Yesterday's Wimp is Today's Imperialist
After months of picking on President Bush
for failing to remove Panamanian dictator and drug kingpin Manuel
Noriega, most reporters restrained themselves from criticizing Bush's
decision to send troops. But some just couldn't hold back from
questioning his newly "reckless" and "imperialist"
During a CBS News special report the
night after Bush's action, White House correspondent Wyatt Andrews was
concerned that "Now, having launched one of the largest American
invasion forces since the days of the Vietnam War, Mr. Bush is erasing
his old image of being timid, but the new question now, almost
overnight, is whether this President is exhibiting signs of being
While a CBS News-commissioned poll later
found 92 percent of Panamanians favored the action, Boston Globe
reporter Philip Bennett invoked Yankee imperialism in a December 21
front-page story: "For decades, Panamanians needed only to gaze at
the highest point in their capital, to the giant American flag on a
promontory called Ancon Hill, to be reminded of the political and
military power that ruled their country with the authority of an
old-time empire. Today, Panamanians need only to look at their own
street corner. An invasion by more than 20,000 U.S. troops appears to
have signaled a return to old-time politics, reminiscent of other U.S.
military interventions in Latin America."
A frustrated Lucia Newman of CNN noted on
the December 31 PrimeNews that "critics accuse the
Panamanians of lacking nationalism," and that "There are those
who question whether the new U.S.-backed government has any intention of
being more than a pawn of the United States." U.S. troops, Newman
cautioned, must leave quickly or "today's liberators might be seen
as tomorrow's occupiers."
Dan Rather stole the show in a January 4
special on Noriega's capture, asking reporter Doug Tunnell, "there
are those who have said...that the sudden appointment of Dane Hinton as
the new U.S. Ambassador in Panama is to in effect make him the
government of Panama, with his vast experience, including experience in
El Salvador. Is that the read on the ground in Panama City?"
Rounding out the Yankee-bashing with a
dose of moral equivalence, the January 5 USA Today said
"other nations have taken similar if not identical action. Example:
the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan."
Mountain News to Hill News.
U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer, a liberal Democrat from Maryland, has
hired Charles Seigel as his new Press Secretary. A reporter for Denver's
Rocky Mountain News from 1980-83, Seigel previously held the
same position in Delaware Lt. Governor S.B. Woo's unsuccessful 1988
Senate campaign and for the District of Columbia's Department of Human
Fuller Fills Chicago Slot.
James Squires, Editor of the Chicago Tribune since 1981,
resigned suddenly in early December. His replacement as of January 1:
Executive Editor Jack Fuller, a special assistant to Attorney General
Edward Levi in 1975 and 1976. Fuller joined the Tribune as a
reporter in 1973, moving a few blocks to the Tribune Washington
bureau after leaving the Ford Administration. When bumped up to the
Executive Editor slot in 1987, Fuller was Editor of the editorial page.
L.A.'s Progressive North.
Mary Williams Walsh, Associate Editor of the far-left Progressive magazine
from 1979 to 1982, began working in December as Toronto Bureau Chief for
the Los Angeles Times. Walsh spent most of the 1980's reporting
from Mexico and later Asia for The Wall Street Journal.
Into Africa. President
Bush's choice of Ambassador to Kenya, Smith Hempstone, Editor-in-Chief
of The Washington Times (1984-1985), has arrived in Nairobi. In
the 1960's he served as a foreign correspondent in Africa for the old Chicago
Daily News. Hempstone was a reporter, Associate Editor and Editor
of the editorial page for the Washington Star between 1967 and
Updating Resumes at Year End.
The Liberal Side. Deborah Leff,
a Nightline Senior Producer, has moved to World News
Tonight where she holds the same title. During Carter's last years
Leff was Director of Public Affairs for the Federal Trade Commission....
Max McCarthy, a former Democratic Congressman from New
York who has been Washington Bureau Chief of the Buffalo News
since 1978 has relinquished his position. McCarthy now writes just a
weekly column....Wally Chalmers, who worked in the
Morris Udall and Ted Kennedy presidential campaigns, as CBS News
Political Editor in 1984 and as Executive Director of the Democratic
National Committee from 1986 until mid-1988, has created a new job for
himself. He's half of Hilton/Chalmers, a new corporate communications
On the Conservative Side.
John Buckley, Communications Director for the National Republican
Congressional Committee since the beginning of 1989, has left to become
Vice President of Robinson, Lake, Lerer and Montgomery, a political
lobbying firm. After the Jack Kemp campaign in which he worked wound
down in 1988, Buckley put in a few months as a consultant to CBS
News....Rob Rehg, a Washington reporter for Hearst
Newspapers, including the Albany Times Union and recently
defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, has jumped to the offices
of Congressman Bill Schuette. He's the Michigan Republican's Executive
In his January 1 Letter to Readers, Time
Managing Editor Henry Muller attempted to convince subscribers that the
Man of the Year "is not our version of the Nobel Peace Prize nor an
attempt at canonization." But by the end of the special Man of the
Decade section, Time had beatified, canonized, and worshiped
the Soviet leader -- "a hero" -- 20 times over. "Somehow,
confining our choice to 1989 seemed inadequate, and thus we named
Gorbachev 'Man of the Decade.'" Thus, Time wins this
month's Janet Cooke Award.
The title said it all: "Gorbachev:
The Unlikely Patron of Change." Senior Writer Lance Morrow summed
up the decade: "The 1980's came to an end in what seemed like a
magic act, performed on a world-historical stage. Trapdoors flew open,
and whole regimes vanished....The magician who set loose these forces is
a career functionary, faithful communist, charismatic politician,
international celebrity and impresario of calculated disorder named
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev."
The Soviet leader may be
"better" than his Stalinist predecessors. But is he "the
force behind the most momentous events of the '80s"? Morrow, Senior
Writer Bruce Nelan, Special Correspondent Michael Kramer, and
Editor-At-Large Strobe Talbott had an array of reasons to justify the
increasingly liberal newsweekly's choice.
Personal Style and Philosophy.
Morrow described the Soviet leader as "the Copernicus, Darwin, and
Freud of communism all wrapped in one," as "a sort of Zen
genius of survival," and "simultaneously the communist Pope
and the Soviet Martin Luther." Kramer outlined his achievements:
"He has embraced Christian values of humanity ...and declared
freedom of religion to be 'indispensible' for renewing the Soviet Union.
Then, in early December, he became a respectful if not quite penitent
pilgrim." All this, in Kramer's view, made Gorbachev a superstar:
"As an international figure, Gorbachev is a world-class leader --
with no one else in his class."
But Gorbachev, an avowed atheist, has not
accepted Christian values, but acquiesced to them. He still remains
antagonistic to freedom of religion in the Ukraine, the Baltic states,
and throughout his empire. If greater personal and religious freedom is
noteworthy, credit the Soviet people, or the Vatican, or the Pope -- but
Democratic Initiatives. Nelan's
article was aptly titled "The Year of the People," but early
on he dismissed the theme. The subtitle read: "A Catalyst For
Reform From Moscow To Bucharest, Gorbachev Has Transformed The
World." He claimed: "What were long called, and accurately so,
the satellites, the captive nations of Eastern Europe, are defecting en
masse to the West. They are doing so because Gorbachev is letting
them." But wasn't it really Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel who
brought their countries to where they are today? Wasn't the spark of
freedom in Romania ignited by the thousands of average citizens who took
to the streets -- and died -- just a few weeks ago?
Turning to Soviet reforms, Nelan credited
Gorbachev with "sweeping changes" in the realm of "free
expression and democratization." One of the reforms was the
"revamping of the legislative organs of the government....the
Soviet people went to the polls to elect a new 2,250-seat Congress of
People's Deputies." Nelan mentioned "Gorbachev draws the line
at the formation of rival parties," that "in the absence of
rival parties, some 85 percent of those elected to the Congress were
party members," and that the Soviets have forcefully clamped down
on ethnic groups desiring greater autonomy. Strangely, Time
admitted its Man of the Decade refuses to give up his monopoly on power
and has killed a number of his own people demonstrating for democracy.
Foreign Policy Outlook. Gorbachev
won Time's esteemed award because they share the same foreign
policy outlook. To both, the Soviet threat was a Western, right-wing
delusion. Strobe Talbott viewed early Soviet expansion as a routine
spoil of war: "Scenarios for a Soviet invasion of Western Europe
have always had a touch of paranoid fantasy about them....Yes, Joseph
Stalin 'conquered' Eastern Europe -- Exhibit A in the charge of Soviet
expansion -- but he did so in the final battles of World War II, not as
a prelude to World War III. The Red Army had filled the vacuum left by
the collapsing Wehrmacht."
Today, in Talbott's mind, expansion is no
longer in the Soviet vocabulary: "In its unrelenting hostility to
Cuba, Nicaragua, and Viet Nam, the Bush Administration gives the
impression of flying on an automatic pilot that was programmed back in
the days when the Soviet Union was still in the business of exporting
Talbott's military theology matched
Gorbachev's: "[He] 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....The doves in the Great Debate of the past 40 years were right all
along....Much of American policy now seems based on the conceit
that...[Gorbachev] is both a consequence and a vindication of Western
foresight, toughness, consistency, and solidarity."
Morrow summed it up in his introductory
article. "Tanks vs. glasnost, the dead hand of the past vs.
Gorbachev's vigorous, risky plunge into the future. Gorbachev is a hero
for what he would not do....In that sense, as in so many others, the
fallen Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu played the archvillain."
But with Ceausescu gone, Gorbachev becomes proprietor of the reactionary
stance. East European leaders have committed their nations
to truly free elections. That is, all but one -- Mikhail Gorbachev. At
best, then, he is rendered simply a reactive player in the changes; at
worst, he may be insignificant.
Gorbachev: Man of the Decade? Gorbachev:
Patron of Change? Hardly. The true Men and Women of the Decade were
those millions who pushed on, despite those, like Gorbachev, who still
clung to the old. The Decade's patrons of freedom in the democratic West
-- Reagan, Thatcher, Kohl, Bush -- aided and contributed to their
success. Perhaps in the '90s Gorbachev will join the ranks of freedom by
promoting it, and earn the title Time's Man of the Decade as
well. He certainly has not done so yet.
In a conversation with MediaWatch,
Strobe Talbott, who supervised the entire project, acknowledged that
Walesa and other opposition leaders were in the running for the award:
"There were a number of contenders....There is considerable force
in the argument that we could have gone in other directions." In
the end, however, it was no surprise that Gorbachev won over Time
editors' hearts. Talbott also claimed Gorbachev was introducing a
pluralistic society, but admitted: "He hasn't gone as far as a
number of East European countries have."
The invasion of Panama proved "the only people the United States
are going to be prepared to use its military against are non-white:
peoples of the Third World," charged former ABC News reporter
Kenneth Walker on the December 24 McLaughlin Group. The number
two man at the White House during Reagan's years also saw racism in
Bush's actions toward China and Romania: "The only way you can
explain the difference in the reaction is race. This man places more
importance on white lives than non-white lives."
Walker didn't hesitate to suggest
Reagan's policies were responsible for the recent wave of mail bombings
in the South. "When President Reagan opens his campaign for
President in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the birth place of the Ku Klux
Klan where Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney were killed, it seems to me
that, along with his refusal to meet any recognized black leadership
throughout his eight years in the White House, sent a signal out there
that everything is up for grabs."
BRIT SAW BIAS. One
reporter is willing to openly admit that the political views held by his
colleagues affect news coverage. ABC White House correspondent Brit
Hume, in an interview with the University of Virginia's student
newspaper, The Virginia Advocate, cautiously conceded that
"the impact of bias may be that you have a different perception of
where the middle of the road is." Hume explained that "You
often see Jesse Helms referred to as an ultra-conservative, but you
rarely see anyone referred to as an ultra-liberal. I think that reflects
the perception of where the middle of the road is; a perception that may
be to the left of what it actually is. It leads to someone like Senator
Edward Kennedy seeming like a middling-liberal when in the eyes of some
he may be an ultra-liberal." Precisely. Hume's colleagues would do
well to take note.
CRIMINAL LAMENT. CBS
News dedicated a December 11 Evening News story to a new crime
problem: America's rising incarceration rate. Reporter Bob McNamara
characterized convicts as "prisoners taken in America's war on
crime" who live in "the image of a human warehouse."
McNamara reported a "peculiar consensus that get-tough is too tough
and no answer to crime."
His sources? Prisoners and prison guards.
McNamara claimed that guards "say the system is too harsh,"
and one inmate told McNamara prison provided "nothing to create the
motivation and self-esteem to keep you out of trouble." Ignoring
the responsibility of individuals for their actions, McNamara whined:
"On the outside, theirs were lives of little opportunity and
despair, where drugs and theft offered a way out... And inside or
outside [prison], they still see public and political concern as cold as
the concrete that keeps them."
GIL'S WILL. Gil Spencer,
Editor of the New York Daily News since 1984, resigned last
fall after Publisher James Hoge refused to endorse Democrat David
Dinkins for Mayor. Editor & Publisher reported Spencer had
a similar dispute just after he left the Philadelphia Daily News
to sign on with the New York tabloid. Spencer wanted to endorse Walter
Mondale, but the Daily News backed Reagan. After a few months
off, Spencer's back at work. He's now Editor-in-Chief of the Denver
KINZER KICKS CONTRAS. New
York Times Central America correspondent Stephen Kinzer, currently
on leave, recently told The Cape Cod Times the U.S. must
shoulder a "great moral burden" for supporting the Contras.
"The people [the Contras] who are posited as the alternatives to
the Sandinistas...represent a narrow segment which was the most
retrograde element of the old Somoza regime."
Kinzer, who served as an aide in Michael
Dukakis' 1974 gubernatorial race, complained White House reporters are
"not encouraged to insert observations," in their stories.
Kinzer offered an example of the kind of "observation" he'd
suggest: "President Reagan today denounced the Sandinistas for
having converted Nicaragua into a 'totalitarian dungeon' -- another one
of his wild exaggerations that ignores the abuses of Guatemalan
colonels, Salvadoran death squad leaders and Argentine torturers, with
whom he is so friendly."
Our thanks to the left-wing watchdog
group, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), for exposing Kinzer
in its most recent newsletter. To FAIR, Kinzer's candor has somewhat
redeemed his credibility as a fair and accurate reporter.
GANG GREEN. Leading
scientists continue to question global warming hysteria, but ABC and Time
nonetheless plow ahead with their demands to raise taxes to solve the
dubious crisis. During the December 27 World News Tonight,
reporter Ned Potter wasn't shy about pushing some "expert"
environmentalist recommendations: "They say imposing a seven cent
gas tax would coax a lot of drivers off the road," Potter declared,
"That would reduce carbon emissions and the eight billion dollars
raised could make mass transit work a lot better." To stop the use
of coal, "the government may have to jack up the price from $50 a
ton to $500."
In Time's December 18 issue,
Eugene Linden demanded that "first, the federal gasoline tax should
be increased substantially -- to at least 60 cents per gallon." But
to Time, the issue isn't just money, it's capitalism itself,
insisting that "the laissez-faire, free-market rules that allowed
the industrial world to prosper must now be suspended."
Cooler heads ruled at U.S. News &
World Report. As Betsy Carpenter explained in the December 25
issue, "there is good reason to believe that today's bogyman,
global warming, may go the way of nuclear winter: Under scientific
scrutiny, it may look much less menacing." Carpenter concluded that
"if we want science to inform public policy, we will have to wait
for the science."
NEWSWEEK'S FAMILY PLANS.
Newsweek's special Fall/Winter issue on "The 21st Century
Family" gave space to author Jonathan Kozol for a scathing
denunciation of the Reagan era. He lauded all big- government federal
programs, then criticized attempts to cut spending: "Rather than
expand these programs, President Reagan kept them frozen or else cut
them to the bone...federal housing funds were also slashed during these
After these cutbacks, Kozol claimed that
"far from demonstrating more compassion, administration leaders
have resorted to a stylized severity in speaking of poor children"
when then- Education Secretary Bill Bennett called for "higher
standards" in schools. He even criticized New Jersey high school
principle Joe Clark, a tough disciplinarian, as a "pedagogic hero
of the Reagan White House...(who) managed to raise reading scores by
throwing out his low-achieving pupils." Kozol's recommendation:
massive protests by poor people and shocked middle-class students
causing "another decade of societal disruption."
Kozol was not alone in left-wing
advocacy. A piece by Dr. Benjamin Spock, "America's most trusted
family doctor," demanded: "The first thing government should
be pressured into doing is taking the billions of dollars being
squandered on nuclear and conventional arms and spending them on
fulfilling the needs of families. The federal government should
subsidize mothers or fathers (particularly single ones) who would prefer
to stay home for the first three to five years of their child's
NETWORKS PREFER PRO-CHOICE.
Last January, we reported the results of our study on abortion labeling.
Network reporters used the preferred "pro-choice" for abortion
advocates, but "anti- abortion" for abortion foes instead of
the preferred "pro-life." A recent study by the Center for
Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) confirmed MediaWatch's
Between last January 1 and August 31,
ABC, CBS, and NBC "television reporters preferred 'pro-choice' over
'abortion rights' labels by a nearly three to one margin. But they
rarely used 'pro-life' or 'right to life' to describe the other side --
only six percent of all labels, compared to 94 percent usage of
'anti-abortion'" CMPA reported. The same study found female
reporters in both print and TV displayed a strong "pro-choice"
bias. "In stories reported by females," CMPA found,
"pro-choice outnumbered pro-life views by a two to one
margin." The gender gap was greater for women reporting for print
outlets, such as The New York Times and Washington Post.
"Pro-choice views predominated nearly three to one in articles
authored by women, but only 55 percent to 45 percent in those written by
men," the study said.
ECONOMY SOARS, COVERAGE DIVES.
"As the economy progressively improved," from 1982 to 1987,
"the amount of economic coverage on national network television
news progressively declined" and "grew more negative in
tone," Professor Ted J. Smith III determined in a recent study for
the Media Institute titled The Vanishing Economy. The Assistant
Professor for Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University
reviewed 13,915 ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News
and NBC Nightly News stories on the economy aired during three
one year periods: July 1 to June 30, 1982-83, 1984-85 and 1986-87.
The ratio of negative to positive stories
grew as economic indicators improved, from 4.9 to 1 in 1982-83 to 7.0 to
1 in 1986-87. When an economic indicator grew better, the networks began
covering it less so they could focus more on unhealthy economic signs.
For instance, as the unemployment rate fell from 10.6 percent to well
under 6 percent by 1987, the number of stories on employment plunged by
79 percent while reports on the growing trade deficit soared 65 percent
and on the homeless jumped by 167 percent.
Finding a political spin, Smith noted
that "unlike economic problems, which were often attributed
directly to Reagan Administration policies, economic gains" were
seldom credited to Reagan. Instead, "they just happened."
MORTIFIED BY AMERICA.
Paris-based Associated Press senior foreign correspondent Mort Rosenblum
may have titled his new book describing his travels around the U.S., Back
Home, but his views are similar to those of leftist Europeans for
whom America is nothing more than Coca-Cola and the KKK. Never at a loss
for something to whine about, he started by griping about Liberty
Weekend ("The people up there with the Reagans on Governors Island
were not descendants of Miles Standish or crippled Medal of Honor
veterans...they were the ones who could pay") and ended fighting
the cab driver ("a dangerously unbalanced moron") taking him
to Dulles Airport.
Concerning Central America, Rosenblum
ranted: "For years U.S. officials knew that our Central American
policy relied heavily upon senior officers in Panama and Honduras who
smuggled cocaine by the ton into the United States....CIA hirelings and
the druglords washed each others money." He mused, "Suppose
our Contras won. Would that be progress, installing a bickering junta of
former Somocistas?" Anyone familiar with the leftist Christic
Institute will recognize the rhetoric. After all, Rosenblum declared,
"The Christic Institute, an artisanal shop of lawyers and
investors...assembled a convincing dossier [on the Contras]."
Rosenblum expressed an even more alarming
view of the Soviet Union, considering the fact he once worked as
Editor-in-Chief of the International Herald Tribune, a paper
jointly produced by The New York Times and Washington Post.
"We cannot always stand up to comparison with the Soviet
Union," he wrote, "Its system is plagued by long lines...But
there are food and housing at the end of the lines. Health care,
inferior to ours, is at least accessible to all. In America a man can
earn twenty-five million dollars just for getting fired. But we fought
hard not to force companies to give workers two months' notice before
eliminating their jobs."
"If Anyone Can Do
It, Gorbachev Can"
NBC'S Gorby Love Letter.
NBC Nightly News almost matched Time in a gushy
year-end portrait of Mikhail Gorbachev. Viewers of Bob Abernethy's
December 30 puff piece may have questioned the absence of chocolates
under Abernethy's arm.
"Before Gorbachev, the Soviet Union
was a police state, run on suspicion and fear," Abernethy began.
"The world was divided, East vs. West, each provocatively armed,
each obsessed with the other as the enemy. And then came Gorbachev, a
loyal Party man, a survivor in the old system, but somehow able to think
in new ways," from whence, "fear began to wither away."
Abernethy praised Gorbachev for holding
"the first largely free elections here in 70 years, creating a new
outspoken Congress of Peoples' Deputies." Yes, but they're free
only so long as communists win a majority. In a November speech
Abernethy seemed to have missed, Gorbachev declared the Soviet Union
will remain a one-party state. Abernethy credited Gorbachev for
almost everything. "This fall Eastern Europe responded to
Gorbachev's policies," and "practicing what he preached,
Gorbachev did not intervene."
Abernethy ended his portrait in high
drama, dangling his hero over the abyss of a Soviet Union seething with
domestic discord, and agitated at its inability to adapt to Gorbachev's
modern vision. Abernethy hoped his hero will emerge unscathed:
"Making this a truly modern country after years of tyranny is no
easy task, but after all the other things he's done, here and throughout
the world, one would have to conclude if anyone can do it, Gorbachev
MEDIA'S "OLD THINKING"
As one country after another in Eastern
Europe has overthrown communist dictatorship, the national media haven't
hesitated to declare the end of communism. But when Ronald Reagan was
calling communism a discredited theory lacking popular support,
reporters dismissed it as right-wing fantasy.
Back then Eastern Europe didn't get much
network attention, but those few stories failed to recognize popular
discontent with communist tyranny. NBC's John Cochran hypothesized in
October 1986 that there existed "an unspoken agreement between the
Party and the people" in which "the people have accepted the
supremacy of the Party." Cochran was echoing CBS reporter Bernard
Goldberg, who in March 1986 claimed the Soviet people "have made a
deal with their rulers. Take care of us from cradle to grave, and in
return we will be satisfied."
Even as events unfolded this fall, Arthur
Kent of NBC refused to see why protests grew in Czechoslovakia. On
October 30 he predicted that "as long as it can keep food in the
stores, the government, too, is not expecting a public outcry it can't
survive." Kent theorized "the attitude of Czechs themselves
prevents rapid change. Many Czechs admit that life here is comfortable
enough that protest poses too great a risk."
In February 1986, Stuart Loory, then
CNN's Moscow Bureau Chief, enthusiastically argued for Gorbachev's
popularity. In a letter to The Wall Street Journal he asserted
that "if suddenly a true, two-party or multiparty state were to be
formed in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party would still win in a
real free election. Except for certain pockets of resistance to the
communist regime, the people have been truly converted." On June
17, 1987, Dan Rather insisted that, "despite what many Americans
think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style
Of course the Soviet Union has a long way
to go to match Eastern Europe, but now CBS has a new excuse for why
Western-style democracy can't succeed in the Soviet Bloc. In the wake of
Ceausescu's overthrow, on January 1 reporter Bob Simon worried that
Romania "has no liberal democratic tradition at all. People are
used to being told what to do and what to think. These old habits may
die harder than old leaders." Which democracies began as
ABC's Unique View
ABC 20/20's John Stossel offered
a refreshingly different perspective on the 1980's. Stossel began his
December 29 segment: "It's been a startling ten years...We got
technologies that made our lives easier, more convenient or
faster." Stossel noted that "all those inventions were
terrific things, yet you almost didn't have some of them."
Why not? "In Washington, D.C., we
have a rather awesome regulatory system....every year, they churn out
thousands of regulations designed to make life safer or fairer, to try
to make capitalism less harsh. Sometimes they succeed, but often they
create tangled webs of laws that stop progress. Looking back at the
'80s, I was struck by how many good things happened only because
government and other authorities let go a little."
Stossel examined several businesses which
owe their existence to deregulation and which make life better, easier,
or cheaper. Deregulation allowed air freight companies such as Federal
Express, "to fly their own planes and that let them implement the
new technologies that revolutionized the shipping business."
The breakup of AT&T and deregulation
allowed for lower phone rates, not to mention owning your own phone or
answering machine. Stossel noted how ridiculous some regulations were,
such as not letting people pump their own gasoline because
"Regulators said, 'People cannot be trusted to do that. They'll
blow themselves up.'"
Deregulation of the airlines meant that
"Today, more people fly for less money." Stossel explained,
"Of course, now there are more worries about safety, yet it may
surprise you that the Transportation Department says since deregulation,
fatal accidents are actually down per 100,000 departures. So are
What about the critics of deregulation?
"Whenever Big Brother lets go," Stossel observed, "people
are always saying that awful things are going to happen." When the
government stopped controlling the price of gasoline, for example, many
people, including the late ABC anchor Frank Reynolds, predicted prices
would shoot up.
In fact, Stossel confirmed, "The
competition of a free market held costs down better than government
controls had....It's something to think about next decade, next time a
politician says, 'This is something we must control.' Free markets are
chaotic and frightening and filled with risk, but there is no question
that when governments let go a little, economies thrive."
After Stossel's piece, Hugh Downs
observed that the Soviets are moving away from central planning,
prompting Stossel to point out: "We keep passing more rules. Every
week, we pass another hundred regulations, the feds do, local
governments do even more."
"I have to admit I hadn't known
about the good things that deregulation may have brought," Downs
conceded. "They're not publicized," Stossel interjected.
Exactly. For breaking the media blackout, Stossel deserves a round of
THE 1980'S: THOSE
EVIL REAGAN YEARS
"Greed, for the lack of a better
word, is good," pronounced actor Michael Douglas as capitalist
caricature "Gordon Gekko" in the Oliver Stone movie Wall
Street. Piecing the "Decade of Greed" together in a
desperate frenzy of imitation, the networks liked Gekko's image so much
that CBS used it four times, and ABC and NBC showed it twice in their
end-of-the-decade reviews. "To many people, it's scenes like this
from the movie Wall Street that says all there is to say about
the 1980's," reporter Erin Moriarty claimed on CBS This Morning.
Tut-tutting over the Decade of Greed was
a clever way of talking around a decade of record-setting prosperity.
Reviewing the media's indictments of the decade, MediaWatch
analysts found references to the recovery on a few occasions, but in the
cascade of impressions, America's remarkable turnaround was buried by
both indictments of our lack of compassion (despite the doubling of
charitable giving) and worries over economic decline.
Madonna, one of the hottest musical
sensations of the decade, was remembered often, but mainly for singing
the greed anthem "Material Girl," which CBS called "a
theme song for the decade." Madonna percolated through all three
network histories as a soundtrack for the materialistic decade. U.S.
News & World Report Senior Editor Donald Baer compared her to
the President: "Ronald Reagan and Madonna. On the surface, he stood
for the fundamental American values that she parodied. But underneath,
they conveyed the same Horatio Alger myth: Self-image over reality. Say
it or sing it enough, and any dream of yourself might come true, at
least in the public's perception." Baer defined the '80s as a time
when "the majority willingly suspended their disbelief and embraced
Reagan, despite his manifold shortcomings."
Wisdom Watch" gave the '80s a thumbs down, giving the restrained
summation: "Greedy Yuppies screwed homeless. Big party on deck of
Titanic." When the Saturday Night with Connie Chung
staff asked "a fair number of people from all different kinds of
professions" what the decade added up to, "More than 95
percent of them," Chung announced with a straight face, "said
simply, it was the Decade of Greed." Sure.
On NBC, Irving R. Levine did note the
economy "flourished" and the financial markets had a
"spectacular run," but then said "the Reagan presidency's
military build-up and popular tax cuts pushed the country into
staggering debt." Worrying that we will be left "woefully
behind the competition as a result, " Levine concluded "the
record of the '80s is not encouraging." During NBC's December 27
prime-time special The Eighties, Tom Brokaw announced that
"Reagan, as commander-in-chief, was the military's best friend. He
gave the Pentagon almost everything it wanted. That spending, combined
with a broad tax cut, contributed to a trillion-dollar deficit."
Over a video of homeless people, Brokaw asked "Social programs?
They suffered under Reagan. But he refused to see the cause and
"This was not a compassionate
decade," chimed in Jack Smith on ABC's This Week with David
Brinkley four days later. "The number of homeless mushroomed
and more people sank into poverty, including nearly a quarter of the
nation's children." On the December 26 ABC special co-produced with
Time, Images of the '80s, Peter Jennings did admit the U.S.
experienced "the longest and most sustained boom in the nation's
history." He immediately followed with the obligatory Gekko clip
and finished the sentence: "But it didn't always trickle down as
they said it would."
"The full price we paid for
following Reagan into the most profligate debt buildup ever conceived
will not become clear for a while," predicted U.S. News
Assistant Managing Editor Harrison Rainie, not so surprising a complaint
coming from a former Chief of Staff to Senator Daniel Moynihan (D-NY).
"By 'selling the sizzle' of Reagan, as his aide Michael Deaver put
it, the administration spun the nation out of its torpor with such
fantasies as supply-side economics, the nuclear weapons 'window of
vulnerability,' and the Strategic Defense Initiative...The Soviets
countered in 1985 with Gorbachev, who was fully Reagan's equal in the
spin-doctoring game. He tried to lead another kind of revolution -- one
designed for the oppositionist class against the privileged."
Praising Gorbachev while scorning Reagan
was an integral ingredient of the hindsight formula. Boston Globe
Washington reporter and columnist Tom Oliphant echoed Rainie: "A
hundred years from now -- long after Ronald Reagan has been lumped with
other ineffectual Dr. Feelgoods like William McKinley and Calvin
Coolidge who swam with the tide of their times -- the last fourth of the
20th century will be remembered for the demise of imperial communism,
and the Soviet Union's President will be remembered for both making and
letting it happen."
Another interesting network tactic was
bringing in the people who made the 1970's such a fabulous time to be
alive. NBC handed over the environmental segment of The Eighties
to its favorite dubious expert, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, an
enthusiastic believer in disproven scenarios like Famine 1975!
Without the slightest bit of embarrassment over 20 years of being
overwhelmingly wrong, Ehrlich predicted the coming global warming
"could starve somewhere between 40 and 400 million people to death
twice a decade over the next couple of decades" and warned
"what we're talking here, now, is a possible 50-50 chance of ending
civilization." Jane Pauley concluded "the '80s were not good
years for an increasingly crowded and fragile world."
CBS followed the same formula in its Saturday
Night with Connie Chung story. Malcolm Forbes and Lee Atwater got a
little time, but '70s gurus got much more. Anti-technology activist
Jeremy Rifkin ("The Reagan years and the Reagan Administration was
a massive regression, if you will") and "consumer
advocate" Ralph Nader, who said: "We have record poverty in
this country in the 1980's. We have millions of hungry, unsheltered
children and infants in the 1980's. We have epidemics that we never had
before in the 1980's. We have millions of people afraid to go out on
their front porch because of the drug dealers. We have Reagan's
ABC's Jack Smith expressed a mysterious
media consensus when he summarized the decade: "Although Americans
felt better, the decade leaves them wondering how much of that was
reality, how much illusion?" But who was dealing in reality and who
in illusion? Who was finding "record poverty" in the midst of
a historic recovery? If the media didn't find a decade of illusion, they
did find a decade of disillusion, as the ideas they had long snickered
over in their studios took over and made the decade. Their only
responses were easy sermons picking on easy targets, media-manufactured
Yuppie stereotypes repeated often enough to assume a reality all their
own. Perhaps it was all that could be expected of a media establishment
whose fondest depiction of the realities of the decade was itself an
illusionary image created by a movie actor: "Greed, for the lack of
Home | News Division
| Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact
the MRC | Subscribe