Assalto all'informazione (Assault on the Press)

Assault on the Press. This is my second sole-author volume on the tradition of the McCarthy Era and my fourth book. The weaving between politics and the methods of mass communication, between information and propaganda, is one of the great themes in the history of the 20th century. In this work I confront the mechanisms with which the American Senator Joe R. McCarthy, one of the most skillful demagogues in world history, manipulated the American press for his own benefit. A portion of this work is dedicated to the discovery and commentary of unpublished material in Italian relative to the Senate Sub-Committee on Un-American Activities. This was the Sub-Committee in which Sen. McCarthy irregularly nominated himself as president. The rest of the volume addresses the phenomenon from a double plane of analysis: historical and of the theories and techniques in journalism, explaining the core passage between straight news andinterpretative reporting, nowadays at the base of modern journalism. One of the important aspects of this communication study is that the relationship between McCarthy and the journalists are illustrated from within, giving a voice to the witnesses of the time, from which I have recovered and translated hundreds of interviews. The volume is completed by a tasty - and current - preface by one of Italy's freest and most prominent journalists: Mr. Marco Travaglio.
From the preface, by Marco Travaglio: 
Herein lies the story of a politician who saw communists and "pinkoes" everywhere. For this, he dragged his country through an unprecedented witch-hunt, including violent accusations, pressing charges, political threats, blacklisting, and purging. All, of course, in the sacred name of "national interests". Today, we know that McCarthy's campaign was based above all on lies, but those lies appeared for years as truth because of: (i) the systematic manipulation of information; (ii) the complicity of the journalistic class; (iii) the cowardice of the security institutions that could have been able to hinder it but didn't; (iv) the underestimation of the Wisconsin Senator by too many politicians contemporary of him.

Sen. McCarthy was an amazing liar: he even invented a war wound (something that in reality came from an accident happened in a party where he got drunk), pinning a heroic marine's medal to his chest. The Wisconsin politician was also a skillful constructor of his own consensus, with a meticulous study of the public opinion language [...]. He showed an uncommon ability to take advantage of the methods of communication for his own good. McCarthy's abilities and the general fear of the Fifties, made it hard to doubt his accusations, for the simple reason that, at the time, a Senator of the United States "could not lie", by definition. McCarthy was a self-propelled ipse dixit. [...]

Don't be afraid, this book doesn't speak about the Italy of Silvio Berlusconi. It speaks to the Italy of Silvio Berlusconi. Because, without even trying, it tells a very similar story: that of the American Senator Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy. Who, for at least seven years (from 1947 to 1954), was able to kidnap the first pages of newspapers and the radio headlines, and therefore the brains of millions of Americans, with his furious and lunatic "war against Reds". Those same Reds that he saw nestled in politics and information, in culture and public administration, in churches and in Hollywood, in the armed forces and even in the White House.

The Reds, in those positions, didn't usually exist, but a large part of the American people felt comfortable pretending that they did exist. Because - as Sciltian Gastaldi writes in this good, useful and precious book - Senator Joe McCarthy knew how to embody the fears of the average citizen at the right time: during the first years of the Cold War. Because in that age - contrary to our years from the 90's to the 21st century - communism really was a world menace and it really did make people afraid. Even though it didn't exist in America, it existed in the Soviet Union and it was trying to expand itself militarily elsewhere. Those were the years of Stalin, not of Yeltsin or Putin. The years of the Red Army, the Iron Curtain, of the infiltration of Soviet-inspired guerrilla warfare in the third world, not the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But this is the most fascinating and current aspect of the volume: the McCarthy era as the archetype without time and space limits, that could reproduce itself, revised and corrected (although corrupt) even in a society that has been radically changed like ours (...).
Marco Travaglio

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