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Front Page

In This Issue

· The Media and Panic in America

· Panic in American  a reprint of  an early article

· Media’s role in disinformation

· Some elements of my belief




The Media and Disinformation

By Ivan W. Parkins

My lead item, “PANIC IN AMERICA”, has only an indirect relationship to our current economic crisis.  I do believe that this crisis is real.  But, I also believe that much of public opinion regarding its origins and likely solution is quite unreal.  And I believe that much of the unreality can be traced to a great, and highly partisan, discord within our information system that became obvious about half a century ago. That discord has only recently, encountered substantially balancing opposition.


The Daily Times-News, column, 3/26/71

By Ivan W. Parkins


    Waves of public hysteria, fanned by leading journalists and academics, may explain the greater part of America’s troubles over the past decade.  Objections to such an explanation, especially among journalists and academics, are (predictably) vehement.  Indeed, hysteria as an explanation of our troubles should be treated with skepticism; it implies gross inadequacies of intellectual perception and moral responsibility in those groups and institutions charged with informing and enlightening our society, and it suggests that the rest of society may not be in need of drastic reforms.


    Now, thanks to the article of Edward Jay Epstein, a Harvard instructor, in NEW YORKER, February 13, 1971, we have remarkable illustration of panic in America.  The Epstein article deals with the killings of Black Panthers by the police in 1969, and with how a story about such killings was treated in the press.  Beyond police-Panther relations, the Epstein article demonstrates that those who arouse and shape American opinion sometimes accept allegations of fact without investigation, repeat them without qualification, and use them without restraint to charge brutal and illegal behavior against public officials.


    A brief resume of the Epstein article follows: 


In an early morning raid December1969, police killed Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Black Panther Party of Illinois, and another Party member.  Charles R. Gary, counsel for the Panthers, charged that those made 27and 28 police murders of Panthers and that they were part of a national conspiracy to wipe out the Panthers. 


THE NEW YORK TIMES reported the Gary charges without qualification

or notice of the source, and relayed the story to more than three hundred other papers which subscribe to its news service.  THE WASHINGTON POST acted similarly.  Other media took up the charge of police “genocide” aimed at the Panthers.  The few doubts and qualifications that were published were little noticed as a Committee to Defend the Panthers was formed and notable persons were quoted repeating the charge.  Guerrilla warfare was predicted in our cities.  (Especially on campuses and in “liberal” groups, a wave of protest mounted).  Actually, Epstein found, not even Panther spokesman Garry, who had initiated the charge, was prepared to support it.  Ten instances of police killing Panthers were confirmed, but six of those killings were by policemen who had themselves been seriously wounded and who did not know that the men they were shooting at were Panthers.  Several occurred during police responses to reports of other crimes.  Furthermore, such killings declined following the Chicago raid.  In short, Epstein found no evidence to support the charge of a police conspiracy to murder Panthers.


     Strictly speaking, the Epstein article tells us little of anything beyond police-Panther conflict in 1969 and the treatment which was given to it in the press.  I suggest that the article illustrates much more.  Like all illustration, it is subject to the objection that what happened in that instance was not typical of what usually happens.  It is significant, however, that the killings of Panthers by police were relatively objective matters, regarding which records and witnesses were available, and that they occurred entirely within American society.  If such events were falsely reported and grossly misrepresented for more than a year, how much possibility is there of press and academic error in regard to matters as complex and subjective as the purposes and conduct of War in S.E. Asia or the urgency of political and social reform in the United States?


    Personally, I feel deeply indebted to Mr. Epstein.  For a number of years I have contended—despite periodic attacks of self-doubt—that the crisis in America consists mostly of panic.  I have put the blame for public hysteria chiefly upon the press and my own colleagues, villains uncomfortably numerous, prestigious, and close to where I live.  Since I have made little specific comment upon police-Panther relations or upon how the press reported them, Mr. Epstein has not proved me to be correct.  His article does illustrate, however, that those who are suppose to provide information and enlightenment to America are capable of intellectual and moral judgments as shallow as any with which I have charged them.


By Ivan W. Parkins

The following graph, and my letter to the Wall Street Journal, are both based upon a study done by the National Center for Health Statistics. When I raised questions based upon a brief news item, I received a copy of the 1983 publication from the Center.


I believe that many issues regarding the war in Vietnam were treated in a manner by most American media that showed much the same callous disregard for (whole) truth illustrated in Epstein’s article.  (Epstein first came to my attention when he published one of the earliest, and most reasonable, books on investigation of President Kennedy’s assassination.)  There is, now, little danger that we will lack well publicized information regarding our economic crisis, but old habits of what sources to trust, and how much, die hard.

Letter to the Editor



By Ivan W. Parkins

     Mr. Owen’s piece contrasts with a less publicized story that is well supported by statistics.  Suicide and homicide rates among young American civilians rose sharply in the 1960s and ’70s.  That increase alone cost more lives than did combat in Vietnam.  The total of youthful homicides and suicides in those two decades was about three times our fatalities in military combat.



  Ivan W. Parkins


I am happy to have been a part, tiny but relevant, of THE MOST GRAND ADVENTURE,  an adventure in which one recently emerged species seeks to comprehend, and to increase its viability in, a celestial realm where even the planet of our birth is less weighty than one gain of sand on a large beach.


Several millennia ago, some humanoids became sapient, i.e. they became Homo Sapiens, the “knower's”.  That process, was then and is now, mostly one of trading individual freedoms to face innumerable natural hazards alone and in small informal groups for the partial security that comes from uniting with other human beings.


Often there is much to be gained in well chosen sacrifices of freedom, and even lower species enjoy a few of them.  However, with man’s greater knowledge have come not only gains of freedom, but an increasingly complex need to choose, and to do so with ever greater wisdom.


Freedom can be a dangerous mistress, and those who fail to weigh their choices wisely can be dangerous to both themselves and the rest of us.


It is my belief that Christ’s example, and Christianity’s real message, is to live with great consideration for others and be prepared to die for them too.  Long tenure is not for every individual; it is for the species Homo Sapiens, in a universe where only his best and most thoughtful efforts are apt to preserve him for many millennia.


I’ve often thought that it would be good to have shared a bit of character from two distant uncles, John “Appleseed” Chapman










and Isaac Brock














I’d like to be able both to plant apple trees and to charge up that damned hill, and to know when to do each.


One of the ideas that I acquired from my father was that what really mattered in how a person managed his life was that he left the world a little better than he found it.  That, I think, derives from Swedenborg.
















Another idea, one that I believe has been a more frequent guide to me, is that I should not be overly concerned about being watched by someone else, neither a super human nor another human being; what mattered most was that I act consistently with the kind of person that I wanted to be.

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