Better Off Red?

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

Whitewashing the Communist Record on Human Rights

In her 2003 book Useful Idiots, conservative writer Mona Charen described the communist state as a “comprehensive tyranny. The Soviet Union was not so much a state as a vast criminal conspiracy. Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Bukovsky, Natan Sharansky, and others are the great chroniclers of the grotesque inhumanity of the Gulag and Communist rule....[The record shows] mass murders, deportations, political persecutions, abuse of psychiatry, and other depredations committed by the Communists.”

Yet during the Cold War, the harsh repression that invariably accompanied communism was often given short shrift in favor of stories about the need for detente or peaceful coexistence. Some correspondents working in the Soviet Union were not eager to shine their spotlight on the plight of anti-communist dissidents. Nicholas Daniloff, the Moscow correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, told the Washington Journalism Review in June 1985: “I don’t consort with dissidents. The magazine considers them a passing phenomenon of little interest.” Ironically, Daniloff himself was imprisoned by Soviet authorities in September 1986 as a supposed “spy,” in retaliation after the U.S. arrested a Soviet spy working in Washington, D.C. The Reagan administration secured his release after three weeks of confinement.

In spite of communism’s appalling human rights record, journalists perversely suggested that the repressive totalitarian system was somehow superior — better for women’s “rights,” for example, or better than the “conservative” Catholic Church.


“Yes, somehow, Soviet citizens are freer these days — freer to kill one another, freer to hate Jews....Doing away with totalitarianism and adding a dash of democracy seems an unlikely cure for all that ails the Soviet system.”
— Co-host Harry Smith on CBS This Morning, February 9, 1990.

“One year after crowds swept through the streets of Eastern Europe toppling communist dictators with demands for more freedom, the region’s women have found democracy a less than liberating experience....Part of the reason many women feel let down by their revolutions is the emergence of conservative forces, including the Catholic Church, following the toppling of communist regimes.”
Boston Globe reporter Jonathan Kaufman in a December 27, 1990 front-page news story.

TextBox3a“But most of his fellow countrymen do not share John Paul’s concept of morality....Many here expect John Paul to use his authority to support Church efforts to ban abortion, perhaps the country’s principal means of birth control. And this, they say, could deprive them of a freedom of choice the communists never tried to take away from them.”
— CBS reporter Bert Quint on the June 1, 1991 Evening News.

“Like many other women in what used to be the German Democratic Republic, she worries that political liberation has cost her social and economic freedom....The kindergartens that cared for their children are becoming too expensive, and West Germany’s more restrictive abortion laws threaten to deny many Eastern women a popular method of birth control....East Germany’s child-care system helped the state indoctrinate its young, but also assured women in the East the freedom to pursue a career while raising a family.”
U.S. News & World Report special correspondent John Marks, July 1, 1991.

“There is a danger that the forces of democracy, as they are called, will now go too far. There is a spirit of revenge in the air [after the failed Soviet coup].”
— Former New York Times reporter Hedrick Smith, August 26, 1991 Good Morning America.

TextBox4a“The economic and political turmoil that has swept the former Communist East Bloc has hit women the hardest. There’s been a strong backlash against the idea of women’s equality....Under the Communists, women in the workplace were glorified. And if they needed time off to give birth and raise families, they got it at full pay.”
— ABC reporter Jerry King, April 6, 1992 World News Tonight.

“Open societies, it turns out, haven’t been as generous as socialism and communism to women who want to serve in public office. From Albania to Yemen, the number of women in power plummeted after the transition from socialist governments, which sought to develop female as well as male proletariats. As those governments died, so went the socialist ideals of equality and the subsidies for social programs that aided women. In many countries, traditional patriarchal cultures resurfaced.”
Los Angeles Times correspondent Robin Wright, October 2, 1997 Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed.