#83 The Sound of One Hand Clapping: A Preliminary Study of the Argentine Press in a Time of Terror
By Robert Cox
When a society's institutions begin to crack up, what holds a country together? This paper argues that in the case of Argentina, where ruthless and powerful terrorist groups, backed by a mass movement of close to a million people (in a population of 26,000,000), came close to destroying the institutions of traditional Argentine society, it was the failure of the press that caused a tragedy of such magnitude. When the military seized power without opposition and with passive popular assent on March 24, 1976, only the press was in a position to provide checks and balances to excesses which were bound to be committed in the absence of normal constitutional controls. The will of the judiciary had been destroyed by the terrorists, and the politicians have no voice because they had no credibility. If the Argentine press had been prepared to do its minimum duty by keeping the public informed, other voices would have been heard and the worst excesses checked. Instead, the Argentine press submittedto self-censorship, which the author believes is the worst form of censorship, and became an accomplice in the "disappearance" of thousands of people whose abduction by the security forces went largely unreported in Argentina. The paper sets the scene in a broad historical framework which reveals the trials and tribulations of the Argentine press over the years, and argues that the press could, and should, have done better.
Latin American Program
The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action. Read more
The Argentina Project is the premier institution for policy-relevant research on politics and economics in Argentina. Read more