CyberAlert -- 10/30/1998 -- Gentler Dem Ads

Gentler Dem Ads; "Bleh! Sick of It"; CNN's Cold War: McCarthy = Stalin

1) Glenn's launch pushed politics aside Thursday night, but Peter Jennings, who referred to the GOP's "advertising attack," goes gentler on Democratic ads. NBC: "Who can blame Mr. Clinton if some of Glenn's glory reflects onto him?"

2) Today's Ann Curry emphasized how "the President is not happy about" the GOP ads. ABC's Lisa McRee hoped: "Could everybody just go 'Bleh!' Sick of it."

3) Geraldo Rivera's mantra: "Arthur Schlesinger said of Ken Starr that he is America's number one pornographer."

4) This Sunday on CNN's Cold War: "The 1950s usher in an era of fear and persecution on both sides of the globe." The New Republic documented how the series portrays the cold war "as a morally unintelligible contest between two equally dangerous superpowers."

>>> "What's Worse? 'Putzhead' or 'Fascist'? TV Pounds D'Amato's Yiddish Slap at Schumer, But D'Amato's '92 Foe Allowed to Call D'Amato Worse." This latest MRC Media Reality Check fax report by Tim Graham is now up on the MRC home page thanks to Webmaster Sean Henry. MRC news analyst Clay Waters noticed all the network coverage earlier this week of New York Senator D'Amato calling his Democratic opponent a "putzhead" and used the MRC database of news show content to see how much coverage Robert Abrams generated when he called D'Amato a "fascist" in 1992. Clay discovered that while every evening show highlighted "putzhead" this year, only ABC gave equal time in 1992 to "fascist."

Corrections: In the October 29 CyberAlert I questioned my spelling of Gary Morrow, the Democratic candidate for Governor in Texas. My doubts were on target. His name really is spelled: Garry Mauro.


shuttle.jpg (21058 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The Republicans began a "$10 million campaign advertising attack," Peter Jennings announced Wednesday night. Thursday night, however, he portrayed the Democratic response more gently, simply referring to how they "released two new television ads."

With John Glenn's return to space leading every evening show and consuming up to half the airtime, political news was largely shunted aside Thursday night. ABC was the exception with a brief item on the ads followed by a story on the three "Year of he Women" Senators facing re-election. CNN didn't even air a prime time newscast, transforming its 8pm ET World Today hour into a Walter Cronkite and Miles O'Brien co-anchored special on Glenn. Neither the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News ran a scandal or campaign story, though NBC carried the only piece explicitly examining the political implications for Clinton of the launch.
NBC's David Bloom concluded: "Tonight President Clinton and NASA are basking in John Glenn's status and who can blame Mr. Clinton if some of Glenn's glory reflects onto him, what with congressional elections just five days away."

The GAO report on Ken Starr's expenses, played on the front page of Thursday's Los Angeles Times, didn't get much traction thanks to Glenn. The Fox Report gave it a few seconds read by co-anchor Jane Skinner and CNN produced a full story by David Ensor which ran on Inside Politics. Geraldo Rivera, of course, jumped on it. On CNBC's Upfront Tonight he transitioned from Glenn to Starr: "Now we move from the hero to the man many consider the anti-hero: Kenneth W. Starr."

Here are some highlights from the Thursday, October 29, evening shows:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings delivered this mildly worded take on the new Democratic ads and did not allow a Republican to critique them, as all the networks had allowed Clinton to rebut the GOP ads the night before:
"In politics today, the election is only five days away, the Democrats released two new television ads. They are intent on answering Republican ads of yesterday drawing attention to his affair with Monica Lewinsky and his lies about it. In their ads today the Democrats say that they care about the issues."

Next, Linda Douglass looked at the status of three Democratic Year of the Woman Senators up for re-election, "members of a historic sorority," namely California's Barbara Boxer, Washington's Patty Murray, and Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois. Douglass found they are now treated as incumbents, with all that baggage: "In Washington, Senator Patty Murray fought for more teachers by working with Democratic leaders. So her opponent, Linda Smith, calls her one of the good old boys."
After noting how Moseley-Braun's finances and trips to Nigeria have been attacked and how Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned for her, Douglass pointed out the hypocrisy of one of the three: "But Mrs. Clinton's husband has not made things easy for Democratic women candidates, particularly California's Barbara Boxer, who is related to the Clinton's by marriage. Boxer has a record of demanding punishment when Republicans are accused of sexual harassment but she has tried to minimize the President's sex scandal."
Turning positive, Douglass observed that the women have moved the agenda: "The agenda has moved beyond women's rights. Even conservative male Senators claim they have been sensitized to woman's concerns."
Lauch Faircloth ad: "Thanks to Senator Lauch Faircloth's breast cancer stamp we now have a chance to make a real difference."
Douglass: "The three women Senators see that as a triumph. They say but for them those issues would not be on the front-burner."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather was giddy all day. "John Glenn puts the age back in space age," he announced at the top of the show. Leading into a piece on VIPs attending the launch, he referred to Bill and Hillary as "the V-est of the VIPs."

Rather signed off the broadcast in traditional Rather-style: "When they lighted up those engines they fired up dreams worldwide. There, in the mix of evaporating gray smoke contrails and hard heavy medal, is a touch of gray but forever young coexisting in John Glenn and in our collective dream. Human flesh and high-tech flash. The message: at any age you can make a difference and take a new shot at life."

Spoken like a 67-year-old.

-- CNN ran a Glenn special at 8pm which featured a full story by Carl Rochelle on the Clintons visit, but avoided politics and stuck to his inspirational message to the NASA staff.

Earlier, Inside Politics featured a story on Starr's expenses. David Ensor picked up on one in particular: "There is one interesting tidbit, that's the bill for office copier. What's interesting is not the $56,000 price tag but the arguments for buying, instead of renting. 'I estimate, Starr's aide wrote in January, 'that we will have need for this copier for at least 40 months.' Forty months -- that would take Starr's probe to May of 2001, four months after President Clinton will have left office."
After a soundbite from Jerrold Nadler denouncing Starr, Ensor concluded by explaining how Starr's costs are not all that out of line and cheaper than Iran-Contra:
"While Starr's probe has not been cheap and it is not over yet, it has, so far, cost taxpayers less than the Iran-Contra investigation, led by Lawrence Walsh in the Reagan years. That one ran to $47 million. And while Starr's team have spent $1 million on air travel, they haven't been living high on the hog -- they always fly coach."

-- FNC's Fox Report devoted over half its hour to Glenn but still squeezed in a brief item on Starr's expenses and a full report by Carl Cameron on the new Democratic ads. Noting that the Democrats have scraped together just $1 million for them, Cameron added that Democrats also benefit from another $1 million in ads produced by People for the American Way.

-- NBC Nightly News. David Bloom provided the only look of the night at how the launch benefits Clinton politically. After explaining how Clinton said the launch will help build support for a new space station and how he called it a great day for senior citizens, Bloom concluded:
"Ironically, John Glenn is back in space tonight for much the same reason he was grounded 36 years ago. Back then President Kennedy thought that Glenn was too big a hero to risk on another mission. Tonight President Clinton and NASA are basking in John Glenn's status and who can blame Mr. Clinton if some of Glenn's glory reflects onto him, what with congressional elections just five days away."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The Thursday morning shows continued the network attack on the new Republican ads begun on the evening shows the night before, and detailed in the October 29 CyberAlert. As NBC Nightly News did, Today also made Clinton's retort the lead. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed the spin:
Ann Curry: "A new ad campaign from the Republicans is focusing on the President's affair with Monica Lewinsky and the President is not happy about it. NBC's Claire Shipman reports."
Claire Shipman: "Bill Clinton, suddenly the centerpiece of a last minute Republican campaign blitzkrieg, said Wednesday that his personal behavior is not a reason to reject him or Democrats..."

Over on ABC's Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee displayed her agitation with the GOP ads. MRC news analyst Jessica Anderson took down some of her questions to ABC News political director Mark Halperin.

-- McRee: "Are you surprised about this strategy because what we think we know, from polls anyway, is that most Americans, even those who are registered voters and voters who intend to go the polls, say they're sick of it."

-- Halperin: "Even the Republicans who made the decisions to run these ads say, Yeah this could backfire on us, it's a possibility. So it's a little bit strange that they're, in the last few days, when things seem to be going their direction, mostly, that they would do this.
McRee: "Could it keep people of both parties at home?"

-- "But just raising the subject again -- could everybody just go 'Bleh!' Sick of it."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) More from NBC's cable world, a few more noteworthy blasts from Geraldo Rivera and Keith Olbermann from Wednesday night.

Picking up on a letter signed by 400 historians calling for an end to the impeachment proceedings, historian Arthur Schlesinger's tag of Ken Starr as "America's number one pornographer," MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, became Rivera's mantra of the night on the October 28 Rivera Live:

-- "The cosponsor Arthur Schlesinger the legendary aide to John F. Kennedy was particularly blunt and harsh when it came to the subject of Ken Starr. Ken Starr, America's number one pornographer in Arthur Schlesinger's words."

-- "America's number one pornographer, Arthur Schlesinger calls Ken Starr. Back in a flash, stay tuned."

-- "Be right back. Arthur Schlesinger said of Ken Starr that he is America's number one pornographer."

The October 29 CyberAlert cited how MSNBC's Keith Olbermann asked RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson on the Big Show: "It's been said that the political climate and discourse in this country has been coarsened to a great degree by what Bill Clinton has done this year. Is there not a sense that this kind of advertising continues the process rather than puts the Republicans on a higher road than Mr. Clinton himself?"

MRC analyst Mark Drake caught another Olbermannism conveying his "many of us" disgust: "Did anybody take a hint? Despite what numerous polls are saying, what four hundred prominent historians believe and frankly what many of us think, Republicans, apparently, continue to believe the Lewinsky matter might still be a winner in at least some of next week's elections. So on they press."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) CyberAlert prescience on CNN's Cold War? (The 24-part weekly series began airing on September 27 and runs through April with a break over the Christmas/New Years weekends.) The October 2 CyberAlert noted: "There are some troubling signs about the messages that may be delivered in the series produced for Turner by British filmmaker Jeremy Isaacs. Most fall under the heading of 'moral equivalence.'" For instance, a New York Times story revealed: "'He [Turner] wanted a project that dealt unjingoistically with the cold war,' Sir Jeremy recalled. 'He did not want a triumphalist approach.'" The CyberAlert cited several other signs from Turner and things said by producers in the preview show that suggested the series might engage in some liberal historical revisionism and moral equivalence.

I think we've now moved from suggestion to reality. In the episode 5 on Korea which first aired last Sunday and runs again October 30 at 10pmET/PT and October 31 at 10pm ET/PT, narrator Kenneth Branagh stated:
"Throughout the war, both sides committed horrible atrocities. Northerners killed southerners accused of sympathizing with the enemy. Rhee's [South Korean leader] supporters massacred those suspected of being communists. In seemingly endless violence, innocent civilians were often the victims."

Sounds like what Alan Alda's "Hawkeye" character would say on an episode of M*A*S*H*.

But while the South Korean's probably did kill a lot of people who set out to invade, destroy and subjugate their nation, even the most ardent leftist could not say the U.S. did any more in the McCarthy era than murder two people: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Yet, check out this plug on the Web page for this Sunday's episode #6, Reds: "The 1950s usher in an era of fear and persecution on both sides of the globe."

The U.S. was a little overzealous maybe in identifying people working for an empire that would end all of our freedoms and had nuclear missiles aimed at us. The Soviets massacred hundreds of thousands and sent political dissenters, the ones who were allowed to live, to gulags. Same thing?

This theme of "fear" on both sides that was equally irrational and equally hurt the rest of the world, is taken apart in an excellent November 9 New Republic article which cites some of the bias you'll see in the "Reds" episode. Below are excepts of the most illuminating portions of the piece by Jacob Heilbrunn:

Turner insisted that the CNN series be objective as well as comprehensive. Turner himself decided that a British producer be given the series. He wanted to avoid any hint of American triumphalism )Turner seemingly didn't mind that Britain was America's staunchest anti-Soviet ally). "The idea," British co-producer Jeremy Isaacs has said, was "to tell the story of the cold war not wrapped in Old Glory but from the viewpoints of both protagonists."

Yet this is precisely the show's problem. Isaacs's outstanding previous work is "The World at War" series about World War II. Obviously he never dreamed of giving equal time, weight, and credence to both the Nazi and Allied "viewpoints." Similarly, when it comes to the Soviet Union, neutrality is itself a kind of ideological position. You can view the cold war as a justifiable (if sometimes excessive) American struggle to contain, and ultimately defeat, a monstrous system that was intent on global expansion. Or you can view it, as the CNN series does, as a morally unintelligible contest between two equally dangerous superpowers, whose "fear" of each other constantly threatened to plunge a world full of innocent bystanders into nuclear holocaust.

So, while the CNN saga never denies the horrors of Soviet communism and even recounts some of them (as well as China's lunatic Cultural Revolution), it fails to make the connection between the barbarous internal nature of the Soviet system and its foreign policy. Instead, every effort is made to draw parallels between American misdeeds, at home and abroad, and Soviet ones. Neither Soviet communism itself nor any of its individual leaders is held to account for perpetuating the cold war. Rather, both Soviets and Americans are presented almost as victims of their equally irrational "fears."...

CNN then blames the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact on the West: "Stalin drew lessons from Munich. The Western democracies, he concluded, would never stand up to Hitler." But, of course, the Soviet Union itself was hardly "standing up" to Hitler. The Soviets had secretly done business with Hitler's regime in the '30s, even allowing the Wehrmacht to train on Soviet territory. Stalin's real motive in signing the pact was territorial gain in Poland and the Baltic states....

Then there is the Korean War. Both the Americans and Soviets are presented as pursuing similar policies. "South of the divide, the Americans were in control," Branagh narrates. "North of the thirty-eighth parallel, the Russians were in control." Well, yes. But "control" meant one thing in the North and quite another in the South. Ten San Din, a Soviet adviser to North Korea, is trotted out to report that the North's Kim Il Sung was "the national hero of the Korean people." Why, then, did half of the North Korean POWs choose not to return to Kim Il Sung's realm, a fact CNN reports but doesn't analyze?

An episode called "Reds" is even worse. It opens with black-and- white pictures of a snow-covered Gulag and then shifts to a snarling J. Edgar Hoover denouncing communism. Branagh declares: "In the Soviet Union and in America, the cold war was fought by fear. The Soviet Union raised fences against the outside world. The Gulag, the secret universe of labor camps, swallowed the lives of millions. Both sides turned their fear inwards against their own people. They hunted the enemy within." Hoover equals Stalin?

As pictures of America in the 1950s flash by, Branagh fairly sneers that "the cold war made America invent new images for American virtue.... Was communism out to destroy all this? American propaganda said it was." In the United States, "leaders of the American Communist Party were jailed, and the persecution spread. Left-wing labor organizations were banned, radical groups indicted, demonstrations broken up."

The use of the passive voice makes terror seem pervasive, but this is hyperbole. Some Communists were convicted, under the Smith Act, for conspiracy to teach and advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence. But the CPUSA was never banned -- despite the fact that recently opened Soviet archives reveal that it was funded by the Soviets right up to Gorbachev's time. The AFL-CIO expelled Communist-front labor groups from its own ranks. The series depicts the struggles over communism during the '50s as a battle between hysterical right-wingers and "persecuted" leftists; there's no room in the story for anti-Communist liberals such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. or Walter Reuther.

By now, you'd think that no serious news organization would even implicitly lend credence to Alger Hiss's denials of espionage. The guilty verdict of Allen Weinstein's book Perjury has recently been confirmed by the release of the National Security Agency's Venona files, which show that the Soviet Union did indeed have hundreds of agents in the United States, and that Hiss was one of them. But, in CNN's version, Hiss's guilt is never explicitly mentioned; he is portrayed as a hapless victim of a power-hungry politician. "Hiss," Branagh says, "firmly denied that he had betrayed his country. Richard Nixon, an ambitious young Republican, was convinced that Hiss was lying. Hiss was jailed for perjury. Nixon's name was made." Hiss "was jailed" after a trial by a jury of his peers, a constitutional nicety never observed for the multitudes accused of espionage in the Soviet Union....

Branagh concludes that "the spirit of McCarthyism, the smearing of dissent as Communist treason, stained American democracy for decades. In the Soviet Union, all dissent was suppressed...." But the Rosenbergs, Hiss, and other American Communists were not exactly "dissenters"; many of them were, quite consciously, agents of a hostile foreign power. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan notes in his brilliant new book Secrecy: "The facts now in hand surely attest that the U.S. government's pursuit of alleged sympathizers and spies in the post-World War II period did not amount to persecution, still less delusion. Not a few in fact were spies, and, of these, most were left untroubled." Apparently, CNN's producers didn't think to put Moynihan on camera....

END Excerpt

Since this article may be about to move to TNR's archive, I won't give a soon-to-be-obsolete address, but if the November 9 issue is not the current one when you go to their Web page, you should be able to read it in their back issues section. Go to:

To read the warning signs presented by CyberAlert, go to:

The "Red" episode dissected by Heilbrunn first airs this Sunday, November 1, at 8pm ET and again at 12am ET that night/Monday morning. It will repeat next Friday and Saturday night at 10pm and 1am ET.

In the October 2 CyberAlert I observed: "Up front it must be said that in an era of TV news magazines dominated celebrity interviews, crime and scare stories about what causes cancer, Ted Turner deserves credit for spending $12 million to produce a serious documentary series about an important topic."

I guess it was too much to hope that he could keep his liberal politics out of it. -- Brent Baker

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