CNN’s ‘War’ barbs

Cabler's docu series assailed over content

NEW YORK — The sniping has begun over the editorial slant of CNN’s massive 24-hour documentary series “Cold War,” personally conceived by Ted Turner, which the network is running in one-hour segments every Sunday night through next April 4.

Two strong denunciations of the docu, one appearing in Friday’s Washington Post and the other in the Nov. 9 issue of the New Republic, make the same point: “Cold War” paints the U.S. and the Soviet Union with the same brush, blaming them just about equally for the conflict that dragged on from the end of WWII to the final breakup of the Soviet Union earlier this decade.

Jacob Heilbrunn, a senior editor for the New Republic, said the series portrays the Cold War as “a morally unintelligible contest between two equally dangerous superpowers, whose ‘fear’ of each other constantly threatened to plunge a world full of innocent bystanders into nuclear holocaust.”

Uneven parallels

Further, the docu “fails to make the connection between the barbarous internal nature of the Soviet system and its foreign policy,” Heilbrunn said. “Instead, every effort is made to draw parallels between American misdeeds, at home and abroad, and Soviet ones. Neither Soviet communism itself nor any of its individual leaders is held to account for perpetuating the Cold War.”

In an even angrier opinion piece, Charles Krauthammer, a columnist for the Washington Post, accused the docu of comparing the Soviet gulag, which he calls “a vast continental system of arrest, torture, disappearance, execution, forced labor, starvation,” with the Hollywood 10, a group of writers, producers and directors who served between four and 10 months in jail for advocating communism.

While acknowledging that the jailing and blacklisting of the Hollywood 10 “shouldn’t have happened,” Krauthammer wrote that it’s crazy to equate this “blot on our history” to the “ocean of blood” unleashed by the gulag.

Global perspective

In response, a spokesman for CNN said, “We set out intentionally to produce a documentary that would not analyze the Cold War from an American perspective, would not be geared to an American audience.”

“What we’ve produced,” the spokesman said, “is an objective, global view of the Cold War” that Turner Broadcasting will distribute throughout the world.

And just because the docu gives roughly equal time to the tragedies that gripped the U.S. and the Soviet Union at various times throughout the last six decades “doesn’t mean that we’re equating them morally.”

Is CNN stung by the criticism from Heilbrunn and Krauthammer? On the contrary, says the spokesman: There’s nothing better than a spirited give-and-take about weighty issues. “We look on this as a fascinating debate.”

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