Is Media Technology Driving International Politics?



LIGHTS, CAMERA, WAR. Copyright (D 1996 by Johanna 19euman. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Production Editor: Miranda Ford
Copyedited by Karen Pilihosian Thompson
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Neuman, Johanna.

Lights, camera, war: is media technology driving interna- tional politics? / johanna Neuman.-Ist ed.
p. cm

ISBN 0-312-14004-5

1. Broadcast journalism. 2. Television broadcasting of news. 3. Journalism-Political aspects. 4. War in mass media.

1. Title.
PN4784.B75N48 1995
070.1 '9 dc20

First Edition: January 1996


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To my father, Seymour,
Who taught me the love of history
and the beauty of words
And to my mother, Evelyn,
Who taught me their meaning


1 The CNN Curve Through History                              1
2 The Telegraph Annihilates Time and Space                  13
3 A Splendid Little War                                     41
4 Gutenberg's Revolution                                    55
5 Photography and Emotion                                   71
6 Public Opinion and World War I                            89
7 Telephone Diplomacy                                      101
8 Film and the Global Village                              117
9 Radio Goes to War                                        135
10 Cold War Politics in the TV Age                         153
11 Television and the War in Vietnam                       169
12 The Media and Revolution                                185
13 The Persian Gulf War                                    203
14 The Satellite Spotlight                                 227
15 Cyberspace and War                                      249
16 Leadership in the Information Age                       267

 Acknowledgments                                            279
Endnotes                                                   283
Index                                                      311


SECRETARY OF STATE James A. Baker III climbed up on a makeshift podium draped in camouflage in an air han- gar in Taif, Saudi Arabia, to deliver the latest U.S. ultimatum to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. It was January 11, 1991, four days before war would begin, two days after a failed mis- sion in Geneva to avert war in all-day talks with Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. Parked behind Baker, nose-to-nose, were an F-111 fighter-bomber and an EF-lllA Raven electronics- jamming warplane. In front of him were several hundred U.S. airmen and -women from the Forty-eighth Air Force Tactical Fighter Wing, most wearing camouflage gear and an edge of impatience. After months of training in the desert, they were eager to see action. Baker reminded them that the UN dead- line for Iraq to leave Kuwait or risk war by an unprecedented coalition of thirty-four Westem and Arab nations was only days away. "As the clock ticks down to midnight January fifteenth," he said, "I can tell you this: You will not have to wait much longer." The troops whooped their approval. Baker also spoke of Saddam's propensity to miscalculate, to "wait until he is on the very brink before he moves." With the crowd hushed, Baker added, "Just so there is no misunder-



standing, let me be absolutely clear. We pass the brink at midnight January fifteenth."

With other journalists, I watched this dramatic scene, con- vinced it marked a turning point in the history of interna- tional relations-not so much because Baker had laid down another waming to Baghdad, nor even because he had done so in front of 400 bellowing troops. This appeal to a vast audience was unusual for Baker, who more often filled his calendar with private visits to sometimes obscure foreign min- isters. The scene had a distinctly Deaveresque feel to it, as if Baker were still chief of staff in Ronald Reagan's first White House and strategist Mike Deaver were still painting flattering backdrops for important political speeches. But that was not the epiphany either. No, the remarkable thing about this emotional encounter in the hangar in Saudi Arabia was that Saddam could see it within the hour. Covered by Cable News Network, Ted Turner's twenty-four-hour-a-day, all-news tel- evision network, the speech could be heard and seen in Bagh- dad before Baker went to sleep. "I sent a message from Taif," Baker explained later. "We didn't send that message through Joe Wilson [top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad]. We sent it through CNN."

For decades, diplomats had conveyed their messages in pri- vate, using diplomatic pouches to hide great secrets of state. Henry Stimson, Herbert Hoover's secretary of state, had in 1928 closed down the agency at the State Department as- signed to break telegraphic codes of other countries, explain- ing that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail." Since then, of course, there had been much code breaking, and no shortage of intercepted messages, so in some sense diplomacy had long since made Stimson a quaint if sweet anachronism. But even when they were attempting to peek inside the en- velopes of other sovereign nations, diplomats were careful to shield their own secrets from the press and the public. It was



one thing to telegraph intentions to competing countries, quite another to broadcast them to the world. Leaks there had always been, often targeted, sometimes random. Clever policy makers had, since the days of kings and their court scribes, sought to influence history's view of their work by appealing to their writers for a sympathetic accounting. But never had the news media been used quite so conspicuously, almost without their consent, to convey policy. Or so it seemed.

Real-time information had arrived in that hangar in Saudi Arabia, and it was, seemingly, changing the rules of inter- national govemance. Govemments watched history with their publics, losing the luxury of time to deliberate in private before the imperative to "do something" stood on their door- steps. Instant information, accessible to anyone with a tele- vision and a cable, had removed a sheath of mystery from the mantle of leadership, costing politicians some measure of re- spect. And the disenfranchised were suddenly media celebri- ties, basking in what Andy Warhol forever labeled as their fifteen minutes of fame, soaking up the intemational spotlight while it was warm. That was the context for Baker's remarks in the desert, a mirror of the larger debate within foreign- policy circles about what they called the CNN curve. There was angst about a television network setting the agenda for intemational policy, worry about a public unduly swayed by the emotions of the moment. Among print joumalists there was a resentment toward this omnipotent creature, one that could convey news faster than anything gone before. Mostly, in that hangar in the days before that war, there was a feeling that power had shifted to technology, that CNN was driving diplomacy, that govemments and newspapers were no longer the guardians of public information.

To Baker, whose first job in national public life was to count votes for Gerald R. Ford at the 1976 Republican con



vention and who had spearheaded the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, all of this hand-wringing about the power of television seemed like false hysteria. Baker was a politico, not a member of the Council on Foreign Re- lations. From his perspective, speeding a message through CNN instead of conveying it through an ambassador was an advantage to be exploited, one more tactical weapon in an intemational arsenal. He seemed puzzled that any diplomat would view CNN as anything but a tool. "You have more tools at your disposal now to accomplish your goals," was how he put it.

Baker's successes as secretary of state owed not a little to his political instincts, his intuition about how far he could push Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir before the Israeli conservative would feel the heat from his own right wing, or how much spine he had to show Syrian president Hafez al-Assad before he could force him toward the peace table. He was a tactician for the most part, measuring his achieve- ments by whether he had met his goals. Contemplating the impact of media technology on intemational relations in the late twentieth century, he likened it to a high-stakes cam- paign where the pace is hurried, the window for decisions is narrowed, and the cost of mistakes is enormous. "It makes it more like a permanent campaign," he observed. "Your reac- tion time is in minutes and hours, not days."

Professional diplomats were not as sanguine. Many still nursed the image of the striped-pants courier delivering dip- lomatic messages in secret pouches. They chuckled knowingly over British diplomat Henry Wotton's famous description of the ambassador in the seventeenth century as "an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country." They bristled when, during the 1992 presidential campaign, independent candidate Ross Perot argued that new communication tech- nology had made ambassadors obsolete. Mostly they derided



the new technology and its use by political leaders without proper training in the rhythms of diplomacy. Their contempt reached its heights over President Bush's use of the telephone. When, in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War, Bush used the phones to keep in touch with other world leaders, the media dubbed it "Rolodex diplomacy." Some diplomats were ap- palled. "I've always trembled when a president picks up the phone to talk to his counterparts," said David Newsom, for- mer U.S. ambassador and director of the Georgetown Uni- versity's Institute of Diplomacy. "The idea of solving difficult international issues through personal rapport is a very risky one." This was old school diplomacy, which held that nations act for strategic reasons and that leaders do not go to war because a friend called. The real fear was that Bush might promise too much in return for too little, giving away the game before the poker players at the State Department could protect the U.S. hand.

Among the foreign-policy community, there were other questions too, about whether the increased pace of interna- tional relations was forcing governments to make mistakes, whether the politicization of foreign policy would hurt the deliberative, cautious, steady craft of diplomacy that had served the world of nations so well for so long. Baker dis- missed these latter musings as the sour grapes of those whom technology had cut out of the loop, but other serious people worried about them. Lawrence Eagleburger, a career foreign- service officer who followed Baker as secretary of state, viewed the haste as a danger. Pressed to give an example of where the government had erred in the rush to take action, he cited U.S. policy toward Haiti in 1991 after President Jean- Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a bloody coup. A lifelong smoker who alternates cigarettes with an inhaler, Eagleburger exhaled deeply as he opined that the error was one of degree, that the White House should not have embraced Aristide



quite so tightly, should not have equated his return with the restoration of democracy, a policy that three years later re- quired 16,000 American troops to escort Aristide home at the end of the barrel of a gun. Eagleburger's example is a bit nuanced, because a hug is still a hug. Still, his worry over U.S. policy in Haiti speaks to the instinct among diplomats that haste can breed mistakes.

Even as politicians and diplomats debated the impact of the new tools of technology on intemational affairs, some in the business of information marveled at their consequences for journalism. Enthusiasts like Mark Brender of ABC-TV News saw in the commercial satellite the fruits of the infor- mation revolution. Freed of government control in a post- cold war era, the satellite gives news organizations access to photographs from space that until now were available only to governments. When Iraqi troops mass near the Kuwaiti bor- der and sensory images are available for a price, the news media can report on Iraq's movements to the public at the same time that U.S. government offficials are analyzing the images. This is a major check on govemment control of in- formation, much as television was in the Vietnam War. "You can get on a train from Washington to Philadelphia and you'll see what's left of the industrial revolution," Brender said as he welcomed a group from NASA to discuss the uses for satellite imaging with ABC. "You see burnt factories with chimneys in the grass. We're in the information revolution now. All these satellites are the harvesters of information. They go around the earth just pulling up information." For technology's true believers, the satellite gives journalism the promise of more power and influence than ever before.

Like other journalists, political leaders, and professional diplomats weighing technology's legacy for international af- fairs, I came to this book convinced that recent media in- ventions had dramatically recast the way nations deal with



other nations. In introducing this project to my colleagues at the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, where I first researched the book, I said, "Modem communication media-everything from the fax machine to satellite television, from CNN to computer E-mail-have revolutionized the way nations interact. In the process, these modern technologies have also given the news media a larger role in foreign policy than ever before."

But intervening months of thought-both in the dusty stacks of Butler Library and in the quiet contemplation of a journalist facing no deadlines-gave me new perspective. The changes in international relations brought by the satellite and the computer, by digital technology and global networks, by CNN and real-time television, are profound. These changes are marvelous and sobering and frightening and dramatic, but what my readings through history demonstrated is that they are not new. The changes information technology has visited on the worlds of diplomacy and journalism in the late twen- tieth century are little different from the price exacted by technology in earlier eras.

What is new, what has changed, is the speed with which new technology is assaulting the political world. From the invention of the printing press to the advent of the telegraph lie three centuries in which diplomats and joumalists grew accustomed to their news roles. Only a decade separates the dawning of satellite television and the promise of digital in- formation, ten years in which to absorb the requirements of real-time television and prepare for the changes unleashed by the Internet.

The changes may be coming faster now, but every excur- sion into history confirms a consistent pattern of social change. Whenever a new communication technology arrived on the scene, diplomats scoffed at the new invention, jour- nalists boasted that their influence had exploded, the public



noticed that its world was shrinking, as if the boundaries of home were stretching to meet the horizon.

So striking was this pattern that it began to seem as if the tribulations of the past were an echo to the passions of our own day. There was a consistent theme threading the history, an insistence that each new technology promised to strip power from the elites and vest it in the public, giving de- mocracy a new hope. Many predict today that cyberspace will empower the disenfranchised, putting information directly in the hands of people, unfiltered by governments. This view can also be heard in the musings of writer Thomas Carlyle, who in 1836 looked back in wonder at the invention of the printing press in the 1450s. "He who first shortened the labor of copyists by the device of moveable types," Carlyle wrote, "was disbanding hired armies and cashiering most kings and senates, and creating a whole new democratic world." This is an intoxicating promise of technology, to abet democracy.

True, each new media technology dislodges the middle- man, bringing the audience closer to the stage, offering the potential for wider dissemination of information. This too is part of the pattem, one that is repeated, absorbed, and soon unnoticed. But the 550-year history of media technology sug- gests that democracy's triumph is not inevitable. For better or worse, intermediaries usually find new uses for their talents, inserting themselves between the public and the media. Technology opens the door to wider involvement by the pub- lic, but it does not hustle the audience inside. That still re- quires leadership, and a message.

For that is the other lesson in the history, that media technology is rarely as powerful in the hands of joumalists as it is in the hands of political figures who can summon the talent to exploit the new invention. In this contest for public opinion, what Teddy Roosevelt called the bully pulpit of high offfice, the platform from which to summon a great cause and



marshal political will, is mightier than the power of the pen or the presses.

It is often said that ours is an era of media power where instant communication has given life to Marshall McLuhan's prophesy of a global village. Borders have been erased by com- puters, goes the refrain, and pictures are driving intemational affairs. It is my contention, by contrast, that pictures drive diplomacy-as words did in an earlier era-only when there is a vacuum of political leadership.

If there is a better example of the failure of policy at the top and its deadly impact on the ground than the crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, I cannot imagine it. It was as if the West decided to parody Teddy Roosevelt by speaking loudly and carrying a soft stick. A headline in the Washington Post in the spring of 1993 announced, DIPLOMACY FAILS TO HALT SERB ATTACK. The headline writer presumed that di- plomacy had been tried. But diplomacy, a discipline where words still matter, is not an exercise in frequent-flyer points. Without a policy to guide diplomatic efforts, or a consistency of language, everything from TV pictures to the false promises of Serb military leaders will carry too much weight. To blame the media and its technology for this inflated influence is to misunderstand the imperatives of power.

This, then, is a book about technology and leadership, about the news media and journalism, about diplomacy and war. It is a book that documents the sweep of changes tech- nology has visited on intemational affairs, but also puts them in historic context. At its heart is a contention that in the end, in war and peace, on television and in print, leadership tells. Influenced perhaps unduly by having covered Ronald Reagan's White House and James Baker's State Department, I believe that individuals can have a strategic impact on events, and that to do so, they must evidence several qualities of leadership-among them an ability to communicate, an



appreciation for the domestic politics of their counterparts, a fidelity to words and understanding of the importance of sym- bols, and, finally, a clarity about the bounds of national in- terest and the consequences of crossing them.

Throughout my reflections on history, I kept in touch with a wide range of public offficials, respected academics, and thoughtful joumalists. I listened, in more than 100 interviews, for evidence of a revolution. The more carefully I listened, the more I began to hear something else: an undercurrent of doubt that the computer or the satellite or the fax machine or whatever other marvel of technology was then under dis- cussion had changed more than the outer garments of inter- national affairs. Many proclaimed a revolution, but when pressed for examples, few gave answers that could not be in- terpreted to make the opposite case. Quite a few were angry about the changes technology had visited on international relations, sure that things had been better "in the old days." To those who continue to believe that the sky has fallen, I only hope that the pages of this book at least provide reason to reexamine the ground beneath their feet.

In speeches to foreign-service students and midcareer Pen- tagon offficials, I am often asked how a leader can possibly maintain a sense of proportion in the face of a media blitz. This is the plaint of today's public officials, that the media drumbeat-delivered instantly, with a battery of microphones stuck in the face-requires immediate action and robs them of time for careful deliberation. My answer is to quote a ma- rine official who, at the end of the Persian Gulf War, was asked why marines were better than the army at coping with the onslaught of reporters, producers, cameramen, and pho- tographers. "We didn't view the news media as a group of people we were supposed to schmoo2e," replied Chief War- rant Officer Eric Carlson. "We regarded them as an environ- mental feature of the battlefield, kind of like the rain. If it



rains, you operate wet." His answer is one I would offer besieged policy makers. The noise may be louder, the herd bigger, but the basics of intemational govemance are un- changed.

Nations interact with other nations for self-interest and high moral purpose, for economic gain and market coopera- tion. From the cynical schemes of Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli to Henry Kissinger, America's foremost practitioner of real politik, diplomacy over the last three cen- turies has measured its steps in geopolitics, viewing the world and its nation-states as a giant chessboard in a game of deadly pursuit. With the end of the cold war and the rise of what Neil Postman calls technopoly, relations between nations, even sovereignty, are losing ground to the imperatives of the global market and the demands of worldwide, real-time com- munication. In this exciting milieu, it is tempting to assume that technology has modemized the old-fashioned. In the end, though, these new forces may represent less a revolution than a shifting of loyalties, from geopolitics to ecopolitics or even cyberpolitics. Then as now, intemational relations re- quire a community of individuals, joined in temporary and changing alliances, coalescing around different causes that de- fine national identity.

What is new, thanks to real-time satellite television and the advent of interactive computers, is that policy makers now watch events unfold at the same time as their constitu- ents. Of necessity, this time crunch prizes those who are quick on their feet and nimble with their thoughts. But in truth nearly every technology had that effect. The new speed of delivery that so fascinated me as I watched Baker in an airport hangar in Saudi Arabia as he sent a message to Saddam Hus- sein in his bunker in Baghdad, the marvel that technology could bypass passport control, has consequences. A kind of virtual reality has come to diplomacy, as it has to everything



else in the world of the 1990s. Diplomats may be especially aggrieved, feeling that they are being forced to hurry inquiries and speed decisions and perhaps make mistakes. Journalists may feel falsely empowered, believing that they are swaying public opinion and forcing leaders to "do something" about the latest crisis. But in the hands of gifted leaders, the new tools of communication technology are, like the rain, but the newest elements of leadership. Undeniably, it has been rain- ing a lot lately.



The CNN Curve
Through History

IT WAS LATE Sunday night in Washington, early Monday morning in Moscow, when Strobe Talbott, ambassador-at- large to Russia and the former Soviet republics, picked up the telephone to talk to an official at the Russian Foreign Min- istry. Both were watching CNN-Talbott on the cable net- work, the Russian official on a feed via local television-as the drama of Russia's past clashed with the promise of its future. What they saw was a Russian White House suddenly in crisis, with soldiers ringing its perimeter and parliamentar ians inside making a desperate last stand against Yeltsin-style reform of the old Soviet system. In the distance, helicopters appeared on screen, carrying President Boris Yeltsin from his weekend dacha outside Moscow to his office in the Kremlin.

"Wait a minute, here come the helicopters," said the Rus- sian official. "Let's watch how this plays out."

So for several minutes, as the dramatic events of Black Monday were unfolding, a U.S. diplomat and his Russian counterpart said not a word to each other on a secure tele- phone line as they concentrated on watching a live television broadcast of a crisis they were trying to resolve diplomatically. They stopped talking the logistics of diplomacy and began watching the unfolding of real-time history. They stopped



talking to each other and listened instead to a newscaster. The freeze-frame picture of their halted conversation made clear what the foreign-policy community has been buzzing about since the end of the cold war: Communication tech- nology is now a player in intemational diplomacy.

The next day, TV pictures from Somalia flooded the air- waves, searing the national memory with images of horror: the corpse of an American body dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the pained words of U.S. airman Michael Durant as he anxiously eyed his captors. The imagination reeled. Wasn't this the same Somalia of starving babies and bloated stomachs that the United States had come to feed only a few months before? "The people who are dragging American bodies don't look very hungry to the people of Texas," said Republican senator Phil Gramm as he called for withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The one-two punch of Moscow and Mogadishu unleashed a flurry of blame-laying in Washington. As questions arose about whether Yeltsin was a democrat worthy of U.S. em- brace, and the public opinion registered disapproval for keep- ing U.S. troops in Somalia, the Clinton administration's foreign policy came in for criticism. In the first instance, Clin- ton was questioned for backing Yeltsin at the expense, seem- ingly, of democracy. In the second, he was criticized for letting a humanitarian mission evolve into a manhunt for one warlord, an example of "mission creep" that engendered a firefight that left eighteen dead and seventy-eight wounded, some with gruesome and painful injuries, the worst single fight in U.S. military history since Vietnam. On the defensive, some administration figures blamed television. "Television's ability to bring graphic images of pain and outrage into our living rooms has heightened the pressure both for immediate engagement in areas of international crisis and immediate dis- engagement when events do not go according to plan,"


The CNN Curve Through History

UN ambassador Madeleine Albright complained to the Sen- ate Foreign Relations Committee.

Others were even ready to proclaim a New World Media Order, ceding diplomacy to the cameras in a kind of perma- nent post-cold war confusion. "CNN was become a universal intervener," said George Stephanopoulos, adviser to President Clinton. "It's an immediate actor. We're often forced to re- spond to them as much as to actual activity." This was the worry of policy makers, that CNN and other international television networks had overtaken the agenda of interna- tional affairs, usurping the government's traditional role of identifying problems, outlining options, and pursuing solu- tions. Television pictures in "real time" meant that the public and the leadership watched events together. Boutros Boutros- Ghali, as UN secretary-general and the nominal keeper of the international agenda, found it unsettling that television was setting the agenda. "The member states never take action on a problem unless the media take up the case," he said in a speech to CNN's World Report contributors in May. "When the media gets involved, public opinion is aroused." So "in- tense" is this public emotion, said Boutros-Ghali, that "United Nations work is undermined" and "constructive statesmanship . . . is almost impossible."

It is an article of faith in foreign-policy circles these days that the advent of instantaneous and global technology has given the news media more of a voice in international com- munication and robbed diplomacy of its rightful place at the helm. Foreign-policy types call it the CNN curve, and the term is not a compliment. It suggests that when CNN floods the airwaves with news of a foreign crisis, policy makers have no choice but to redirect their attention to the crisis at hand. It is also suggests that crisis coverage evokes an emotional outcry from the public to "do something" about the latest incident, forcing political leaders to change course or risk un



popularity. This curve of public emotion may ebb as news recedes from the screen, but in the meantime, the enormous power of images broadcast in real time-students rebelling in Beijing, bombs falling in Baghdad, marines landing on the beaches of Mogadishu, a Russian White House set to fire by diehard Marxists, paratroopers landing in Haiti-has, in this view, eviscerated political will.

This book argues, instead, that while technology has en- abled faster feedback from the public in matters of war and peace, while it has speeded the deliberative process and short- ened reaction time, while it has written a new job description for diplomats and given the public a sense of being there, it has not, in the end, changed the fundamentals of political leadership and international governance. Once past the won- der and marvel at the specter of two diplomats watching tel- evision together while telephones dangle in their hands, there comes the question, So what? Their mutual viewing influ- enced not at all the outcome of events, except to speed the flow of information. To view this increased pace of knowledge as a revolution in diplomacy and journalism is to misread history.

But that is not to diminish the magic of watching history in real time, which one viewer-glued to a television set in Los Angeles while the Russian White House bumed in Mos- cow-compared to a feeling that "CNN had handed out guns." There is undeniably something new afoot when the Clinton White House, monitoring events at a crisis moment in Moscow, discards the cables of its own embassy staff in favor of watching CNN. Or when Secretary of State James Baker, standing in an air force hangar in Taif, Saudi Arabia, makes a speech to hundreds of airmen and -women about the brink of war that is directed to an audience of one, Saddam Hussein, sitting in his bunker in Baghdad watching television. And there is no denying that the profusion of new commu


The CNN Curve Through History

nication channels-from cellular telephones to computer E-mail, from the fax machine to Internet-has created head- aches for offficials trying to keep apace of the information flow. When microphones are thrust in the face of policy makers whose job is to consider implications, when sound bites take precedence over substance, policy can suffer.

These developments do not, however, constitute a revo- lution in policy or politics, only in the speed of communi- cation and the breadth of the audience. Nor are they new, having their precedent in earlier clashes of diplomats with media technology. What has been missing so far in the dis- cussion about CNN's impact or technology's primacy is any sense of history. Reviewing the history of media technology over the last 550 years, this book argues that television pic- tures in the age of television are as powerful as newspapers in the time of print, or broadcasts in the time of radio, or film in the time of newsreels, or computers in an age of cy- berspace, in short, a treatise on relative history meant to calm the techno-hysteria of many in the diplomatic, political, and joumalistic communities.

It is said, for instance, that real-time satellite television- with its ability to relay events as they are happening-em- powers the powerless, busting up the elite circle of policy makers accustomed to setting policy without interference from the less enlightened. In just one example, Israel in 1992 expelled 415 Palestinians suspected of being terrorists, hoping to quiet the domestic outrage at the recent killing of five Israeli policemen, and to send a message to the Islamic Re- sistance Movement, better known by its Arabic acronym, Hamas, that violence would not go unpunished. Instead, the move landed Israel in the middle of a public-relations night- mare, as English-speaking Palestinians, cooking tea in make- shift tents, told their story on international television. So gripping was their tale, so dramatic their surroundings, that



when Israel agreed, under pressure from the United Nations, to release some of the men, they refused to leave. They cal- culated that their cause was better served by staying, by plead- ing their case on an international stage, than it could ever be at home. Policy makers bemoaned the advent of satellite television, which gave these men an unprecedented global platform.

But Palestinians were not the first to gain a new audience because of a new media technology. Martin Luther, a German monk who challenged the Catholic Church's authority, was blessed with intellect-and good timing. No matter how widespread the interest in Luther's ideas, without the printing press, invented by Johann Gutenberg seventy years earlier, it is doubtful that Lutheranism would have achieved, so quickly, a worldwide following. Lutheranism, said one historian, "was from the first the child of the printed book."

The printing press gave Luther a larger audience for his ideas in the sixteenth century, much as satellite television did for Palestinians in the twentieth century. But the ruling elite in each case had available the same tools of technology to plead its case, to counter the dissent from within. One of the lessons of history is that no matter how much technology levels the playing field and empowers those who were until then powerless, ruling elites retain much influence. There may be more players on the field, and the viewing audience may be larger, but the game is unchanged. "The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless," wrote Vaclav Havel, a Czech dissident playwright and later, after the fall of the Communist regime, president of the Czech Republic. "All the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of himself in both."

It is likewise said that real-time satellite television, and


The CNN Curve Through History

the coming race for cyberspace, robs diplomats of time for due deliberation, and strips ambassadors of power. Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger blames technology- the telephone and the computer in particular-for allowing world capitals to keep a shorter leash on their envoys than they did in earlier times, when diplomats freelanced policy, and military officers negotiated treaties with other countries, as Matthew C. Perry did in opening diplomatic and trade relations between the United States and Japan in 1854. "In the good old days," said Eagleburger, "you had a lot more flexibility."

But in some sense the good old days never were. To hear them tell it, diplomats have been losing power since the ad- vent of the telegraph, which they blamed for encouraging war. French historian Charles Mazade argued in 1875 that the just-passed Franco-Prussian War could have been avoided if leaders had sat eye-to-eye instead of sending their ultima- tums by telegram. The London Spectator agreed, lamenting the telegraph's impact in 1889 on diplomacy and journalism. "The world is for purposes of intelligence reduced to a vil- lage," the newspaper editorialized. "All men are compelled to think of all things, at the same time, on imperfect informa- tion, and with too little interval for reflection." The editors even complained about what the television age would later label sound bites, and charged that the new invention was encouraging emotions instead of rationality in international affairs. "The constant diffusion of statements in snippets, the constant excitements of feeling unjustified by fact, the con- stant formation of hasty or erroneous opinions, must in the end, one would think, deteriorate the intelligence of all to whom the telegraph appeals." Snippets or sound bites, the impact was the same.

The most telling criticism is that real-time satellite tele- vision has forced diplomacy to respond to emotional appeals



instead of rational thought. From places like Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Burundi, television images of war, starvation, and deprivation evoke raw emotions that put new demands on policy makers. When a busload of Bosnian children being escorted out of Sarajevo under United Nations protection was attacked by Serb artillery, the graphic pictures of children caught in the crossfire of ethnic hatred outraged John Fox, an Eastern European specialist at the State Department's planning and policy offfice. "The images just kept mounting," he said. "The images came, they never stopped, and that's what got to people. Every now and then, even though you had to steal yourself just to get through the day . . . there would be one that you just couldn't ignore." Like three other top State Department offficials, Fox resigned.

But emotionalism has always been a factor in international politics. Consider the War of Jenkins' Ear, fought in 1739, when Britain battled Spain over its mistreatment of British smugglers and pirates. Robert Jenkins, an English mariner, picked a barroom brawl with a Spanish customs guard and in the process suffered a bad cut on his ear, which doctors, in the practice of the day, amputated. Amid a commercial ri- valry between England and Spain, Senkins' ear was waved about on the floor of the House of Commons, used to pressure the reluctant in the government to seek revenge for alleged mistreatment of British smugglers. Here was symbolism and emotionalism combined.

In spite of these historic echoes, or perhaps because of them, some maintain that the current explosion of media technology is exponentially more of a burden than past in- ventions. The U.S. intervention in Somalia is widely cited as an instance where television pictures swayed international events. The oft-heard chorus: Pictures got us in, and pictures got us out. Those who hold this view argue that the vivid and wrenching images of starving Somali children forced


The CNN Curve Through History

President Bush to act, and that the equally horrible pictures of an American soldier's corpse being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu compelled President Clinton to an- nounce a departure date for U.S. troops. The truth is more textured. If TV pictures alone compelled Bush to intervene in Somalia, then they should have had a similar impact in the Sudan, where the starvation was equally devastating, the pictures equally horrific, and, at first, equally in evidence on CNN. If Clinton had wanted to use political capital to ex- plain to the American public why the United States was in Somalia, if he had used the bully pulpit of high offfice to make a case that the United States had an obligation to stay, he could have countered the weight of those pictures from Mog- adishu. By choosing not to expend his political capital for a cause not of his own choosing, the legacy of an earlier ad- ministration, Clinton allowed the pictures to dominate. It is not inevitable, or even desirable, that leaders cede this power to television. It is also not the fault of television.

Television was not responsible for the predicament facing policy makers who were forced to shape a response to So- malia, but it did speed events. There is simply no denying that television quickens the pace of international affairs, and one thing more. A medium that combines the visual and the verbal, television taps the emotions. Thousands of words writ- ten about mass starvation do not touch the same emotion, in the television age, as the moving picture of a child beset by flies, crying from hunger. Like the photograph and film, sat- ellite television, for all its technological prowess, touches the heart. That is why Americans provided food in Somalia in 1992. But like the other visual media, television provides a fleeting image. Context still matters.

No better example exists than the pictures of famine from Ethiopia in 1984. NBC's London bureau chief]oseph Angotti had seen a BBC Report on the famine, and urged his em



ployers in New York to look at it. Angotti wanted to ship the footage by air, but NBC News president Lawrence Gross- man overruled him on grounds that it was too expensive. "To Angotti's credit, he insisted," Grossman recalled years later. "Everybody writes about this but what nobody remembers is that it wasn't just the pictures that convinced us to use the story, it was also the poetry of the script." The pictures were gripping, but they still needed words. The combination did affect policy-public pressure found the Reagan administra- tion increasing federal food aid from $23 million to $98 mil- lion-but not for long. Once coverage faded, so did public interest.

George Kennan, the esteemed diplomat who fathered the containment policy of the cold war, was critical of U.S. in- tervention in Somalia because he believed emotions evoked by television pictures were driving American diplomacy. "If American policy from here on out, particularly policy involv- ing the uses of our armed forces abroad, is to be controlled by popular emotional impulses, and particularly ones pro- voked by the commercial television industry, then there is no place-not only for myself, but for what have traditionally been regarded as the responsible deliberative" voices in gov- emment, he wrote in an article just before U.S. Marines landed on the beaches of Mogadishu. It is a fitting coda to Kennan's lament that when the marines landed, they en- countered only one hostile group: a pack of joumalists whose bright camera lights mitigated the strategic effect of the sol- diers' night-vision goggles. To Kennan, these cameras looked like the enemy.

The old warrior of diplomacy, who had been so prescient in predicting Moscow's aggressions during a time of super- power rivalry, was trying to warn a new generation of the dangers of television and its impact on diplomacy. But Ken- nan's real quarrel is not with television pictures that hit view


The CNN Curve Through History

ers in the gut but with leaders who too easily yielded to their pull. This grand man of foreign policy may have forgotten, in his rant against the emotionalism of the 1990s, that he was equally incensed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's decision in the 1930s to grant concessions to the Soviet Union during negotiations over diplomatic recognition. Politicians tend to make decisions for political reasons, with public opinion and emotion much on their radar. Chiding FDR in his memoirs for "showmanship and prestidigitation," Kennan attributes the move to "neurotic self-consciousness and introversion, the tendency to make statements and take actions with regard not to their effect on the international scene . . . but rather to their effect on . . . American opinion (italics added)."

Each generation is mesmerized by the innovations of its times, sure that no other generation has experienced the emo- tional upheaval that comes of technological change. We are in the throes of such an infatuation now. In the most extreme example, a diplomat at the United Nations recently quipped that CNN had become "the sixth vote on the Security Coun- cil." Already, there are predictions, similarly, that the World Wide Web will erase national borders, making govemments impotent and sovereignty a memory. What history shows, in- stead, is that despite the vanity of each age, joumalists have always had power to sway public opinion, and more, that politicians always credit the news media for souring public opinion when they fail to win favor. What changes as one invention gives way to the next is the way in which the message hits home.

When the telegraph was new-and the telegraph is the closest mirror to changes unleashed by satellite television- it ushered in a revolution in the way international relations were conducted. From an age when messages were delivered at the speed of transportation-a horse, a sailing ship, a train-diplomats braced themselves for what they considered



instantaneous communication. The shift was almost beyond imagining. "We can speak to and receive an answer in a few seconds of time from Hong Kong, where ten P.M. here [New York] is ten A.M. there," Samuel F. B. Morse marveled at a reception. "China and New York are in interlocutory com- munication. We know the fact, but can imagination realize the fact?"

Morse's sense of awe at the impact of his own invention, his amazement that opposite ends of the world could be so quickly connected, is but one similarity to our own fascina- tion with the possibilities of real-time, satellite communica- tion.

It is also a humbling reminder that communication technology has always laid out its gifts with wide eyes. No matter the magic, each new communication technology un- leashes a similar dilemma on the political players and audi- ence of its day. Technology has always been a burden, calling on leaders in every era to change their habits, to adjust to a new speed or a new imperative, to hurry their decisions and address a larger audience. But technology has also been a gift to those who learned to exploit its blessings to shape public debate instead of being driven by the whims of public opin- ion. In this history there are echoes.



The Telegraph Annihilates
Time and Space

SAMUEL F. B. MORSE sat alone in the visitors' gallery on a February day in 1843 as Congress debated the merits of his invention. Poverty-stricken, feared by friends to be wasting his artistic genius on a "miserable delusion," Morse, a professor of painting and design at the University of the City of New York, listened as his machine was ridiculed. A bill providing $30,000 to "test the expediency of the tele- graph projected by Professor Morse," passed on a 89-83 vote, but not before many in the House of Representatives took the opportunity to mock the telegraph. In a debate not unlike those that characterize the House floor to this day, Represen- tative George Smith Houston, a Democrat from Alabama, argued that if the telegraph was everything it was cracked up to be, it must be akin to the Messiah. In which case, Houston proposed, Morse should share the $30,000 with the Millerites, a religious sect predicting the second coming of Christ sometime in 1844. Others were even more sarcastic, suggest- ing that the funds be shared with hypnotists, as if science should compete with witchcraft. Amid "great laughter" from the floor, a reporter approached Morse in the gallery. Morse was holding his head in his hands. "You are anxious," he surmised. "I have reason to be," replied Morse. "I have spent



seven years in perfecting this invention. If it succeeds, I am a made man. If it fails, I am ruined."

Within a year, the $30,000 congressional appropriation (actually, Morse returned $3,500 unused) proved its merit to political detractors. With Democrats meeting in Baltimore for their convention, word came by telegraph that James Polk, the first "dark horse" candidate, had overtaken the front- runner, former president Martin Van Buren. When the con- vention nominated Senator Silas Wright of New York as vice president, he declined-by telegram. An incredulous conven- tion sent a committee to verify what the telegraph had com- municated. Once that was confirmed, "the fame of the telegraph at once took wing." The telegraph's place, at least among American politicians and joumalists, was secure. "Even the most inveterate opposers have changed to admir- ers," Morse wrote in his diary. "And one of them, the Hon- orable Cave Johnson, who ridiculed my system last session by associating it with the tricks of animal magnetism [hypno- tism], came to me and said: 'Sir, I give in. It is an astonishing invention.' "

The telegraph was the first invention of communication technology in history to travel faster than the fastest form of transportation then available. Carried over electronic wires, a message on the telegraph traveled at the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second, while all the railroad train could muster was 2 miles a minute, and pigeon carriers were clocked at over 35 miles per hour. The telegraph's impact was as rev- olutionary in the industrial age as any current claims for the computer in the information age. Even now, it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of the transition. Suddenly, from a world where communication depended on the speed of a horse or a carrier pigeon or a balloon or a sailing ship or a train, messages could be received and answered almost in- stantly. This transition, from a leisurely pace to instantaneous


The Telegraph Annihilates Time and Space

touch, is perhaps the closest mirror to the changes in infor- mation technology experienced in the late twentieth century. Looking at the telegraph as a later generation would view the computer, one early witness said, quite simply, "Time and space are now annihilated."

Time and space, annihilated. No other phrase appears so frequently in the literature on the history of technology. It is as if conquering time and space is a human instinct as basic as hunger or thought. "Man may instantly converse with his fellow man in any part of the world," proclaimed one of the telegraph's devotees. "Is it not a feat sublime? Intellect hath conquered time," cooed the masthead of the Telegrapher, the official publication of the National Telegraphic Union. Said one Rochester newspaper: "The actual realization of the astonishing fact that instantaneous personal conversation can be held between persons hundreds of miles apart can only be fully attained by witnessing the wonderful fact itself." Even a congressional committee, investigating the telegraph in 1838, concluded that it meant "almost instantaneous communica- tion of intelligence between the most distant points of the country, and simultaneously. Space will be, to all practical purposes of information, completely annihilated." It is fash- ionable in the late years of the twentieth century to talk about "the information superhighway," with its Intemet and promise for global interaction. But long before satellites cir- cled the globe, the telegraph was proclaimed "The Great Highway of Thought," its wires "slender bridges."

Here was an earthquake in diplomacy, in journalism, in war. To nineteenth-century sensibilities, there could be noth- ing more instantaneous, nothing more immediate, nothing with more of the promise of a global village. "The chilling influences of time and distance are all gone," said Dr. George Loring, former congressman and chairman of the Massachu- setts Republican Party, at a reception in Morse's honor in



1871. "All mystery and doubt with regard to passing events and their influences are ended. The events occur, are re- ceived, weighed, set down in a moment, and in a moment we pass on to the next."

From the beginning, the telegraph worried some intellec- tuals, who fretted that the faster dissemination of information by cable would somehow dilute the quality of public dis- course, to say nothing of their own influence. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, set the tone. "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas," he wrote, "but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing im- portant to communicate." It is, he added, "as if the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough."

Technology inspired fears among elitists, whether they ruled politics or literature, that they could no longer control public opinion. Even before Morse perfected the electric tele- graph, France banned the visual telegraph, or Chappe system, based on flag signals. "Just imagine what could have happened if the passing success of the Lyons silk workers' insurrection had been known in all corners of the nation at once!" argued a horrified member of King Louis-Philippe's court. Given that offficial view, it was not surprising that, in 1837, a French law was enacted imposing jail sentences and stiff fines (up to 10,000 francs) on "anyone transmitting unauthorized signals from one place to another by means of the [Chappe] telegraph machine."

Russian czar Nicholas I was likewise terrified by the tele- graph's potential to spread information. Fearing that the broad use of the telegraph would prove "subversive," Nicholas turned down a contract with Morse, even though the details


The Telegraph Annihilates Time and Space

had already been worked out with Russian counselor of state Baron Alexander de Meyendorff. It was a strategic blunder that cost Russia dearly. On the eve of World War I, Russian telegraph lines were still so rudimentary that Russian military officials were forced to use radio to transmit marching orders. As a result, during one of the first battles of the war, Germans learned from uncoded Russian radio broadcasts the exact lo- cation of two key Russian units. The information proved de- cisive in the German victory at the Battle of Tannenberg. Nicholas feared the democratizing potential of information so much that, like his Communist successors years later who tried to outlaw the telephone, he was willing to risk victory to keep technology at bay. Many of his troops paid with their lives.

Even as Nicholas saw in the new technology a recipe for war, others saw the prospect of world peace. "Ambassadors can utter each day the voice of the government to which they belong, and communicate the reply from that to which they are sent," said Loring. "The boundaries of states and empires may remain the same, their tongues may differ, their social and civil conditions vary, but united as they are into an international community, intimate with each others' wants and necessities and interests, how can they long remain an agonistic?"

Such optimism about the fruits of technology attests to a naive but endearing view that the knowledge relayed by the telegraph would make nations so conversant with the na- tional interests of their one-time enemies that war would come no more. Queen Victoria may have had this in mind when, during the first of five attempts to lay an underwater trans.Atlantic cable, she telegraphed President Buchanan, "Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth, good will to men." Sam Morse's brother Sidney was more effusive. "Your inventiOnX measuring it by the power which it will give to



man to accomplish his plans, is not only the greatest inven- tion of this age, but the greatest invention of any age," Sidney wrote his brother in 1838, five years before Congress began its debate. "The surface of the earth will be networked with wire, and every wire will be a nerve. The earth will become a huge animal with 10 million hands, and in every hand a pen to record whatever the directing soul may dictate! No limit can be assigned to the value of the invention."

Sidney Morse was likely trying to buck up his brother for the bumpy road to fame still before him. What is remarkable is that these claims to greatness were heard again in 1994, more than 150 years after Sidney wrote in praise of his brother Sam's invention. "Time in this age has been col- lapsed; there is no time any longer," said Marvin Kalb, direc- tor of the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "Another concept that has been collapsed is distance. Both are gone."

No matter how fulsome Sidney's praise of Sam Morse's invention, the promise of a technology that could end war remained elusive. In fact, with prescience and precision, the generals seized the telegraph to aid in the command of war. Unlike poets and monarchs, the generals viewed technology as a tactical breakthrough, less a threat to the spirit. than an advantage to the army. For generals, the telegraph, like a satellite linkup, may have been a mixed blessing, speeding communication and facilitating enemy intelligence, abetting sabotage and manipulation, but always a weapon of choice. It was, in short, as potent and as critical as a new gun.

To journalism and intemational relations, the telegraph likewise arrived with a clamor. For diplomats, the telegraph, like CNN, cut the time allowed for decision-making and robbed them of power in the field, but allowed for direct and immediate communication around the globe. For journalists, the telegraph, like satellite TV, offered a boost of influence


The Telegraph Annihilates Time and Space

over public opinion, though it ushered in a period of shoddy reporting. For none did it change the essentials of political power-that quality still resided first with leaders who dem- onstrated both popular appeal and strong convictions-but for all, it increased the number of players on the scene, and, more importantly, radicali2ed the ways of doing business.

When the first telegraphic machine was readied on May 24, 1844, Morse asked Annie Ellsworth, daughter of U.S. commissioner of patents, to compose a message. She chose a passage from the Bible, Numbers 23:23: "What hath God wrought!" The message-dots and dashes printed on a paper tape-was sent along a wire wrapped in rope yarn and tar from the Supreme Court room in Washington to the B&O Mount Clare station on Pratt Street in Baltimore. The secorLd message Morse sent to Baltimore was more to the point. "Have you any news?" he cabled. For what God had wrought was a godsend for the newspapers.

Since the 1830s, when the penny press challenged the establishment newspapers by printing local crime and human- interest stories, newspapers had begun the shift to a mass me- dium. But even their large circulations and big advertising budgets could hardly compensate for the costs of transporting the news by chartered boats, rail cars, stagecoaches, harbor patrols, and carrier pigeons. The telegraph was the answer to their bottom-line prayers because it allowed reporters to cable news instead of transporting it.

Newspapers leaped at the new technology. In the first week of 1848, the New York Herald printed 79,000 words of telegraphic content, at a cost of $12,381, boasted publisher James G. Bennett. In 1861, Westem Union opened a line between New York and San Francisco, with two results. One was a neighborhood called Telegraph Hill. The other was the death of the Pony Express, begun the year before in hopes of winning government contracts to deliver the mail, put out of



business by the speed and competitive cost of the telegraph. By 1880, Western Union was thriving, delivering 92 percent of the messages sent within the country, over 3 million of them from reporters.

There was a magic to the times, an intoxication about the "telegraphic" newspaper. "We marvel that it has become pos- sible to convey, print, and circulate upon the streets facts concerning a pending battle hundreds of miles away," said one of the Civil War military telegraph operators. The era brought other changes too, chief among them a bravado, a cult of personality, a sense of rooting for the underdog, the beginning of the reporter as rakish seducer of information. That the telegraph's arrival coincided with other technolog- ical wonders-the steam engine and the railroads, among others-accounted in part for the shift. Then too, an increasingly urbanized and industrialized population had dif- ferent needs of its newspapers. News of the cities, not the farms, crowded the pages, crime news often, grimy and dra- matic and sensational. In a city of strangers, the newspaper addressed on its pages. It is probably too much of a stretch to say the telegraph fathered the trench coat, but it seems arguable that the heady atmosphere of speeded information and inexpensive newspapers paved the way for the raucous, unpretentious, seat-of-the-pants atmosphere of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's newsroom in the 1934 play The Front Page.

None of this, however, made the reporting terribly accu- rate. Journalism from Civil War battles is, with few excep- tions, a disappointing chapter in the profession's history, though perhaps the sensationalism owed something to the nature of the battle, with brother fighting brother. Reporters in the South went to battle largely as partisans, describing the North as "the cursed, cowardly nation of swindlers and


The Telegraph Annihilates Time and Space

thieves" that fought "drunken with wine, blood and fury." In the North, correspondents went to fill a tremendous appetite for news from readers scouring every report for news of the welfare of son, brother, husband. Circulation skyrocketed as newspapers discovered they could sell five times their normal run with details of a battle. Reporters often bribed telegraph operators to give preference to their copy over a competitor's. The new trend was best summed up by a publisher hungry for copy. "Telegraph fully all news you can get," Chicago Titnes editor Wilbur F. Storey ordered one of his reporters, "and when there is no news, send rumors."

Exaggeration became the hallmark of Civil War journal- ism, complete fabrication not at all uncommon. One corre- spondent begged a wounded officer not to die before he had finished interviewing him, promising him his last words would appear in "the widely circulated and highly influential journal I represent."

How much of this sad journalistic record is attributable to the technology can be answered by the tale of two bylines. The first, which gained popularity in the early years of the war, said, "By Telegraph," a clue to readers that the message was fresh, if not always reliable. The second, imposed briefly in 1863 by General Joseph Hooker of the North's Army of the Potomac, was a byline that gave the correspondent's name. This latter method was meant to fix blame for the legion of inaccuracies in the newspapers. Many believe it worked, as reporters traveling with Hooker's troops tended to be more circumspect in their writings. When individual ac countability superseded technological wonders, journalism improved, at least for a while.

The wild excesses of technologically emboldened news- papers were a bane to the generals. William Tecumseh Sher- man loathed correspondents and banished them from his camps, resulting in a near absence of coverage of his victo


rious, torched march from Atlanta to the coast. General George G. Meade, unhappy with the dispatches filed by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Edward Crapsey, ordered him placed backwards on an old horse with a sign around his neck that said LIBELER OF THE PRESS and escorted out of camp to the tune of the "Rogue's March." This banishment aroused sym- pathy from Crapsey's colleagues, who conspired to boycott any mention of Meade's name in any dispatch ever again. Meade was an ambitious politician who harbored presidential ambitions, and the silent treatment was widely thought to have ended his political career. But he may have had good cause for suspecting Crapsey of disloyalty. Confederate gen- eral Robert E. Lee reportedly read the Northern papers for hints on the whereabouts of Union troops, and was particu- larly enamored of one reporter for the Philudelphia Inquirer, saying that the fellow "knew what he reported and reported what he knew."

William Howard Russell, the veteran war correspondent from the Times of London, the model of journalistic probity, did not fare well in the Civil War either. Widely recognized as the world's first war correspondent. Russell nearly single-handedly brought down the British government over its handling of the traumatic Crimea War in 1854-1855. So devastating were his disclosures on the horrors of the military hospital at Sevastopol and the disastrous charge of the Light Brigade that the British establishment accused Russell of betraying secrets to the en- emy. So accurate were they that Prime Minister Lord Aber- deen suffered a parliamentary vote of no confidence, and the military hierarchy commanding the battle was called to ac- count. So suspenseful were his files that men and women gath- ered in parlors for a reading of his latest dispatches, which often ran for full pages in the newspaper. No longer.

The telegraph imposed a new format on journalism, requiring correspondents to file their most important infor


The Telegraph Annihilates Time and Spare

mation first, leaving to the end their more descriptive senti- ments. The telegraph, along with a new mass market for newspapers, begat the inverted pyramid, a form of journalism in which the bottom line is served first, the punch line de- livered before the setup. With the telegraph, a line could be cut, a transmission could end in midsentence, so the imper- ative was to squeeze in the news at the top. This was a vast departure for people like Russell, who found that truth was no defense.

During the first engagement between Union and Confed- erate forces at Bull Run, members of Congress and their wives came down from Washington with picnic lunches to watch fighting. Russell came too, and reported that the untested federal troops had bolted and fled the scene at the first cracks of Southern fire. His report angered Yankee sympathizers, who advised him to seek protection from angry mobs in the British embassy. Russell himself left the front during the course of the Civil War, discouraged less by bloodshed than by the new pace and seeming bias of the press.

Like the changes that satellite television would later bring to journalism, the telegraph ushered in a period of quick sto- ries, fast-paced copy, racy headlines. Press critic W. J. Still- man lamented that "America has in fact transformed journalism from what it once was-the periodical expression of the thought of the time, the opportune record of the ques- tions and answers of contemporary life-into an agency for collecting, condensing and assimilating the trivialities of the entire human existence." Somehow the new mass audience liked speed of information, the sense of being there as events were unfolding. Russell, with his overview of how a battle was won or lost, his emphasis on the narrative of war instead of the score, had become old school.

In any event, journalism was almost too enamored of the new speed of information to notice his departure. A business



that thrives on speed had found a means of near instant com- munication. One of the penny papers, so named because they cost one cent, even scooped the White House. President James K. Polk was waging war with Mexico in 1847 over territories called Califomia and New Mexico. News of the fall of Vera Cruz, a critical city, came not from the War Department but from the Baltimore Sun, which telegraphed the White House with the development-after sharing the news with its readers. Far from being distressed at this lapse of intelligence in his own government, Polk declared in his diary, "This was joyful news." Within two hours, Polk got a copy of the newspaper to read a more detailed report of the surrender before sharing the news with his cabinet. If Polk later learned of these war developments through offficial chan- nels, he did not deem fit to record the fact in his diary. Later he grew angry at the newly empowered media, realizing that it could deliver information to him as well as rob him of it. He had dispatched Nicholas P. Trist, Thomas Jefferson's son- in-law, to negotiate a peace treaty with Mexican authorities, only to find the details had been leaked to the New York Herald. "It was a profound Cabinet secret," Polk despaired in his diary. "I have not been more vexed or excited since I have been president. The success of Mr. Trist's mission 1 knew in the beginning must depend mainly on keeping it a secret."

Secrets obsessed the generals too, and for all of its negative impact, the telegraph served their purposes well. "The value of the magnetic telegraph in war cannot be exaggerated, as was illustrated by the perfect concert of action between the armies in Virginia and in Georgia, in all 1864," Sherman wrote in his memoirs. "Hardly a day intervened when General Grant did not know the exact state of facts with me, more than 1500 miles off, as the wires ran." By the end of the war in 1865, the Union Army had built 15,000 miles of military telegraph lines and handled over 6 million messages, up to


The Telegraph Annihilates Time and Space

3,000 a day, at a cost of $2.6 million. "No orders had to be given to establish the telegraph," Ulysses S. Grant wrote in his memoirs. "In a few minutes longer time than it took a mule to walk the length of its coil, telegraphic communica- tion would be effected between all the headquarters of the army."

The Confederacy also made use of the telegraph, though it had far fewer lines. Stringing only 1,000 miles of wire, the South depended when it could on commercial lines. Still, it made a difference. Brigadier General J. N. Palmer wrote in a letter to Major General B. F. Butler that the military tele- graph, during an attack at New Bern, "had not only informed me of all that was going on in front, but the whole line of posts to Morehead was put upon its guard. During the day, when the enemy were immediately around the town, the Sig- nal Corps kept us advised of the smallest movement of the enemy at any point of the line." Its worth, he told a colleague, "cannot be estimated in money."

As with every new technology, the telegraph was also vul- nerable to manipulation by the enemy. Grant reports that several telegrams sent to him by General McClellan were confiscated by a Rebel spy operator, who escaped with "many" of the dispatches. The most successful wiretapping of the war was achieved by Charles Gaston, one of Lee's tele- graphic operators, who managed to tap the North's Fort Mon- roe Line. For six weeks the Confederate operator was on Grant's wire, but this advantage was all but eliminated by a lack of code breakers. Only one message proved of use to the Confederacy, as it was not written in code, but rather in- structed Grant on the shipment of 2,486 cattle. Struggling to supply his troops with food, Lee sent troops to intercept the shipment, assuring a forty-day food supply. Then, too, tech- nology abetted cowardice, with deadly consequences. A Confederate telegraph operator captured at his station in


Jacksonville in 1864 was "under the influence of a revolver at his ear, compelled to telegraph in his own style a train order which in due time brought a complete train [of Rebel soldiers] into the Union lines, where it was of course cap- tured." But for the most part, the telegraph was so great a blessing to both sides that units were sent ahead of the army to string wires, often at great risk, guardian angels of infor- mation.

For Lincoln too, the telegraph was a risk worth taking, the newly emboldened newspapers a burden to be borne. Public opinion had always mattered in war, but in the Civil War it grew from an undercurrent to a wave, no longer content to stay beneath the surface. The White House courted public opinion because many Northerners, convinced the South was blufffing, assumed the war would be over in short order. That it took four years and took 617,548 lives was a shock, one that nearly cost Abraham Lincoln reelection in 1864. Lincoln had many problems in war, not least the recalcitrance of his generals to lead the fight. But he was not immune to the inaccuracies and slights of a partisan press. After a grim day touring the battlefield at Antietam, a depressed Lincoln re- tired to his tent. Aides tried to cheer him with lighthearted banter. A passing reporter heard laughter from the tent, and telegraphed his newspaper, which promptly published: "Pres- ident Lincoln tours the Antietam Battlefield, and laughs in sight of burial parties." Lincoln was pained by the criticism, and considered putting out a statement to clarify what had happened. The statement was prepared but never delivered. "There has already been too much said about this falsehood," Lincoln told his aides. "Let the thing alone. If I have not established character enough to give the lie to this charge, I can only say that I am mistaken in my own estimate of myself. In politics, every man must skin his own skunk. These fellows are welcome to the hide of this one."


The Telegraph Annihilates Time and Space

Lincoln may have sought to rise above the pains of slan- der, but his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, did not. Con- cerned about public morale, he began to alter casualty figures, so Union losses would look lighter than the battlefield reality suggested. He tried censorship-arresting editors, threatening court-martial, banning correspondents from the front-but found it widely disobeyed. So Stanton began, early in 1864, to report the war himself. Issuing his own files, in a war diary addressed to military offficials in New York and distributed through the Associated Press, Stanton put the Northern "spin" on war developments. Not coincidentally, the Asso- ciated Press itself was an effort by New York papers to share costs and beat the government's mail service by as much as twenty-four hours during the War with Mexico in 1846. War had always made for big themes, told in breathless prose. The correspondents' play to the emotions clearly sold newspapers, and worried political leaders.

Like other media advances, the telegraph widened the cir- cle of citizens with views on key policy decisions. "The opin- ion of the world has become a powerful international force," wrote one of the telegraph operators who kept the lines hum- ming during the Civil War. Like real-time television in a later century, the telegraph speeded the delivery of messages in its time. When General Sherman was about to enter surrender negotiations with General Joseph Johnston, he received a telegram saying that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. Johnston had come to the meeting sure he could get better terms than Lee had because, while on the run, he was not surrounded. As soon as Sherman handed him the telegram, he knew he would get very little. Sweat broke out on John- ston's forehead "in large drops" as he realized that in this moment of reconstruction, "Mr. Lincoln was the best friend they had," his assassination "the greatest possible calamity to the South." He understood that Northerners would blame the



South for Lincoln's death, further eroding chances of a just peace. Sherman did offer one concession not given to Lee: Johnston's men were allowed to retreat with their guns. The telegram had not changed public opinion, but the assassina- tion itself certainly hardened Northern hearts. The telegram speeded that message, and Johnston could read it between the lines.

In the end, the telegraph speeded communication beyond the expectations of science, and that is legacy enough. More, it redistributed power within journalism. Those who could tell a fast-paced story, embellished for dramatic appeal, would ex- cel. Some might call it sensationalism, others, pandering to the worst instincts of a fickle public. Whatever this new trend might be called, it reached its apogee during the Spanish- American War.


A Splendid Little War

THE SPANISH-AMERlCAN WAR of 1898 was a shaper of fame and reputation, cementing the image of an adventure-seeking Theodore Roosevelt leading his Rough Riders into battle. There were other images too, of a hand- some war correspondent, Richard Harding Davis, charming readers with his good looks and daring pen, of an ambitious publisher, William Randolph Hearst, sensationalizing news for the sake of financial profits and political power. This three-month war fought for Cuba's independence, which dis- solved the Spanish empire and put San Juan Hill on the map, had everything: a good cause, a quick rout, even the hint of a world power in the making. "It has been a splendid little war," John Hay, U.S. ambassador to England, wrote to Colo- nel Roosevelt afterwards, "begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that fortune which loves the brave."

Many argue that this was also a press war, fomented by the highly inaccurate and jingoistic reports of the "yellow" press, fueled by three years' worth of sensationalist accounts in Hearst's Journal but with ample support from Joseph Pulit- zer's World and the war-eager Sun. There is evidence aplenty of the sensationalism, and some sense that the war fever in



those newspapers did move the body politic, at least on Cap- itol Hill.

But there is also reason to question whether it was the press that drove this war to the starting gate. For one thing, the newspapers were not a monolith, the New York Tribune and the New York Times sounding a more reasoned note, and most newspapers outside New York supporting White House mediation efforts. For another, President McKinley's efforts to resolve the conflict diplomatically showed some promise. In response to his entreaties, Spain made concessions that, had they come earlier, might have mitigated the outcome. ln short, examined through the prism of technology's historic impact on diplomacy, the Spanish-American War becomes a case study for the core themes of this book: that journalism's influence on policy is often overrated, that political leaders have more sway than joumalists in shaping public opinion, and that, finally, diplomats are responsible for diplomacy, no matter how exasperating the press exaggerations.

Exaggerations there surely were. In the run-up to the Spanish-American War, as the Cuban insurrection gained ground, the New York newspapers printed "accounts of bat- tles that never occurred, while remaining ignorant of real bat- tles. They narrated a succession of Spanish atrocities entirely unauthenticated. They dealt in the feeblest of rumor." W. A. Swanberg, in his celebrated biography, Citizen Hearst, has culled the libraries for some delightful examples. FEEDING PRISONERS TO SHARKS, read one Journal headline, over a pe- rennial theme of Spanish atrocities toward Cuban subjects. Another account reported that Spanish authorities had roasted twenty-five Catholic priests-alive.

While sensationalizing Spanish atrocities and misrepre- senting Spanish military intentions (one newspaper reported that Spain had gotten a "money loan" from the Rothschilds to buy warships, an interesting development that proved un


A Splendid Little War

true), the newspapers also suppressed news that might have reflected poorly on the rebels, burying deep in the newspaper's pages stories about insurrectos who extorted protection money from American plantation owners in Cuba.

As if these sorry examples of joumalism, many fed to head- line-seeking publishers by a pro-Cuba junta of expatriates in New York, were not enough, the key players were only too happy to hype their own influence. Hearst set the tone with a telegram. One of his illustrators, artist Frederic Remington, was disappointed in a lack of action in Havana. "Everything is quiet," he cabled Hearst. "There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to retum." To which Hearst replied, in a cable that may be apocryphal but is clearly illustrative: "Please remain. You fumish the pictures and I'll fumish the war." Hearst's cockiness swelled on the eve of the battle, when a headline in his newspaper proclaimed: HOW DO YOU LIKE THE JOURNAL'S WAR?

For a long time, his version was gospel. One author, writ- ing in 1967 "an indictment of the war-mongering press," la- mented "the great power of newspapers when they work together in fostering intemational hatred and distrust." This was the conventional wisdom, that the sensationalist, fevered newspapers had forced the hand of rational leaders, that but for the newspapers whipping up public emotion there would have been no war.

There is no question they tried. Hearst and his cohorts gave the interventionists an emotional ballast, showing a gut feel for the power of the symbol. Hearst stoked the embers of war fever in 1897 by making a national heroine of Evangelina Cisneros, who was imprisoned for her role in the insurrection in Cuba. Not so, blared the Hearst newspaper, which reported that Miss Cisneros, the "Cuban Joan of Arc," was actually jailed for protecting her virtue from the lurid intentions of Spanish authorities.



Organizing a petition drive among well-known American women (including Mrs. McKinley, the president's mother), Hearst then had one of his correspondents "rescue" Miss Cis- neros from her Cuban jail cell (by paying off guards), and deliver her to a triumphant parade at Madison Square. "Now is the time to consolidate public sentiment," he told an aide. "It must be a whale of a demonstration-something that will make the president and Congress sit up and think."

Hearst demonstrated an uncanny instinct for pushing pub- lic leaders to action. When he learned about the sinking of the Maine, a U.S. ship blown up in Havana Harbor, he knew it meant war. The Spanish, who told U.S. envoys they were stunned by the incident, claimed the explosion was an inter- nal one. To this day, the evidence is unclear. McKinley sought to sober the nation by ordering flags flown at half-mast to honor the 266 American sailors and offficers killed at sea. He convened an offficial inquiry, and maintained, for five weeks, an offficial silence as he awaited the results. Five weeks in an era of telegraphic speed of communication is a long time. Hearst needed no such pause. He is said to have called the newspaper the night of the explosion to check late de- velopments.

"What is the important news?" Hearst asked.

"The battleship Maine has been blown up in Havana Harbor," replied his editor.

"Good heavens, what have you done with the story?"

"We have put it on the first page, of course."

"Have you put anything else on the front page?"

"Only the other big news," said the editor.

"There is not any other big news," Hearst said. "Please spread the story all over the page. This means war."

Hearst's sagacity in understanding the levers of power made him an adept manipulator of public opinion, and a


A Splendid Little War

shrewd businessman. His was a Democratic newspaper bat- tling a Republican president. And nothing sold newspapers like war. Amid a fierce contest for circulation, the Journal went from 150,000 readers in 1896 to 800,000 by the time war started two years later. But Hearst's political and financial instincts alone did not propel the nation to war. There were facts on the ground, and national interests. War is rarely com- mitted without them.

Few powers voluntarily leave their empires, but Spain might have retreated with greater class. The Revolt in 1898 was not, after all, the first time Cubans had shown a willing- ness to die for their freedom. In the period between 1823 and 1855, there were eight Cuban revolts against Spanish rule. After this came a prolonged conflict called the Ten Years War, from 1868 to 1878, followed by yet another rebellion in 1883. By the time tensions flared anew in 1895, Spain had sent 80,000 soldiers and spent $100 million. Spain was also reeling from the assassination of Prime Minister Antonio Canavos del Castillo, "a brilliant intellectual, shrewd, Spain's most important nineteenth-century politician," and wracked by debts from administering its colonies in both the Philip- pines and Cuba.

Worried about loss of men and morale in Cuba, a new Spanish government led by liberal Praxedes Mateo Sagasta was in a mood, and a position, to compromise. In this window for diplomacy, Sagasta and McKinley maneuvered. But Sa- gasta's room for negotiation was not unlimited. No Spanish regime could long survive the humiliation of losing Cuba, the jewel of its empire.

Even Spain's efforts to lure European interests to her side-Spanish envoys argued that America would not stop at taking Cuba-ran into geopolitics on the Continent. In Rus- sia, the czar refused Spain's appeals, arguing that if Europe


warned the United States against the war in Cuba, Washing- ton might be tempted to lecture Russia on its designs in Ja- pan.

Recovering from its own Civil War, Washington was warming to a sense of manifest destiny, a nineteenth-century doctrine of pride that the United States was meant to play a leadership role in the hemisphere. The navy's second in com- mand, Teddy Roosevelt, was convinced that a large naval encounter-and capture of the Philippines-was the rite of passage for a nation becoming a world power. In fact, the navy had been increasing its shipbuilding for just such a mo- ment.

More importantly, to many American ears, Cuba Libre sounded a lot like "The Redcoats are coming." No American president could long survive politically if his heart did not beat to the drums of independence sounded by the Cuban rebels, so like that of the founding fathers. Backing the rebels in Cuba was a safe bet, and politicians eagerly set their sails "to catch the popular breeze." By mid-1897, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts warned McKinley that if he did nothing to help Cubans fighting for their freedom, the Republican Party "shall go down in the greatest defeat ever known." Politics being fickle, Democrats who had pressed for the war started to distance themselves soon after its victorious conclusion, turning away from what they saw suddenly as a legacy of imperialism.

The unique history with which each country came to the conflict made for some classic misunderstandings. Spain was convinced that the heart of the problem was not in Cuba but in New York, where a pro-independence junta of exiled Cu- ban leaders fed stories of Spanish military atrocities and ne- gotiating bad faith to the newspapers, who were more than happy to spread lies, raise money, even send materiel to the


A Splendid Little War

rebels. This, to Madrid, was evidence that the United States was not remaining neutral. Spanish public opinion was also misinformed by the partisan nature of Spanish newspapers, which left many proud Spaniards with the impression that the Americans were "greedy Yankees lacking military virtues" and not up to the "superior fighting spirit" of their own troops. Finally, Spain made the classic mistake of believing that the United States would lose interest, that "the passage of time would make the situation better." They called it a "hand to mouth policy." It was the last meal of the Spanish empire.

National interests aside, there was also a story to be cov- ered. The fact is that Spain's military attempt to put down the insurrection in Cuba resulted in the starvation of tens of thousands of civilians, some who died in full view of diplo- mats and journalists in Havana. The causes of the mass star- vation were several. Brooding over the failure to win independence from Spain during the last insurrection-in the Ten Years War from 1868 to 1878-rebel leader Maximo Gomez hit on a strategy for this new revolt: plunder the Cu- ban economy so that Spain would abandon the island. This he did by "destroying crops, disrupting transportation, and engaging in incessant hit-and-run assaults" that pinned down Spanish soldiers and rotted the Cuban economy.

Ironically, his best ally in this endeavor was Spain's "vig- orous and ruthless" military leader, General Valeriano Wey- ler, later dubbed "the Butcher" by the New York yellow newspapers. Weyler designed a "civilian re-concentration program" aimed at destroying the insurgents' popular base in the countryside by forcing their supporters into camps and thus robbing the rebels of food, supplies, and information. Ordering the peasants from their homes, Weyler herded them into centers under the control of Spanish military authorities.



But Spanish offficials had neither food nor water nor housing nor sanitary equipment to care for them. Within months, the centers had become death camps.

While Gomez was attempting to destroy Cuba's economy from within, Weyler was killing both farms and population from without. By the time a U.S. envoy came in 1897 to take the measure of the land, he found the countryside empty. "Every house had been burned, banana trees cut down, cane fields swept with fire, and everything in the shape of food destroyed," he reported to the White House. "I did not see a house, a man, woman or child; a horse, mule, or cow, not even a dog." Though the motives were surely different, each campaign had a similar impact on people. As people had al- ways been journalism's most compelling subject, the plight of the Cubans gave the newspapers plenty of fodder, even if they had not exaggerated, to tug at readers' emotions. There was a story to be covered. Hearst and Pulitzer no doubt hyped it, they likely distorted it, and they surely exploited it. It is even possible that they created an atmosphere that favored war. But even in the face of such a sensationalist blitz, political leaders had options short of war.

For all the exaggerated headlines in Hearst's New York Journal, McKinley had nearly thirteen months, from his in- auguration in March of 1897 to the beginning of hostilities in April of 1898, to explore diplomatic alternatives. For all the pressure to go to war from within his administration, Mc- Kinley held back, withstanding private barbs from such as Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt that he had "no more backbone than a chocolate eclair."

Though most U.S. press histories begin with Franklin Roo- sevelt, McKinley was actually fairly prescient about the need to reach the public through the press. He was the first pres- ident to assign one staffer-first John Addison Porter, later George Cortelyou-to brief White House correspondents


A SplerLdid Little War

daily, at noon and 4 P.M., and to offer them schedules and advance copies of presidential speeches so that they could accompany McKinley out of town and judge public reaction to his policies. He gave them a place to work-a long table was set up on the second floor, and the regulars had assigned seats. He was the first president to attend regularly the cor- respondents' Gridiron Club dinners, and it was McKinley who first invited reporters to attend the New Year's receptions at the White House. He literally opened the gates of the White House-removing sentry gates that Grover Cleveland had erected-and, while still observing the rule that presidents could not be quoted except in speeches or proclamations, made known that "reporters are at liberty to call upon him or his cabinet for information on public affairs."

Though these openings may seem cosmetic, the small per- quisites of leadership, meant to curry favor with reporters, in fact the real import of the changes was to centralize power at the White House, to make it the headquarters for news. An atmosphere that contained both camaraderie and information was a natural draw for reporters. By bringing both to the White House, McKinley acquired a new measure of and in- fluence on public opinion. Bringing reporters inside the White House did not guarantee good press coverage, but it tended to mitigate against bad press coverage. By bringing reporters away from "Newspaper Row" on the North Portico, where they once waited to question visitors, and moving them into their own offfice space at the White House, McKinley was shifting the focus of attention from the visitors, who might talk loosely about affairs of state, to his own ex- ecutive staK McKinley could not muzzle Hearst's Journal or Pulitzer's World, but he could see his policies defended in most other newspapers.

McKinley's attempts to negotiate the Cuban crisis rather than rush to war were popular throughout the country, ac



cording to George Cortelyou's newspaper scrapbooks. Called Current Comment, the scrapbooks were a forerunner of the modem White House News Summary, providing a window on editorial comment outside New York, where Hearst was busy making good on his slogan, "While others talk, the Journal acts." Away from the elitist opinion makers of Washington and New York, Americans showed little appetite for war. Be- fore June of 1897, Cortelyou's scrapbook included only two references to Cuba, and his mailbag contained only three let- ters on the topic. Throughout 1897, McKinley was seemingly under little pressure from the public over Cuba, at least based on the topics aired in newspaper editorials in Cortelyou's scrapbooks. Cuba had not been an issue in the 1896 campaign that elected McKinley over the silver-sloganeering William Jennings Bryan, and McKinley believed from his scrapbooks that the public would support war if necessary but still pre- ferred a peaceful solution.

Stung by congressional charges that he showed McKinley only the positive mail and press clippings, Cortelyou took to the pages of his diary to complain about "the sensational newspapers' public daily accounts . . . of influences that are never felt." He dismissed the charges as "ridiculous," insisting that "the president sees everything, whether in the shape of mail, telegrams or newspapers, that can indicate the drift of public sentiment." He recorded that he briefed McKinley daily on the favorable and unfavorable letters. "The fact is that on a most conservative estimate, ninety percent of the entire correspondence that has come to the office since the beginning of the concluding negotiations on the Spanish- Cuban questions has been an endorsement of the president's course-an emphatic appeal for peace and for the exercise of sound reason in the handling of the whole matter."

To explore the diplomatic track, McKinley in the spring of 1897 sent a personal envoy to Spain. After several big


A Splendid Little War

names in business and academia turned him down, McKinley tapped Stewart Woodford, a Civil War general and former lieutenant govemor of New York. On his arrival in Madrid, Woodford gave Spain a November 1 deadline to "satisfy the United States that early and certain peace can be promptly secured." In response to this ultimatum, Spain moved a con- siderable distance. Within two months, Spain removed Wey- ler from Cuba, released the captured American crew of the schooner Competitor, settled all tobacco-export cases, and freed remaining American prisoners. Spain's primary offer was local autonomy, in which Cuba would have control over local affairs while Spain retained foreign-policy rights-as long as the rebels laid down their arms. The yellow press decried au- tonomy as "sham reforms." But local autonomy went into effect on January 1, 1898, giving Cubans a new measure of home rule, with Spain still in charge of military policy. Eleven days later, riots by Spaniards opposed to the policy broke out in Havana, demonstrating the limits of Spain's diplomatic flexibility. Shouting "Death to autonomy," rioters-led by Spanish officers-sacked four newspapers that had supported the govemment's plan. This is the moment when McKinley knew the bounds of negotiation had been stretched beyond recall, this moment thirty-five days before the Maine ex- ploded.

When war came, the United States was ready, and willing, to serve. This was in no small measure because McKinley played statesman to Hearst's hysteric. But when it came time to declare war and rally the nation, McKinley was less suc- cessful, almost as if he was suited to the one task, of corridor diplomacy, and not the other, of public diplomacy. McKinley was not a man to evoke the human drama of war. Here, passion mattered more than reason, pride more than logic. McKinley excelled at bureaucratic leadership, not charismatic leadership. Which may be why history remembers this as



Teddy Roosevelt's war or Richard Harding Davis's war or William Randolph Hearst's war but not as William McKinley's war. No less than journalists, historians like a larger-than-life character.

By war's end, Hearst was running headlines four inches high, often in red ink, anything to get the reader's attention, his kingdom for circulation. Newspapers were feeling newly emboldened, and they reveled in "the new journalism," a par- tisan, personal approach to the news that made metaphors of facts and made heroes of correspondents. Like Hearst, many publishers were spending money like bullets. "From a cor- respondent's point of view, it was an ideal campaign," said Phillip Knightley in The First Casualty, his study of war cor- respondents. "Two hundred turned up to cover it, including twenty-five from Hearst's group alone. Expenses were no ob- ject. Cable charges for a single story ran to $8,000. The As sociated Press chartered a flotilla of boats, which, throughout the naval engagements, cruised at will through the battle lines, ignoring fire from both sides and scurrying back and forth to the nearest cable station."

This was the ultimate in personal journalism, in many ways a byline war. Famous authors like Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, which was so popular during the Civil War, were pressed into service. Lyrical description of Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders-members of the landed gentry trained as polo players-ranks as one of the classic legend builders in American politics. Not that TR and his Rough Riders did not charge San Juan Hill, only that few in history who act bravely are so fortunate as to have a poetic and sympatico eyewitness to celebrate them for it. "Roosevelt, mounted high on horseback and charging the rifle pits at a gallop and quite alone, made you feel that you would like to cheer," Davis wrote. "No one who saw Roosevelt take that ride expected he would finish it alive. As the only mounted


A Splendid Little War

man, he was the most conspicuous object in range of the rifle pits, then only two hundred yards ahead. It looked like fool- hardiness, but as a matter of fact, he set the pace with his horse and inspired the men to follow."

Like the Vietnam War more than sixty years later, the Spanish-American War was virtually uncensored, with press boats vying for position in naval battles, rushing back and forth to and from shore to use the telegraph. Like Vietnam, it haunted the national conscience of its times. And like Viet- nam, it was for a long time seen as a "victory" for the press.

Richard Harding Davis, whose personal fortunes benefited as much by the Spanish-American War as any other's, later lamented that the war had ended the era of the war corre- spondent it sought to extol. "The fall of the war correspon dent came about through the ease and quickness with which today news leaps from one end of the earth to the other," Davis wrote. In the Crimea War and in the Civil War, he noted, "the telegraph and cable were inadequate and expen- sive, and the war correspondent depended largely on the mails. As a consequence, before what he wrote appeared in print, the events he described had passed into history, and what information he gave could in no way benefit the en- emy." But the speed of modem communication had ended all that.

For access to information was too precious to be left to journalists, at least if military strategists could help it. Presag ing the advent of combat censorship, Davis lost his bravado when reporters had to start covering words instead of bullets. "The day his cable from Cuba to New York was relayed to Madrid," Davis wrote on the eve of his bitter experiences trying to cover World War 1, "the war correspondent received his death sentence."

It may have been inevitable, this war between a waning colonial power and an ascending global power, but in some


sense it was also a contest between the barons of journalism, newly empowered by the speed afforded by the telegraph and the railroad, and the titans of politics, who had not entirely leamed how to use the same technology to advantage. McKinley still had "the traditional presidential fear of lese- majesty," a sense that to reach out for public support was somehow to debase the offfice. But mass media called for pub- lic diplomacy, and those who understood the imperatives of what Teddy Roosevelt would soon call the "bully pulpit" had the best lock on leadership.

The Spanish-American War was not the first battle to test the balance of power between the pen and power, nor was the telegraph the first invention to change the boundaries of joumalism and diplomacy. That honor belonged to an earlier technology, the printing press, hailed by its enthusiasts as a boon for joumalism and a beacon of democracy. "The print- ing presses transformed the field of communications and fa- thered an international revolt," wrote Maurice Gravier. "It was a revolution." It would not be the last.


Gutenberg's Revolution

JOHANN FUST ARRIVED at the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1456 with a dozen copies of a new Bible in his valise. The merchant from Germany was eager to begin testing the market for the new product, which he priced at 60 crowns, compared to the going rate of 500 crowns for the Bibles then available. Though Fust's Bibles resembled the older models, they represented a stunning departure. Until then, Bibles had been lovingly and painstakingly copied by calligraphers, first by priests and monks, later by professional secular scribes, but always with a reverence for art and reli- gion that made production a labor of love. It also meant that each book took years, sometimes decades, to complete. What Fust hoped would make him rich and famous was a Bible produced by a machine, the moveable-type press invented by a goldsmith named Johann Gutenberg. In the history of civ- ilization, it is hard to imagine more of a watershed invention.

Gutenberg was not the first to envision the utility of print- ing letters in uniform style. In the centuries of the first mil- lennium, the Chinese developed wood blocks for printing. But the Chinese were burdened by a language requiring some 80,000 symbols, a complexity that meant it took 23 years to edit and print the 130 volumes of Confucian classics.



Gutenberg's genius, aided by an alphabet more suited to the rigors of machine writing, was to apply his skills as a goldsmith to cast letters in metal so that they could be struck repeatedly with nearly identical result at a speed that none had seen before. The marvel was the speed and beauty of its work, having "the singular gift of God in it, seeing one man can print as much, in one day, as the best hand can write in a whole year." This burst of speed in the amount of time it took to deliver a message-a 365 percent increase in produc- tivity-changed not only religion, but governance and com- munication as well.

For all the speed his invention brought to the art of print- ing, Gutenberg was not a man who cut corners. So meticulous was he, so particular about duplicating the craftsmanship of the scribes, that his metal alphabet had 290 characters, in- cluding eight versions of a lowercase a and several letters set together to avoid unsightly spaces between them. Some of his creations, including the pinholes used for keeping paper on track, are still employed in the computer age. His ink-oil paint with a high lead content-may be environmentally in- correct but it remains glossy to this day.

Unfortunately for him, Gutenberg's attention to detail was expensive, and he kept borrowing from backers, including Fust, a wealthy financier who invested a substantial 1,600 guilders in Gutenberg's project. Five years later, Fust still had not seen a return on his investment, so he sued Gutenberg. Fust won his suit and Gutenberg had to pay 2,026 guilders, plus turn over all his materials and equipment, including the first pages and the type for his Bible. With this inheritance, Fust opened a new firm with his future son-in-law, Peter Schoeffer, a calligrapher who had served as Gutenberg's fore- man and testified against his boss at the 1455 trial. Fust & Schoeffer thus published the first forty-two-line Gutenberg Bible, though Gutenberg, ever an enthusiast, convinced an


Gutenberg's Revolution

other backer to stake him to a new printing press. Years later, Johann Schoeffer claimed that the printing press was the sole creation of his father, Peter Schoeffer, and his grandfather, Johann Fust, but the well-publicized, well-documented law- suit settled the question in Gutenberg's favor among most historians, and even his contemporaries. When he died in 1468, Gutenberg was buried in the Church of St. Francis in Mainz, under a tablet inscribed to "the inventor of the art of printing and deserver of the highest honors from every nation and tongue."

And honors there were, for the printing press was the first media technology, the first machine to give birth to a new method of communication, the pamphlet, and to inaugurate a new power player in international affairs, the printer. This etymology, from invention to influence, took centuries to complete. Still, what is striking about Gutenberg's printing press is that from the beginning, it evidenced all the traits that would emerge as the pattern for the other media tech- nologies to come. Diplomats, in this case the rulers and priests who made up the world's intelligentsia, resisted the new me- dium as an intrusion on their power. Writers, emboldened by the ease of communication, boasted of newfound influence on public discourse. And readers, whose numbers grew as lit- eracy and economic prosperity beckoned, marveled that their world had gotten smaller, as if the abstractions of time and space-those enduring temptations of media history, the stan- dard by which all media progress is measured-had been conquered.

As with all new technologies, the Gutenberg Bible met with considerable resistance from the ruling elite. A guild of booksellers, on examining the new book, called police to ar- rest Fust as an impostor. Even at the Sorbonne, center of scholarly books since its foundation in 1250, Fust's lodgings were searched, and rumors spread that the red ink illustrating



some of the letters was his own blood. "It was ferociously adjudged that he was in league with the devil," wrote one early historian. Of course, the printing press was not alone in stirring fear. When paper was first introduced, it too was dis- trusted as unreliable, and important documents were printed on vellum up to the nineteenth century.

Still, objection to Gutenberg's printed materials was par- ticularly fierce. Much of the resistance came from a fear that the printing press would intrude on the creative process, a concem summarized by a character in Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who encounters his first printed book on the steps of the cathedral. Gazing from the book to the spires, he predicts, "This will kill that." The notion that print would kill art, that type would trample spirituality, amounted to an elitist fear that the spread of information to more people in less time would somehow hurt quality.

This concern is a perennial in the history of media tech- nology, masking a second concem, one harder for the guard- ians of information to swallow, that the wider dissemination of knowledge would lessen their own power. Clinging to old habits and real fears-in part validated by the coming relig- ious and political revolutions-kings and churches, noblemen and clergymen, continued for the next century to favor cal- ligraphic manuscripts over what they dismissed as the "clumsy and unattractive" printed book.

By 1534, when the price of printed books started to de- cline, worried scribes prevailed on Francois I to ban printing. The monks were right to worry. Not only was their livelihood from an old technology (pen and ink) threatened by a new one (print) but, more importantly, so was their monopoly on ideas. The rise of Luther and his reformation is directly at- tributable to the diffusion of knowledge from the pens of a few to the presses of many. "In the spread of religious ideas it seems difficult to exaggerate the significance of the [print


Gutenberg's Revolution

ing] press, without which a revolution of this magnitude could scarcely have been consummated," wrote historian A. G. Dickens. "Lutheranism was from the first the child of the printed book, and through this vehicle Luther was able to make exact, standardized and ineradicable impressions on the mind of Europe."

The ban on printing was never enforced, but its very proc- lamation meant the tide had turned. From its debasement as the devil's work, Gutenberg's printing press now assumed mantle to all the out-sized predictions that befall most tech- nologies, credited for everything from spreading democracy to ending war. The printing press was viewed as an equalizer of the classes. "What otherwise at one time only the rich and the king owned, is now found everywhere, even in the cot- tage-a book," marveled poet Sebastian Brant.

Indeed, in the first forty years after the printing press was invented, 20 million books were published. In the next 100 years, the total reached 200 million. This explosion of avail- able information to a far vaster audience did not doom the monarchs of the day, but it increased the chances that a lit- erate public would raise questions about their rule. Suddenly, kings and poets were not the only ones reading, and individ- uals began to form their own ideas about world events. This was an inherently dangerous tum of events to the policy elite. "So many books-so much confusion!" complained Spanish playwright Lope de Vega. "All the most famous men of Eu- rope rushed into print, but once they were published, their ignorance was obvious to all."

The undeniable legacy of the printing press was this spread of literacy, a fact that changed not only the nature of society but the requirements for leadership, which in time gave rise to a public voice. A population that could read could also influence opinion. A literate citizenry could share ideas as they were promulgated. "Before the invention of this DIVINE



ART, mankind were absorbed in the gravest ignorance," wrote one eighteenth-century author. "The clergy, who before this era held the key of all learning in Europe, were . . . proud, presumptuous, arrogant and artful; their devices were soon detected through the invention of typography."

It is important here to distinguish between the ideas and their method of conveyance, between the message and the messenger, but there is no doubt the printing press made pos- sible the delivery of these new and revolutionary themes to a larger audience, in faster time, than ever before. Luther's Reformation, his Protestant challenge to the Catholic Church, would no doubt have been possible without the printing press, but support for his heretical views might have taken much longer to solidify, a delay that could have proven fatal to the ultimate success of his movement. As it was, Luther, a German monk who himself described printing as "God's highest and extremest act of grace, whereby the busi- ness of the Gospel is driven forward," published 30 writings between 1517 and 1520 that sold over 300,000 copies. He had the audacity, amid this outpouring, to protest to Pope Leo X that "it is a mystery to me how my theses . . . were spread to so many places. They were meant exclusively for our academic circle here....They were written in.such a language that the common people could hardly understand them."

But if Martin Luther "had no wish nor plan to publicize" his works, his disciples were only too eager to disseminate the word. That those ideas did spread, in a kind of angry, anti. papal wave, owed less to the printing press than to the mes- sage that the church was no longer the sole authority on God. "Luther had invited a public disputation and nobody had come to dispute," wrote one observer. "By a stroke of magic he found himself addressing the whole world." That the world was ready to ponder Luther's ideas was a function of a chang-


Gutenberg's Revolution

ing political atmosphere in which the princes of Europe were growing eager to cast off Rome's influence in religion and nationhood was gaining ground over empire. Like the Amer- ican and French revolutionaries who would follow, the loy- alists in Luther's rebellion knew well how to exploit the printing press and its new readers, translating Luther's aca- demic writings from Latin to German, illustrating them with antipapist cartoons that needed no captions. The printing press, unquestionably, was their great friend, but as great an ally of Luther's army was, ironically, the Catholic Church.

With its arrogance and dogmatism, its taxation policies and ruling hierarchy, the church not only invited opposition but provided a case study in sorry leadership in the face of a new media technology. Pope Leo X, on assuming the papacy in 1514, was quoted as saying, "God has given us the papacy. Let us enjoy it." By the end of his reign, Pope Leo had drawn down the church assets, running up a debt of 850,000 ducats, becoming the Vatican's most generous patron of the arts, commissioning embroidered tapestries spun with silver and gold. Luther's theological questions about church policies, like collecting "indulgences" from church members who thought they could buy their way out of hell or shorten their time in purgatory by greasing the papal coffers, found a ready audience among a restive congregation. Luther's timing was excellent. His questioning of authority was seized on by those of different agendas, among them politicians trumpeting German nationalism, peasants eager to revolt against the rul- ing class, and "beleaguered nobles enraged at the taxes of the church." It is as if the printing press had vented a torrent of words and anti-establishment feelings that until then had been kept within a small circle. The new medium delivered the word, but it was the rebels who offered a message.

What Pope Leo failed to appreciate is that the printing press, in offering a forum for debate among a larger audience,



had invited a new factor into international politics. If it is too generous to attribute to the printing press a revolution in religious politics, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that with the book came the advent of public opinion as a factor in the affairs of state. Where once the obedience of subjects was assumed, suddenly the allegiance of troops was in doubt. Royalty that had once communicated with subjects only by edict had to argue its case in print. Clearly kings needed loyalty among their troops even before Gutenberg crafted his metal letters. But from the moment soldiers could read about the strategic value of their battles, from the time debate could simmer on the wisdom of authority figures, pub- lic support was needed for any adventure of church or state. The printing press, with its authority resting on words, gave voice to people, like Martin Luther, who had a gift of phrase-and who had something to say.

In this battle for the hearts and minds of the public, the pope still held the keys to his kingdom-if he had only used the new media technology to advantage. Much has been writ- ten about Lutheranism's debt to the printing press in fo- menting a revolution, but little has been said of the church's seeming inability to use the same weapon in a counteroffen- sive. Luther's motives may have been religious, but the Ref- ormation, a series of wars in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that eventually wrestled control over religion from the Vatican, was decidedly political. Amid the moral scandals and insipid corruption of medieval Christianity, the church had been silent. And the primary response of the church to the nascent challenge posed by Luther and his followers was to spend lavish amounts on its own physical welfare, to issue denunciations of Luther without debating his ideas, to assume that if they ignored the Luther problem, it would go away. This almost never works in global politics, and certainly not

Gutenberg's Revolution

when the "problem" is armed with a new weapon of media technology that can spread ideas faster than ever before.

The pope was preoccupied with geopolitics, pitting one European alliance against the next by arranging marriages, inviting invasion forces to conquer territory, and generally playing kings off against other emperors. "One must not sup- pose that he failed to see Luther as a challenge to papal au- thority," writes one of Luther's biographers. "He did." But in Leo's view, Luther had no power alone; his very existence depended upon the protection of either Maximilian, the king of Germany, or Frederick, Maximilian's predecessor and the last emperor crowned at Rome. "Maximilian had already spo- ken. Now Pope Leo only needed to secure Frederick's friend- ship for his political ends, and the Luther question would settle itself." This kind of macro thinking, the bulwark of an earlier era, might have worked, but for the printing press. It droned on and on-Luther complained at one point that he was keeping 600 printers in business-bringing the message to more and more people who used it for their own ends to strip power from Europe's oldest institution. Luther's ideas were fresher than Pope Leo's, and his printing press spread them faster than any medium known to that time.

But the real revolution was that suddenly, the audience for their debate was as vast as the population who could read. While Pope Leo dithered with chess pieces in a game of geo- politics, Luther put out the word. It is problematic to say that the church might have recovered if it had met Luther on the new playing field created by the printing press, if the pope had tried to persuade the public of his views in the new mar- ketplace of ideas, rather than impose them from on high. Clearly, this was the very challenge to authority that Pope Leo could not tolerate. What is clear is that he did not even contemplate making the effort, and it is that failure of lead



ership, that inability to adjust to the new forces of the age- not the machine but the way leaders reacted to it-that settled the outcome.

Centuries later, when the printing press gave birth to the pamphlet and the printer became a figure of some political influence, the press would be seen in some quarters as a maker of revolution. Like enthusiasts who credited Gutenberg's ma- chine for Luther's popularity and neglected to factor in the pope's hubris, these chroniclers of the American and French Revolutions felt sure that the printing press had spawned the impulse toward democracy, or at least abetted the cause. The pamphlet war in the American colonies and the newspaper editorials in the streets of Paris did underscore one new de- velopment in the history of journalism. From an eighteenth- century custom where newspapers were largely plagiarists, borrowing from other journals to fill their pages, printers and their fiery contributors found their voice. The newspaper be- came more than a bulletin board of community events, more than a listing of events. And the journalist became more than a chronicler of events, assuming a new role as a filter in the political process.

In the run-up to the American War for Independence, both the British and the colonialists seized on the new weapon of media technology to battle for public opinion, a war of pamphlets that has had no equal since. At the height of this campaign of ideas, literary giants like Samuel Johnson, who paid for a printing of 2,500 copies of his Taxanon No Tyranny, were matched against savvy printers like Benjamin Franklin, who convinced English printers to issue ~ohn Dick- inson's Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies. Thomas Paine, writing a pamphlet called Common Sense, sold over 500,000 copies. Many prin ters were partisans, men like Isaiah Thomas, who published the Massachusetts Spy at half the price of other Boston news


Gutenberg's Revolution

papers to insure an audience for his diatribes against the Brit- ish as monsters and tyrants. Theirs was an uphill task of persuasion. In the early years, public opinion in America was roughly divided into three groups: the Tories, who were happy as British subjects; the Patriots, who resented British rule; and the majority, who wanted some protection from the crown but also some form of self-government. Though the printers largely advocated rebellion, public opinion largely favored compromise, not war.

The most telling episode in the battle for public opinion came over Britain's Stamp Act, imposed on the American colonies in 1765 to help defray Britain's costs stemming from Europe's Seven Years' War. Britain's debt, two years after the war ended, was 130 million pounds, and Prime Minister

George Grenville looked to the colonies to recoup his war losses. "Grenville saw little chance of raising much money in England," wrote one historian. "The tumults which the new

cider tax provoked in the mother country convinced the min- istry that the British taxpayer had about reached the limits of his willingness or ability to pay taxes, or perhaps both." His solution was a revenue law, requiring a stamp on all paper

used in the colonies, in effect a blanket tax on everything from almanacs to insurance policies, from ship's papers to playing cards. Estimates were that the tax could raise 100,000 pounds, about a third of British costs in maintaining a militia in the colonies.

Those most directly affected-merchants, businessmen, lawyers, journalists-raised a cry against taxation without rep resentatiOn. This plea for democracy may have masked the printers' economic self interests, but it also allowed them to claim victory when Britain repealed the tax the next year.

Newly emboldened printers, thrilled at the impact of their Own self-interested protests, felt vindicated. "Newspapers emerged from the contest with an exhilarated sense of their



role in the community," wrote historian Arthur Schlesinger. "No longer mere purveyors of intelligence, they had become engines of opinion." The political process had acquired a ref- eree, one whose strong opinions, expressed in the newly pow- erful pamphlet and the reinvigorated newspaper, could sway the debate.

In pre-Revolutionary France, the press also flourished. In 1789 alone, 130 new political newspapers came on the mar- ket, and when the Estates-General debated the issues of the day, their discourse on everything from the nature of God to the rights of private property was published whole, often in separate editions. This measure of press freedom was new for France, where censorship had until then choked free expres- sion and lack of literacy had inhibited sales of books and pamphlets. But literacy was on the rise, and readers had tired of reading hints between the lines, the legacy of official cen- sorship whether it is imposed in Brezhnev's Moscow or Louis XVl's Paris. "Paris reads ten times more than a century ago," joumalist Louis-Sebastien Mercier observed in the 1780s. The French had long viewed their society as three estates: the clergy, the nobility, the commons. Now there was a fourth estate, the public press, and its joumalists were natural heroes.

"Here I am a joumalist, and it is a rather fine role," wrote Camille Desmoulins, one of the leading lights of the French Revolution. "No longer is it a wretched and mercenary pro- fession, enslaved by the govemment. Today in France it is the joumalist who holds the tablets." In this prewar period, the Mercure de France began to expand its news columns to appeal to "the commoner as well as the noble, in the salons of the aristocracy as well as the modest household of the bourgeois, delighting equally both court and Town." On the eve of the revolution in 1789, circulation stood at 20,000, and readership was estimated to be over 120,000.

Gutenberg's Revolution

It is true, as one observer wrote, that the newspapers spread "throughout France the electric fire" of rebellion. But this revolution was so fractured, its legacy so disparate, from the Rights of Man and Citizens, a declaration of democratic principles, to the Reign of Terror, where thousands were mur dered by guillotine or other torture, that it is diffficult to main tain the case that newspapers tipped the balance of history. What is clear is that King Louis XVI, who tried to defuse the fever for revolution, missed key opportunities to cement his authority. That he had a core constituency is clear from the record, since the French later experimented, after the first Napoleonic run, with a retum to royalty. At this moment in history, the king, as Pope Leo before him, misplayed certain cards.

In the annals of insensitive sound bites, it is diffficult to imagine a more inane utterance than Marie Antoinette's view that the starving masses could subsist without bread. "Let them eat cake!" may have been evidence of royal indiffer ence, but it was hardly offficial policy. There is even some evidence that Antoinette was referring not to cake of French pastry fame, but to the hard, crusty residue from the baking process sometimes referred to as a cake. Apocryphal or not, the comment came to symbolize the arrogance of the crown in the eyes of its subjects. By 1792, the govemment had leamed the importance of influencing public opinion. Interior Minister Roland was granted 100,000 livres "for the printing and the distribution in the departments and the armies of all writings fit to enlighten minds about the criminal activities of the enemies of the state and the true causes of the problems that have for too long tom the country apart." Later, a similar appropriation was granted to the minister of war to supply printed material to the troops, so that he could "enlighten and animate their patriotism." Given the fierceness of French



patriotism in battle, it is tempting to wonder at the outcome if Louis had seized on the pamphlet earlier as a tool of lead- ership.

There were huge historical forces at work during the French Revolution, epic waves of civil order and disorder. Among these, a reinvigorated newspaper climate played a role. Louis himself, like Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in a later setting, unleashed many of the reforms that turned on him. He called the Estates-General to discuss the fiscal def cit, perhaps never dreaming it would become a forum for debating democracy. He lifted the chains of censorship that had long suppressed a free press, and tried to use the new technology to stave off the foment. But, like Gorbachev too, he failed to understand that once unleashed, the new media would not be tamed. Still, he tried. When thousands of French citizens stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789, freeing both political prisoners and the society at large from the burden of the mon- archy, the country's offficial newspaper, La Gatette de France, did not report it, "in the belief that any mention of [it] might in some way condone" the event. History would not be si- lenced.

The printing press was a powerful new instrument in the hands of revolutionaries and loyalists, of rufffians and lords, of Jacobins and Girodins, all of them engaged in battle for the pulse of public opinion. It is too facile to say that the colonies rebelled because of the printers' outrage at the Stamp Act or that the French Revolution succeeded because of Tallyrand's eloquence in writing the Rights of Man and Citizen. It was all of those things and none. Like the revolution in com- munication now predicted for cyberspace, the printing press did speed communication, give the public more influence in diplomacy, and offer journalists a new role as filters of infor- mation. Without the printing press to speed delivery of the message, movements toward reform and democracy might

Gutenberg's Revolution

have been slowed. But this speed in the conveyance of mes- sage did not presage the outcome of any movement in history. To revolutionaries in Luther's church, or Paine's America or Robespierre's France, the printing press was an ally to all sides, a cause for war to none.

The printing press had inspired literacy, and given power to printers. The telegraph had generated a newspaper circu- lation war, and stirred emotion for real combat. But these were technologies of the word. Photographs brought a new lens to war that stunned those who had read only written accounts of battlehelds. They called it the first visual medium.


Photography and Emotion

A CENTURY AND a half after the photograph's invention, China pulled the plug on visual coverage of the stu- dent uprising in Tiananmen Square in 1989. This crackdown on satellite television came after television viewers saw a lone, unarmed demonstrator approaching an army tank who came to symbolize the movement of democracy over the forces of tyranny-at least in the West. In China, where tra- dition had it that a picture was worth one thousand words, a photograph of the same scene was put in a traveling exhibit to demonstrate to a domestic audience the restraint of the Chinese Army. The caption made the difference. Guardians of the image were right to worry about the impact of pho- tographs, just as the monks had cause for concern about the coming of the printing press. Images froze impressions, put weight on passing political moments, gave credence to fleet- ing truths, even lent themselves to manipulation for political ends. More, they had the potential to become the icons of national memory, a road map to collective emotion.

Britain's poet laureate William Wordsworth worried at the arrival of photography, anxious that this new wonder, which in one sonnet he labeled "a dumb art," would somehow min- imize the impact of "man's ablest attribute," the printed word.



Even before the photograph, leaders had reason to fear the influence of images. None had more cause to despair of the equalizing impact of the visual than King Louis XVI of France, who tried to escape the wrath of his citizens at the height of the French Revolution by disguising himself as a valet in the carriage of a nobleman. Alerted to check passing entourages for the monarch who had slipped past guards at his palace in Versailles, a local postmaster unmasked the flee- ing party. The postmaster, Drouet, had never seen the king, but he recognized him from a portrait of his likeness on paper money. The portrait had done in the king, who along with his wife Marie Antoinette (she was posing as a govemess) was arrested and later executed.

The idea of communication via visual image had long in- trigued inventors. In 1760, the comptroller general of Paris, Etienne de Silhouette, commercialized the concept behind the shadow theater, offering clients profiles in shadow, a form that to this day bears his name. It was not until 1822 that a French landowner named Joseph-Nicephore Niepce discov- ered that if he exposed lithographs treated with chemicals to light, he could produce "gradations of tone from black to white." Louis Daguerre, an artist who operated a diorama, convinced Niepce to join him in a business par.tnership, only to appropriate his partner's experiments, convincing the French Academy of Sciences in 1839 that the invention should be called a daguerreotype (perhaps, in the academy's defense, a niepceotype might have been too unwieldy a label). The Niepce family's attempts to prove that the daguerreotype method had been invented by its patriarch failed to produce the hoped-for financial rewards, but insured tremendous pub- licity for the new invention.

An American in Paris, Samuel Morse, learned to make the new pictures from Daguerre so he could add them to the offerings of his art gallery, where he painted "portraits at


Photography and Emotion

starvation prices" to pay for his experiments on inventions like the telegraph. With the new daguerreotypes in hand, Morse re- tumed home in 1840 to make the first such plates in Amer- ica-and to pass the secrets on to one of his pupils, Mathew Brady. Within a decade, the daguerreotype gave way to other processes for camera development, namely the making of prints from a glass-plate negative, an invention perfected by an Englishman, Frederick Scott Archer. Louis Daguerre's plates, often destroyed to make the engravings, were a thing of the past. But the lure of the photography lived on.

Brady, according to one of his biographers, may not have known how to write. If true, this intriguing fact underscores the watershed that photography represented from a world of print. The camera drew on different talents, calling for vision and borders and composition, for flattery and juxtaposition and exposure. This was a medium for those with a special eye, attuned to the needs and demands of sight. From the begin- ning, Brady, who with age lost his eyesight, understood the power of the photograph to leave a first, and lasting, impres- sion. The man who pioneered the use of portrait photography knew its potential for propaganda, its vulnerability to unin- tended uses. "The camera is the eye of history," he told his photographers. "You must never make bad pictures."

Mathew Brady was ambitious, as eager to acquire celebrity as to photograph it. Though he died a pauper-and nearly sightless-he was in his prime a media giant, who was on familiar terms with presidents, congressmen, senators, judges, and actors. With galleries in Washington and New York, Bra- dy's was the place to go to sit for a portrait-or to view exhibits of the rich and the famous. Portraits of Daniel Web- ster, John C. Calhoun, and Henry Clay, painted by artists from Brady's plates, still hang in the U.S. Capitol.

When war came, Brady thought to bring his camera to the war zone. Accompanied by newspaper correspondents Dick



McCormack and Ned House, along with sketch artist Al Waud, Brady left for Bull Run with his camera, that "mys- terious and formidable instrument." As Northem troops de- serted in fear when they first heard the rumbles of war, some blamed Brady for the rout, claiming the soldiers had mistaken Brady's camera for a cannon. "The runaways mistook it for the great steam gun discharging five hundred balls a minute and took to their heels when they got within focus," said one apologist.

This was the classic ritual of blaming the message on the messenger, but in any event Brady was smitten by the promise of combining photography and war. Against the advice of his wife and friends, he equipped twenty photographers and dis- patched them to cover the war, using his own funds to sup- port the venture, explaining that he felt like a newspaper publisher. "My wife and my most conservative friends had looked unfavorably upon this departure from commercial business to pictorial war correspondence with much misgiv- ing," he told an interviewer after the war, "but, like Euphoria, a spirit in my feet said, 'Go,' and I went." Some say Brady, whose studios claimed credit for all the photographs shot by his photographers, made $12,000 a year during the Civil War. But in fact by 1862 he was in suffficient financial trouble that he was forced to give some negatives in lieu of payment to a departing star photographer, Alexander Gardner, who set up a competing gallery where at least he could get credit for his own work.

Aside from famous photographers like Brady and Gardner, thousands of photographers worked in the United States dur- ing its Civil War, and each paid a license fee of between $10 and $25 (depending on the volume of their business) to the federal govemment for the privilege. Photographers in the South (supply shortages made them rare) owed an annual $50 fee to the Confederacy, plus 2 1/2 percent tax on total sales.


Photography and Emotion

In both camps, the mission was to record army life, not to document war. Photographers trailed after the troops in large wagons where they developed their film, dubbed "whatsit" wagons by soldiers who didn't bother to name them further. Whatever they were called, these earlier photographic en- deavors were hardly the stuff of joumalism. Theirs were posed pictures, taken for the home front by soldiers who often pinned their portraits to their clothes so that, if they fell in battle, they could be identified and sent home to loved ones for burial.

The photograph was not at first seen as a function of jour- nalism, but of portraiture. The battlefield was open to Brady because the danger he represented to those prosecuting war was not yet apparent. Acceptance by joumalism was slow, as publishers clung to their pools of illustrators for economic and social reasons. Three years after the Spanish-American War, there were 1,000 artists still tuming out more than 10,000 t drawings a week for the newspapers. During World War I, "editors continued to show little enthusiasm for photographs. There was little attempt to use photographic imagery in an imaginative way." There are few great war pictures from World War I, few visual tributes to the folly of empire. There are few memorable photographs of the Russian Revolution in 1917, arguably one of the key events of the century. The technology was there, but the instinct was missing. The cam- era was still a stepchild to the notebook. The idea that pho- tography could be put to the service of news was not yet clear, even to Brady, who hoped to sell his pictures to the public from his galleries. The economics of photography kept it at a distance, out of focus.

If journalism was slow to warm to the photograph, so was offficialdom. It took almost a century for photography to eam a reputation for probity, to gain acceptance as a vehicle for offficial corroboration. In 1864, a congressional committee in



vestigating the atrocities at the Confederate prison camp near Andersonville in Georgia included in its final report four il- lustrations based on photographs. The idea was to document, "lest there should be those," as Senator Lafayette Foster of Connecticut put it, "who would not believe" that cruel con- ditions had reduced men to skeletons. When the full Senate debated in January 1865 whether to retaliate against the South, whether to starve Rebel prisoners and subject them to the same kind of disease-infected quarters that killed up to 100 Northern men a day, some, enough to keep the Senate from passing the bill, complained that there was "no technical evidence . . . in offficial form" to support the charges. Politics informed this view, but somehow the pictures were not enough to override it.

Grainy pictures of victims in concentration camps after World War II shocked many who saw them, but, finally, grainy or not, seeing was believing. BRITISH ANGER DEEP AT ATROCITY PROOF, headlined the New York Times on April 20, 1945, PUBLICATION OF PHOTOS AROUSES THE NATION. Decades later, photographs were no longer needed to confirm the unthinkable. In 1986, photographs of Chemobyl shocked those who saw them. "It doesn't matter how many descrip- tions you have of the black hole where Chemobyl used to be," said Michael Bohn, the navy intelligence officer who directed the White House Situation Room when the nuclear power plant blew up. "Until you saw a picture of this stinking, smoking mass, it didn't hit you, the enormity of it." But the truth is that the real horror of Chemobyl was left to the imagination, for no camera could record the way in which nuclear radiation killed human beings. The pictures of Nazi concentration camps at war's end had served as catharsis for guilt; pictures of a hole where Chemobyl once stood carried no such emotional punch. The photograph was a mirror. The emotions belonged to the viewers.


Photography and Emotion

Enthusiasts had no trouble seeing the camera's potential from the beginning. In October 1862, only weeks after the smoke had cleared from the bloody battlefield at Antietam- and that was about as instantaneous as the day's photographic technology could afford-Brady opened an exhibit on the battle at his galleries in New York. It was a sensation. "Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and eamestness of war," wrote a New York Times cor- respondent on October 20. "If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it." Noting the throngs on Broadway crowding into the gallery, the Times commentator marveled that the photographs were so realistic that "by the aid of the magnifying glass, the very features of the slain may be distin- guished," and he worried at being in the gallery when a woman nearing a photo "should recognize a husband, a son or a brother in the still lifeless line of bodies that lie ready for the gaping trenches."

Here was the beginning of war photography. There had been photographers at the Crimea War in 1854, but they did not shoot any pictures of combat gore in that battle between Turkey and other European powers. The best known of them, Roger Fenton, was the son of a British industrialist who leamed photography from Delaroche, a painter who despaired of the camera's impact on art. Financed by the Manchester publishing firm of Thomas Agnew & Son, Fenton went to the Crimea with the blessings of Prince Albert and official circles in London. But he saw his mission as less to shock than to reassure the public. Fenton took 360 photographs of the Crimean War. Not one of his photographs showed the graphic horror of war, though he was reportedly witness to several grisly scenes.

Some have argued that English Victorian society would have shunned Fenton's work if he had recorded death. Others LIGHTS, CAMERA, WAR

contend that the bulky camera equipment of the day pre- cluded war photography. Whatever the reason, the burden of bringing war to the public's front door awaited the Civil War. Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American combat, with 26,000 killed or wounded, was also the first battle whose dead were photographed as they lay, not as peaceful corpses in heavenly slumber but as bloated, gouged, twisted, grotesque figures in painful demise. "The first living room war was not Vietnam but the American Civil War," writes Vicki Gold- berg in The Power of Photography. "[It] came into the front parlor in word and picture, even in photographs, as no war had before."

What is striking about the photographs, many taken by Gardner, is the reaction they engendered in the public. "Let him who wishes to know what war is like look at this series of illustrations," said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., after view- ing the exhibit. "It was so nearly like visiting the battlefield to look over these views that all the emotions excited by the actual sight of the stained and sordid scene, strewed with rags and wrecks, came back to us." A physician and amateur pho- tographer, Holmes had gone to Antietam to look for his son, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., later a Supreme Court justice, who had been wounded in battle. Though the wound was not fatal, the image of war remained powerful, like a surreal at- traction. Try as he might to forget what he had seen, Holmes the elder felt the pictures would not let him bury the mem- ories. In the end, he was grateful. "War and battles should have truth for their delineator," he said.

This is the truly stunning fact about the Antietam pho- tographs, that instead of sending shock waves of horror they apparently had little negative impact on public opinion. Con- trary to the expected connection between the camera and the emotions, there is no cache of letters to the editor in the major newspapers protesting the depiction of bloodshed in

Photography and Emotion

Brady's gallery, as there would be a century later when news- papers published a picture of screaming South Vietnamese children running for their lives as napalm fire seared the skin off their bodies. Similarly, there is no pattern of protests to the Lincoln White House because of the bloodshed in An- tietam, as there would be to Lyndon Johnson's White House because of battles fought in Saigon. Later in the Civil War, as casualties mounted, the peace movement in the North grew loud and numerous, its goal tO seek an end to hostilities without victory. But in 1862, Quakers and other ministers who visited Lincoln came to urge him to abolish slavery. That was the cause of public protests when Brady put on his ex- hibit, not so much to end the war as to make it worth fight- ing. Perhaps too few had seen Brady's photographs to make a difference. Or perhaps photography had to instruct before it could shock; perhaps the emotional content of pictures was a learned response.

Lincoln used the Union "victory" at Antietam (most de- scribe it more accurately as "not a loss,") to issue the Eman- cipation Proclamation that forever after cast the war as a fight over slavery. With this strategic move-which had little prac- tical impact in freeing slaves in the South-Lincoln gave the cause of the North a higher calling, precluded intervention by Europe, and doomed the Confederacy to a legacy of big- otry. This was a historic milestone, a political coup, and it may have also ameliorated the shocking impact of the first war photographs to break the barrier of custom and show the dead as they lay in trenches where they fell, in the grip of battle. Antietam provided the first hint that pictures do not lead but follow public opinion, that their reception depends almost entirely on the political context in which they are received, that memory and experience frame them.

But soon enough would come signs that the photograph had the power to exaggerate weakness, that the photographer



was, like a journalist, a filter of information-and not always objective. No politician since the camera's invention so feared the power of the medium to debase, with so much cause, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Few world leaders have ever been as protected by a new medium, news photography, as it began to earn a place in journalism. Then too, FDR was blessed with good timing, coming to power when several new technologies competed for attention, when he could excel at radio communication and hold photography at arm's length.

Crippled from an attack of polio, FDR elected to hide his afffliction from the public, convinced that voters wanted their leaders in full stride, not in wheelchairs. When FDR arrived at Hyde Park Town Hall on November 6, 1928, to cast his ballot in the race for govemor, newspaper and newsreel pho- tographers greeted his car. "No movies of me getting out of the machine, boys," he said. At the 1936 Democratic Na- tional Convention, by-then President Roosevelt slipped and fell in the mud. As he struggled to his feet, CBS radio an- nouncer Robert Trout told listeners the president was making his way slowing toward the podium. On another occasion, FDR fell on the floor in front of several photographers. None took a picture. A clear view of Roosevelt's disability is only captured in four seconds of hlm and three photographs that survive to this day. None were published while he was alive. In those days, photographers "voluntarily destroyed their own plates when they showed Roosevelt in poses that revealed his handicap."

The public could learn of Roosevelt's disabilities from newspaper articles like the one in the New York Herald- Tribune describing his entry into campaign headquarters in 1928. The candidate was "supporting himself on the left side with a crutch and on the right side with a cane, and leaning forward on these supports so that he could draw his feet after him in a sliding gait." When the reporter asked how he was


Photography and Emotion

feeling, FDR replied, "I told them in Poughkeepsie this af- ternoon that most people who are nominated for the gover- norship have to run, but obviously I am not in the condition to run, and therefore I am counting on my friends all over the state to make it possible for me to walk in." That is what the public knew of FDR's infirmities, that he could not run but could, with assistance, walk. No photograph contradicted this version, no paper image documented the reality, that even walking was problematic. His charming wit, good na- ture, and gritty cheer had something to do with this decep- tion; his jaunty manner of holding a cigarette, perched in an upward tilt as if to convey an optimism about the future, helped in the making of his image. So did his determination to keep cameramen at bay.

This instinct that the visual was too powerful to contradict with words, that its impact could not be explained away by the best of logic, was one of the deadly legacies of the pho- tograph. A public might have been educated to accept the disability-much as John F. Kennedy taught a 1960 public to overcome prejudice against Catholics in high offfice-but FDR was unwilling to risk the effort for fear that in 1932, voters wanted their leaders to look the part. Perhaps they still do. In any event, he came of age politically at a time when the media was less an adversary than a chronicler of events. In short, Franklin Roosevelt engaged in the deception be- cause he thought he had to-and because he could.

Ironically, it was Roosevelt who freed news photography from the strict censorship that had smothered it once jour- nalists and politicians learned to use the pictures to evoke emotion. Censorship during the First World War was based on the premise that news of any kind would destroy morale on the home front. The penalty for publishing any news sto- ries in the United States that might be broadly defined as helping the enemy or interfering with the military during


World War I was twenty years in prison. For news photog- raphers, the penalty for taking pictures at the front, at least at first, was death. This had a chilling effect. "Photographs seem to be the only thing the War Department is really afraid of," observed Jimmy Hare, the best-known photographer of the day.

In the decades that followed, legal scholars questioned the blanket nature of the censorship, and the U.S. government was criticized for being too restrictive, for arguing national security too often when simple fear of public opinion was a more likely cause. Even so, World War 11 began with the same sort of ethos, a belief that censorship in a time of war was another word for patriotism. Reporters traveled with mil- itary units, wearing the uniforms of their outfits, and the Office of War Information cleared all their stories. For pho- tographers, corpses of dead Americans were simply off limits, though Japanese or Germans who had fallen in battle were fair game. "A message was being subtly broadcast that war was hell for the enemy but our side was faring well," wrote one critic.

By World War II, photography had come into its own as a news source, and began to impact diplomacy. Even then, the pictures were often sanitized to keep from offending the sensibilities of readers. The impulse to free the camera from censorship came from FDR, who gave his blessing to a policy that, in 1943, would finally exploit the promise of photo- journalism. His rationale was domestic, and had less to do with waging war abroad than with keeping the war machine humming at home. War bond drives had been coming up short of quotas, the Red Cross blood drives were not attract- ing the usual numbers, and voters had been complaining of shortages. Americans wanted the war to be over.

Eyeing the dip in morale at home, Roosevelt reviewed a protest from Life magazine to overturn the Offfice of War In


Photography and Emotion

formation's decision to ban publication of George Strock's photographs of American soldiers gunned down by Japanese artillery on Buna Beach. While the pictures were banned, censors had cleared newspaper copy about the battle. The fear was that while the words might cause a shudder and bare a concern, the pictures would horrify the public and dampen the will to fight. Sometime between Antietam and Buna Beach, the public had learned to decipher horror, had been trained to focus on grief.

Life had almost single-handedly given photography a place of honor in journalism, offering readers a weekly view of events in living color. Begun in 1936, the magazine was the brainchild of Henry Luce, who had already founded Time magazine and Fortune. Just at the time when the technology allowed worldwide dissemination of photographs by wires, Life meant to exploit this new medium called photojournalism. In promoting the magazine, one editor had argued, "A war, any sort of war, will be a natural promotion for a picture maga- zine." Now, Life sought to make good on that promise by arguing that the pictures of fallen American soldiers would not hurt but would actually help morale. "The job of men like Strock is to bring the war back to us, so that we who are thousands of miles removed from the danger and the smell of death may know what is at stake," Life wrote in its February 22 issue. "Maybe some housewives wouldn't be in such a hurry to raid the grocery stores, and John L. Lewis wouldn't feel so free to profiteer on the war-if they could see how [they] fell." Roosevelt agreed.

And so in mid-May, Army Air Force Combat Camera Units received a memo on the new policy. It was fairly straightforward, instructing army photographers "that the public be shown the grimness and hardness of war." World War 11 was the most photographed war in history, captured by hundreds of military cameramen and magazine photogra



phers, but photographers still had to show restraint. "We must not pass the line beyond which the exhibition does more harm than good," said the military memo. "It is not desired that horror pictures should be released, but special effort should be made to find those photographs which accurately depict the terrible strain of wartime conditions."

As a result, war was slightly more visible, but still pro- tected from full view. America's war dead were faceless, as censors still feared the impact of a frontal photograph, and the wounded were always being attended by medical person- nel. "Photos did not depict gross mutilations or show the wounded Iying between the lines, untended, thrashing in ag- ony, bleeding to death or slowing dying of dehydration." The photographs had the desired effect at home: War bond sales topped their quotas, and grumbling about shortages quieted. They also changed the tone of news coverage. Robert Capa's telling photographs of the Italian front were included in a Life feature early in 1944 called "It's a Tough War," prompt. ing one soldier to write that "the pictures clearly portray the bitterness and grimness of the battles to be fought before we reach Berlin and Tokyo." By June, Life was routinely publish- ing pictures of Americans Iying dead on battlefields. In loos- ening the rules of censorship, FDR had abetted war photography. With it came the myth that pictures could end war.

World War II was far from the uncensored war called Viet- nam, where photographers were free to roam and publish at will. But neither was it as restricted as the Persian Gulf War, where photographers were prevented often from even getting to the battlefield. Self-censorship remained a factor in jour- nalistic decisions-to this day, editors shy from close-ups of fallen American soldiers, and CNN sat on footage from So- malia far more grisly than that shown of a corpse being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. And technological


Photography and Emotion

burdens, in the lab or in transmission, remained. Capa's fa- mous pictures from the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, were published by Life soon after the battle- despite the fact that a lab technician in London had de- stroyed all but eleven of his frames. This was the dawn of photojournalism, the beginning of its impact on public opin- ion. Not everyone was thrilled. Newsweek was peppered with letters from readers who were aghast, publishing some of their concerns under the dismissive title, "Realism for Breakfast." Finally, journalism had smelled the glory and the power of photojournalism, and policy makers quaked at the implica- tions.

Generations of political figures have been nursed on the understanding that a photograph can turn public sympathy to public enmity, that the eye of the camera is as much their enemy as any battlefield opponent. No better example exists than a 1968 photograph by Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams. In the picture, which won a Pulitzer Prize, Ad- ams captured Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of South Vietnam's National Police, as he held a gun to the head of a newly captured Viet Cong offficer believed to have murdered a South Vietnamese major and his family. To seasoned war hands (and U.S. intelligence sources), Loan was avenging great injustices committed against his soldiers and his people. But to unschooled viewers, without knowledge of the events that led up to the execution, the picture captured the horror of war, and worse, raised doubts about the morality of the people American soldiers were dying for.

The picture haunted Loan's life. He asked to be evacuated from Saigon on one of the last U.S. helicopters out, but was rebuffed by U.S. offficials. Later, he managed to escape from Vietnam and make his way to the Virginia countryside, only to have U.S. immigration officials try to deport him as a war criminal. Adams later regretted the picture's impact on Loan. LIGHTS, CAMERA, WAR

"In taking that picture, I had destroyed his life," the photog- rapher wrote in a special feature for Parade magazine about his Vietnam years. "For General Loan had become a man condemned both in his country and in America because he had killed an enemy in war. People do this all the time in war, but rarely is a photographer there to record the act."

Whatever Adams's intent, his picture was soon appropri- ated by the antiwar forces to symbolize the horrors of Amer- ican involvement in a Southeast Asian country where police chiefs serve as judge, jury, and executioner. In taking the picture, Adams had frozen a moment, exaggerated its impor- tance, created a new cultural icon. The photograph remains raw to all those who saw it when it was news, and a caution- ary tale to all those who heard of it later. What is interesting is the way it was received by the public. An electorate in- censed by Viet Cong atrocities, committed to defending South Vietnam's right to democracy, supportive of Washing- ton's methods in prosecuting the war, might have seen the photo as confirmation of its beliefs, might have responded by rallying even more loudly to the cause. But the war had al- ready lost its constituency.

When Life explained why it had lobbied the War Depart- ment in 1943 to release pictures of the three dead American soldiers on Buna Beach, it editorialized that "words are never enough. Words do not exist to make us see, or know, or feel what it is like, what actually happens." In fact, words did serve precisely that function in an earlier day. The photo- graph's century of development from novelty to news indi- cates that the audience had to be trained to believe the veracity of images. Pictures may have been provocative, but they also required a context, an explanation, a caption.

In the coming age of information technology, when the photograph can be altered without fingerprints, when a cam- era can record pictures without film, when computer graphics

Photography and Emotion

can insert or delete an individual from what Mathew Brady called "the eye of history," it will fall to journalists and policy makers to guard the images. The photograph has long been manipulated by those who would use it for political ends. What is changing now is the manner of the manipulation. History suggests that political leaders, not the media or its latest technologies, have the greater influence, or anyway the first opening to sway public opinion. And like photography, public opinion is a mirror of political will.


Public Opinion and World War I

PUBLIC OPINION IS a fickle institution, if it is an institution at all, bowing to the latest impulses, defying the pseu- doscience of pollsters, the pulse of a phantom. In few arenas is it more important, or less reliable, than in foreign policy. At few times is it more critical, or as volatile, as in war. A democratic nation cannot wage war without popular support, nor can an elected leader switch direction without regard for the voters' views. Even a dictator risks insurrection if he mis- reads the national mood, though Russian czar Nicholas II no doubt endeared himself to many an elected offficial when he remarked in 1909, "In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, what is called 'public opinion' is mere forgery."

That technology has abetted public opinion, that it has at least invited the public to voice its opinion, is clear from the record. It is no coincidence that radio's emergence as a social force corresponded to the granting of suffrage to women in Great Britain in 1918 and in the United States in 1920. "The establishment of broadcasting coincided with the moment that the vote was finally conceded to all adult men and women,'~ wrote early historians of the field, "and the devel- opment of mass democracy is closely connected with broad- casting's role in that process." Just at the moment when


politics itself became more democratic, radio gave the audi- ence in democracies a new way of tuning in.

Also clear is the disdain with which intellectuals greeted the new influence on policy. When the printing press and its pamphlets give new weight to public opinion, satirist Jona- than Swift warned in 1711 that "it is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom." After the telegraph had speeded commu- nication and, to contemporary eyes, annihilated time and space, Oscar Wilde likewise scoffed in 1891, "Public opinion, an attempt to organize the ignorance of the community, and to elevate it to the dignity of physical force." And after radio had made more information available to more people in less time than ever before, Walter Lippmann, commentator for an American century, adviser to presidents, and confidant of cabinet secretaries, could not have been more contemptuous. "Where mass opinion dominates the govemment, there is a morbid derangement of the true functions of power," he wrote in 1955. "This breakdown in the constitutional order is the cause of the precipitate and catastrophic decline of Westem society. It may, if it cannot be arrested and reversed, bring about the fall of the West."

Lippmann and his power-brokering colleagues enjoyed a rare influence, and their distrust of the new media was in part a reaction to losing an exclusive hold on information. But the critique of those invoking the name of "public opinion" to justify policy is not misplaced. Any leader who marches to the beat of public opinion soon loses his own. Easily swayed by the latest development, public opinion is fleeting, given to a rush of passion, a hasty judgment. This is not the public's fault. A collective will is by nature a compromise of interests, a ducking of accountability. "Public opinion is always wrong," said Lippmann, "much too intransigent in war, much too yielding in peace, insuffficiently informed, lacking the spe


Public Opinion and World War I

cialized knowledge upon which lucid judgments can be based." In short, he believed the public "has shown itself to be a dangerous master of decisions when the stakes are life and death." If there is a fault it lies with pollsters and jour- nalists, politicians and commentators, who invoke public opinion to mask their own insecurities. The truth is that any leader who makes policy looking back over his shoulder is likely to trip over his own feet. And the public rarely applauds a clumsy performer.

Without boots or public support, few soldiers fight well. This need to summon a great cause, to explain the rationale for war, actually traces its heritage to the printing press, when the library doors of the churchmen and noblemen who over- saw the kingdoms of the day were suddenly thrown open to those who until then only heard of the news occasionally. Information left the exclusive domain of the elite and became the property of the informed. Each generation of new media technology brought a new appreciation of the senses-the speed of the telegraph, the drama of the photograph-and widened the circle of those with access to information. The public may exercise its influence only sporadically. But from the moment when informed consent became a needed ad- junct to military service, leaders have always had to court public opinion. Public support is not the only requirement for war, but war is rarely won without it.

Public opinion emerged as a crucial element to battle, ironically, in World War I, the greatest tribute to the folly of empire. The War to End All Wars was also the first to ac- knowledge a collective will from a body politic. Even in coun- tries without democratic traditions, even in a war that had little rationale beyond petty greed, public views mattered. The primacy of leadership, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has ar- gued, began with the rise of democracy in the nineteenth century, when "ordinary people now felt entitled to a larger



share in decisions that might send them out to die." Czars, kaisers, and kings were still running the globe, but by World War I they began paying lip service to the public mind.

On the eve of war, Russia's czar Nicholas II tried to rescind his own mobilization order as it was being transcribed in The central telegraph offfice. But he was convinced by aides that the country wanted war, wanted to defend Serbia's honor against Austria's warmongering, wanted to restore Russian military pride in the wake of defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. Enthusiastic crowds filled the streets of St. Petersburg, and the American charge d'affaires cabled Washington: "Whole country, all classes, unanimous for war." Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov now told the czar that he could not rescind his order without fear of a coup: "Were the govem- ment to tolerate this, there would be a revolution in the country." How ironic that three years later, a revolution there was.

Likewise in Germany, Kaiser William II had strong back- ing in the German newspapers for his plan to prevent a larger war by supporting a localized one, where Austria and Serbia would fight while the big powers allied with them-France, Russia, and Britain on Serbia's side; Germany on Austria's- would watch from a distance. But William had also used the newspapers to convince his public to increase its army to over 2 million men and build a navy to rival the British Royal Navy. As British public opinion chafed at this real as well as psychological affront to England's security, Germans rallied to the kaiser's grand ambitions.

A last-minute cable from Germany's ambassador to Lon- don suggested that Britain might stay out of war if France was not invaded. The kaiser asked his army chief of staff, Helmuth von Moltke, to reverse course for the troops, sending them to the eastern front in Russia rather than through the Belgian front to France. "Your Majesty," replied Moltke, "the de


Public Opinion and World War I

ployment of a million men cannot be improvised." William, disappointed, cabled King George of England that "technical reasons" prevented countermanding the mobilization, and urged him to tell France to "not become nervous." Then he cabled Nicholas, urging him not to mobilize, telling him the responsibility for war or peace rested on his shoulders. Fas- cinated with new media technology like the telegraph and the wireless, William used them largely to foment discord among his counterparts in various world capitals. Portrayed as a man of quick action, who "always wanted it to be Sun- day," he used the telegraph to bully Austria, to keep Russia at bay, to countermand his military commanders' orders on the eve of battle.

Some historians have thus blamed the inner circles in St. Petersburg and Berlin for bungling their way into war, arguing that the ruling classes were unmodern in the ways of the, media that so fascinated the leaders. "Most of the aristocrats and gentlemen who made up the diplomatic corps in 1914 were of the old school in many ways," writes historian Ste- phen Kern. "They still counted on the ultimate effectiveness of spoken words of a decent man in face-to-face encounters but were forced to negotiate many important issues over cop- per wire." Kern puts the war squarely at their feet, arguing that "piles of futile telegrams (like the later rows of dead soldiers) were the tangible remains of their failure." But to suggest that the misuse of media technology led to war is to underestimate national interests and individual responsibility, as well as public opinion.

When war broke out in August of 1914 in Europe, Presi- dent Woodrow Wilson faced his own public-opinion battles. Calling White House reporters to his offfice to admonish them about the hazards of entanglement, he argued that "of course the European world is in a highly excited state of mind, but the excitement ought not to spread to the United States." Public Opinion and World War I

For three years, Wilson clung to his neutrality, and his coun- try clung to its isolationism. For three years, public opinion in the United States was informed largely by a desire to stay out of war, lead by a president who hoped that if he kept his country from the war, its combatants would look to him as the "moral arbiter" of the peace. In this hope to avoid en- tanglements he was aided by the country's diverse ethnic her- itage, which found Russian Jews applauding the German fight against the czar and German-Americans lobbying against aid- ing the allies. So sanguine was Wilson about the rightness of his course, and the sureness of public sentiment behind it, that he ran for reelection in 1916 on the platform "He kept us out of war!"

While Europe went to war, Wilson showed an aptitude for exploiting the media and manipulating public opinion. He asked the State Department to find the funds to print and distribute his neutrality speech to all U.S. post offices, assur- ing it greater dissemination and longer currency. Hoping to sell a reluctant Congress in 1915 on the need to beef up militarily, Wilson hit the road, stumping in towns from New York to Kansas, winning national support for an expanded national defense. "A wonderful example of that opportunity for aggressive leadership which the presidency of the United States places in the hands of the bold political strategist and the effective platform speaker," wrote Herbert Croly in The New Republic. And when U.S. involvement in the war seemed inevitable, he agreed to Secretary of State Robert Lansing's suggestion of leaking the infamous Zimmermann ca- ble to the Associated Press.

Arthur Zimmermann, the German foreign secretary, had written a telegram to the German ambassador in Washington, informing him of the latest German plot to keep the United States out of war. To prevent Wilson from caving in to pres- sures for war even as he negotiated with them for peace, Ger


many had hatched a plan to keep the United States preoccupied at home. It boiled down to an offer to help Mex- ico win back Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. As the January 17, 1917, telegram put it, "We intend to begin un- restricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor to keep the United States neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: Make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to recover the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Ari- zona."

Zimmermann did not know that the British naval intel- ligence had cracked the German code, and, able to pluck coded telegraphed messages out of the air, could decipher them. Seizing the opportunity, British code breakers unrav- eled the telegram's mysteries. Eager to protect the secret that they had broken the code, the British worked to get a pur- loined copy of the version of the telegram sent from the German ambassador in Washington to the Mexican author- ities, confident that the Germans would blame the leak on their own embassies in Washington or Mexico.

Wilson understood that the telegram, if published by the Associated Press, would push public opinion toward war. He also grasped that the news agency would inquire of the White House whether the telegram was authentic, thus putting the president in the position of confirming his own leak, as well as assuring that the cable would be quickly and widely cir- culated. The story began, "The AP is enabled to reveal. . .". The impact on public opinion, as reflected in newspaper ed- itorials, was striking. GERMANY SEEKS AN ALLIANCE AGAINST us, read the morning newspaper headlines, ASKS JAPAN AND MEXICO TO JOIN HER. Editorialized the once staunchly anti- interventionist Detroit Times: "It looks like war for this coun- try." In coming days, German commanders sank several U.S.



vessels in the Atlantic, disabling them for the fight ahead, but further solidifying U.S. public opinion about the need to go to war. "It is either war or submission to oppression," one- time pacifist Elihu Root told the Union League Club of New York. "There is no question about going to war. Germany is already at war with us."

Wilson's antenna for manipulation of public opinion makes all the more remarkable his failure to win Senate rat- ification of the Versailles Treaty and a League of Nations founded on Fourteen Points of laudable ideals. Less than a month after World War I ended, Woodrow Wilson sailed out of New York Harbor aboard the presidential liner George Washington for peace talks in France. A buoyant Wilson gave interviews to the wire-service reporters onboard, leaving them "simply carried away with enthusiasm for his ideas and plans." Using the wireless telegraphy that Guglielmo Marconi dis- covered in the 1890s while experimenting in his father's veg- etable garden, they sent back stories that captured the moment's promise. The pacifist American president had helped win the war, and pioneer a cause: Fourteen Points of freedom and justice that all countries would agree to abide by in a new League of Nations, an international body that would protect against the bloody futility of any future wars. His grand scheme for peace was telegraphed over the wireless telegraph to a grateful Europe, and the same new technology, a forerunner of radio, helped journalists cable back home that Parisians had welcomed him as an "apostle of international justice."

Six months later, the same technology that had conveyed a sense of hope to a war-sickened world now presented a different view. Frustrated by the web of intrigue and secrecy spun by his counterparts, pained that he had been forced to compromise his principles, aware that he faced a hostile re- ception from the Senate, Wilson carried home the Treaty of


Public Opinion and World War I

Versailles more with resolution than enthusiasm. For six months, with the exception of a brief ten-day visit back to the United States, Wilson had labored in France, working out the details of a peace treaty he had extracted as the price of war. As Americans returned to civilian life and rebuilt their communities, Wilson was "mired in the minutiae of ne- gotiations, clinging desperately to the shards of his Fourteen Points." The same technology that brought news of Wilson's triumphant reception in Paris six months earlier now brought a sense of his obsession with the details of peace. "Wireless brought home to the nation, especially those in Washington, his failures." When finally Wilson came home to stay, the Macon [Georgia] Telegraph editorialized, "Just think, we will have a president all by ourselves from now on!" X

By September, Wilson's cherished League of Nations was faltering. The 1916 elections had put the Republicans in charge of both the House and the Senate for the first time in years, and the GOP was still smarting over Wilson's evasive- ness during treaty negotiations and his arrogant disregard for their concerns and suggested compromises on his return. Wil- son, who found it unimaginable that the Senate would defeat the treaty and "break the heart of the world," vowed to take his case to "Caesar," as he called the public, scheduling a 26-city, 10,000-mile campaign across the country.

As he swept west to Los Angeles, Wilson's speeches ap- peared to sway opinion in favor of the treaty, and the New York Times's Charles Grasty observed that Wilson was now "getting the cumulative effect of his missionary work." But there also emerged a new note of despair in his public words. Blaming the media and its new technology for the Russian Revolution and much else that was wrong in the world, Wil- son told a crowd in Des Moines, "Do you not know the world is all now one single whispering gallery?" Like those now who think the fax machine fomented dissent in Beijing in 1989



vessels in the Atlantic, disabling them for the fight ahead, but further solidifying U.S. public opinion about the need to go to war. "It is either war or submission to oppression," one- time pacifist Elihu Root told the Union League Club of New York. "There is no question about going to war. Germany is already at war with us."

Wilson's antenna for manipulation of public opinion makes all the more remarkable his failure to win Senate rat- ification of the Versailles Treaty and a League of Nations founded on Fourteen Points of laudable ideals. Less than a month after World War I ended, Woodrow Wilson sailed out of New York Harbor aboard the presidential liner George Washington for peace talks in France. A buoyant Wilson gave interviews to the wire-service reporters onboard, leaving them "simply carried away with enthusiasm for his ideas and plans." Using the wireless telegraphy that Guglielmo Marconi dis- covered in the 1890s while experimenting in his father's veg- etable garden, they sent back stories that captured the moment's promise. The pacifist American president had helped win the war, and pioneer a cause: Fourteen Points of freedom and justice that all countries would agree to abide by in a new League of Nations, an international body that would protect against the bloody futility of any future wars. His grand scheme for peace was telegraphed over the wireless telegraph to a grateful Europe, and the same new technology, a forerunner of radio, helped journalists cable back home that Parisians had welcomed him as an "apostle of international justice."

Six months later, the same technology that had conveyed a sense of hope to a war-sickened world now presented a different view. Frustrated by the web of intrigue and secrecy spun by his counterparts, pained that he had been forced to compromise his principles, aware that he faced a hostile re- ception from the Senate, Wilson carried home the Treaty of


Public Opinion and World War I

Versailles more with resolution than enthusiasm. For six months, with the exception of a brief ten-day visit back to the United States, Wilson had labored in France, working out the details of a peace treaty he had extracted as the price of war. As Americans returned to civilian life and rebuilt their communities, Wilson was "mired in the minutiae of ne- gotiations, clinging desperately to the shards of his Fourteen Points." The same technology that brought news of Wilson's triumphant reception in Paris six months earlier now brought a sense of his obsession with the details of peace. "Wireless brought home to the nation, especially those in Washington, his failures." When finally Wilson came home to stay, the Macon [Georgia] Telegraph editorialized, "Just think, we will have a president all by ourselves from now on!"

By September, Wilson's cherished League of Nations was faltering. The 1916 elections had put the Republicans in charge of both the House and the Senate for the first time in years, and the GOP was still smarting over Wilson's evasive- ness during treaty negotiations and his arrogant disregard for their concerns and suggested compromises on his return. Wil- son, who found it unimaginable that the Senate would defeat the treaty and "break the heart of the world," vowed to take his case to "Caesar," as he called the public, scheduling a 26-city, 10,000-mile campaign across the country.

As he swept west to Los Angeles, Wilson's speeches ap- peared to sway opinion in favor of the treaty, and the New York Times's Charles Grasty observed that Wilson was now "getting the cumulative effect of his missionary work." But there also emerged a new note of despair in his public words. Blaming the media and its new technology for the Russian Revolution and much else that was wrong in the world, Wil- son told a crowd in Des Moines, "Do you not know the world is all now one single whispering gallery?" Like those now who think the fax machine fomented dissent in Beijing in 1989



or radio inspired revolution in Eastern Europe in 1989, Wil- son blamed the wireless for spreading the "poison of revolt, the poison of chaos" to Russia in 1917.

"Haggard, close to the massive stroke that overcame him 19 days later, Wilson betrayed an uneasiness about the impact of the new technology," wrote radio historian Tom Lewis. To a crowd of 10,000, he lamented, "All the impulses of mankind are thrown out upon the air and reach to the ends of the earth; quietly upon steamships, silently under the cover of the Postal Service, with the tongue of the wireless and the tongue of the telegraph, all the suggestions of disorder are spread through the world." The president who fought a war to make the world safe for democracy now complained about this new medium that could democratize international relations. The former university professor who reached out to public opinion to rescue his League of Nations distrusted the new technol- ogies, fearing they would spread not informed debate, but dis- intormatlon.

In war, most leaders enjoy a "rally round the flag" benefit when they call on the public to defend the honor of the nation, though they dare not ask too much, for too long, without risking a backlash. Wilson himself seemed to under- stand this. The first of his Fourteen Points, an attempt to deter large-scale war in the future, acknowledged the value of public exposure of private pacts. "Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private in- temational understandings of any kind but diplomacy, shall proceed always frankly and in public view," it read. That Wil- son violated his own guideline in negotiating the Treaty of Versailles behind closed doors, a concession to pragmatism he saw as the price of peace, was not irrelevant to the defeat that followed.

His is a cautionary tale, testimony to those who argue that government leaders need only do their jobs, that public ap-


Public Opinion and World War I

plause will follow. But it is also a confirmation that public applause does not always carry the day. Media technology gives public diplomacy more urgency, but any leader who ig- nores private negotiation will have a harder sell. Wilson, ironically, was felled by the petty angers and real concems of men in the Senate who felt slighted by his internationalist demeanor and diffident manner. Unlike McKinley, who had shown aptitude for bureaucratic leadership and swayed public opinion by indirection, Wilson had spent his political capital on the wrong crowd, playing compromiser to the Europeans instead of the senators, banking on public opinion to deliver the votes.

The Treaty of Versailles is now a model of bad policy, a document so wracked with territorial revenge among enemies that Europe fought a second world war to overcome its per- ceived injustices, and border disputes left over from its pro- visions rage still in places like Serbia. Wilson showed less disdain for the public than he did for his foes, and his inat- tention to the politics of ratification, his unwillingness to compromise at home after giving away quite a bit abroad, these were likewise factors in his defeat. If public opinion were all a politician needed to succeed, then Wilson would have won his battle, as the mood was shifting in his favor when he collapsed in a stroke that paralyzed him and doomed his treaty. That public opinion was not supreme, that sub- stance and policy and politics still mattered, suggests that the influence of public opinion, like the power of the media and its technological advances, is not an absolute.

Like diplomats today, the generation confronted by the telegraph and the wireless was convinced that the speed of the new instruments hurt due deliberation. What they actu- ally did was speed the input of public opinion. The kaiser was more than comfortable using these new instruments of power. Perhaps if others had been as adroit at sending speedy



messages, William's warmongering might have been tem- pered, as it was seven years earlier when an interview he gave to the Daily Telegraph about the likely war to come so un- nerved his own countrymen that he took to his bed ill for three weeks. That contention would be put to its greatest test with the next media invention to assault the political world: the telephone. The telephone put nations in direct commu- nication with other nations in mere minutes, giving diplomats less leeway and publics more say. Resistance, particularly among the political elite, was fierce.


Telephorle Diplomacy

AT 4:50 P.M. on a Sunday at his dacha in thie Crimea, the last president of the Union of Socialist Soviet Re- publics picked up the telephone, only to discover that the line was dead. Mikhail Gorbachev tried a second line, a third, a fourth-to his increasing horror, all were dead. The coup of 1991, three days in August that shook the world, began with this simple tribute to the power of the telephone.

The plotters of this coup did not pull the plug on many other weapons of modern communication, leading some ob- servers to conclude that they were clumsy idiots and others, more conspiratorially minded, to wonder if they had acted with Gorbachev's secret consent. Perhaps in plotting his own capture he hoped to remind an unhappy citizenry of what life would be like without him. If that was the strategy, it back- fired, as the coup found Muscovites only too eager to rally around a new hero for a new day, Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

Whatever their intent, these hapless plotters ignored the technology of news. They did not cut off the switch that carried all intemational calls to Moscow. They did not shut down Moscow's main satellite-relay station, which allowed foreign TV networks to broadcast the news. They did not cut LIGHTS, CAMERA, WAR

the electrical lines needed to send faxed messages. And they did not jam radio broadcasts of the BBC, Radio Liberty, Deut- sche Welle, and Voice of America, which Gorbachev was able to monitor throughout the crisis thanks to the ingenuity of a few remaining loyal guards who jury-rigged a homemade radio for his use. Even Moscow Echo, a local radio station shut down four times during the coup, managed to stay on the air from makeshift headquarters in cramped conditions. The coup plotters even forgot to commandeer Gorbachev's video cam- corder. Angered by reports on the radio from the coup leaders describing him as ill, Gorbachev made four videotapes at- testing to his health that he planned to smuggle to a waiting world.

After the coup was overturned, Yeltsin mused that the conspirators' ignorance about the new technology had been a major factor in their defeat. "The middle-age coup plotters simply could not imagine the extent and volume of the in- formation," he wrote. "Instead of a quiet and inconspicuous coup executed party style, they suddenly had a totally public hght on their hands. The coup plotters were not prepared- especially psychologically-for an atmosphere of complete publicity."

In keeping with their halfhearted attempt to scal news, coup plotters sent troops to surround Moscow's main tele- phone exchange, but they did not cut the main switch that funneled all international calls. As Red Army tanks poised outside and young demonstrators began to fill the streets, James Collins, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. embassy, paid a visit to Yeltsin. In his first response to the coup, Pres- ident Bush had been deliberately passive, in a misguided at- tempt not to offend the coup plotters for fear he might have to work with them in the future. A disappointed Yeltsin, hearing Bush's tepid remarks, knew he had to energize the White House to survive the coming assault on his front door.


Telephorte Diplomacy

He gave Collins a letter he had written to Bush in which he asked of the American president two things. One was that Bush "demand restoration of the legally elected organs of power." The other was that Bush call him.

That the telephone had come to this moment of historic application would have thrilled its inventor, Alexander Gra- ham Bell, who even after he had mastered the technology was ridiculed for suggesting that an electrical wire could trans- mit the human voice. Neighbors in Boston delighted in call- ing him Crazy Bell. Beyond the science of the invention, critics doubted its value.

Of all the technologies under review here, the telephone inspired the most resistance from goverbment and business leaders. Like Bell's neighbors, they undervalued its marvels. William Orton, president of Westem Union, turned down a chance to buy Alexander Graham Bell's patents for $100,000, saying, "What use could this company make of an electrical toy?" This monumental gaffe in business acumen was likely caused by Orton's concern about the expense of converting from the telegraph. It had an echo abroad. The turf-conscious chief engineer of the British post office, testifying before a committee of Parliament, was equally myopic when asked if the telephone merited attention. "No sir," he said. "The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys."

Resistance has not quieted with familiarity. In the fall of 1994, in the crucible of international neutrality, the Swiss Army announced that it was disbanding the world's last unit of military carrier pigeons. The carrier pigeons had delivered messages over Switzerland's mountainous terrain for decades. Only two years before, the Swiss Army had championed their performance. "The pigeons are immune from electronic in- terference, cheap to operate and after proper training can make night-time and return journeys," declared an official


army brochure. Now, seeking to save money, the Defense Ministry set out to disband the unit of 7,000 staff pigeons and 23,000 reservist birds, depending instead on radio and tele- phones. Public emotion was intense. "We are outraged and feel betrayed," said Ulrick Frei, who fathered a referendum to spare the pigeon service. "To get rid of one of the last sym- pathy winners for the army is plain stupid."

That the telephone, 118 years after its invention, still in- spired distrust as a method of communication is a marvelous tribute to the staying power of the pigeons-or to the un- popularity of the telephone. Such resistance makes more understandable the telephone's history at the seat of power in the White House. When it arrived at the White House in 1877, one year after U.S. patent 174,465 was granted to its inventor, the telephone was considered a crude instrument, not ht for a president's use, an intrusion on privacy, on rea- soned deliberation, a useful tool perhaps for secretaries but not for men of stature. After participating in a trial telephone conversation between Washington and Philadelphia in 1876, President Rutherford B. Hayes declared, "This is an amazing invention, but who would want to use one?" While this com- ment may speak more to Hayes's lack of imagination than to any inherent weakness in the telephone, it posed a question that haunted Bell's invention for more than fifty years.

For half a century, the telephone remained outside the president's offfice in a nearby room, used by secretaries and others of the president's aides, and even some reporters when necessary. Toward the end of William Howard Taft's admin- istration in 1912, a telephone booth was installed, designed to hold the girth of the 360-pound president, who found the whole setup inconvenient and used the phone infrequently. The phone remained "one step away from the center of power" until Herbert Hoover's administration. Hoover, an engineer with a great passion for new technologies (but, sadly,


Telephone Diplomacy

little talent for their use), ordered a telephone set placed on his desk within three weeks of his inauguration as president in March 1929. But the first president to lift up the receiver in the Oval Offfice and hear a dial tone, and then only be- cause he requested it, was Bill Clinton. Until then, a bank of operators had placed the calls. Clinton wanted to eliminate the intermediary.

The telephone combined the best and worst traits of the media inventions gone before and those yet to come. It was a return to the oral tradition, favoring the narrative, chal- lenging the imagination, and personalizing the message. As such, it threatened the written record and intruded on social customs. By the end of his life, Bell came to bristle at the invasions made by the telephone, admonishing members of his family who got up from the dinner table to answer its ring.

Political leaders had similar cause to fear the telephone, for here was an instrument that could spread information without regard for government control. Soon after the Rus- sian Revolution, Joseph Stalin rejected a proposal from Leon Trotsky to build a modern telephone system. "It will unmake our work," he-said. "I can imagine no greater instrument of counter-revolution in our time." Communism needed too many gatekeepers for the free flow of information, and tech- nological advancements made it diffficult for government agents to listen in. From Stalin's time forward, the telephone directory was unpublished in the Soviet Union. It provided a measure of freedom too tempting for the Communist regime to tolerate. Indeed, as improvements came in telephone tech- nology, the Soviet Union and Warsaw Bloc remained on the sidelines, cut off from the pulse of modern communication. So crippling-or prescient-was Stalin's decision that the East Bloc lost a generation of technology. When political bar- riers came down in the 1990s, the technology that Stalin



rejected had changed, and many Eastern European countries elected to leapfrog the gap in their history, rejecting the ex pense and labor of installing land-line phones, going straight to cellular wireless equipment. But when the telephone was new, Stalin was not alone in his fears. "It is diffficult," wrote The Providence Press after watching Bell demonstrate the telephone in 1877, "to resist the notion that the powers of darkness are in league with it."

The world of literature was no kinder in greeting the tele phone than it had been in welcoming the telegraph. Mark Twain, in an 1890 article for The New York World, set the tone with a sarcastic holiday greeting. "It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us-the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage-may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss-except the inventor of the tele phone." There is reason to believe, based on later correspon- l, dent with Bell's father-in-law, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, g that Mark Twain was kidding. Robert Louis Stevenson was not. The poet complained in 1889 that the telephone had invaded "our bed and board, our business and bosoms, bleat ing like a deserted infant." The elite preferred privacy. The telephone violated certain social norms, eliminating one of the layers of protection that kept the upper classes from deal ings with the less educated. In popular culture, this equalizing power of the telephone was memorialized in hit songs like "Hello Central, Get Me Heaven." For diplomats, this ability to patch through to any source, even the rarefied home of the angels, was an invasion to be avoided. Diplomats were wary of the new technology's impact, fear ing that the telephone, like the telegraph before it, would force them to become message-carriers instead of policy mak ers. British diplomat Arthur Buchanan, some fifteen years be

Telephone Diplomacy

fore the telephone was invented, was asked to assess how the telegraph had influenced the diplomatic corps. "It reduces, to a great degree, the responsibility of the minister," he told a parliamentary committee in 1861. "For he can now ask for instructions instead of doing a thing on his own responsibil- ity." This shift of power, from the field to the capital, from the envoy to the leader, was even more pronounced with the telephone.

To this day, it is not uncommon to hear professional dip- lomats lament their loss of autonomy at the end of a telegraph cable or secure telephone line. Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, in a 1993 interview, bemoaned Wash- ington's ability to dictate his negotiating tactics when, during the Persian Gulf War, he went to Israel to convince Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir not to retaliate against Iraq for Scud missile attacks. Washington wanted to keep Israel out of the conflict, fearing that her direct involvement would upset the delicate coalition of Arab and Christian nations arrayed against Iraq. But Israel had a policy of retaliating, always, and if Shamir was going to break with that precedent, he needed something to show for it.

Eagleburger did not think the->package he was carrying from Washington would convince Shamir. When the Israeli prime minister balked at Eagleburger's offer, the U.S. diplo- mat returned to the embassy and alerted Washington, urging the president's top foreign-policy advisers to sweeten the deal with pledges not only to retaliate on Israel's behalf, but to share defense intelligence. In an earlier day, Eagleburger might have been able to make that deal without conferring first with his capital. "They caved, but it took an extra twenty-four hours," he said, referring perhaps as much to the Americans as to the Israelis. It is interesting, and ironic, that in this case the speed of the new technology actually delayed the decision, in Eagleburger's view, because it allowed Wash