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Several years ago, a story appeared in The New York Times which provided a graphic illustration of how the Soviet government manipulates the news about itself. Each year on May Day, the Times reported, the Soviet leadership poses for a photograph while standing atop the Lenin tomb in Red Square. In the year of the Times story, however, the photograph had undergone a number of noticeable alterations as it appeared in the various government-run media outlets. One official had been removed altogether, another had been positioned a bit closer to Brezhnev, some who had not in fact been present were included, and there was a general retouching in order to make all present appear younger and of comparable height. Western interest, of course, centered around the political significance of this cutting and pasting: who was on the way out of favor and who was coming in. Other questions, however, might have occurred to a first amendment scholar. Assuming this was a calculated political move by the government, and not a mere matter of whimsy, and assuming this had occurred in the United States, would the first amendment have anything to say about it? Government manipulation of reality, at least as to that reality conveyed to us through the press, has particularly sinister implications for a democratic society, and some of the reported machinations of the Nixon Administration give the question a more than hypothetical character.


First Amendment | Law


When Government Speaks: Politics, Law, and Government Expression in America by Mark G. Yudef, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982, pp. xvi, 306, $32.50.