The view from China

By Lu Fan

Chinese media think that U.S. and South Korean media are inaccurately framing relations between China and North Korea as China acting as big brother to the North. This inaccurate framing results in an expectation that China will take an important role in controlling North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s called “China’s responsibility theory.”

The basis for reasons for the theory is:

  • Korea even pledged allegiance to some feudal dynasties in China in history
  • In 1950s, China sent troops to the Korean peninsula to support Pyongyang against the United States Army.
  • China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner. According to Observatory of Economic Complexity, 85 percent of North Korea’s imported commodities come from China.

However, this is not what Chinese government or its official media think. A commentary in Global Times on Sept. 7, a newspaper launched and published by People’s Daily, the official newspaper of Chinese Communist Party, said the influence China has on North Korea has been mistakenly exaggerated, and that playing a leading role in the Korean Peninsula issues is beyond China’s capability.

“North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapon is the result of the abnormal politics of the whole Northeastern Asian. North Korea itself and the U.S. are responsible for this result. Some Chinese overestimate the power of China…” However, a reader commented below the article: “Since China has chosen to let North Korea be independent on how to develop, then China has to accept the consequence of doing so.”

http://mil.huanqiu.com/observation/2017-09/11221915.html

Another commentary in this newspaper published in July said “the U.S. and South Korea always try to frame the complicated situation based on their own logic, ” so “China’s responsibility theory” prevails. The commentary also called for official guidance on public opinions to eliminate “China’s responsibility theory” as Chinese government usually guide and shape public opinion by publishing information and reporting on official media.

http://opinion.huanqiu.com/editorial/2017-07/11052395.html

A program called Chinese Perspective (Shendu Guoji) of CCTV, the state-run TV station in China, also made a similar point in March when South Korea and the U.S. were conducting joint military exercises. The program blamed the U.S. for forcing North Korea to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and later prepare for war.   The editor of the program said, “The more pressure the U.S. puts on North Korea, the more North Korea develops nuclear weapons. The Korean nuclear crisis has entered a vicious cycle,” and cited Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The cause and crux of the North Korean nuclear issue lies not with China, but with America. The nature of the North Korean nuclear issue is a North Korea/U.S. conflict… and the one who caused the problem should solve it.”

The editor of Chinese Perspective also says the current situation is a result of “extreme mutual distrust between the U.S. and North Korea.” The initiative to solve the problems is in the hand of the U.S., according to Teng Jianqun, director of the Institute of U.S. Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.   According to Teng, the U.S. wouldn’t sign the peace treaty because “it would not have the excuse to cause chaos, stir up trouble and create tensions” on the Korean peninsula.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Npl2qo2uXVk

There were a few dissents to this consensus view. Qiu Zhenhai, an analyst of Hong Kong Phoenix TV Station, said on Sept. 7 that the U.S. and China need to take responsibility for solving the nuclear issue as they are the two largest economic powers in the world.

To respond to North Korea’s possessing and launching nuclear weapons, South Korea deployed its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system. China has opposed deployment of Thadd in South Korea from the very beginning, saying it threatened the safety of China and Chinese people. China News Live, a program of Hong Kong Phoenix TV Station, reported that China regards North Korea developing nuclear weapons as extreme, but the deployment of Thaad is as extreme as North Korea because it threatens the peace of Korean Peninsula. Yang Xiyu, a member of China Institute of International Studies, said in an interview in China New Live that Thaad gives North Korea an excuse to launch missiles, which is a security threat to China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. as well as the Sino-U.S. cooperation on North Korea nuclear issue.

A commentary of Global Times in August refers the action of South Korea deploying Thaad as reckless and stupid because Thaad isn’t going to solve nuclear problem. It also says that Western countries always bear moral arrogance towards non-Western world, which needs to be restrained because the situation is not as simple as only NK did something wrong.

http://opinion.huanqiu.com/editorial/2017-08/11087006.html

Social media in—entertainment, fear and censorship

Before North Korea’s missile launch Sept. 3, Chinese social media users considered Kim Jung-un’s missile launch a threat only in words. Many social media users had joked that such news about Trump and Kim fighting in words should be moved to entertainment section.

However, things changed Sept. 3. At first, most mainstream media reported that an earthquake happened in North Korea. About nine hours later, CCTV published on Weibo, a Twitter-like social networking site in China, that North Koreans were conducting nuclear missile test according to Chinese government’s preliminary judgment.

According to the BBC, the popular social networking site Weibo and mobile APP Wechat (Chinese version of WhatsApp) were highly censored after the launch. Weibo users still cannot see any results if searching for the word “hydrogen bomb” on Weibo until this GJR newsletter is posted. Instead, they see a notice of “according to relative law, regulation and policy, the search results of ‘’ are not shown.”

But Weibo users still find a way to express their feelings. One of the users “Yaoguangxiao_wayne” posted on Sept. 5: “As a Chinese, one of the surviving skills is to sort out the truth from various life-concerning but paradox information from authoritative sources. Since the day before yesterday (Sept 3), (the official media) have been deleting posts and announce that the test has no influence on China while publishing such information via the Weather Bureau…” The information this user refers to is that Chinese Weather Bureau announced they had started an emergency security alert and warned of a burst of nuclear environment pollution, suggesting an emergency plan for members of the public to protect themselves.

Chinese Weather Bureau announced on Sept. 10 they had withdrawn such an alert after they had tested the air and found nothing dangerous.   However, many users left comments below this post that they do not believe the Weather Bureau’s claim that there was nothing dangerous.

South Koreans more worried about U.S. and Trump than North Korean nuclear threat

By Jin Lee

If you Google, South Korea and Seoul are listed as two of the safest countries and cities in the world. That South Korea is the safest country is sharply contrasted with the images of the Korean Peninsula, as described recently by the media in both the United States and around the world. Although North Korea has been a big headache to the U.S. since the Cold War, the nuclear threat of North Korea became more intense lately, especially since President Donald Trump took office.

It is true North Korea’s nuclear testing appears improved enough to threaten the U.S. The missile launched late in August traveled some 1,700 miles and flew over the Japanese territory. Time magazine said, given the distance and type of the missile, the recent test shows North Korea is targeting the U.S. territory of Guam. Indeed, North Korea stated it is “examining a plan” to strike Guam with missiles, hours after Trump warned the North in early August that any threat to the U.S. would face “fire and fury.”

This situation is translated as a “crisis” on the entire Korean Peninsula by both the U.S. and international news media. The frequently appearing news coverage on the Peninsula is heightening the world’s attention and fear as the headlines of major news agencies demonstrate. For instance: “Putin warns of ‘global catastrophe’ over North Korea” (CNN, Sept. 5), “Trump renews threat of force against North Korea over nuclear weapons” (Washington Post, Sept. 8), “Trump: ‘Sad day’ for North Korea if U.S. takes military action” (Reuters, Sept. 8).

However, media in South Korea show the situation in a different light, as “the crisis” is not perceived as provocations of the North and thus fail to draw attention by South Korean citizens. On Aug. 29, when North Korea confirmed the “success” of a ballistic missile test, the most read news stories on South Korean portal websites, Naver and Daum, were “Gangseo District residents (in Seoul) disagreement over a planned special education school for disabled children,” “South Korea spy agency admits attempting to rig 2013 presidential election for the conservative party,” “Hurricane Harvey resulted from global warming,” and weather news. News about the nuclear threat from North Korea’s missile test was located below these and other national news stories and South Koreans saw little news of North Korea’s nuclear tests.

On Twitter on that day, South Korean users massively tweeted about “a clear sky signaled the arrival of the fall in Korea” while sarcastically but rarely mentioning the missile test. South Korea’s fall sky, while clear, is difficult to see due to air pollution from China. One tweet was retweeted more than 41,000 times, saying:

“N.K.: Missile launched! East Sea, passed! Japan, passed!

Japan: OMG, what’s going on? Military provocation? War?

S.K.: Wow, such a fall sky today”

The number of retweets of this tweet demonstrates while South Koreans know about North Korea’s testing, they are not alarmed and see it simply as “old” news.

In U.N. speech on September 19, Trump threatens “to totally destroy North Korea” calling Kim Jong Un as “rocket man.” South Korean newspapers translate it into Korean in their online news articles. One comment on the news article on the Web amounted 1,865 likes within four hours, said, “Is this correct translation? Don’t mistranslate and write news overreacting. I am more scared by journalism that provokes fear and plays on South Koreans than by North Korea’s nuclear threat.”

When Trump tweeted “Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad” on September 17, major South Korean news agencies mistranslated: “A long gas pipe line is formed in North Korea now. Regretful.” Then news continues, “This tweet seems to show Trump’s opinion opposed to President Moon’s discussion of an idea to connect gas pipe lines through South Korea, North Korea, and Russia in Moon’s last visit in Russia. The point is made that Trump’s tweet may criticize South Korea attempting to enhance economic cooperation with North Korea through negotiations with Russia, an ally of North Korea. Given that Trump tweet mentions a call with President Moon, there is a chance Trump might have delivered his opinions directly to President Moon.”

Major news agencies in South Korea are undergoing journalists’ protests, being accused of news managers’ interference in news coverage in favor of the previous government (President Lee, President Park) and Korean conservative party (Liberty Korea Party) after the center-left party Democratic Party won 2017 presidential election and became the ruling party.

Reasons for this lack of concern are varied. One might blame political indifference of young generations or one might blame the characteristic of Twitter as one of the new media where “soft news” is more consumed than “hard news” as users are free to say anything at any moment. Too, there are other explanations for indifference or sarcasm toward North Korea’s missile tests, which are found on new media, such as Twitter, Facebook and other online sites.

While some South Korean traditional media talk about a possible scenario of North Korea’s attack on the South, implying a need to strengthen the army, scholars and international news agencies point out that North Korea targets the U.S., not South Korea. The size of the Korean Peninsula, some 87,270 square miles, is about one-half the size of California. Given this, North Korea’s attempt to broaden the range of its missile is not seen by most media here as targeting the South. South Korean citizens acknowledge this, and thus show little interest in do the North’s missile tests.

In addition, North Korea has repeatedly made such threats over the years as there have been a number of such tests since the end of the Korean War. Tests of missiles have often been covered by “old” media when South Korea’s congress or government needs to conceal something. The most recent example is the corruption scandal of the former President Park. When the scandal began to be revealed, the government and conservative party (majority then) played the North Korea card to distract people’s attention by focusing on security.

However, South Koreans no longer seem to buy this idea. Thus, when the political scandal was exposed, on many online sites and new media South Korean users predicted the missile tests of the North would be performed, and thus covered by the government and news. And that’s what happened. The next day, the North’s missile test took place and the South Korean government and congress used a familiar script in addressing its population: “Dear South Korean citizens. The threat of the North Korean nuclear issue becomes more intense. However, this is the time for us to hold our hands together and push through today’s difficulties…” As this script has been repeated so many times in past years, news of the North Korean missile testing was simply dismissed by most South Koreans.

In recent weeks in South Korea there have been critiques of the Trump administration on Facebook, Twitter and the Internet. One Twitter example said “Trump or Bush? They are just same. Terrify people, evoke fear by repeating North Korea. Trump will try to sell weapons, as always.” Similar rhetoric has frequently appeared in many posts on South Korean Facebook, Twitter and in online news.

Predicted on tweets, three days after North Korea’s missile test, Trump tweeted, “I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.” A number of South Korean tweets followed, with people swearing and saying, “I knew it; this was the plan.”

Hong-gul Kim, son of Kim Dae-Jung (the 15th president of South Korea), posted his tweet, “Trump is making every effort to take advantage of this nuclear crisis of North Korea as a chance for selling the weapon.”

Reports from some South Korean news agencies criticized the U.S. Seoul Sinmun, for example, asked in early September, “Trump’s outright pressure on us to buy weapon. Is there a deal going on between South Korea and the U.S.?”

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, South Korea is a major consumer of U.S. weapons, and, the U.S. government sent about $10 billion worth of weapons to foreign countries in 2016. It has long been reported here that the U.S. exerts pressure on South Korea to purchase “high priced but low quality” American weapons.

First Amendment expert calls Post-Dispatch editorial on protests ‘irresponsible’ and imprecise

Publisher’s note:  Gregory Magarian, one of the nation’s leading First Amendment experts and a professor at Washington University Law School, criticized the Sunday Post-Dispatch editorial for irresponsibly lumping together violent and non-violent protests.  He sent this letter to the Post-Dispatch Editorial Editor Tod Robberson after the editorial criticized actions of protesters following the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley. Magarian says Robberson replied “We stand by the editorial as written.” Here is a link to the editorial and the text of Magarian’s letter. http://www.stltoday.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-making-sense-of-senseless-protest-violence/article_4933d67c-9971-53c2-a8d6-ae5bde3dd9bb.html

Mr. Robberson,

I teach constitutional law at the Washington University School of Law. I specialize in First Amendment law. Two of the topics that most concern me are the freedom of the press and rights of public protest. (Being a law professor I talk too much, so I apologize in advance for the length of this message.)

With the utmost respect, I think your editorial today (Sunday) on the protests and violence this weekend (“Making sense of senseless protest violence”) was wildly irresponsible. I agree with some parts of the editorial and disagree with others, but my sharp concern goes to one particular problem: treating nonviolent protesters and violent actors as an undifferentiated mass. That approach demonizes nonviolent protesters and contributes to a growing culture in our country of hostility to free speech. A newspaper, of all entities, should know better.

Let me get two important caveats out of the way:

First, I agree without reservation that the violence and vandalism that happened this weekend are entirely wrong. My purpose here is to defend the actions of nonviolent protesters, not to condone or excuse violence in any way. (I live a block from the mayor’s house, so I’m acutely hostile toward the people who committed violence in my own neighborhood.)

Second, I don’t mean to suggest that the bad practice I’m criticizing is unusual to the P-D. In fact, the problem is endemic to media coverage of public protest. I’m writing to you because, like most people, I have special concern for my city and its institutions.

The reality of public protests, which I’m sure you know at least as well as I do, is that a lot of different people and factions participate in a variety of different actions. Most mass protests are carefully organized, with articulated goals. At the other extreme, usually at night, different elements with their own agendas get involved. In particular, two groups with violent intent come out at night: anarchist-black bloc-antifa types, whose m.o. is to hijack protests with their own more violent methods, and knuckleheads (for want of a better term) who have no political agenda but just want to break things.

The nonviolent protesters bear no responsibility — none — for the actions of violent actors. I suspect that the majority of violent actors don’t even participate in nonviolent protests, though I can’t prove that suspicion. In any event, to blame violence on the nonviolent protesters is a very dangerous kind of guilt by association. Ah, you might respond, but the nonviolent protesters create the context in which the violent actors can do bad things. In a way that’s true, but it proves far too much. By that logic, any public protest is wrong.

Imagine if the P-D broke a major corruption story about a public official. Your reporters sourced the story well and published only those allegations and claims for which they could find a solid basis. The story creates a major buzz in the city. Other, less responsible media outlets, exploiting the public anger at the official that the P-D’s reporting has triggered, publish egregious charges against the official that those other outlets know are false. The official, in response, sues the P-D for libel. That lawsuit, of course, would be indefensible.

Your editorial today is a direct parallel.

You acknowledge that Friday’s daytime protests were “mostly peaceful.” Even in talking about those protests, though, you make no effort to distinguish the protesters who remained peaceful from the individuals who committed violent acts. You say “bricks and water bottles were hurled.” That passive voice is a cop-out. It implies that the “mostly peaceful” protest degenerated into the hurling of bricks and bottles. But we know that’s not what happened. “The protest” wasn’t a single, concerted phenomenon. The clergy and community organizers who engineered the major protest didn’t decide, at some point, to start throwing bricks. Most people on that street started peaceful and stayed peaceful. A much smaller number of people threw bricks bottles. Those are two very different groups of actors. They aren’t all simply “the protesters” engaged in “the protests.”

The problem gets worse as the editorial goes on. Here’s the passage that really bothers me:  “Some protesters have said they plan to attack symbols of commerce and inflict discomfort on the comfortable. Even if they rationalize property destruction as legitimate protest, why attack the mayor’s house?”

I tried to follow the first hyperlink in that passage, to see exactly what you were referencing, but the link is dead, so I have to work from my knowledge and assumptions. Protest organizers have indeed said they intend to “attack symbols of commerce and inflict discomfort,” if by “attack” you mean “disrupt.” That’s a core strategy of these protests and of the Black Lives Matter movement more broadly. You then accuse these disruption organizers of “rationaliz[ing] property destruction as legitimate protest.”

I’m having a hard time finding words to describe how much that bothers me. I don’t know of any disruption organizers who have rationalized violence. The organizers explicitly portray the disruption strategy as nonviolent — aggressive, for sure, but getting in someone’s way isn’t property destruction. However, even if some disruption organizer has rationalized violence, your “they” implies that all disruption organizers have done so. Then the passage’s second “attack” clearly refers to the vandalism of the mayor’s house. At that point, you’re portraying the architects of the disruption strategy and the vandals who physically attacked the mayor’s home as the same people.

Unless you have evidence of those linkages (which in that event you should publish), they fail every standard I’m aware of for responsible journalism.

Why does this matter? A few days ago, a KMOV reporter interviewed me about the recent incident in Kirkwood when a motorist plowed into some protesters ahead of the Stockley verdict. She wanted me to talk about the permissible conduct of drivers who encounter protests that block streets. The core of what I said was: If you’re a driver, you don’t get to run anybody down, even if they’re unlawfully blocking your way. The online version of the KMOV story got a lot of heated reactions from our fellow citizens who insisted that they of course have every right to run down protesters who block the road, and by God they’ll run those bastards down if they want to.

The right and the ability to protest publicly are crucial to a functioning democratic society. Unfortunately, as that little anecdote indicates, a lot of people have an irrational hatred for protesters. (Note also the spate of recent state legislative proposals to restrict public protest in various ways.) By conflating nonviolent protesters and violent actors, the P-D (and other media outlets) feeds that irrational hatred.

I respectfully urge you and the P-D’s news and editorial departments to do better. Describe protests more accurately and precisely. Emphasize the presence in and around protests of different actors with different agendas. Identify, to the extent possible, which people and groups say and do which things in the course of protests. Emphasize not just that a day’s aggregate activities were “mostly peaceful” but that most protesters that day were entirely peaceful. Report and describe nonviolent actions with as much detail as you report violent actions. Basically, do what you usually do so well — help the public understand what’s actually going on.

Thank you for hearing me out.
Greg Magarian

The view from Taiwan

by Wen-Hung Hsieh and Shu-Ling Wu

The end of WWII led to the split of many regions in Asia. Today, the division between North and South Korea and the complexity of the situation between China and Taiwan remain two of the most pressing issues perplexing countless Asia experts. And with North Korea’s nuclear detonation in early September, the largest such to date, the situation is more tense than ever before.

North Korea and Taiwan, despite their differing political ideologies nevertheless share common ground. They are both being isolated by the international community while also being intricately connected to the United States, China and Japan. The vastly different ideologies of North Korea and Taiwan have resulted in North Korea being grouped with China while Taiwan is constantly seeking U.S. and Japanese involvement. So how does Taiwan look at the escalating tension between the U.S. and North Korea?

U.S. options

On August 29, at roughly 6 a.m. local time, an abrupt missile warning from Japan’s government shocked and frightened the Japanese society. North Korea launched a missile over Japan that crashed into the Pacific Ocean. According to CNN, the launch may have been a strong message in response to the joint South Korean-American military exercises. In the wake of this incident, U.S. President Donald Trump warned North Korea that “all options are on the table.” Due to Taiwan’s unique political situation, the media in Taiwan show diverging opinions with regards to the U.S.’s responses and solutions to the military threats from North Korea.

New Taiwan Refueling, a popular talk show hosted by Liao Xiao-jun of the SET News Channel, reported the U.S. could easily stop any attack should North Korea strike at American territory.  SET has asserted the U.S. is ready to fend off North Korean missiles aimed at Guam, and any attack directed at U.S. soil would justify a full-fledged retaliation, potentially resulting in the end of the current North Korean regime.  Nonetheless, an expert of missile engineering Zhang Cheng, said the U.S. offers an alternative for Pyongyang, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for the stability of the regime.  The talk show emphasized that the U.S. — and the Trump administration —had the power in control of the hostile situation in the Pacific.

On the other hand, another talk show, Deep Throat News, hosted by Ping Xiu-lin of Chung T’ien Television, presented a different perspective on U.S. options in the face of North Korean threats. This talk show strongly questioned America’s role as the protector of its allies in the Pacific by basing its argument on how the U.S. had responded to the new missile-testing over Japan. An invited expert on domestic and international affairs, Lai Yue-qian, said the U.S. apparently had not kept its promise to shoot down North Korean missiles flying across Japan’s territory. He claimed the anti-missile system, Patriot PAC-3, deployed in Japan and the recently deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System in South Korea, might not have the capability to intercept North Korean missiles at altitudes above 500 kilometers, which is beyond the range of interception for both anti-missile systems deployed by America in Japan and South Korea.

The talk show also suggested that had the U.S. attempted to intercept the missile and failed, it would seriously have affected the U.S.’s selling of the anti-missile systems to other nations. Furthermore, Tainan City Councilor Xie Long-jie said that with the Trump administration’s focus on America’s own domestic economy, going head to head with North Korea would not be in the U.S.’s best interests. However, Gao Si-buo, an associate professor of the Department of Law at Shih Hsin University, argued that the only option left for the U.S. is to accept North Korea as a nuclear power in the same way countries as are America, India and Pakistan, and to seek a diplomatic means to keep peace with North Korea.

Taiwan’s stance

At the August Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue in Taipei, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan is committed to its partners on a coordinated response to the instability in the Korean Peninsula through efforts such as economic sanctions on North Korea. Under Tsai’s administration, siding with the U.S. and Japan on issues regarding North Korea is aligned with her attempts in seeking partnerships with other nations to gain global recognition.

Tsai’s response has to do with Taiwan’s politically ambiguous status where Taiwan is neither a country nor controlled by China and therefore has been marginalized from world events. However, Tsai’s inclination to work with the U.S. and Japan is controversial. Storm Media Group in Taiwan, for instance, published a recent article criticizing such an approach to gain global recognition.

According to the article, this is not Taiwan’s first time being actively involved in a global crises in order to be recognized as a nation. Taiwan, for example, volunteered to send troops to assist the U.S. with the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Such attempts were never formally acknowledged by the U.S. The article’s author, Chen Zong-yi, said endangering Taiwan’s own safety in exchange for global recognition is unwise as demonstrated by Taiwan’s being targeted by terrorist groups as a result of supporting the U.S. with logistics in the Iraq War.

While Taiwan enjoys a high degree of freedom in news reporting, both the media and government examine international issues with their own interests and unique international status in mind. And the way they approach the U.S.-North Korea tension is no exception.

 

Authors’ note:

Wen-Hung Hsieh is a PhD student of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is currently researching topics regarding the relationship between materiality and issues of identity, with the primary focus on China, Taiwan and Japan.

Shu-Ling Wu is Assistant Professor of Chinese at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She enjoys teaching Chinese language and culture courses and aims to cultivate experts who can contribute to the exchanges and dialogues between the East and the West.  

This isn’t funny

Opinion

by William H. Freivogel

My nephew, a lawyer, said recently that President Trump is hilarious. The press falls right into Trump’s trap by taking him too seriously, he said.

A few days later, my tennis partner, another lawyer, said the same thing. The press takes Trump’s tweets too literally, he said.

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, wrote last week that the press has easily fallen into its assigned role in the Trump reality show by playing the part of the Evil Empire.

And last Friday, the conservative commentator on NPR’s weekly review of the news defended one of the worst weeks of the Trump presidency with peals of laughter. John Phillips of the Orange County Register said cheerfully,  “I love the speeches. And I love the Twitter feed because it’s just this never-ending festivious airing of the grievances. And look…He ran as a disruptor. He ran as a guy who was going to…drain the swamp.” http://www.npr.org/2017/08/25/546186247/week-in-politics-trump-takes-swipe-at-fellow-republicans

Maybe Trump would seem funny, in some crude way, if he were still a blowhard TV celebrity rather than a blowhard president occupying the most serious job on the planet — the one that protects nuclear codes and the values of what Reagan called a Shining City upon a Hill.

But last week Trump continued his unfunny war on the press, the rule of law and the principle of equality that American patriots declared as the reason to fight the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

He did all of these things in one stroke by pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been found guilty of criminal contempt after he ignored the Bill of Rights, defied the federal courts, persecuted Latinos and arrested journalists. https://www.propublica.org/article/sheriff-joe-arpaio-trump-pardon-aside-reporters-long-rap-sheet

Pardoning Arpaio is an apt reminder of Trump’s glaring deficiencies as president.  Arpaio:

  • joined Trump in the racist, untrue birther movement to delegitimize the nation’s first black president.
  • joined Trump in calling for a border wall to keep out Mexicans.
  • ignored the orders of federal courts telling the sheriff to stop violating the Constitution by rounding up Latinos on nothing more than suspicion. Trump saw nothing wrong with the way Sheriff Joe did his job.

Former Sen. John C. Danforth, the founder of the modern Republican Party in Missouri, put Trump in his place in a Washington Post op-ed last week, saying Trump is the antithesis of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln.

Danforth wrote, “We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and our founding principle is our commitment to holding the nation together… Lincoln believed that we were one nation, and he led us in a war to preserve the Union. That founding principle of the party is also a founding principle of the United States.

“Now comes Trump, who is exactly what Republicans are not…. We are the party of the Union, and he is the most divisive president in our history…. It isn’t a matter of occasional asides, or indiscreet slips of the tongue uttered at unguarded moments. Trump is always eager to tell people that that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, ‘You are not one of us,’ the opposite of ‘e pluribus unum.’ And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses…. Our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-exactly-what-republicans-are-not/2017/08/24/9909a320-8832-11e7-a50f-e0d4e6ec070a_story.html?utm_term=.c8dd252d1cab

Sen. Danforth is a serious man. He doesn’t seem amused.

No, Mr. President

by William H. Freivogel

Opinion

No, Mr. President, it isn’t true that journalists “don’t like our country.” Our job is to hold our country and our president to the values of freedom, equality and diversity that make America special.

No, it isn’t true journalists are “liars” and “sick people” who write “fake news” and stir up “division” in the country. The news you call fake is real and the sharp divisions since Charlottesville are largely a product of your making. Think about last week’s unhinged press conference in Trump Tower.

No, journalists are not trying to “take back our history and our culture.” And exactly what is it about the culture of the Confederacy and the Old South that you want to celebrate? The treasonous attempt of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee to destroy the United States? The evil and bloody war to preserve the original sin of slavery? The post-war disenfranchisement, segregation and lynchings of African-Americans in carnival-like settings?

No, Mr. President, it isn’t okay to whip up the crowd to get them shouting at the press corps. Journalists have thick skins but it is beneath the office of president to lead your supporters in chants directed at the people who are the eyes and ears of the rest of the nation.

No, you haven’t accomplished more in seven months than any president in history, although your total number of misleading and false claims is a record, now topping 1,000. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/08/22/president-trumps-list-of-false-and-misleading-claims-tops-1000/?utm_term=.b71800c70e16

In one long, rambling speech to shouting supporters in Phoenix Tuesday night, Trump said all of these things in expanding on what has become a perpetual war against “the enemy of the people.”

CNN’s Sara Murray reported “most of the people at these rallies — even ones booing — treat it as a joke,” but added “there are some who treat Trump’s ‘fake news’ diatribes seriously.

“They believe it when Trump lies about the cameras being turned off. They harass reporters and photographers. Trump knows what he’s saying is false. People close to him know it puts journalists at risk just for doing their jobs. He does it anyway.”

Even though Trump has failed to pass signature legislation on health or tax or infrastructure, the seven months of his failed presidency have been remarkable for scandal and dysfunction.

Who would have guessed that by summer Trump would be attacking Sen. Mitch McConnell or that the Senate majority leader would be wondering out loud whether Trump’s presidency could survive the damage the commander-in-chief already had inflicted?

Who would have thought on Inauguration Day that Flynn, Priebus, Bannon, Spicer and Comey all would be gone?

Who would have thought the leaders of industry would resign from Trump’s White House panels because of the president’s failure of moral leadership after Charlottesville?

Who would have thought Robert Mueller would be special counsel delving deeply into the Russia investigation — an investigation that has upset Trump so much he tried to get the FBI director to drop it, tried to get intelligence chiefs to resist it, fired the FBI director over it, dictated the misleading cover story to conceal it and berated Sessions and McConnell for failing to protect him from it?

Mr. President, the press’s job is not to make the nation’s CEO look good. It’s to hold the president and other public officials to the nation’s laws, constitutional principles and core values. If the president makes mistakes, it’s the press’ job to alert the American people. If the other branches of government fail to check presidential abuses, it’s the press’ job to serve as a constitutional check by bringing the abuses to light.

Yes, the press wants to make American great again. Shining a light both on the president’s — or the nation’s — accomplishments and shortcomings is a journalist’s form of patriotism.

The Constitution under stress after Charlottesville

Opinion

by William H. Freivogel

The bloody weekend in Charlottesville, Va. has put enormous strain on President Donald Trump, the First Amendment and constitutional checks on the president.

Trump flunked the stress test spectacularly in his unhinged, red-faced rant of a press conference by failing to speak to the nation with the voice of moral authority.

The First Amendment emerged from the weekend tattered, facing new questions about how to protect protests when demonstrators are hateful and armed.

But the separation of powers held up pretty well. An unprecedented number of top Republicans criticized their own party’s president for failing to call out white supremacists and neo-Nazis. And the mainstream media continued to pepper Trump with hard questions in the face of the president’s repeated and false refrain about “fake media.” People would understand his view on Charlottesville, he claimed, “if the press were not fake and were honest.”

Going ‘rogue’

Trump wasn’t supposed to answer questions after his Trump Tower event on infrastructure on Tuesday, but he went “rogue,” as one staffer put it. Chief of Staff John Kelly stood glumly to one side.

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, standing near the president, was “particularly displeased” according to Politico, that “the president launched into a rant about the culpability of the ‘alt-left’ while calling some of the protesters at the white nationalist rally ‘very fine people.’”

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, also was trapped next to Trump. McConnell on Wednesday said simply, “There are no good neo-Nazis.”

Exhibiting the nastiness he shows when backed into a corner, Trump went out of his way to attack Sen. John McCain, R-Az. Asked about McCain’s criticism of the alt-right, Trump shot back, “you mean Sen. McCain who voted against us getting good health care.” Then, in an especially distasteful quip, he added sarcastically, “I’m sure Sen. McCain must know what he’s talking about it.” McCain is under treatment for brain cancer.

By Wednesday the resignations of seven top industry leaders from presidential advisory councils led Trump to dissolve two of them. He didn’t hesitate to blast some of those who quit in protest for failing to bring jobs back to the United States.

Sprinkled throughout the press conference were attacks at the media. “I’m not finished, fake news,” he said when he thought a reporter was interrupting. At another point, he suggested his view would be better understood “if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you are not….”

“Unlike the media before I make a statement I like to know the facts … I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters” — a claim that doesn’t pass the sniff test coming from the president who has lied more often in his first year of office than any other president.

But most disheartening was the ignorance of American history explicit and implicit in his comments. He defended the “very fine people” there because of “the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.” He said these protests were understandable when “you are changing history, you are changing culture” by taking down Confederate monuments.

Never mind that these “very fine people” were standing next to white supremacists and Nazi’s chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” Never mind that the city had changed the name from Lee Park to Emancipation Park. Never mind that Trump failed to see the difference between Robert E. Lee, a traitor who fought a war to destroy the United States, and George Washington, who fought a war to create it.

First Amendment

After the death of a counter-protester and two police officers, the ACLU and federal courts faced criticism for having forced the city to allow the demonstration in Emancipation Park, rather than another park a mile away.

As a matter of black letter law, U.S. District Judge Glen E. Conrad was right to issue an injunction forcing the city to allow the demonstration in Emancipation Park. The judge noted that the city had tried to move the white supremacists’ rally away from Emancipation Park, but had not revoked the counter-demonstrators’ permits for the area near that park. This amounted to discrimination against the white supremacists based on the content of their speech, which violates the First Amendment. http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/wvir/documents/kessler-federal.pdf

But Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern suggest future First Amendment cases may have to factor in the growth of the Second Amendment and open carry movement. They wrote:

“The judge (Conrad) failed to answer the central question: When demonstrators plan to carry guns and cause fights, does the government have a compelling interest in regulating their expressive conduct more carefully than it’d be able to otherwise? This is not any one judge’s fault. It is a failure of our First Amendment jurisprudence to reckon with our Second Amendment reality.” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/08/the_first_and_second_amendments_clashed_in_charlottesville_the_guns_won.html

Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, made a similar point in the Lawfare blog. He noted that Justice Robert H. Jackson had once cautioned that if the court “does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact. https://www.lawfareblog.com/first-amendment-grounds-charlottesville

Twitter shaming

Another media-related First Amendment issue emerging from Charlottesville was the Twitter campaign – @YesYoureRacist – to shame white supremacists and neo-Nazis who attended the rally.

A first casualty was Cole White, a cook at a hot dog stand in Berkeley, Calif. who lost his job after he was outed as a demonstrator. White has no First Amendment protection because the amendment does not protect people from a private employer.

But Peter Cvjetanovic, a student and employee at the University of Nevada does have constitutional protection from the 10,000 petitioners who demanded him be expelled for his views.

The university said it rejected his views but added, “there is no constitutional or legal reason to expel him from our University or to terminate his employment.”

The university is right. As despicable as Cvjetanovic’s views are, they cannot be the basis of punishment by a state institution.

Those joining in the Twitter campaign might ask themselves how they would feel about a social media campaign to expel a member of Black Lives Matter or the anti-fascist Antifa group? They also might ask whether they want to be part of an online vigilante attack that sometimes mistakenly singles out lookalikes.

In an online piece of the New Yorker, the insightful journalist Robin Wright asks alarmingly, “Is America headed for a new kind of Civil War?” Wright quotes experts who warn America is not immune from the problems that befall other countries.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-america-headed-for-a-new-kind-of-civil-war

But that is a risk we should be able to avoid as long as the press and courts check the power of this wayward president, as long as Republicans with the spine of Sen. McCain criticize Trump’s excesses and as long as the First Amendment provides a constitutional way for protesters, right and left, to vent their anger.

Eyewitness to a century of big news stories

Publisher’s note:  Richard Dudman wrote this third-person autobiography about his career in 2004

by Richard Dudman

Dudman with Elizabeth Pond of the Christian Science Monitor and Michael Morrow of the Dispatch News Service International. The three were captured together in Cambodia in 1970.

Thirty years after his capture, Dudman interviews the former general who oversaw his captivity and release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Richard Dudman was captured in Cambodia in 1970 by Viet Cong guerrillas when covering the Vietnam war for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he whispered to his two fellow journalists, “If we get out of here alive, we’ll have one hell of a good story.”

The remark was partly in fun, intended to bolster the spirits of the younger reporters, as the three of them were marched off into the jungle with their hands in the air and AK-47s pointed at their backs.

But, at the same time that Dudman sensed the danger, he saw the capture as a rare opportunity to observe the other side in a war that he had been covering off and on for a decade as a correspondent for the Post-Dispatch.

When the three were released nearly six weeks later, Dudman told the story in a syndicated series of articles and later in a book, “40 Days with the Enemy.”  The personal experience enabled him to explain how the guerrilla soldiers’ survival skills and high morale had been able to withstand heavy U.S. bombing and how the American war seemed increasingly unwinnable.

 

Almost flunking out

The quest for a “good story” shaped Dudman’s entire career as a reporter over a span of 67 years.  As a college freshman, he started as a reporter and photographer for the Stanford Daily in 1936, with a summer job the following year on his uncle’s daily newspaper, the Oroville (Calif.) Mercury-Register.  He almost flunked out of Stanford through his devotion to journalism.

Dudman’s first job on a major paper was as a reporter on the Denver Post.  One of his best stories was an account of a Hispanic war veteran’s effort to buy a house in a restricted neighborhood.  The would-be buyer happened to have lost both legs as a U.S. Marine in the World War II battle of Guadalcanal.  The man had a good job managing the laundry at a veterans hospital and was clearly well qualified to buy the house – except that he was a “Mexican,” as the head of a Denver real estate company said.

The realtor tried to explain that the buyer would be happier in a neighborhood of his own kind. He was startled to learn that the reporter intended to write a story about the case and rushed to the newspaper office to try to prevent it. He went into the composing room and made the mistake of touching the lead type. Outraged union typographers stopped him, and the story was printed. The man got the house.

While on the Denver Post, Dudman was sent to Europe to check on the strength of the Zionist movement among Jewish displaced persons.  He found his way into one of the semi-secret convoys arranged by the Haganah, the Jewish army, slipping out of Germany and heading for Palestine.  He joined the group and obtained a false passport identifying him as a Polish Jew named Yehashua Reiss. He covered the group until it was halted in Marseilles when the British intercepted an earlier group on the ship Exodus and returned the emigrants to a displaced-persons camp near Hamburg. Dudman switched to the Exodus story and covered it to the end.

 

Three decades at Post-Dispatch

In 31 years at the Post-Dispatch, he started as a reporter and rewrite man in St. Louis and wound up as chief Washington correspondent and head of the newspaper’s seven-member Washington bureau.  His last story in Washington was the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.  His leg was in a cast.  He had been hit by a taxicab on an earlier assignment.  Unable to get a cab, Dudman stumped from his office up to the Washington Hilton Hotel, scene of the attack.

While Dudman’s writing style emphasized clarity rather than clever writing, he always strove for forceful expression of the truth.  When he organized a special section on the end of the Vietnam War, timed for publication when Saigon fell to the communists, he started the lead article by calling the end of the war a national “defeat and humiliation.”  Those words made the headline. Most other papers’ wrap-ups on the war used the more acceptable but less accurate description as a “tragedy” or “a noble effort.”

He wrote the lead story when President Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impending impeachment and boarded a plane to leave Washington.  Dudman wrote that Nixon resigned “in disgrace.” But an editor deleted that phrase.

Dudman had the satisfaction of seeing his name on the “enemies list” compiled by Nixon’s staff, together with three other members of the paper’s Washington bureau.

He broke into national and international reporting by accident.  A heavy snowstorm tied up traffic in St. Louis shortly after he had joined the paper as a rewrite man.  He was able to drive the managing editor, Raymond Crowley, to work in his war-surplus Jeep, bumping over curbs and taking to the sidewalk to avoid drifts and stalled cars.  Later, when other reporters were out to lunch, Crowley sent him to cover a riot in the city workhouse.

Dudman hailed a cab and ordered the driver to fall in behind a police motorcycle and sidecar racing to the scene.  Dudman followed the officers into the workhouse courtyard, where prisoners were hurling rocks and bottles.  His eyewitness story helped create a reputation for resourcefulness and courage.

 

Fairground pool desegregation

Racial segregation was widely accepted in St. Louis in the early 1950s.  When the the city desegregated the swimming pool at Fairground Park, Dudman went there on his day off to see how things went.  Hostile whites lined the path as a black father and his children walked from a dressing room to the pool.  Several of the whites complained that the blacks didn’t really want to go swimming but were just trying to assert their rights.

Dudman volunteered a piece for the paper’s “dignity page’ – where it printed news analysis – making the point that the only way to protect civil rights was to exert them, even at personal hazard.

Crowley, by then managing editor, assigned Dudman to the Washington bureau in 1954, when he was completing a year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.

One of his first assignments as a member of the Washington staff was to cover the 1954 Guatemalan revolution that overthrew the elected leftist government. Dudman hired a horse and rode for two days to catch up with the invading forces led by Colonel Castillo Armas. He covered the fighting and the victorious march into Guatemala City but missed the fact that the CIA was backing what looked like a makeshift revolution.  From then on, he kept his bag packed and his passport up to date and watched more carefully for possible C.I.A. covert interventions.

Four years later, checking reports that the C.I.A. was preparing an invasion of Cuba, Dudman took a cab from Guatemala to Retalhuleu and found a Cuban emigres’ training camp, being prepared as a jump-off point for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Dudman covered the growth of American right-wing organizations.  In his 1962 paperback book “Men of the Far Right,” he speculated – accurately as it turned out – that the conservative movement might pull itself together, take over the Republican Party, and nominate Barry Goldwater for president.

One of his early scoops was obtaining a copy of the Dixon-Yates contract, a top-secret key document in an Eisenhower Administration plot to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority.  The Post-Dispatch published the entire text and expressed copies of the newspaper to Washington, where members of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy consulted it during public hearings on the matter.

 

Obtaining the Pentagon Papers

Much later, through his left-wing contacts, he was able to obtain parts of the Pentagon Papers shortly after The New York Times and The Washington Post had begun publishing the documents and had been enjoined by the Justice Department.

Dudman undertook several assignments in Latin America, covering the overthrow of Juan Peron in Argentina and a C.I.A.-supported revolution in the Dominican Republic.

He covered the Arab-Israeli war of 1956 and was on assignment in Lebanon when American troops landed in the Suez crisis. Entry into Iraq was blocked after the assassination of Nuri Said, so Dudman first flew to Kuwait and tried to charter a dhow to go up the Tigris River to Baghdad. When that effort failed, he flew to Turkey and hired a taxicab with two other reporters to take a desert track through Kurdish country to Baghdad.

His first venture in the Far East, in 1961, was an assignment, accompanied by Post-Dispatch photographer Paul Berg, to travel the rim of China and find out what he could about Mao Tse-tung’s regime. Americans were prohibited from visiting China at the time.  Most sources were predicting economic and political collapse, but Dudman got a different story by flying to Stockholm for talks with an old friend, Kjell Oberg, who had just completed a year as Sweden’s first ambassador to communist China.  With the help of Oberg’s insights, he was able to describe Mao’s China as likely to survive despite the blunders of the Great Leap Forward.

 

Questions about Vietnam War

On the same trip, Dudman paid his first visit to Vietnam.  Although he had no fixed view of the growing U.S. intervention, he soon found reasons for skepticism. He reported that U.S. warplanes were already firing on suspected Viet Cong forces, although the U. S. forces were officially only advisers.  On his arrival at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Airport, he observed a row of spigots along the wing of a U.S. warplane and reported on the American practice of crop destruction as a counterinsurgency measure.  He raised questions about the “strategic hamlets” program, in which Vietnamese villagers were screened and moved into supposedly secure communities surrounded by stockades and moats.

On a conducted tour of one such hamlet, he spotted a break in the moat and a building inside that was up against the stockade.  He asked for an explanation.  His guide, a U.S. military adviser, explained that the building, a rice storehouse, had been placed there deliberately, so that Viet Cong raiders could enter it in night and would not have to disturb the hamlet by breaking in.

In 1970, on one of his periodic trips to Vietnam, he arrived in Saigon just as President Richard Nixon was announcing a brief “incursion” into officially neutral Cambodia by U.S. and South Vietnamese troops.

Like other reporters, Dudman spent several days flying with troops in helicopters to outposts established in the jungle in the search for a supposed Vietcong “Pentagon” in what the Nixon administration called a “privileged sanctuary.”

When the search proved fruitless, Dudman and two other reporters, Elizabeth Pond of The Christian Science Monitor and Michael Morrow of Dispath News Service,  borrowed a Jeep and set out from Saigon to Phnom Penh to see how the invading South Vietnamese were treating their traditional enemies the Cambodians. They saw the South Vietnamese looting Cambodian rice warehouses and private homes, stuffing the sacks or rice and furniture into their military trucks.

 

Death or a good story

The Cambodia venture took a bad turn when the three reporters came to a blown-up bridge and a tree felled across the road.  Realizing that they were probably being ambushed, they began turning around.  Three Asian men carrying AK-47s stepped from behind trees and motioned them out of the car. After a quick body search, they marched the three reporters off into the jungle.  On bicycles and later in an open truck, they were taken deep into Viet Cong territory, then blindfolded, beaten over the head, and eventually taken before a senior Viet Cong officer.  He let them clean up, gave them some rice, and told them they would be freed if his investigation showed that they truly were reporters and not CIA spies.

Thus began several weeks of travel by night–first in a Land Rover and later on bicycles or on foot–and sleeping and resting by day in peasant huts on stilts, with five guerrilla escorts.  The idea was to keep out of sight of American planes, which probably would shoot anything moving on the ground, and avoid the U.S. and South Vietnamese tanks that they could often hear clanking though the jungle.

They soon began eating with their escorts, mainly rice, sometimes with a bit of vegetable or chicken.  Twice, on Vietnamese holidays, they ate roast dog, followed the next day by dog soup. They recognized afterward that the Stockholm syndrome soon set in.  All eight of them–the three reporters and five guerrilla escorts–faced the same hazards and developed a friendship. They sang songs–the guerrillas kept asking for “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”—and playing chess together, using squares marked off on a reed mat and men carved from branches of trees.

Michael Morrow spoke some Vietnamese and was able to pass along to the other two what the guerrillas learned from BBC broadcasts, including the demonstration at Kent State University when national guardsmen shot and killed four student demonstrators.

After five weeks, the captives were told one morning to expect a visitor.  It turned out to be the same senior officer who had interrogated them the first day.  He said they would be freed and asked where they would like to be released. They suggested being taken up the Ho Chi Minh trail, the mysterious North Vietnamese supply route from Hanoi.

Too dangerous, he said.  Then how about sneaking them into Saigon through those secret underground passages?  Not practical, he said.  Finally he did what he had planned all along: Took them on motorbikes to the main highway, near where they had been captured, and let them hitchhike their way to Saigon in a returning South Vietnamese military truck convoy.

Dudman returned to Washington and immediately flew on to St. Louis to write a series of articles syndicated by The New York Times.  He dictated most of the stories from a sickbed, since he had come down with an obscure East Asian bacterial disease, melioidosis.

Why had he been released?  Probably because Hanoi had been deluged by assurances arranged by Dudman¹s wife, Helen, that he was simply a reporter and in no way a part of the U.S. war in Vietnam. Some U.S. Senators, several Communist ambassadors to Washington, Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme, and Prince Norodom Sihanouk all interceded.  The Hanoi authorities must also have hoped that Dudman’s reports would do them some good.  The articles and his later book, “40 Days with the Enemy,” did, indeed, portray the Vietnamese guerrillas as human beings with high morale and a determination to win a war of survival.

Twenty-three years later, long after Dudman’s retirement from the newspaper, he learned by chance the identity of the officer who interrogated and later released the captives.  He arranged with the Post-Dispatch to go back to work temporarily and went with a photographer to interview the officer, a retired general, at his home in the Mekong delta.  They compared maps and experiences.  The general said the Land Rover the captives and their guards had used briefly was his own command car; he had had to ride a bicycle for a few days.  His parting words were: “Brother Dudman, I won’t try to persuade you to accept one-party democracy, but you must not try to persuade me on multi-party democracy.”

 

Pol Pot hospitality

Dudman had another close call in Cambodia in 1978. After many applications, he finally got a visa to enter Cambodia during the reign of Pol Pot.  He went on what amounted to a conducted tour, along with Elizabeth Becker, then a reporter for The Washington Post and Malcolm Caldwell, a radical economist at the University of Edinburgh.

After an interviews with the mysterious dictator, the guest house where they were staying was invaded by gunmen.  When Dudman heard shots and saw one of the gunmen outside his second-floor room, he thought at first it was one of Pol Pot’s guards investigating a prowler.

The gunman fired one shot at Dudman, who ducked inside his bedroom and stepped to one side just before two more shots ripped through the door.  There followed a couple of hours of occasional shots, breaking glass and sounds of footsteps.  Finally, the Cambodian diplomat in charge of the visit appeared at the door and said that Becker was all right but Caldwell had been killed. The economist’s body lay next to his bed with a gaping wound in the chest, while the gunman lay dead at the doorway in a pool of blood.

Various explanations were given for the incident. Dudman suspected that Pol Pot’s enemies wanted to frustrate his belated attempt to make contact with the rest of the world by permitting non-Communists to visit the country.

 

A contrarian

Dudman’s account of the visit seemed to demonstrate a contrarian streak in his makeup.  He described other Pol Pot efforts to improve his reputation in the world, some successful housing projects, and the beginnings of rice export, as well as the sight of many healthy Cambodians in contrast to expectations that the entire population was being worked and starved to death.  That was before the mass burial grounds had been exposed.  Dudman ventured the controversial suggestion that, for all his misdeeds, Pol Pot had something of a bad press.

A similar contrariness may have figured in Dudman’s early doubts about the U.S. intervention in Vietnam and in his continuing skepticism about claims that mankind was responsible for global warming.

Another example came in his initial suspicion that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the result of a conspiracy rather than simply the work of Lee Harvey Oswald.  Dudman was covering the president’s Texas visit and reported the assassination and Jack Ruby’s shooting of Oswald.

Dudman reported seeing what appeared to be a bullet hole in the windshield of the presidential limousine and suggested that this contradicted the official finding that the president had been shot from behind.

Dudman eventually concluded that the conspiracy theories were far-fetched, but conspiracy buffs kept citing his reports and writing and telephoning him for many years.

As Post-Dispatch bureau chief, he urged speed, accuracy, and fairness – not necessarily in that order – and added, “Don’t be too responsible.”  Too often he had heard public officials trying to talk him out of writing a story on the ground that it might endanger national security.  The true reason for their objection usually was political convenience.

 

Retiring to Maine

Dudman retired from the Post-Dispatch in 1981.  He and his wife decided to move to coastal Maine, where they had spent summer vacations for more than 20 years.  Helen Dudman, who had worked for The Washington Post, Post-Newsweek Stations, and public broadcasting, had been wanting to run something on her own.  They bought a local commercial radio station in Ellsworth, Maine, and Helen gradually expanded it into a three-station business.

Richard helped with the news side but never could get used to writing the news in such short bursts.  His principal interests for a time were sailing his Friendship sloop, maintaining it in the winter, and building a small wooden boat.  He also built a workshop addition on their summer house on Islesford, in the Cranberry Isles, and later a deck and a nearby bunkhouse for their grandchildren.

One day in 1986, when he was working at a boatyard, he got a telephone call from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa with the word that his application for a visa to China was ready to be issued.  It was a long-delayed response to his many demands to cover a devastating earthquake that had rocked Beijing and destroyed the city of Tangshan in 1976.  Chinese authorities had kept putting him off.  Now that the city had been rebuilt, they were ready to let the foreign press visit the site and tell the story.  Dudman went back to work for a month.

Accompanied by a Post-Dispatch photographer, he interviewed scores of survivors as well as Chinese earthquake specialists and told the 10-year-old story in a special section titled “China’s Mystery Quake.”

Chinese authorities had been secretive about the quake, partly because of a Chinese suspicion that such natural events can herald a regime change.  For years, they would venture no total of the dead, and Taiwan obliged by putting out the world that 800,000 people had died, mostly in that city of 1 million.  By extrapolating from death tolls at several factories and a university, Dudman was able to confirm that the eventual Chinese official figure for the death toll – 242,000 – was probably correct.

 

Another journalistic opportunity arose when Peter Bird Martin, a Time magazine veteran and an old friend from their early years on the Post-Dispatch, started the South-North News Service with headquarters in Hanover, New Hampshire.  He assembled a corps of correspondents in developing countries and, with the help of rotating managing editors, produced news stories that mainstream editors found a relief from the usual war-and-disaster stories from the Third World.

Dudman volunteered as one of the managing editors and worked there for nine winters.  Their best break came when a Wall Street Journal reporter, Gerald Seib, was detained in Tehran and the little news service was the only western news organization with a correspondent there.  The result was three world scoops on three consecutive days: when Iranian authorities thought Seib was Jewish and accused him of spying for Israel, when they realized their mistake and planned to release him, and when he arrived at the Swiss embassy in Tehran and was on his way home.

 

Writing editorials

Dudman learned that the Bangor (Maine) Daily News needed a part-time freelance writer to produce two editorials a week to help fill out the column. He took the job and now (2004) is in his fourth year, never having missed a week, writing about war and politics and public health and consumer issues and such nature subjects as why birds fly in Vs and how they know which direction to go.

Richard Beebe Dudman was born May 3, 1918, in Centerville, Iowa.  His father, Virgil Ernest Dudman, was an obstetrician and gynecologist.  His mother, the former Wilma Esther Beebe, had been a school teacher in English and mathematics.  The family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1920.  Dudman attended Washington High School there and then studied journalism and economics at Stanford University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1940.

He worked for a year in a local public opinion polling business and then spent a year in the merchant marine, making his way up from cabin boy to chief cook on a series of tramp steamers in the North Atlantic, dodging their submarines in the early period of World War II.  In 1942, he volunteered for the U.S. Naval Reserve and served four years as a deck officer, mostly on an armed refrigerated supply ship, the USS Tarazed.

After the war, he worked as a reporter and rewrite man at the Denver Post.  He and Helen met there and were married March 14, 1948. they have two daughters, Iris Dudman, a television producer and Martha Tod Dudman, a writer and professional fund raiser.  They have four grandchildren.