Saturday, November 7, 2009

Conservative Dupes -- Part 1

So let's examine how easily conservatives are duped. Of course they're not alone. All ideologues are prone to believe what their ideology says must be so. But for now I'm putting conservatives under the microscope. I'm afraid this is going to be a long series.

Cal Thomas published Communism's Enablers and Excusers which claims to show how the "liberal media were the handmaidens of one of the greatest totalitarian evils to strike the planet."

But the article is laughable. The alleged evidence is fraudulent.

First, Thomas attacks Strobe Talbott. Supposedly Talbott, "soon to be an influential member of the Clinton administration," wrote, "(Soviet leader) 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.” But a quick check of the source, Time magazine, Jan. 1, 1990, confirms Talbott, did not write that sentence. It was a teaser in the table of contents. The Time staff wrote it. If Thomas had bothered to read the article he would have learned what Talbot did write about. He characterized the Soviet Union as an "ossifying, demoralizing, brutalizing system of institutionalized inefficiency," a "stultified Soviet society, economy and culture" which was "trudging down its own dead end." Talbot assured us "the place is a hopeless mess where nothing works" and that it was history's "damning revelation" that the soviet system was "a huge mistake."

This is an "enabler?" In conservative circles this passes for excusing communism?

Thomas asks, "How is it possible to simultaneously have been a threat, but not a threat?" Of course Talbott simply argued the threat was overblown. The whole soviet system was a wreck, including the military. Militarily they were never our match. And maybe more important, ideologically they were never a serious threat.

Thomas admits as much. He's alarmed that Dan Rather said, in 1987, “Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy.” But for decades conservatives have warned us repeatedly and hysterically that we Americans are being turned red by covert propaganda. Apparently conservatives believe Americans are weak. We're manipulated by Hollywood's subliminal commie messages and fall under the spell of leftist professors. But those hearty Russians can tolerate 70 years of overt commie propaganda day and night and still crave capitalism. In the twisted, contradictory logic of Cal Thomas a Dan Rather becomes an "enabler" simply because he assumes what nearly every conservative assumes -- that communist propaganda works.

Still, does history not show Rather was right? Some would say Putin's popular grip on Russia looks more like Stalinism than Western democracy.

The irony is that Rather could have made those remarks about conservatives. Despite their rhetoric, many conservatives do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy. In their minds, those have led to cultural decay, atheism, and weakness. Certainly neocons and theocons reject the Enlightenment principles behind Western democracy and therefore reject it at the foundational level.

Second, the article asserts a LA 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."

But this misrepresents the LA Times report (by Carol J. Williams). The reporter's sentence was: "Living conditions are so much worse in the reform era that Bulgarians look back fondly on 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."

The reporter did not "tout" communism's 'good old days' at all. She merely reported that some Bulgarians did. She reported what some Bulgarians perceived as their new-found condition. Conservatives whine about liberal political correctness but when it comes right down to it conservatives want their own version. It's politically incorrect to report a transition from communism to capitalism might have a few bumps in the road. It seems conservatives want only a rosy picture. They want "and they lived happily ever-after." Anything else is "excusing" communism.

Similarly, Thomas claims a 2006 Associated Press story said, “For all its flaws, life in Cuba has its comforts. 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.”

This is a botched quote. Here is more of it:

"For all its flaws, life in Castro's Cuba has its comforts, and unknown alternatives are not automatically more attractive. The idea of Cuba without 'El Comandante,' who has been in power for nearly five decades, provokes alarm and uncertainty -- and a tremendous fear they could lose their way of life.... Drew Blakeney, spokesman for the U.S. mission in Havana, acknowledged that Cubans are fearful of change. 'This is something totally new and disorienting for them,' he said. 'There seems to be a lot of fear, and a lot of worry, after 47 years of constant rule by one person.'"

Obviously this reporter is merely relaying what some Cubans think. There was a fear that Castro's ill-health would lead to change. Surely conservatives -- who fear change -- should understand this. But Thomas wants us to believe the reporter is "enabling" communism. That's clearly untrue. Thomas cannot seem to separate the messenger from the message.

Third, Thomas finds fault with John Chancellor who said in one of his many reports, “the problem isn’t communism; nobody even talked about communism this week. The problem is shortages.” But what was the context? Thomas is either too lazy or too deceptive to tell us.

So I'll tell you.

It happened on the August 21, 1991, NBC Nightly News broadcast. That was the day the Russian coup fell apart. The soviet hard-liners had tried to oust Gorbachev. But they failed. Gorbachev's dismantling of communism would now continue. Tom Brokaw opened the news with these words: "This is a day for bold print in history to be remembered and savored as the day when the power of the people in the Soviet Union proved to be greater than the power of the gray and cold blooded men who thought they could return that country to the darkness of state oppression.” Later when Chancellor was asked what was next, of course the answer was not centered on communism. That issue had just been settled. Gorbachev's pressing problem was in doing something about the shortages. On that day communism appeared to be behind them.

Only an ignorant propagandist could construe Chancellor's remarks as an "enabling" of communism. "Wait," writes Thomas, "according to the Los Angeles Times reporter, there were no shortages because everyone was housed, employed and had enough to eat? Both can’t be true." But Thomas is wallowing in his ignorance. As shown earlier, the reporter did no such thing.

Thomas accuses Time magazine of a "howler" when it described Gorbachev as “the communist pope and the Soviet Martin Luther.” Well, he was the then leader of the communist religion and he did ask at least 95 questions. That "howler" is from the "Man of the Decade" story in 1990. It describes a soviet system that "lumbered on for years in a dusk of denial." Gorbachev was faced with "the salvation of an entire society that has gone astray." He had "not found an answer to the question of how communism can be redeemed and still be communism." "He is trying to transform a government that was not just bad or inept but inherently destructive, its stupidity regularly descending into evil." And: "Despite the pretensions of Marx and Lenin, the system that bears their name is manifestly not the ordained design of history, not superior to all others, and not even the master of its own house."

Thomas may not like Time's characterization of Gorbachev, but honestly, how "enabling" is that article? Does it sound like Time wanted to run out in the streets and join a communist parade? Are they singing the praises of the system? The ideology?

Cal Thomas is not credible. He based his article on "research" by the Media Research Center. They are not credible. In fact, they are outright liars. Thomas may have been a simple dupe. He wanted to believe so bad he never bothered to check original sources. But this is no excuse. In fact, it's one of the main problems. We have ideologues like Thomas who pass on lies simply because they don't want to know the truth, or worse, don't trust the truth.

-- Don Jindra

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