Fact-checking and revisions – The Jakarta Method

The manuscript for The Jakarta Method was reviewed by four different academic historians, and then underwent rigorous fact-checking (carried out by Molly Avery at the London School of Economics) over several months. Nevertheless, it was probably inevitable that some small errors would make it into the initial printing. At least, that’s what other people tell me as I repeatedly kick myself for the mistakes. 

We have already corrected several. Even though they have been fixed, for the copies now on sale and for all future printings, I deeply regret the errors. If you bought a copy in the first few weeks after the May 19th launch, or have a review copy, your edition might include these mistakes.

So in the spirit of full transparency, here is a list of what has been changed, and explanations where they seem appropriate. They are in the order they were amended.

If you find an error that is not included below, feel free to send it to me, at vbevins@gmail.com, with “errata” in the subject line.

Corrected in May 2020 (before the second printing):

1. Pages 138-140: in two places Ambassador Marshall Green was incorrectly referred to as “Howard Green” – probably an editing mix-up with the name of the previous Ambassador. All references to the Ambassador that took office in June 1965 have been corrected to “Marshall Green.”

2. The name of Nury, the Indonesian who grew up in Havana, is misspelled as “Nuri” in the acknowledgments. It has been corrected to “Nury,” as it appears in the main text.

3. Benjamin Concha, the excellent researcher that helped me in Santiago’s libraries and archives, was misidentified in the acknowledgments as hailing from the “Universidad de Chile in Santiago” – this has been corrected to “Benjamin Concha at the Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago”

4. We corrected the date of Vietnam’s independence to September 2, 1945 on page 14. 

We also noticed that the map on page 266 points to Myanmar, instead of Thailand (the text in the box is correct, but the wrong territory is shaded). Since the map was outsourced to a designer, we had to wait until the paperback edition to correct. 

Corrected in June 2020 (before the third printing): 

1. On page 88, one sentence read, “It was just four days after the Bay of Pigs invasion, as JFK was still piecing his presidency together, that that President Sukarno came to visit.” We removed the second “that.”

2. The year of Brazil’s abolition of slavery was given as 1881 on page 94. This has been corrected to 1888. The abolition came in fits and starts, but I don’t know where 1881 came from – probably a typo.

3. On page 105, we printed that President João “Jango” Goulart looked “likely to win re-election” in 1965, when the truth is that he likely would have been re-elected in 1965, if he had been allowed to run. As law stood at the end of his presidency, he was unable to stand for re-election. That would have required constitutional reform. I suspect this error was produced as we edited a complex account down to just a few words, but I really regret this mistake, and it’s an interesting story, so here is an explanation:

In March 1964, just weeks before the US-backed coup that overthrew Jango, the Ibope polling service asked Brazilians, “If President João Goulart could run for President, would you vote for him?” In a majority of the cities polled, the answer was yes. Even where less than half of respondents said “yes” (São Paulo, Curitiba, and Belo Horizonte) there were still big chunks of people that wanted him re-elected. The poll also demonstrated that a majority of Brazilian supported important “reformas da base,” specifically the nationalization of the oil industry and land reform. 

The survey was never published.

But now, how did this error slip past Molly’s excellent fact-checking? It turns out that in the source material I cited (Marcos Napolitano, 1964) the wording is ambiguous enough (but not wrong!) to seemingly support the language in the first printing. Moreover, Brazil’s National Congress published a historical account asserting that Jango “would have won the [1965] elections if they took place” – which is, indeed, misleading. I only mention this to make it clear that the error is fully mine, and that Molly is blameless. Rather than get into all that nitty-gritty, I went for something even simpler. The amended paragraph reads as follows:

All this anticommunist fire and brimstone was directed at opposing a president who was, at most, a liberal reformist. But Jango and his reforms were popular. If he had eventually succeeded in enabling more people to vote, the country would have changed in very noticeable ways for the elites. And these changes were supported by the country’s small number of communists, who really did exist. If you were opposed to anything that communists approved of, and terrified of the consequences that social reform would have had in a country like Brazil, you could find many reasons to oppose Jango. If you accepted all the tenets of fanatical anticommunism as J. Edgar Hoover laid them out back in the 1940s—and the Brazilian elite and US government did—their opposition made sense.”

Corrected July 2020 (before the fourth and fifth printings, as well as UK edition):

1. On page 234, we inserted the missing “of” into this sentence: “Looking at it this way, the major losers of the twentieth century were those who believed too sincerely in the existence of a liberal international order, those who trusted too much in democracy, or too much in what the United States said it supported, rather than what it really supported—what the rich countries said, rather than what they did.”

2. On page 15, the text had erroneously conflated geopolitical disputes in Iran and Turkey. We referred to the “Strait of Hormuz,” when we were actually discussing the controversy surrounding the “Turkish Straits,” or the Bosphorous and Dardanelles. I just simplified the sentence, so we have amended the paragraph to read:

It started in Europe, in areas ravaged by World War II. It did not please leaders in Washington that Communist parties won the first postwar elections in both France and Italy.17 In Greece, communist-led guerrillas who had fought the Nazis refused to disarm or recognize the government set up under British supervision, and civil war broke out. Then there was West Asia. In Turkey, the victorious Soviets demanded access to key waterways, sparking a small political crisis. In Iran, the northern half of which had been under Soviet control since 1941 (per agreement with the Western Allies), the Communist-led Tudeh Party had become the largest and best-organized political group in the country, and ethnic minorities were demanding independence from the Shah, or king, installed by the British.

Now, how did that error get into the book? I checked, and it turns out the same error is extant in Odd Arne Westad’s magisterial The Global Cold War, which I cited as source for this introductory section. So either I reproduced it from there, or maybe it got inserted as we checked our summary against his work. So, careful fact-checking would not have uncovered it – but it does make me feel better that The Global Cold War is one of the best history books of all time, so if it’s in there, I will try to forgive myself. 

3. On page 202, a sentence begins, “In a televised addressed to the nation” – we corrected to “In a televised address to the nation.”

Revisions made to the paperback edition (published April 2021):

1. The most important change in the paperback edition is the inclusion of a new case, Sri Lanka, discussed in the book. This article in the Atlantic explains the details of this episode, and how I found out about it. It is now on the map and mentioned briefly a few times in the main text.

2. To my great embarrassment, the first edition stated that napalm was used “for the first time in history” during the Greek Civil War. It was supposed to state that this was its first use in the Cold War. I am not sure how this happened. Napalm was used in WWII. This section in the paperback edition (on page 38) no longer includes the erroneous claim.

3. Design error (Thailand box pointing to Myanmar) fixed on the map.