MediaWatch: June 1989

Vol. Three No. 6

Forrest Forecasts

Forrest Forecasts. On May 18 ABC News presented its vision of the future through a one-hour special, The Electronic Time Machine: 1939-2039. Using the 1939 World's Fair as a model for seeing into the world of 2039, Paula Zahn promised: "You won't hear talk of disaster." Really? Co-host Forrest Sawyer soon charged that "we're forced to ask a question we humans have never had to face before: are we going to get there [2039] at all?" Sawyer claimed that "2039 will be a crowded world, the population twice what it is now and it will be divided, the rich enjoying the advances of science, the poor struggling to survive."

As the show came to a close, Zahn and Sawyer explained that "difficult choices" must be made. The two reporters then proceeded to lay these choices out one by one, supported each time by a clip of a liberal environmentalist. "The environment," Sawyer claimed, has been "devastated by human growth." Paul Ehrlich, a leftist professor who has made a living threatening global disaster [see page one article], explained that the sky is falling because "Humanity as a species is doing something that no wise family would ever do in its economics, that is, it is burning its capital."

Far-left activist and presidential candidate Dr. Barry Commoner later predicted "economic collapse long before 50 years from now" unless we stop using fossil fuels. Sawyer, worried about the lack of family planning, said "The world population will double by 2039 and right now 850 million do not have enough to eat." This belief was supported by Lester Brown, President of the Worldwatch Institute.

Zahn thought only one proposal, by Malthusian Dr. Garrett Hardin, was "controversial." He demanded Americans "stop sending gifts of food to a starving country. Just grit your teeth and tell them 'you're on your own and you've got to make your population match the carrying capacity of your land.'"

Three Sandinista Spins. The three major networks had three different spins on Mikhail Gorbachev's announcement that Soviet military aid would no longer go to Nicaragua. ABC's Bob Zelnick softpedaled Soviet aid, saying U.S. military officials are "encouraged by the fact that most of this year's equipment has consisted of non-lethal supplies and spare parts. The shipments this year have not included tanks, armed personnel carriers, air defense or anti-tank guns, artillery, or helicopters."

On CBS, Lesley Stahl reported "the Pentagon today estimated the Soviet bloc has already supplied Nicaragua with $80 million worth of military goods so far this year," and then aired a clip of Pentagon spokesman Dan Howard explaining that this leaves a stockpile of "150 tanks, 237 armored vehicles, 549 surface-to-air missile launchers, 772 air defense guns" and so on.

NBC's John Cochran used a number more than four times greater than referred to by Stahl: "According to U.S. intelligence estimates, Nicaragua has received up to $350 million worth of military hardware and spare parts in the first four months of this year." Noting the Bush Administration was "leery to say the least" of Gorbachev's announcement, Cochran concluded "the feeling around the White House is that Gorbachev has successfully sold some snake oil to the Western news media."