Cold War, Hot Debate

By Bering, Helle | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 10, 2000 | Go to article overview

Cold War, Hot Debate


Bering, Helle, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Anyone who was breathing easier because he thought the Cold War was over may want to reconsider. As far as CNN goes, the Cold War is here to stay. On and on it drones on Ted Turner's network, in the form of the 24-part television series first inflicted upon the world last summer. Flip channels on any given evening, and you will likely at some point come upon Kenneth Branagh's ominous intonations about the Berlin Wall or the evils of Joseph McCarthy. Indeed, by now these programs have become as familiar as the interminable PBS "Nature" features, which invariably begin, "Winter comes early to Yellowstone," or "As a species, sharks are much misunderstood." The latter always makes one suspicious that the producers must have been under the influence of pro-shark propagandists.

Equally, what seems to be CNN's not so subtle exercise in national brainwashing ought to arouse suspicions. Not only are CNN viewers (both here and abroad by the way) condemned to a purgatory of endless reruns, Mr. Turner has also arranged to have both the series and the book that accompanies it distributed in American schools as teaching materials. Considering how little history Americans in general manage to absorb, one wonders if uncritical acceptance of the Cold War according to Ted Turner isn't a danger here. After all, this was the man who extended his hand in friendship to the Soviets with the creation of the Goodwill games, and who later married no less than "Hanoi Jane" Fonda.

It may be recalled that "Cold War" caused a good deal of controversy when it was first broadcast, this despite having names of real substance involved in its production. Sir Jeremy Isaacs of the BBC, who previously produced "The World at War," an outstanding panorama of World War II, and John Lewis Gaddis, who served as consultant to the "Cold War" and is one of the pre-eminent historians of the period.

From Jacob Heilbrunn in the New Republic to Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post to Arnold Beichman in The Washington Times and the Weekly Standard, the series was roundly criticized as an exercise in historical distortion and moral equivalence. As politically divisive a period in recent history as the Cold War was, of course, it was destined to produce divisive historical analysis as well. Before Mr. Turner succeeds in permeating the national psyche with his perspective, it is therefore of the greatest importance that counterbalancing arguments be given due attention.

Many of these articles can now be found in the best antidote there is to Turnerized world history: the volume, "CNN's Cold War Documentary: Issues and Controversy" edited by Mr. Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a columnist for this newspaper. …

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