FTED: Disinformation and the Soviet Union

GUESTS: Roy Godson, James Wall, Daniel Henninger
AIR DATE: May 4, 1986

Roy Godson, assistant professor of government at Georgetown University and editor of the newsletter “Soviet Disinformation Forecast,” answers questions about the Soviet government’s control and manipulation of the media. Godson focuses on the incident at Chernobyl and the failure of Soviet officials to report the disaster immediately, despite the possibility of harm to people in neighboring European countries or in the Soviet Union. Among those asking questions are Heffner; guest editor Daniel Henninger, assistant editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal; and Dr. James Wall, editor of The Christian Century magazine. Topics discussed include the reasons the Soviet government is secretive about its actions, and the fact that the “management” of information by governmental institutions is an instinctive reaction to protect those in power and a common practice worldwide; speculations about how much the Soviet people actually know about Chernobyl; the debate about the ways the disaster will affect the United States’ capacity for trust and future negotiations, such as the arms talks; a comparison of the methods of secrecy used by the U.S. and the Soviet Union; the suggestion that the U.S. is becoming more secretive and the Soviet Union less secretive; and speculations about whether U.S. satellites detected the nuclear disaster, and, if so, the reasons various sources had not warned anyone of the disaster. After the questions, Heffner, Wall, and Henninger discuss their interpretations of Godson’s answers.

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