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Why Nicaragua Vanished: A Story of Reporters and Revolutionaries [Hardcover]

Robert S. Leiken

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Book Description

April 9 2003 0742523411 978-0742523418
In 1990, Nicaragua's Sandinista government was toppled in an election that every major American news organization and pollster predicted they would win in a landslide. Why the Nicaraguan upset and why did the U.S. media get it so wrong? Through an examination of American coverage of Nicaragua since the Cuban Revolution, Why Nicaragua Vanished provides intriguing answers to these questions, and for the first time tests media coverage of a major foreign policy crisis against an independent analysis of the events covered. Robert S. Leiken offers valuable insights into how the media shapes Americans' opinions about the world, and in the process he challenges American cultural stereotypes. Beautifully written, Why Nicaragua Vanished is perfect for all interested in the media, foreign policy, Latin America, or U.S. intellectual life.

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Product Description


What really happened in Nicaragua? Robert Leiken analyzes the shocking misreporting of American journalists and their failure to understand why the Sandinistas lost in 1990. Written with verve and calm, his account will open your eyes to a parade of media stereotypes. Though not an angry book, it will make a reasonable person angry. (Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University)

Robert Leiken has been seeking and telling the truth about events in Nicaragua for more than 20 years. Not everyone else has done so. Here is his report on what he has learned, and what everyone interested in Nicaragua should know. (Michael Barone, senior writer, U.S. News & World Report, and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics)

Provides intriguing answers to these questions and for the first time tests media coverage of a major foreign policy crisis against an independent analysis of the events covered. Beautifully written, Why Nicaragua Vanished is perfect for all interested in the media, foreign policy, Latin America, or U.S. intellectual life. (Sir Read Alot Book Review)

The book is highly detailed, and often persuasive. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Robert Leiken has produced a masterpiece of serious scholarship, sound reasoning, and lucid writing. His detailed examination of media bias should have a profound impact on the way Americans view news coverage of foreign policy, and, one hopes, on the way journalists view themselves. (Robert Kagan, author of A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977?1990)

About the Author

Robert S. Leiken is the director of the Immigration and National Security Program at the Nixon Center in Washington, D.C. and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and well-researched study Aug. 23 2004
By FactChex - Published on Amazon.com
During the 1980s, the conflict in Nicaragua between the ruling FSLN and the US-backed Contras was big news. The predominant picture of this struggle reported by the US mass media was one of left-leaning nationalist revolutionaries battling an unpopular and brutal insurgency instigated by the United States. Yet when the Sandinistas were forced to hold internationally supervised elections in 1990 they lost in a landslide, dismaying US reporters who were almost unanimous in predicting the opposite result. In Why Nicaragua Vanished, Robert Leiken demonstrates why they shouldn't have been so shocked: both the widespread dissatisfaction with the Sandinistas and the broad support for the Contras in the countryside were easily discerned by the handful of observers who covered the war objectively.

From the ideology of the Sandinistas, to the causes and makeup of the Contra rebellion, to the propaganda battle waged over human rights, to the coverage of elections in 1984 and 1990, Why Nicaragua Vanished is both devastating in its refutation of long-standing myths about Nicaragua's civil war and convincing in its analysis of reporters who let a system of stereotypes blind them to the reality of what they were reporting on.
4.0 out of 5 stars A scathing review of the media's performance in covering Nicaragua in the 1980s March 15 2014
By John Desmond - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Leiken strips away the façade of objectivity and professionalism that the "mainstream media" cloaks itself with using the issue of the Sandinista regime, its rise and fall, as the tool. He carefully documents how dozens of supposedly professional journalists allowed themselves to be duped by the Sandinista regime into mouthing its own propaganda and how they managed to miss a true revolution, that of the Nicaraguan people against this communist dictatorship in the election that overthrew it. Leiken gets a little down in the weeds in detailing his methodology and the pseudo-scientific babble of political scientist analysis, but you can skim over those parts. The likes of Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and others come across as immensely stupid or ideologically blinded.
4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual dishonesty Oct. 30 2005
By W. A. Barnes - Published on Amazon.com
Robert Leiken is a good writer, but he is also an intellectually dishonest ideologue.

My point is not that none of his criticisms of reporters, pollsters, academics or the Commission on Nicaragua Pre-Election Polls have any merit; he over-generalizes, over- reaches, quotes selectively, and minimizes or ignores countervailing evidence, but in some regards he has a case. Nor is my point that none of his criticisms apply to me, some of them do, in varying degrees (though his explicit attack on me is a complete distortion and in bad faith given our prior correspondence). My point rather is that he simply is not interested in understanding and engaging the actual arguments of his targets(with the partial exceptions of Preston and Kinzer). He is only interested in plucking phrases out of context to use in supporting his ax-grinding. Given his treatment of me, I can only conclude that nothing he says about anybody else can be trusted. One would have to search out and read every single source that Leiken quotes or cites in order to see whether or not he has been accurate and fair (and in some cases to see whether his source deserves credence, whether there is any reliable foundation for his proffered evidence, given his habit of accepting at face value whatever he is told by highly tendentious sources like Virgilio Godoy and Roger Guevara Mena).

Leiken had a chance to produce a book that would have been useful and challenging, and he threw it away out of ideological dogmatism and political animus. The intellectual instincts of his sectarian past persist. He's got a lot of nerve accusing others of bad faith and intellectual dishonesty.

Bill Barnes

Oakland, CA

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