The Spectacle Blog

ABC’s Ode to Gorby

By on 7.12.06 | 5:18PM

Really, there is some historical revisionism that is just beyond the pale, but, coming from the mainstream media, just as predictable. So it is any time one of the big networks digs the sainted Gorbachev out from under whatever dacha he is enjoying while "advising" the "moral person" of Vladimir Putin. See this ABC piece today from Claire Shipman. Let us count the ways that it distorts history. First, the lede sentence alone is absurd: Mikhail Gorbachev is generally regarded as the man who broke down the "iron curtain" that separated the communist world from the West and thawed the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Yeah, RIGHT. Gorby just stepped up to that curtain and tore it from its moorings. Deliberately. On his own. There never was a guy named Ronald Reagan, much less a Pope John Paul II, a Thatcher, a Walesa, a Havel....

Then there is this:

Gorbachev found a partner in former President Bush in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During their time in power, communism fell in East Germany, when Germans tore down the legendary wall separating the democratic West from the communist East. The collapse of communism quickly spread across eastern Europe, and the leaders worked together to create a partnership in the changing world .

Again, Shipman cannot even bear to mention Ronald Reagan. As if the "partnership" began with Bush, rather than being bequeathed to him by Reagan. And then there's the notion of Gorby and Bush working together to build the new, post-Communist world: Balderdash. Until the very end, Gorbachev tried to keep Communism regnant in the Soviet Union; it fell AGAINST his wishes, in a military coup where he looked weak and was taken prisoner from his vacation house, only to have the coup-meisters themselves forced out by the throngs in the streets led by a very, very brave (if ultimately a bit buffoonish) Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin was the democrat; Gorby the recalcitrant hold-out.

Then again, maybe there IS some truth to how Shipman reported it. Gorby and the elder Bush DID have a partnership; the Bush administration actually resisted Yeltsin (I guess he wasn't "prudent" enough) in favor of trying to prop up the obviously flailing Gorbachev. But the clear insinuation of the Shipman story is that Bush and Gorbachev controlled events in the move of eastern Europe to freedom, whereas the truth is that events controlled them. Sure, Gorbachev deserves credit for being humane enough to recognize the evils of the gulag, and credit for being perceptive enough to see that SOMETHING needed to be done to reform the system, and brave enough to work with Reagan, Thatcher and Bush for peace. This is not to utterly denigrate Gorbachev. Thanks God he came into power when he did. And thank Gorby for his humaneness. But to the end, he held out the hope for a new form of Communism, not for democracy and not for real freedom. And he sure as heck would NOT have been an agent of, or conduit for, change if it weren't for the man who Shipman just couldn't bring herself to mention at all, one Ronald Wilson Reagan.

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