Viewpoint: Mao-ocracy on Their Minds

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I have been talking with friends and colleagues in the media, having long puzzled over their seeming double-standard when evaluating and reporting on news from dictatorships of the left and of the right. The proximate cause for these chats—and they have amounted only to on-the-run conversations, not to (as The Kids say) heavy raps—was of course the President's December journey to Cathay, and the reportage thereupon, coming hard on the heels of the death of Franco.

It is a particular fancy of the farther reaches of the rightwing that the media are not only biased, which they most certainly are, but that they are positively infused with Communists, which gives to media coverage of such events as Franco's passing and Ford's immersion in the waters of Mao-mush its characteristically skewed appearance. I have checked my credentials and my psycho-epistemological whatsits and found that I am still certifiably of the rightwing. But still I cannot buy the conspiracy theory of the media.

I know these men and women to be liberals, even sometimes left-liberals, but in proportion as they advance up the economic ladder they are the more resolutely capitalist. They are with very few exceptions bright, outspoken, given to enjoying the good things that capitalism provides, true defenders of the First Amendment; in short, they are like me. Which means they ain't Commies. Which makes their attitudes virtually incomprehensible; their attitudes, that is, about the spectrum of dictatorships extant on the globe.

One shouldn't beat a tired horse, and maybe the reader has already concluded that the explanation is simply that the media moguls, the anchorhumans, and the trendiest reporters are just not very perceptive, and that's that. I deny it. They are neither unperceptive nor agents of some Communist conspiracy, or I'm Alger Hiss.

Something, or some things, else must be brought into the equation to make sense of their zeal in sneering at "dictators" like Franco and their benign gaze when casting their eyes upon the People's Republic of China. But let them tell it; I quote here from men I like and admire.

"Franco permitted no freedom for the Jews to practice their religion on the streets, but only indoors.…The KMT [Chiang K'ai-shek's group] was corrupt, but in China today ["Red China" is never used; it is just "China"] nobody's starving.…Mao is very old and isn't really in complete control of things, so to call him 'dictator' is inaccurate, whereas Franco exemplified one-man rule.…There's no difference between dictatorships like Franco's and Communist dictatorships, except that the former is against the people and the latter arises from the will of the people.…China is culturally progressing and, besides, who are we to say what sort of government they should have; but Spain is in the West, so.…"

And a bit more; this one I especially like: "Look, David, the President's over there [in China] cozying up to Mao and Chou and the rest. The American people gets its cues from the propaganda put out at the White House, and since the White House seems to like China, isn't it our duty [that of the media] to carry to the American people the current views?"

All right, then, the above remarks are more or less verbatim; I jotted them down within minutes of these little chats. I made no headway suggesting that Maoism is to today what Hitlerism was to the '30s and '40s: a wholly reprehensible system of ideas and actions. Pshaw, I was told, and fiddlesticks. Communism is well-intentioned, but Naziism was totally evil. So I learned.

Where, I wondered, is that vaunted "independence" of the media, if now we are supposed to parrot the current White House line? Where, I pondered, is that Divine gift of discrimination, such that we can—and should—be able to know, and upon knowing tell others, that a totalitarian regime like Mao's is utterly ruinous to the individual spirit, whereas an authoritarian regime such as Spain endured had many loopholes through which the human spirit could spring forth? Where—I ask you, where—are we in the American media when the best, the Walter Cronkites and my local colleagues and friends, wear blinkers and live in a twilight zone of moral relativism? Orwell might have understood.

David Brudnoy is a syndicated columnist, television commentator and lecturer. Dr. Brudnoy's viewpoint appears in this column every third month, alternating with the viewpoints of Murray Rothbard and Tibor Machan.

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