Dec 1 1987

The Media and the Summit

Continuing the Cold War Legacy

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meeting in the Oval Office during the December 1987 summit.

US media themes for the summit were established well before Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Washington. Despite the pretense of “objective reporting,” coverage of the arms race has often resembled “rooting for the home team.” This was all too evident in the summer of 1985, when Gorbachev declared a unilateral moratorium on nuclear weapons tests and urged the US to join in making it a permanent, bilateral test ban. Following the Reagan administration’s lead, the US media dismissed Gorbachev’s proposal so quickly that most Americans are, at best, dimly aware that the Soviets stopped testing nuclear weapons for 19 months. CBS […]

Dec 1 1987

Mayor Harold Washington on ‘Media Parity’

Chicago Mayor Harold Washington (cc photo: City of Boston)

The following remarks are adapted from a speech by the late Mayor Harold Washington to the National Association of Black Journalists in Miami last August. In October 1983, after I had been in office about six months, I was invited to speak to the TV producers in Chicago. The theme of my speech was the lack of parity in the media for minorities and women. I dwelt on that subject rather exhaustively to try to point out the reason why Chicago still was not where it should be as a city. It’s because the news never quite came out the […]

Dec 1 1987

Invasion Newspeak


In May 1983, a remarkable event took place in Moscow. A courageous newscaster, Vladimir Danchev, denounced the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in five successive radio broadcasts extending over five days, calling upon the rebels to resist. This aroused great admiration in the West. The New York Times (8/6/83) commented accurately that this was a departure from the official Soviet propaganda line, that Danchev had “revolted against the standards of doublethink and newspeak.” Danchev was taken off the air and sent to a psychiatric hospital. When he was returned to his position several months later, a Russian official was quoted as […]

Dec 1 1987

Coddling the Conservatives

The Red Scare of the 1950s gave birth to a fast-rising right-wing movement, the John Birch Society. Its rise was aborted when the society’s leader, Robert Welch, made a statement that was deemed so outrageous by the media establishment as to place the Birchers beyond the pale of respectable discourse: Welch called President Dwight Eisenhower a “Communist dupe.” In December 1987 Howard Phillips, the head of the Conservative Caucus, made a statement that topped Welch’s for absurdity: Ronald Reagan had become a “useful idiot for Kremlin propaganda.” But instead of ridiculing or repudiating him, the media rewarded Phillips with regular […]