Reporter Andrea Mitchell is celebrating 40 years with NBC News and appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" to discuss the milestone. Host Trevor Noah suggested that the killing of five people in an Annapolis, Maryland, newsroom could be laid at President Trump's door (he wasn't joking). Mitchell demurred but denounced Trump for calling the media the "enemy of the people."
The term certainly has a Soviet echo. That said, conservatives certainly could consider them the enemy. We prefer calling the "objective" media the "opposition party."
"It's not benign," Mitchell proclaimed. "You know, this is something that we first heard from Joseph Stalin. This is very dangerous. It undercuts democracy." Mitchell is far from the first reporter to hear Stalinist echoes in Trump.
But for many years, NBC lionized the Soviet Union for its authoritarianism with a compassionate face. It routinely mourned the end of communism. You think we kid? Take former NBC News correspondent Bob Abernethy, who said, "Congress changed the Soviet Constitution to permit limited private ownership of small factories, although laws remain against exploitation of everyone else."
Even in 2014, during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, NBC reporter Stephanie Gosk was swooning over Stalin in Moscow: "Stalin promised the metro would be a palace for the people, and so it is: open architecture, mosaics, even chandeliers."
Today, Dan Rather attacks Trump's attacks on the press as "undemocratic." But 30 years ago, democracy wasn't so admirable. "Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy," Rather asserted on CBS in 1987. The next year, Rather added, "The reality is that even if the communist state were to protect individual rights aggressively, many of its people are not prepared to tolerate diversity."
The New York Times also lectured President Trump on the "enemy of the people" label, writing, "It is difficult to know if President Trump is aware of the historic resonance of the term, a label generally associated with despotic communist governments rather than democracies."
This is The New York Times we're talking about! This is the newspaper that won a Pulitzer for Walter Duranty's shameless denial of a horrific famine in the Ukraine under Stalin, a Pulitzer that has never been returned. This is the newspaper that sent Herbert Matthews to glamorize Fidel Castro into power, foolishly denying he was a communist.
Even today, Stalin's evil reputation is more debatable than Donald Trump's in The Times' news pages.
A recent Times story by Sarah Lyall written in Volgograd, Russia, highlighted a Russian woman named Irina Rubaeva. "Ms. Rubaeva has a jolly 'Uncle Joe' Staline figurine on her desk," Lyall writes, "and a more imperious Stalin bust against the wall. She says she likes having him around. More than that, she believes it is time to restore his name to the city whose history all but belongs to him."
The Times found it fit to print that Rubaeva declared, "Stalin is to be praised for his political and economic achievements," and that a local Communist Party chief added, "They still consider Stalin a liberator there, and it is right that there should be a monument to him." It has also publicized Chinese communists who still get a thrill up their leg for murderous Mao Zedong.
Considering their shoddy record of offering "resistance" to totalitarian communism, these journalists should really be much quieter and humbler about who's been friendlier to dictators.
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