Did They Buy It?

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Tape about the 1990 presidential elections in Nicaragua. It is unique because it focused more on the foreign (ie U.S.)media coverage than on the events themselves. However, the tape also manages to give a much more detailed impression of the situation than the 45 second spots by the major news networks ever did.

0:10 Reporter practices “spontaneous” report from Nicaragua about Ortega. Repeatedly stumbles over the phrase “strict mechanisms.”

2:35 News clips of Jane Whitney of NBC News. “People [U.S. reporters] come over with pre-conceived notions”, which impacts their coverage. Talks about how people who aren’t down there enough can’t report accurately and about how it is hard to tell a truthful story in 45 seconds. “If you’re only getting your news from television, you’re not really getting your news.”

4:27 History of Nicaraguan politics/interviews with citizens. M an seems to imply that he supports the current government because they haven’t killed any members of his family.

6:50 NBC news crew in the editing suite.

7:19 Bill Barnes, attorney and polling expert. He tells us about the 35% of the popluation that is still undecided in the election.

10:30 NBC News crew goes out on location. we see them setting up their “natural” shots – making a woman walk down the street, etc.

11:28 Whitney describes the typical response to the news reports they put out – “Is that all there is? There’s so much information to cover this entire country, and they only get 90 seconds.” Jeff Gillenkirk, journalist, talks about how “propaganda in Washington” and preconceived notions about the country color journailists responses.

13:20 Alfredo Cesar, UNO [major Nicaraguan political party] advisor. Man says that the U.S. press can’t understan d the events going on there.

13:50 History of Nicaragua. Previously was dominated by U.S. Reagan’s administration funded counterrevolutionaries to try to undermine the governement. Later he enacted a full trade embargo.

15:16 Phil Roettinger, ex-CIA agent. “When the U.S. government wants a government overthrown, the CIA takes the orders” “This is why I left the CIA – because I could not go a long with paying citizens to overthrow their own country”. A former “contra” for the CIA talks about his experiences.

16:56 Canadian Boradcasting news crew watches their footage. Jaime Bonilla, UNO candidate talks about his party. Damaso Vargas, FSLN candidate, talks about his country and Reagan’s troublemaking. He says the country could not move forward because all of their resources had to go to defense.

20:40 Jimmy Carter addresses a group of people, talking about e nsuring fair elections. Jeff Gillenkirk, journalist: “I don’t agree with the conspiracy theories of American journalism, with regards to Latin American governments [and the idea that the U.S. government has bee conspiring to mislead the American public]. But I do believe the theories about Reagan and Nicaragua…Everybody was misled.”

22:09 Ed Asner, actor, “The press is free to the man who owns one…the press in America is controlled by rich people, controlled by ads…”

24:35 UNO rally, a week before the election. FSLN rally, 4 days before election.

26:27 Dawn, election day. Polling place. We talk to people ab out who they are votig for and why. Chuck Johnson, NBC, “When you’re a photojournalist, you try to back off, and not take part in that, because it confines you…you really have to step back and think about it as a balanced issue…I don’t let my own thoughts get in the way of the event”. He was explaining why he can’t provide any opinions on the election. Many important politicians, such as the Vice President of Nicaragua, show up at the polling place. Jackson Browne talks about the election. Man talks about how the US government supported their government when it was a brutal dictatorship, but now that it is a peaceful democracy, they do not support it. Reporter claims that a lot of people lied to the pollsters, and newspapers that are reporting early might be completely wrong.

35:55 Chamorro, of the UNO party, wins. Bud Lewis, chief pollster, L.A. Times, talks about his surprise at the election results. President Ortega gives emotional speech over his loss.

41:58 Riots in the streets. “We realize the American government will not have influence here. They will try to create a sort of Taiwan in Nicaragua…a mirage…inject money to make it seem like the economy is better” Jeff Gillenkirk – “If we see the collapse of all the positive things [with the rise of a new government] I will not be surprised. There will be a rise in xenophobia, classism…The Sandinistas have tried to instill new values in the county, values of something more than consumption and presumption…and that’s why I’m interested in Nicaragua.” Whitney – “You come down here thinking you know all the answers…and the longer you stay, the more you realize you don’t. I guess what I’m saying is being here, I see things that i would want to change…but I’m no t sure you can clone the U.S.’s version of that [peace and prosperity] in this part of the world.”

44:51 Credits.

46:30 End of tape.



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