Ever since the Cuban crisis last fall, the Kennedy administration has been under fire for the face it presents to the U. S. public. The attack focuses upon how and what the government says about itself. Critics consider the executive branch guilty of what they term “news management”—which can mean anything from release of information strategically timed for political advantage to employment of falsehood as a cold-war weapon.
The controversy turns on ethical issues, although for months nobody seemed interested in asking clergymen for their judgments. And the clergy seemed equally reluctant to offer advice.
Key figure in the controversy is Arthur Sylvester, 61-year-old Pentagon press chief who brashly or forthrightly (depending on one’s point of view) spells out his convictions.
Last fall Sylvester was quoted as saying that news is a weapon the government can and ought to use in the cold war. On December 6, in a speech to the Deadline Club in New York, Sylvester said he had erred in asserting that news is a part of the government’s arsenal. But in reply to a question posed at the close of his address he uttered another line which has become famous (or infamous, again depending on the observer’s viewpoint). He said it is the government’s “right, if necessary, to lie to save itself when it’s going up into a nuclear war.”
How do the clergy react to Sylvester’s stand?
“I disagree,” said Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. “It is never proper to manage news.”
In the case of full-scale war where espionage is involved the circumstances are different, Blake declared. But he ruled out deliberate falsehoods in the present world situation.
“Withholding information should be limited to those ...1
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