CNN and the Cold War



       This was the scholarly verdict pronounced in 1995 by Professor John Lewis Gaddis in his book, “The United States and the End of the Cold War”:
      “To the astonishment of [President Reagan’s] own hard-line supporters, what appeared to be an enthusiastic return to the Cold War in fact turned out to be a more solidly based approach to detente than anything that the Nixon, Ford or Carter administrations had been able to accomplish. . .

      “The last thing one would have anticipated at the time Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 was that he would use his eight years in the White House to bring about the most significant improvement in Soviet-American relations since the end of World War II . . . To see the president’s policies solely in terms of his rhetoric, it is now clear, would have been quite wrong.”

      Four years later, this same distinguished historian lent his name to Ted Turner’s caricature TV history of the Cold War and an accompanying CNN textbook now being distributed among American public schools.  The Turner-Gaddis episodes, which run weekly on CNN, make President Reagan out to be an ignoramus in foreign affairs and a feeble-minded scoundrel who concocted a “simplistic vision of an ideological crusade against communism.”   President Harry Truman is another scoundrel. The only American who is given heroic stature is Henry A. Wallace, onetime vice-president under President Roosevelt. Until 1950, Wallace was Josef Stalin’s puppet.

      One can expect such “history” from Ted Turner’s CNN. After all, Ted Turner is the man who, when then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to revive the communist corpse, said in 1990: “Gobachev has probably moved more quickly than any person in the history of the world.  Moving faster than Jesus Christ did.  America is always lagging six months behind.”   But one must ask how can a distinguished historian like Mr. Gaddis reconcile his adulatory 1995 opinions about Mr. Reagan’s leadership with what he seems to believe today?  This is something I leave to Professor Gaddis’ conscience.
      The CNN series has been attacked by among others Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post, Jacob
Heilbrun in the New Republic, Joseph Shattan in the American Spectator and by this writer in the Weekly Standard.  Probably the most devastating analysis to date of CNN’s corrupted history is to be found in the latest issue of Commentary magazine under the title, “Twenty-Four Lies About the Cold War,” a word play on the 24 film episodes of the Turner documentary.
      After a lie-by-lie examination of the film, the analyst, Gabriel Schoenfeld, the magazine’s senior editor, concludes that as the CNN version of history proceeds “ the ‘noble cause’ of defending freedom is mocked, good is turned into evil and evil into good, and the moral and political categories that distinguish a democratic country like the United States from a totalitarian one like the U.S.S.R. are blurred and then erased.”
      Ted Turner has produced a film and a book that are travesties of the history of the Cold War.  He has done so because of an aversion to democratic society in general and to the United States in particular and, above all, because of his obvious aversion to Ronald Reagan.  The angry Turner focus on President Reagan as “villain” ironically confirms the fact that had it not been for this contemptible Hollywood movie actor, as Mr. Turner might put it, there would still be a Soviet empire and a regnant communism.  Mr. Reagan was the first president to challenge the once extant idea that communist victories were irreversible and to act on that challenge with his “star wars” and his arms and missile buildup.

      Mr. Turner’s Cold War series and textbook are being introduced into the standard curriculum of American high schools, according to the Commentary article.  Our children are being exposed to a history that is not a history, a villainous president who was not a villain and a duped American people who were not duped.  Worst of all, our children will be taught not that with the end of the Soviet empire we live in a better world but rather that we live in a meaner world.
      For is not Ted Turner’s message really that we are all worse off because there no longer is a Soviet Union and that to have triumphed over that totalitarian empire was nothing short of a crime?  Perhaps Professor Gaddis has an answer to that question.

by Arnold Beichman