Media Avoid Soviet Archives: They Might Find St. Gorby Said '3,000 Dead, So What?'

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air asks a good media question: why doesn't anyone care about the Soviet archives? He refers to a Claire Berlinski article in City Journal. But for media watchers, the strongest possible revision would come in the reputation of one Mikhail Gorbachev, Time's Man of the Decade, the one they called the "commissar liberator," the "communist pope and the Soviet Martin Luther," and on and on. Some files suggest he was ruthless and cavalier about human life. What a shock:

The narrative among popular academics and media is that the Soviet Union collapsed out of a too-generous sense of glasnost and perestroika, with Mikhail Gorbachev as the benevolent national leader whose love of freedom inadvertently ended the Soviet empire.  The documentation of the Kremlin’s activities and transcripts of Gorbachev’s own conversations put an end to that mythology. For instance, Berlinski quotes this passage from Politburo minutes of a discussion of the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989:

Lukyanov reports that the real number of casualties on Tiananmen Square was 3,000.

Gorbachev: We must be realists. They, like us, have to defend themselves. Three thousands...So what?

So what, indeed!  What’s the death of 3,000 unarmed men and women when it comes to preserving the power of the dictatorial state?  One must crack a few (thousand) bourgeois eggs to make the Communist omelette, after all.  That comes to light again in a transcript of a Gorbachev conversation with a West German politician in which he defends a similar massacre of protesters in Tbilisi [the capital of Georgia] by Soviet troops.

These documents have the power to destroy the carefully constructed facade of Gorbachev by his Western apologists as somehow different from his Soviet predecessors.  He was not; he could hardly have risen to the Politburo had he not been an advocate of totalitarian control.  He had a much better sense of his enemies than his predecessors, and knew how to charm the media better than any of them.  And charm them Gorbachev did, enough to get them to make the argument over the last 20 years that Gorbachev won the Cold War by dismantling the Soviet Union, rather than the obvious conclusion that the US won it by forcing the Soviets into an economic war they couldn’t possibly hope to win.

That is why the term “Nazi” rightly remains synonymous with evil, while “Communist” gets more of a pass.  (When was the last time we saw a movie with a Communist villain?  1959?)  The Soviet Communists killed tens of millions of people through malice and neglect over a far longer period of time, and that includes Mikhail Gorbachev, who spent decades working in that system.  The documents saved at so much risk to these archivists would show that unequivocally — and that should prompt us to ask, as Berlinski does, why that seems to threaten so many in the media and academia to the point of attempting to ignore their existence.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis