50 pages • 1 hour readEdward S. Herman, Noam Chomsky
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Herman and Chomsky define “worthy” victims, as portrayed in the media, as victims of regimes unfriendly to U.S. interests, while “unworthy” victims are those who suffer at the hands of the U.S. itself or one of its allies. For example, in 1984, Polish state police murdered a priest named Jerzy Popieluszko. Poland, a satellite state of the Soviet Union, was considered an enemy, and so Popieluszko’s murder sparked media outrage. Meanwhile, religious murder victims in Latin American countries—“client states” of the U.S.—received less as well as qualitatively different coverage (despite three of the victims being American citizens). The Popieluszko murder warranted repeated front-page coverage on major newspapers as well as several op-ed pieces clamoring for justice. The tone of the Popieluszko coverage, the authors argue, was angry and inflammatory, as opposed to the reporting on the Latin America murders, which was more subdued. Popieluszko was a “worthy” victim because his death could be exploited to provoke anticommunist sentiment. The coverage also continued after the murderers were arrested, tried, and convicted. While gory details of the Popieluszko trial received ample space in the Times, Newsweek, Time, and other major publications, “[N]o murders of Salvadorans by the security forces or the death squads connected to them have ever resulted in a trial” (44).
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