Today, June 4, is the 30th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in China. At the time, there was somber coverage of mass murder and unforgettable footage of one man standing in front of a line of tanks. And yet....there were some appalling examples of inane comparisons and attempts at moral equivalence between the communists and the United States.
CBS reporter Eric "Time Out! Engberg compared the mass murder to the National Guard killing four student protesters at Kent State in the Vietnam War era:
“Given the traditions and the history of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military], what will be the psychological effect on the troops and on the high command as a result of having been through this bloodbath?....Will the military leaders there be embarrassed by this? Will this be something like Kent State was for our military?” — CBS reporter Eric Engberg talking about the Tiananmen Square massacre on the overnight show Nightwatch, June 7, 1989.
Former NBC Nightly News anchorman John Chancellor uncorked several horrid commentaries during that time on communism, like the one where he denied shortages were a characteristic of communist countries. On this occasion, he insisted that the education system in America was a "bigger problem" than dead protesters in Beijing:
“Americans are properly outraged by the massacre of students in China. Thousands may have been gunned down in Beijing, but what about the millions of American kids whose lives are being ruined by an enormous failure of the country's educational system...Other countries are turning out better educated kids, and educated kids are the key to the future. We can and we should agonize about the dead students in Beijing, but we’ve got a bigger problem right here at home, which is commentary for this evening, Tom.” — John Chancellor's commentary on NBC Nightly News, June 20, 1989.
CBS reporter Susan Spencer tried to compare Red China to the FBI spying on anti-war protesters and restrictions on coverage of military invasions:
"Stealing TV pictures off satellites may be the most sophisticated manipulation of the press so far, and the most insidious, but the impulse is nothing new, nor is it restricted to totalitarian states. In the anti-war days of the sixties, FBI agents often posed as reporters, taking pictures, using TV footage in court. The U.S. government prevented press coverage of the invasion of Grenada." -- Reporter Susan Spencer on the CBS Evening News, June 17, 1989.
Finally, there's a classic exchange from CNN's Crossfire between conservative legend Robert Novak and left-wing hack Tom Braden:
Robert Novak: "Ask the dead people in Beijing about the menace of communism: right through the head. That's the menace."
Tom Braden: "That's not communism, that's fascism and it's a dictatorship, and that's all it is." -- exchange on CNN's Crossfire, June 5, 1989.