authorities who ruled Cuba closely controlled and censored incoming and outgoing telegraphic traffic: They surely would have intercepted and called attention to Hearst’s incendiary telegram, had it been sent.
But in fact, there was, as I write in Getting It Wrong, no chance that telegrams would have flowed freely between Remington in Cuba and Hearst in New York.
So “furnish the war” (or, “provide the war”) wasn’t at all Hearst’s “dictum to help start the Spanish-American War.”
It’s a myth dismantled in my 2001 book, Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies, in which I pointed out that the yellow press of Hearst and his rival, Joseph Pulitzer, “is not to blame for the Spanish-American-War.
“It did not force — it could not have forced — the United States into hostilities with Spain over Cuba in 1898.
“The conflict was, rather, the result of a convergence of forces far beyond the control or direct influence of even the most aggressive of the yellow newspapers, William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.”
The proximate cause of the war was the humanitarian crisis created by Spain’s bungled attempts to quell a rebellion that had begun in Cuba in 1895 and had spread across the island by 1897, when Remington arrived in Havana on assignment for Hearst.
Recent and related:
- ‘Economist’ indulges in media myth
- Inflating the exploits of WaPo’s Watergate reporters
- BBC calls Hearst vow apocryphal, uses it anyway
- As if Hearst were ‘back with us,’ vowing to ‘furnish the war’
- Counterpunching that made-up line, ‘follow the money’
- CounterPunch embraces bogus Lynch narrative
- Time for WaPo to disclose sources on bogus Lynch tale
- False narrative about Jessica Lynch and Pentagon surface anew
- Busting the NYTimes suppression myth, 50 years on
- Why they get it wrong
- On the high plateau of media distrust
- ‘Exquisitely researched and lively’