Thanks to the Youtube algorithm two videos about the state of journalism then and now appeared on my radar today.
One is about journalists from the 30s being stationed in Moscow at the time of Stalin’s rule who became too cozy with communist elites to the point that they not only failed to report about the genocide in the USSR but actually helped in covering up mass killings.
The other is about journalists in 2020 being too cozy with Washington political elites, even publicly bragging about getting drunk with politicians, prompting the question can they hold these politicians accountable.
The first video is titled “The Holocaust The New York Times Ignored“ and it is about a movie portraying the life of Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist who came in USSR in the 1933.
Famine in Ukraine was fairly common knowledge in the Soviet Union then, although few people really knew much about the extent of its ghastly reality outside the USSR.
All the rest of the world ever heard were glowing reports on the miracle of communism passed along by foreign reporters sequestered in Moscow.
Surveillance and wiretapping of journalists were widespread and all articles had to be approved by the Soviet press office before being allowed out of the country.
In the time when the majority of the rest of the world was being mired in a global economic crisis (this was the time of the Great Depression), Soviet Union gave outward appearance of being not only resistant to the downturn but thriving in ways that the decadent capitalist could only dream of.
In such a time, young journalist Gareth Jones manages to finesse his way to a press visa to visit Moscow with the intention of interviewing Stalin, but what he finds there leads to some disturbing discoveries.
In Moscow, he attends a lavish party complete with booze, drugs, a jazz band, and other entertainment thrown by the „New York Times“ Pulitzer prize-winning bureau chief Walter Duranty.
In the meantime, a fellow reporter in Moscow had just been killed in what the Soviet government claimed was a robbery while working on a mysterious story about Ukraine.
Jones uses his finesse once again to find his way into the region despite the rarity of journalists being allowed to leave Moscow.
He slips his handlers leash to wander around on his own.
What he finds is horrifying empty villages, dead bodies laying on the street, starving farmers forced a ship to Moscow the very grain they’re growing, while they themselves are resorting to eating tree bark and even cannibalism.
Jones eventually manages to leave the country and tells the world about what he’s seen.
His story however is promptly discredited by the journalists still in Moscow, particularly Walter Duranty.
Reporting made by Jones was largely swept under the rug and forgotten for decades, and in a video “The Holocaust The New York Times Ignored“ question is asked about complacency in journalism then and now.
The death of millions was silenced for decades thanks to the foreign journalists in Moscow who failed to do their jobs.
They became too comfortable accepting indulgences from communist party elites and were too cowardly to risk their status by actually doing their jobs.
Dissenting from the official narrative and speaking truth is what journalists and storytellers are supposed to do, but it always comes at a price.
Story from USSR shows us that many are not ready to pay it.
The other video is from „The Hill’s Rising“ host Saagar Enjeti about journalists in the 2020 USA getting to cozy with Washington elites.
Enjeti criticized Politico’s Jake Sherman for openly tweeting about his friendly get-togethers with the Former House Speaker John Boehner whose work he was supposed to cover, and NPR’s Nina Totenberg who admitted she was a close friend with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, prompting a question can a reporter, committed to neutrality and balance, fairly cover a public figure with whom they have a close friendship.
Both videos suggest that the answer is no.
„Exactly how toxic and cancerous this symbiotic relationship between the media and the people they cover can be is seen during the run-up to the war in Iraq“, claims host Saagar Enjeti.
“The Holocaust The New York Times Ignored” concludes this;
Supposedly telling truth to power is why a large percentage of journalists get into that business in the first place and yet when it comes down to it, too many choose the comforts and security of their position instead. These are people who want to believe that they would be Gareth Jones, but who are in fact Walter Duranty. It was fear and complacency of the journalists that allowed Stalin to cover up the genocide. It is that same fear and complacency that today empowers people who squash critical thinking and diversity of opinion. To quote Captain America from the Civil War comic “when the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree by the river of truth and tell the whole world; „No, you move.“ Gareth Jones didn’t move and he paid the price for that decision.
The final tragedy of Gareth Jones is that a couple of years after his trip to the USSR, just two days before his 30th birthday, he was shot and killed while traveling through China. The official story blamed Mongolian bandits but some historians believe that it was the NKVD – Stalin’s secret police.