Better Off Red?
Twenty Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Recalling the Liberal Media's Blindness to the Evils of Communism

The Liberation of Eastern Europe: Missing the "Safety" of Communism

As communism retreated from Eastern Europe in 1989 and 1990, American reporters seized on the idea that life had suddenly become worse, not better, for those freed from four decades of subjugation. Journalists frequently attacked capitalism as somehow more “exploitative” than the totalitarian communism that had officially controlled all economic life. Viewers were told that communism had provided a “security blanket” for people, who were now “miserable” without the “safety net” and “guarantees” provided by their former masters.

“Instead of reveling in the collapse of communism, we could head off economic and social havoc by admitting that for most of us, capitalism doesn’t work, either....Homeless, jobless, illiterate people, besieged by guns and drugs, are as bereft of a democratic lifestyle as anybody behind the old Berlin Wall...If we look within ourselves, we will see that a capitalistic order that is dependent upon cheap labor and an underclass to exploit is too dangerous a concept to continue.”
USA Today “Inquiry” Editor Barbara Reynolds, December 8, 1989.

“Few tears will be shed over the demise of the East German army, but what about East Germany’s eighty symphony orchestras, bound to lose some subsidies, or the whole East German system, which covered everyone in a security blanket from day care to health care, from housing to education? Some people are beginning to express, if ever so slightly, nostalgia for that Berlin Wall.”
— CBS reporter Bob Simon on the March 16, 1990 CBS Evening News. [Audio/video (0:31): Windows Media | MP3 audio]

“If there’s one thing that almost everyone agrees on here [in Hungary] is that the communists must go and as soon as possible. And this is a strange thing, because this is one country that seems to have profited more than any other East European government under years of communism.”
— CBS correspondent Tom Fenton on Sunday Morning, March 25, 1990.

“This is Marlboro country, southeastern Poland, a place where the transition from communism to capitalism is making more people more miserable every day....No lines at the shops now, but plenty at some of the first unemployment centers in a part of the world where socialism used to guarantee everybody a job.”
— CBS News reporter Bert Quint on the April 11, 1990 CBS Evening News.

“Communism is being swept away, but so too is the social safety net it provided....Factories, previously kept alive only by edicts from Warsaw, are closing their doors, while institutions new to the East — soup kitchens and unemployment centers — are opening theirs....Here are the ones who may profit from Poland’s economic freedom: a few slick locals, but mostly Americans, Japanese, and other foreigners out to cash in on a new source of cheap labor.”
— Reporter Bert Quint on CBS This Morning, May 9, 1990.

“These refugees have been told little about the realities of life in the West, including the fact that some people sleep on the street...They will soon learn that jobs are hard to find, consumer goods expensive, relatives in Albania will be missed. Many refugees, according to experts, will suffer from depression, and in some cases, drug abuse.”
— ABC’s Mike Lee on what’s facing fleeing Albanians, July 14, 1990 World News Tonight.

“East Germany is staggering toward unification, and may get there close to dead on arrival, the victim of an overdose of capitalism.”
— ABC reporter Jerry King on the October 1, 1990 World News Tonight. [Audio/video (0:16): Windows Media | MP3 audio]

“Poles had hoped that the long wait had ended, but it has not. After four decades of standing in communism’s food lines, capitalism has created a new place to wait: at the unemployment office.”
— NBC reporter Mike Boettcher, November 16, 1990 Nightly News.

“Under communism few grew rich, but few went hungry; in many cases people enjoyed surprisingly high levels of prosperity. In Poland, for example, wealthy entrepreneurs were able to afford Western luxury automobiles; in Czechoslovakia ownership of second homes was common. Now many may no longer be able to enjoy such extravagance.”
Time Warsaw correspondent John Borrell, December 3, 1990 news story.

“Falling through the cracks: With demise of communism, Budapest’s poor lose their safety net”
— Headline in the Boston Globe, December 31, 1990.

Connie Chung: “In formerly communist Bulgaria, the cost of freedom has been virtual economic disaster. Peter Van Sant reports.”
Reporter Peter Van Sant: “Thousands of socialists rally in Sofia, Bulgaria. It may look like a rally from communism’s glory years, but it’s not. It’s an expression of frustration, a longing for the bad old days when liberty was scarce, but at least everybody had a job.”
CBS Evening News, December 29, 1991.

“By every political and economic measure, Bulgaria is in crisis and there is no end in sight to its troubles. 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.”
Los Angeles Times reporter Carol J. Williams in February 6, 1994 “news analysis.”

Previous: Before the Fall: Seeing Communism as a "Success Story"
Next: “The Workers’ Paradise Has Become a Homeless Hell”

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