Russell Baker Exposes
“Fiction Dressed As Fact”

“Growing Up” Author Unsurprised By Fake News

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| November 1, 2009                                                  
[Updated January 27, 2019]

"Growing Up" Author Russell Baker on Fakery in Journalism In the summer of 1998, it was uncovered that writers for The New Republic and The Boston Globe had fabricated sources, quotes and even entire subjects in their articles. The revelations came within a month apart, making headlines and raising questions about the state of American journalism.

Russell Baker (1925-2019), the Pulitzer winning columnist, Masterpiece Theatre host and author, best known for his 1983 memoir Growing Up, was “not shocked” by the made-up stories. “Few forms of human activity lend themselves so readily to fakery as journalism”, he wrote in his nationally syndicated New York Times ‘Observer’ column.

Russell Baker, Time magazine cover, June 4, 1979 Baker blamed this state of affairs on factors ranging from the stiff competition of the news business to sheer laziness. The pressure to “scoop” other news outlets feeds sloppiness, if not phoniness, while the journalist’s code to ‘never reveal your sources’ leaves the door wide open for outright fraud. “What we are talking about is simply cheating”, writes Baker.

Baker closed his column with an interesting anecdote about a certain British press item reporting the death of Mohammad Mossadeghover 13 years prematurely.

Of course, Dr. Mossadegh had been subjected to false reporting, slander and paid propaganda by the American and British media throughout his Premiership ...but that’s another story in itself.

The New York Times
"Scepter’d Isle Sends Envoys" | June 26, 1998

“During the early 1950’s the Iranian Government was in the hands of one Mohammad Mossadegh, who had infuriated the big powers by threatening to take charge of his nation’s oil industry.

To stop this nonsense, the C.I.A. was engineering his ruin and working to put the Shah in power. Reporters fell upon Teheran like locusts.

The Daily Express scooped the world one morning in 1953 with a bylined story from its ace foreign correspondent. “I saw Mossadegh hanged today,” was the opening sentence.

Mossadegh died 13 years later. That was Fleet Street. Now the Brits are everywhere in American journalism, Lord save us.”

SENTENCED TO HANG: Mossadegh’s Contrived Death Verdict
SENTENCED TO HANG: Mossadegh’s Media-Contrived Death Verdict

The New York Times
"A Hunger For Enemies" | Dec. 31, 1991

“Japan, be warned: America has an enemy habit. It has just spent a quarter of its lifetime cultivating this habit and, with Soviet Communism dead, it is suddenly like the cigarette fiend in need of smoke.

You know how desperate a smoker may be? You've seen those anti-smoking films where he wakes in the night craving smoke, only to find his pack empty. What does he do? Gets up, dresses, gets the car out -- and in history’s worst blizzard, too -- and goes hunting cigarettes.

It’s really like that when bad Mr. Cigarette gets claws into you. He is your friend, your comforter, the nasty fellow you can’t live without.

He is part of the strength that sees you through life’s hardest trials. In the same way our hostility to bad Mr. Communism strengthened us to endure the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the overthrow of the Mossadegh Government in Iran and the Arbenz Government in Guatemala, the Grenada invasion, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the C.I.A.’s Nicaraguan war and all those other secret wars and coups we sponsored and financed, as well as the rebuilding of Europe and Japan, the witch hunts and assaults on our own traditions, the blacklists, the paranoia, the arms race, the atomic flirtations with doomsday, the squalid political campaigns, the squandering of national treasure, the spy fictions and comic strips and movies and television sitcoms and melodramas that became our national cultural staples.”

“In Iran I have ridden in a press bus over several miles of Oriental carpets with which the Shah had ordered the street covered between airport and town to honor the visiting Eisenhower, a man who, during a White House news conference which I attended in shirtsleeves, once identified me as “that man that’s got the shirt on.” — "A Few Words at The End" (Baker’s final Observer column) — Dec. 25, 1998


Related links:

Journalist Alletson Cook Lauds “Traitor” Hossein Fatemi’s Execution (1954)

FAKE! — Mossadegh’s Great Escape From Tehran To Bogota (Dec. 1953)

T-Man: 1950's Cold War Comic Book Propaganda and Iran

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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