This is one of the most extreme examples of media serving US corporate and power interests I have ever I seen. There are about 3 or 4 other examples that I know of that are on the same level. This Times story is what persuaded Congress to continue the flow of military aid to the Salvadoran security apparatus which had been systematically murdering and torturing suspected dissidents. Look:
This is one of the reports that facilitated these crimes because without US military advisers, training, arms, and financing the Nazi-style terror state would've been defeated rather quickly by the FMLN. And also, the method of "draining the sea" in Salvador was a US-designed military strategy to deny the guerillas any possible base of support from the population.Amnesty International: El Salvador: "death squads"--a government strategy
Amnesty International has been concerned over the past year at the escalation of torture, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions in El Salvador, carried out by uniformed and plainclothes "death squads" [c]landestine paramilitary groups]. The death squad style is to operate in secret but to leave mutilated bodies of victims as a means of terrifying the population.
Forces involved include all branches of the Salvadorian security apparatus, including the navy, air force and army and the security services, --- including the National Guard, the National Police and the Treasury Police. Personnel from these units have carried out torture and extrajudicial execution and have been responsible for "disappearances" - both while in uniform and in plain clothes. Victims are customarily found mutilated, decapitated, dismembered, strangled or showing marks of torture or rape.
For LeMoyne's story, see James LeMoyne, "As Salvadoran Vote Nears, Political Killings Increase," New York Times, February 29, 1988, p. A12. The relevant passage:
For Norton's story, see Mark Cooper, L.A. Weekly, May 27-June 2, 1988; Chris Norton, "U.S. Media Promotes Salvadoran Army Disinformation," Extra! [F.A.I.R. journal], Vol. 12, No. 1, July/August 1988, p. 1; Alexander Cockburn, "The Natural History of LeMoyne, Continued," Nation, August 27, 1988, p. 155.The New York Times: As Salvadoran Vote Nears, Political Killings Increase
In addition, there have been rebel killings aimed directly at stopping the elections next month. Villagers say guerrillas publicly executed two peasants in the town of Guatajiagua in Morazan department three weeks ago because they had applied for and received new voter registration cards.
According to the villagers, the guerrillas placed the voting cards of Juan Martin Portillo and Ismael Portillo in their mouths after executing them as a warning to others not to take part in the elections. Rebel units in the area have told all villages not to vote and not to propose candidates for mayor.
For the New York Times's correction, see "Editors' Note," New York Times, September 15, 1988, p. A3. An excerpt:
LeMoyne later conceded that he was not even in El Salvador at the time. See D.D. Guttenplan, "Perestroika at the Times?," Newsday (Long Island, NY), September 21, 1988, part II, p. 2.The New York Times: Correction Appended
The article fell short of the Times's reporting and editing standards. It should not have left the impression that it was based on firsthand interviewing, and it should have explained why firsthand confirmation was not available.
Chomsky's conclusion is uncontroversial:
Chomsky explains what exactly happenned..Now, that’s no joke—this is fabrication in the service of the state that has led to tens of thousands of people being killed, because maintaining this pretense over the years has been one of the ways in which the U.S. government has supported the terror in El Salvador and extended the war against Nicaragua. It’s not a small point. This is serious lying, very serious. And it’s just one of thousands of cases demonstrating that the media in the United States serve the interests of state-corporate power, they are organs of propaganda, as in fact one would expect them to be.
UNDERSTANDING POWER, BY NOAM CHOMSKY
Most of the people at the Times who make it to be correspondent or editor or whatever tend to be either very obedient or very cynical. The obedient ones have adapted—they’ve internalized the values and believe what they’re saying, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have made it that far. But there are also some plain cynics.
James LeMoyne at the Times is a perfect example: James LeMoyne is an absolute crook, he’s one of the most dishonest journalists I’ve ever seen. The dishonesty of his reporting is so extreme, in fact, that it can’t just be indoctrination in his case. Actually, LeMoyne’s tenure as a correspondent in Central America ended up with an exposure so bad that even the Times had to publish an admission about it. Did you follow that?
In 1988 LeMoyne had written a story which talked about two people in El Salvador who he claimed were tortured by left-wing guerrillas trying to undermine the elections; it was one part of a whole effort in the American press at the time to maintain support for the U.S. client regime in El Salvador despite its atrocities.19 Well, a freelance journalist in Central America, Chris Norton, saw LeMoyne’s article and was surprised by it, because the atrocities LeMoyne described were supposed to have taken place in an area of the country reporters couldn’t get to, because it was under military occupation.
Norton wanted to ﬁgure out just how LeMoyne knew about these people being tortured, so he went up as close to that region as he could, and he talked to the mayor, and to the priest, and to people in the community—and he discovered that one of the alleged victims didn’t exist, and the other was perfectly ﬁne. He then went back to San Salvador and did some more checking—and he discovered that LeMoyne had simply taken the story straight from a San Salvadoran newspaper, where it had been attributed to an army officer. It was in fact just straight army disinformation of a standard sort, which LeMoyne then reported in the New York Times as if he knew something about it. Then the State Department picked it up from the New York Times and distributed it to Congress to show that the Salvadoran guerrillas were undermining the election.
Well, Norton uncovered this, then another freelance journalist, MarkCooper, picked up Norton’s story and published something about it in the L.A. Weekly, an alternative weekly in Los Angeles. The piece then appearedin the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting journal, Extra!—F.A.I.R. is avery good media analysis group in New York. Still no reaction from the Times. Finally, Alex Cockburn got ahold of it, and mentioned it in his col-umn in The Nation.20 Well, by that time word was sort of getting aroundabout this, so the
Times ﬁgured they had to react, and they published a cor-rection—I think it’s the longest correction they’ve ever published, it’s sev-eral paragraphs long. It said, our usual high standards were not met in thiscase, one thing or another like that.2