On Eve of Fall of Berlin Wall, Recalling the Liberal Media’s Take on Communism

As readers of Cal Thomas’s latest syndicated column already know, the Media Research Center is releasing a new report today on the media’s coverage of communism, timed to coincide with the 20 anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Monday. Sad to say, but before, during and after those momentous events two decades ago, many in the liberal media continuously whitewashed the true nature of communism, or suggested free-market capitalism was somehow worse.

For our report, Better Off Red?, Scott Whitlock and I combed through the MRC’s archives; the quotes (and 19 audio/video clips) we pulled together show some liberal journalists utterly failed to accurately depict communism as one of the worst evils of the 20th century, and often aimed their fire at those who were fighting communism rather than those who were perpetuating it. The full report has more than 70 quotes; here's a sample from the Executive Summary:

■ Before it collapsed, these journalists insisted those enslaved by communism actually feared capitalism more. "Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy," CBS anchor Dan Rather asserted in 1987.

■ As the Soviet system began to totter, a few journalists claimed it as proof that the threat of totalitarian communism had never existed. "Gorbachev is helping the West by showing that the Soviet threat isn’t what it used to be, and what’s more, that it never was," Time’s Strobe Talbott argued in a January 1, 1990 piece.

■ After Eastern Europe was liberated, these leftist journalists attacked capitalism for "exploiting" the newly-freed workers. A Los Angeles Times reporter touted "communism’s ‘good old days,’ when the hand of the state crushed personal freedom but ensured that people were housed, employed and had enough to eat."

■ Some journalists refused to connect the economic misery caused by communism with communism itself. As the Soviet coup unraveled in 1991, NBC’s John Chancellor lectured how "the problem isn’t communism; nobody even talked about communism this week. The problem is shortages."

■ Viewers heard perverse arguments that the end of communism was a setback for human rights. "Yes, somehow, Soviet citizens are freer these days — freer to kill one another, freer to hate Jews," CBS’s Harry Smith deplored in 1990: "Doing away with totalitarianism and adding a dash of democracy seems an unlikely cure for all that ails the Soviet system."

■ The Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev was treated with more respect than the dissidents and freedom fighters who had opposed communism all along. CNN founder Ted Turner said Gorbachev was "moving faster than Jesus Christ did," while Time magazine fawningly described him as both "the communist Pope and the Soviet Martin Luther."

■ Even after communism’s failure in Europe, liberal journalists continued to shower Cuba’s communist dictatorship with good press. "For all its flaws, life in Cuba has its comforts," the Associated Press insisted in 2006: "Many Cubans take pride in their free education system, high literacy rates and top-notch doctors. Ardent Castro supporters say life in the United States, in contrast, seems selfish, superficial, and — despite its riches — ultimately unsatisfying."

■ Few in the media offered the same praise for the lunatic regime in North Korea, but in 2005 Ted Turner went on CNN to lamely defend dictator Kim Jong-il’s treatment of his citizens. "I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin and they were riding bicycles instead of driving in cars," Turner obtusely related. Anchor Wolf Blitzer informed him: "A lot of those people are starving," but Turner insisted: "I didn’t see any brutality."

■ The one-party dictatorship that still rules China seems to bother many reporters less than the regime’s move away from a communist economic system. "Workers’ Rights Suffering as China Goes Capitalist," claimed a 2001 New York Times headline. In 2009, Times columnist Thomas Friedman admitted that "one-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages."

As the anniversary of the toppling of the Berlin Wall approaches, it’s worth recalling how the liberal media failed to accurately portray the evils of communism, with coverage that often tipped in favor of the oppressors, not the oppressed. At the very least, journalists should take this opportunity to investigate the human rights abuses and oppression that still exists in the world’s last totally communist states, Cuba and North Korea. The gauzy, romantic coverage of the communist regime in Cuba should end — unless the media once again wish to be on the wrong side of history when that dictatorship is also finally swept away.

Foreign Policy Communism ABC CBS NBC CNN New York Times Associated Press Time Newsweek History MRC/NB News John Chancellor Strobe Talbott Mikhail Gorbachev