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The Real Story Behind Katharine Graham and ‘The Post’

Photo Credit: Max Borge, Flickr

Movie critics are already hailing “The Post,” destined by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. Millions of people will see the film in early winter. But the real-life domestic story of Graham and her journal is not a comment that’s headed to the multiplexes.

“The Post” comes 20 years after Graham’s autobiography, Personal History, won huge praise. Read as a memoir, the book is a touching comment of Graham’s prolonged query to overcome sexism, learn the journal business and benefit self-esteem. Read as media history, however, it is deceptive.

“I don’t trust that whom we was or wasn’t friends with interfered with the stating at any of the publications,” Graham wrote. However, Robert Parry, who was a Washington match for Newsweek during the last 3 years of the 1980s, has strew some light on the shadows of Graham’s calming prose. Contrary to the claims in the book, Parry pronounced he witnessed “self-censorship since of the coziness between Post-Newsweek executives and comparison inhabitant confidence figures.” 


Among Parry’s examples: “On one arise in 1987, we was told that my story about the CIA funneling anti-Sandinista income by Nicaragua’s Catholic Church had been watered down since the story indispensable to be run past Mrs. Graham, and Henry Kissinger was her residence guest that weekend. Apparently, there was fear among the top editors that the story as created competence means some consternation.” (The 1996 discourse of former CIA Director Robert Gates reliable that Parry had the story right all along.)

Graham’s book exudes love for Kissinger as good as Robert McNamara and other luminaries of several administrations who remained her close friends until she died in 2001. To Graham, men like McNamara and Kissinger—the categorical fight architects for presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon—were smashing human beings.

In contrast, Graham clinging dozens of pages to vilifying Post press operators who went on strike in 1975. She stressed the repairs finished to copy apparatus as the walkout began and the “unforgivable acts of assault via the strike.” It is a surpassing explanation on her opinion that thuggish deeds by a few of the strikers were “unforgivable,” while men like McNamara and Kissinger were friendly even after they oversaw atrocities in Southeast Asia.

Graham’s autobiography portrays kinship stalwarts as mostly ruffians or dupes. “Only a handful of [Newspaper Guild] members had left out for reasons we respected,” she told readers. “One was John Hanrahan, a good contributor and a good man who came from a longtime labor family and simply couldn’t cranky a picket line. He never did come back. Living your beliefs is a singular trait and severely to be admired.”

But for Hanrahan (whose Republican relatives actually never belonged to a union) the indebtedness was distant from mutual. As he put it, “The Washington Post under Katharine Graham pioneered the union-busting ‘replacement worker’ strategy that Ronald Reagan subsequently used against the air-traffic controllers and that corporate America—in the Caterpillar, Bridgestone/Firestone and other strikes—used to chuck thousands of workers out of their jobs in the 1980s and the ’90s.”

The Washington Post deserves credit for edition sections of the Pentagon Papers immediately after a sovereign justice claim in mid-June 1971 stopped the New York Times from stability to imitation excerpts from the secret document. That’s the high indicate of the Washington Post’s record in propinquity to the Vietnam War. The journal strongly upheld the fight for many years. 

Graham’s book avoids any emergence of introspection about the Vietnam War and the human costs of the Post’s support for it. Her book recounts that she huddled with a author in line to take charge of the editorial page in Aug 1966: “We concluded that the Post ought to work its way out of the very understanding editorial position it had taken, but we couldn’t be precipitous; we had to pierce divided gradually from where we had been.” 

Although widely touted as a feminist parable, Graham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journal is particularly bereft of oneness for women but lavishness or white skin. They hardly seemed to exist in her operation of vision; unpleasant realities of category and secular biases were dim, lost specks. Overall the 625-page book gives brief shrift to the unrich and unfamous, whose lives are marginal to the play played out by the rich publisher’s gorgeous peers. The name of Martin Luther King Jr. does not seem in her star-studded, history-drenched book. 

Katharine Graham’s decision to tell the Pentagon Papers was indeed laudable, assisting to display lies that had greased the wheels of the fight machine with such horrific consequences in Vietnam. But the Washington Post was instrumental in avidly compelling the lies that done the Vietnam War probable in the first place. No volume of soap-box reviews or Oscar nominations for “The Post” will change that awful truth.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online romantic organisation RootsAction.org and the executive executive of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

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