Category: Magazines

The National Geographic Magazine published this article on post-EDSA 1 Philippines on July 1986. Written by Arthur Zich and photos by renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry, the article rides on the “People Power” euphoria and dismisses the continuing revolutionary struggles by the New People’s Army and the Moro National Liberation Front as “threats” to the supposed “new democratic order” under Corazon Aquino.

We all know how that ended up.

The magazine apparently used only one photo on the NPA (page 92) that McCurry took. Some  photos can be viewed in his website.



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Reading Natgeo

Screen cap of the multimedia presentation of a photographer's coverage of the Nepalese revolution.

Screen cap of the multimedia presentation of a photographer's coverage of the Nepalese revolution.

The National Geographic Magazine is one of those mags I really like to read and look at. The photography is superb, the writing crisp and tight.

The politics behind this magazine, of course, is liberal-democratic, which is to say, shamelessly capitalistic and biased against societies and regimes that are/were proclaimed to be socialist, anti-capitalist or (erroneously, of course) communist. It seems revealing that the organization behind the magazine calls itself the “National Geographic Society”, even as it covers peoples and societies beyond its (US) national borders. It is based in the US capital, Washington D.C.

Though the group says its aim is “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world’s cultural, historical, and natural resources,” it has, time and again, yielded its pages to political stories, like that of war, famine, political conflicts–from the American, liberal-democratic, viewpoint. Thus, it does not surprise us when the magazine features political conflicts like wars of national liberation, or anti-fascist wars, and presents those who pursue liberation wars with a hint of sympathy. Examples would be its coverage of the Palestinian cause, as well as the Apartheid-era South African cause.

On the other hand, it treats with contempt and distrust nations who were/are labelled “socialist”, from the Stalin-era USSR, Maoist China (1949-1976), as well as North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam (before the neoliberal “reforms” of the ’80s)–even as these countries, before being labelled “socialist”, experienced successes in their bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Of course, the magazine covers with contempt and distrust such ongoing upheavals as that of Nepal, India, and the Philippines. In these countries, revolutions are led by communist parties–their upheavals are aimed not only at achieving national liberation from foreign domination and control, but also wresting political and economic power from the bourgeoisie to install a regime of proletarian “dictatorship” (Simply put, a dictatorship of the proletariat is a dictatorship of the working class — a dictatorship of the majority).

Like most US cultural imports, the National Geographic Magazine has an intractable, almost fundamentalist, view of capitalism, socialism and communism that cannot be subverted. That is this magazine’s tragedy.

For me, however, it is instructive to read and look at their coverage of national liberation wars, whether or not led by socialist or communist parties, like that of the National Geographic Magazine. It instructs us on how the prism of liberal-democratic ideology views the socialist experiments and revolutions, and to what extent it distorts objective reality or represses essential truths to suit its ideology.

As an example, read the Natgeo stories on Nepal’s revolution here and here.

Screen grab of McCurry's website, with a photo, apparently, of New People's Army members before a flag of the Communist Party.

Screen grab of McCurry's website, with a photo, apparently, of New People's Army members before a flag of the Communist Party.

Renowned photographer Steve McCurry, who worked for the premiere photographer agency Magnum, covered the Philippines for seven months in 1986, just before and after the February uprising that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

In his website, McCurry briefly described his time in the country. Many of the photos later came out in the July 1986 issue of the National Geographic magazine.

McCurry wrote in his website:

I spent seven months in the Philippines and was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

I was one of the first to enter the Malacanang Palace after Marcos fled.  I called my illustrations editor, Elie Rogers, from Imelda Marcos’s bedroom and saw first hand her sumptuous wardrobe.  Looters were grabbing things.  Some were so loaded down they could hardly walk.

On the desk, I saw a communique from the White House warning Marcos against using force.  The palace was strewn with fast-food chicken and noodle containers from a final meal.  In the chapel, I saw the palace staff praying.

His photos and writeup can be viewed here.

I have yet to get hold of a copy of the NatGeo issue where McCurry’s photos came out.

(Update 11 April 2012: I did manage to get hold of a copy of the Natgeo issue. The magazine printed one photo of NPAs that McCurry took.)

The CIA and the media

Carl Berstein (photo from the NY Times website)

Carl Bernstein (photo from the NY Times website)

Here is an interesting article that I saw in the internet recently:


How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up

Published in Rolling Stone on October 20, 1977

In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.

Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

Read the rest of the article here.

This is not exactly news. But still it surprises those who are naive enough to believe that journalists — especially mainstream journalists — are generally objective, unaligned, and professional people of integrity. Ha.

The Times UK, March 2007

The Sunday Times also used Philip Blenkinsop's photos

British journalist Andrew Marshall, who wrote the Time Magazine cover story, also came out with an article on the New People’s Army in the Philippines in the Sunday Times UK. He basically said the same things he said in Time: that the NPAs were supposedly fighting for a dead ideology and poverty was fuelling the rebellion much more than ideology (What do they mean by ideology, by the way?). As most accounts go, Marshall’s impressionistic portrait of the revolutionary struggle in the Philippines leaves so much more to be desired. At least, though, he brought much less bias than most journalists do when doing stories about communist insurgencies.

Read the story here.

Women’s magazine Marie Clare featured a photo story from the same set of photos of Philip Blenkinsop, this time focusing on the women guerrillas. Hat tip to the Guerilla Busfare blog for this. Click on the the pages below to magnify.

Time Magazine cover on the NPA. Photo by Philip Blenkinsop/Agence Vu for Time. (Click on the image to enlarge)

Time Magazine, not exactly the epitome of western journalism, came up with a cover story, written by British journalist Andrew Marshall, on the New People’s Army in the Philippines in January 25, 2007. Read the article here.