On the question of human rights we must not overlook the highly respected Amercians who receive large retainers from some of the most repressive regimes in the world. Some are Washington lawyers whose names are household words, and others are American public relations firms who will do and have done anything for a buck.
The other day, at his behest, I met with Fish, president of a Washington PR firm.
Fish was in a fine mood. "We just got the South American country of Tuna as an account," he told me.
"But isn't Tuna ruled by a ruthless junta that has tortured and jailed thousands of opposition leaders?" I asked.
"That's the image they have now. But after we get our campaign under way it will be known as the bulwark of anticommunism in South America."
"How did you get the account?" I asked.
"I went down and made a presentation to Gen. Barracuda myself. I told him his country has a bad image in the United States, mainly because he keeps shooting all the opposition leaders. He said it was an internal matter. But I pointed out to him that the Carter regime is trying to cut off foreign aid to countries that do not respect human rights."
"Did you suggest in your presentation that the junta stop jailing and killing the opposition?"
"Of course not. I would never have gotten the account. What I told him was that he could still do it as long as he has a good public relations firm in the United States to see that his side of the story is told."
"Did you explain how you'd do that?"
"By taking out ads in The Washington Post, the Washington Star. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal announcing that the junta was only torturing and shooting the opposition until it could hold free elections."
"He liked that?"
"He thought it was a great idea. I also proposed that we bring senators and congressmen down to Tuna and put them up at the Hotel Trocadero and entertain them for a week at the junta's expense. We'd arrange sight'-seeing tours for them and military parades, and have them talk to 'peasants' who think that Gen. Barracuda's government is the greatest thing since the invention of white bread."
"You reallyput a lot of work into your presentation."
"I also suggested that Tuna give scholarships to the leading American universities for the study of South American military coups."
"American unversities will take money from anybody," I agreed. "Was Gen. Barracuda concerned about how much your PR campaign would cost him?"
"No, because he figured he could get American companies that do business with him to ante up most of it. And what he didn't get from them he could just confiscate from the people he was planning to throw into jail."
"Does your conscience bother you for taking on this account?"
"you have to be kidding. This is a real challenge for an American public relations firm. If we can change Gen. Barracuda's image in the United States, we might even get Ida Amin for a client."
"I never thought of that." I admitted. "One more question. Why did you want to see me?"
"Well, one of the things I promised in our presentation was that we'd bring American newspapermen down to Tuna, on the cuff, of course, and have them write about what a great tourist spot it is."
"I'd love to go," I told him, "but I've already promised the Herring public relations firm I'd do some puff pieces for them on Cambodia."