Page 6


I went home with the waitress, Like I always do; How was 1 to know, She was with the Russians too? Warren Zevon “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” WERE ITS SUBJECT not of such permanent import to the international state-terror poli tics of the modern world, this book would be priceless simply as social comedy. Indeed, it is hilarious, nonetheless, for what it tells us about the domination of the public imagination by shibboleths and empty symbols, about the capacity of modern governments for duplicity and criminal turpitude, about the colossal and eager gullibility of the western press, and about the cloudcuckoo-land of contemporary “journalism” concerning East-West relations. Next to the continuing story of the “Bulgarian Connection,” the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup is a documentary. The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection is an extremely detailed study of the background and aftermath of the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. About the only “fact” upon which nearly everyone concerned is agreed, is that the man who fired the gun what I believe the theologians call the cause efficient was Mehmet Ali Agca, a young Turk who had traveled to Rome for the purpose. After that, matters get extremely murky, primarily because whole divisions, nay armies, of the western intelligence services and media have been busily engaged in blowing thunderclouds of smoke ever since. Eventually a group of three Bulgarians and six Turks was also indicted in Italian courts for conspiracy; in March of 1986, all were acquitted for lack of evidence, after four years of intermittent headlines, international charges and countercharges, and a great deal of journalistic foolishness and The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection is available from South End Press, 116 Botolph St., Boston 02115. Michael King lives in Houston and is a regular contributor to the Observer. mendacity. For the moment, the judicial proceedings are concluded, but as Herman and Brodhead demonstrate, the journalistic foolishness and mendacity very much continue. There’s nothing like a celebrity red scare to sell THE RISE AND FALL OF THE BULGARIAN CONNECTION By Edward S. Herman and Frank Brodhead Sheridan Square Publications, Inc., 1986 newspapers, and there’s nothing like newspapers to sell a red scare. Of the conspiracies alleged in the Italian courtroom and the Western press, the authors show convincingly that the mythic version of a Soviet-inspired Bulgarian plot to kill the Pope was so much right-wing fantasy, partly believed on instinct and partly intentionally manufactured, as part of the ongoing campaign of disinformation to discredit the Soviet-bloc countries. There is somewhat more evidence to support the existence of an actual plot by Turkish fascist groups, with Agca as a rather unpredictable trigger-man. BUT THE REAL STORY is not the plot itself, but the presumptive dissemination of a “Bulgarian Connection” in the western media. [The book’s] main thesis is that the only Bulgarian Connection existed in the minds of its originators and spokespersons in the West and in the selective coverage of the topic in the western mass media. The story of the “rise” of the Connection is therefore the tale of how and why this politically useful story was put over by a small coterie of U.S. journalists who we believe to be propagandists and disinformationists, most notably Claire Sterling, Paul Henze, and Michael Ledeen. More broadly, The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection is a case study of how the mass media of the Free World function as propaganda system. The approach is similar to that taken by Herman in his earlier book, The Real Terror Network, a study of contemporary state terror \(which statistically and politically dwarfs headline-grabbing of the media \(in particular terrorism obscuring that murderous reality. The Bulgarian Connection is best read in connection with that book, for the plotto-kill-the-Pope is only one particular battle in a continuing series of propaganda wars fought almost entirely in the western press. Their target is the Soviet Union only tangentially; the real enemy is the Western public, who must be bludgeoned repeatedly by disinformation barrages into believing that the communist menace is everywhere and ever-insidious, that the price of freedom is the expensive eternal vigilance of the armaments manufacturers and the secret police, and that only courageous jet-set journalists on bottomless expense accounts can discover the scarlet Satan in his hidden lairs. Herman and Brodhead point out that when Agca was initially arrested, all the evidence revealed him to be a particularly fanatical Turkish nationalist ideologue acting with the rather lukewarm support of his rightist friends in Turkey, known as the Gray Wolves. Indeed, in 1979, having escaped from prison after having been charged with murder of a prominent newspaper editor, Agca wrote a letter to the same newspaper denouncing the Pope’s scheduled visit to Turkey: “Unless this untimely and meaningless visit is postponed, I shall certainly shoot the Pope.” Besides a generalized xenophobia, Agca’s motives seemed rather vague; after he shot John Paul, a note in his possession called his act a protest against U.S. actions in El Salvador and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the Pope’s specific culpability for these outrages was never specified. Within a few months, despite the lack of any credible evidence, a pack of Western journalists led by Claire Sterling in Reader’s Digest and Marvin Kalb on NBC-TV had begun the grandiose attempt to pin the assassination plot on the Russians via Agca’s supposed Bulgarian masters. Before too long, prodded both by the press speculations and almost certainly by extensive coaching of the Italian secret services \(themselves dominated by fascist-symthat he was under the command of mysterious Bulgarians who took their orders directly from the Kremlin. When pressed, he changed his story several times, adding and subtracting details apparently supplied by his coaches, Anatomy of a Propaganda Campaign By Michael King THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19