Jon Stewart’s Daily Show exemplifies the media’s horrible whitewashing of communism

Forced labor in a Soviet GulagIf you read Timothy Snyder’s wrenching Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin about life West of Russia and East of Berlin from 1933 through 1945, the first thing you’ll learn is that Hitler wasn’t an innovator when it came to mass murder. Instead, he learned about it from Stalin, who had been practicing mass murder for almost a decade before Hitler really caught on to its possibilities.

It was Stalin, after all, who killed tens of millions in the Ukraine by confiscating every single bit of grain they produced, including the grain that was needed to seed the next season’s harvest.  He did this for two reasons:  (1) to break the back of the independent farming class, which did not want to become cogs in the socialist machinery; and (2) to sell the grain overseas to create the false impression the Communism was economically self-sustaining.  Hitler was inspired.

Hitler was also inspired by Stalin’s Gulags.  Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History, explains what was going on in these labor and death camps.  Jonah Goldberg introduces just two of the terrible stories Applebaum tells:

A slave who falls in the snow is not helped up by his comrades but is instantly stripped of his clothes and left to die. His last words: “It’s so cold.”

Hava Volovich, a once-obscure newspaper editor turned slave laborer, has a baby, Eleonora, in captivity. Eleonora spends her first months in a room where “bedbugs poured down like sand from the ceiling and walls.” A year later, Eleonora is wasting away, starving in a cold ward at slave “mothers’ camp.” She begs her mother to take her back “home” to that bedbug-infested hovel. Working all day in the forest to earn food rations, Hava manages to visit her child each night. Finally, Eleonora in her misery refuses even her mother’s embrace, wanting only to drift away in bed. Eleonora dies, hungry and cold, at 15 months. Her mother writes: “In giving birth to my only child, I committed the worst crime there is.”

Multiply these stories by a million. Ten million.

Goldberg wasn’t retelling these horrific narratives just to depress us.  Instead, he’s challenging the anodyne, bloodless narratives in which the American media is engaging during its Sochi Olympic’s coverage:

What to say of the gormless press-agent twaddle conjured up to describe the Soviet Union? In its opening video for the Olympic Games, NBC’s producers drained the thesaurus of flattering terms devoid of moral content: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures.”

To parse this infomercial treacle is to miss the point, for the whole idea is to luge by the truth on the frictionless skids of euphemism.

Bad as the Olympic coverage is on NBC and other news channels, what happened on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show the other night is worse.  Staff member Jason Jones went to Russia for the show and did a so-called “humorous” piece in which he looks longingly back on the good old days of the Cold War.  He commits so many fact crimes along the way that it’s hard to keep track.

The one that irked me most was the way Jones created a significant lie by telling a half-truth.  Thus, he gave deserved credit to Gorbachev for signing the paper that ended the Soviet Union, but forgets to show that Gorbachev did so, not just because he was courageous and principled (which he was), but also because the system was already collapsing.  He could retreat elegantly or be buried under a pile of bullets and rubbish.  Between the intense moral pressure from Pope John Paul II, Maggie Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Lech Walesla; and the economic pressure from Ronald Reagan, the Soviet system, which was always unsustainable, finally ended, not with a bang, but with a long, drawn-out whimper.

More subtly horrible is the way Jones, playing a Stephen Colbert-esque stupid American, deliberately allows Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Duma member, to run rings around him. Jones may be smart enough and informed enough to be in on the fact that Nikonov is whitewashing the Soviet Union’s past and Russia’s present, but I’m quite sure that the 18-35 demographic watching the Daily Show has no idea what the reality is and was.

When Nikonov brushes off the fact that the Soviet Union was an “Evil Empire,” Jones challenges him by teasing his accent.  Jones next allows Nikonov to boast about the fact that the Soviets defeated the Nazis, and at great cost too.

While it’s true that the Soviets lost more people to the Nazis than did any other nation or nationality, those horrific losses were in large part due to the sheer inefficiency of the Soviet War machine. The Communists quickly turned their factories to war production, but the products were dreadful. More than that, it was always cheaper for Stalin to throw men at the Germans to absorb the German bullets, than for Stalin to waste his own bullets on the Germans. The sheer number of bodies Stalin had at his command was his greatest weapon — and Russia’s greatest tragedy.

Jones’ and Nikonov’s silly, staged argument about who won the war also obscures a much more important fact: until Hitler’s megalomania got the best of him, he and Stalin were allies during the first years of World War II. Right up until the maddened Nazi dog turned on him, Stalin was perfectly happy to make common cause with Hitler.

And so it goes, with Jones’ being the stupid American schooled by the polished Nikonov. None of it’s funny (as in, at a pure comedy level, it’s poorly done) and all of it is a huge steaming pile of pro-Communist misinformation, ending with Jones begging for a return to the Cold War and laughing at Americans who feared nuclear annihilation.

Here — see for yourself:

Goldberg opened his masterful slam against the media by talking about Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase, “the banality of evil”:

The phrase “banality of evil” was instantly controversial, largely because it was misunderstood. Arendt was not trying to minimize Nazism’s evil but to capture its enormity. The staggering moral horror of the Holocaust was that it made complicity “normal.” Liquidating the Jews was not just the stuff of mobs and demagogues but of bureaucracies and bureaucrats.

Thanks to the Daily Show, we’ve seen that banality sink to new lows.  It’s become the stuff of comedy.  And worse, it’s not the devastating comedy that exposes evil for what it really is.  Instead, through bad jokes and canned laughter, it gives moral stature to an evil system, all the while ridiculing the country that liberated tens of millions of people from endless slavery and brutal death.

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  • Ymarsakar

    What does it matter what evil institutions give props to evil empires.
    It only matters if you think of them as your equals. Which, I frankly, cannot stomach. And I can stomach a lot of things most people cannot.

  • Matt_SE

    Maybe Stewart can be persuaded to make a joke about the Holocaust next. Who knows how far he’ll sink under the influence of leftism?

    • Ymarsakar

      Should be drugged and a fake but accurate video of him teasing and insulting Mohammed should be put up.
      islamic Jihad will take care of the rest.

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  • jj

    I’ve always been intrigued by the historical whitewashing everybody but Hitler has received in the halls of academe – or whatever that is, the hall to the men’s room, more like – in this country.  They’ve sold themselves on the idea that Hitler was somehow right-wing, so it’s okay to make him the leading monster of recorded history.  (Right wing?  NSDAP – let’s see… “National,” “Socialist,” Worker’s” – all right-wing buzzwords, certainly.)
    However.  Mao probably gets the gold medal, somewhere between 60 and 100 million people murdered.  Then comes Stalin with the silver, for upwards of 20 million – or 30 to 40 million if you regard his purging of the military right before Hitler invaded to count against him in the millions of war dead owing to Commie incompetence, unreadiness, and general stupidity.  Third we have Lenin, no one really knows how many were murdered in his name, but it was around 10 million.  Then comes Jane Fonda’s pal Uncle Ho, who, best guess, did in about 10 million when he collectivized the north.  Nobody’s ever going to know what the founder of the Kim dynasty in North Korea did when he collectivized but I bet it was considerable.  Hitler comes in about fourth or fifth at best in just the 20th century slaughterhouse sweepstakes, behind all the Commie “experiments.”  I don’t know what the treacherous, murderous, sick bastards were “experimenting” with, but far too many social scientists seem willing to forgive them, while maintaining Hitler as the worst who ever lived.  Seems odd, or should seem odd, to anyone who can count.  Of course that requirement, “able to count,” sets the bar too high for such as Stewart.

  • Ymarsakar

    Some people talk about forgiving the cannonfodder of the Left, for “they know not what they do”.
    The thing is, people are allowed to forgive their enemies, but nobody gave them authority to forgive my enemies in my place nor did anyone give them the authority to forgive the enemies of humanity what their crimes against humanity have cost millions of our fellows.
    Nobody gave them that authority. They don’t speak for God either.

  • KellyM

    The spin on this subject doesn’t surprise me, and coming from this source it’s even less surprising. I was horrified and frankly a little ill watching the opening ceremonies and the presentation of 1000 years of Russian History. The whitewashing was sickening. By the time they got to the Post WWII portion of the show it was just plain icky.  As a Cold War kid and an early Gen-Xer it made me shiver. My husband became downright angry watching it, and we turned it off in favor of the events coverage we had also recorded. 
    It’s concerning that my generation is probably the last one that may have been taught anything substantive about the evils of Communism and the Soviet Union; heck we may have been the last ones to receive any substantive education in World History at all! I make mention of historical events or themes to other people in my rough age range and am often met with blank stares. And this is basic stuff. Doesn’t bode well for the future.

  • David Foster

    I was reading the memoirs of a Soviet officer from WWII. When they encountered a German concentration camp, he told a friend he had seen these things called “gas vans” and how horrible it was.
    “You know,” said his friend, “They got them from us.”

  • Charles Martel

    One of the tells that lets you know that Communism and Nazism are siblings is that the left has so willingly and unself-consciously taken on the mantle of industrial strength anti-Semitism. The co-optation of our country’s abysmally ignorant youth by the totalitarians is succeeding in all areas—hatred for the market, the Constitution, Catholicism, Jews, white men, work, excellence, the West, and chastity. Their love is for all things low, deathly, or contemptuous of intellect—Islam, abortion, euthanasia, feminism, radical homosexuality, Jon Stewart, Lena Dunham.
    I don’t know if the left’s victory is yet complete. I do know that it is temporary. No culture can survive at the level of ignorance and cowardice that left wishes upon us. There are nuclear-armed Asians who will see to it that we don’t. 

  • David Foster

    It appears that the Soviet officer’s friend (referenced in my comment above) was correct about the origins of the gas van:

  • Ymarsakar

    Enemies of humanity wasn’t just a term of dramatic social tension.
    In other news, there are a lot of individuals that have multi tasking skills on the level of tactical or strategic proficients.

    Right now, it is just fun and games. But I can forsee a situation where these natural inclinations can be used for a civil war type context.

  • lee

    Well, “Gulag” comes in at a liitle over 700 pages, and while there is an audiobook available, it’s unabridged. Surely you can’t expect Jason Jones to have the attention span to wade through it, even as an audiobook.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I get so tired of the old canard, still very popular in the UK, that it was the Russians that defeated the Nazis. When idiots make that claim, I point out that while the Russians fought the war on one front, the U.S. fought WWII on four fronts: Northern Europe, Southern Europe, the Pacific and, finally, the incredible supply pipeline to the Russians (across the Aleutians and the Murmansk run) without which the Russians would have collapsed.

    • Ymarsakar

      The commissars were shooting Russian troops in the back, that’s how they pushed through the meat grinder and made the Germans waste ammo. This is seen as victory, in the same sense that Obama destroying American lives is a victory.

  • Gringo

    Off topic but of interest for those living in the Bay Area- and those of us  who used to live in the Bay Area: Essential map of the Bay Area.

  • Charles Martel

    Add to Ymarsakar’s comment about Russian officers shooting their own troops in the back, Stalin padded the statistics of Russian deaths when he loaded suspect ethnic groups on rail cars and sent them east to Siberia where they would not be able to offer aid and assistance to the Germans. Inevitably many of them died from starvation, exposure, and brutality. The Germans, who prided themselves on their ability to murder at a murderous pace, could not have killed 20 million by themselves even in their wildest Wagnerian fantasies.

  • Charles Martel

    Gringo, your map: hella funny!

  • Caped Crusader

    Better add North Africa, making yet another front. My uncle and Book’s Dad were there.

  • eric-odessit

    You know. you touched upon something that is my pet peeve.  I see Soviet symbols in this country treated as something funny and cute.  Some time ago my boss gave me a bottle of orange soda called “Leninade”, complete with the portrait of Lenin and a hammer and sickle on it.  He was attempting a joke, and the drink is actually pretty good, but I was not amused.  Nobody would make fun of Nazi symbols, but Soviet Union was no better.  The Communists just did not base who they murdered on ethnic origin, but they killed way more people than the Nazis did.  Unfortunately the Left succeeded in hiding the evil of the Communist ideology.  It goes back to the movies like “Doctor Strangelove”, where the Soviets portrayed as buffoons, and US is just as guilty as the Soviet Union in destroying the world.  I get very frustrated over it.  I don’t know what to do about it.  Until the evil of the Communist ideology, Soviet Union in particular, is shown in the popular culture, just like the evil of Nazism was, I am afraid nothing will change.  What makes it even harder is the fact that the Soviets were on the good side of World War 2.  Both of mine and my wife’s grandfathers were in the Soviet Army during WW2.  So, it is confusing for my kids, when I tell them that, while the Soviets were on good side of WW2, and tell them stories about my grandpa, and yet tell them that the Soviets were generally bad guys.  Makes your head spin.

  • Ymarsakar

    One of the reasons the Left likes Soviet casualties is because the Russian high command sent so many cannon fodder to the front lines and raped so many German women during and after the war, that it produced a deficiency in Russian marriage prospects.
    It’s a death cult. Death for the Russians due to attrition. Death for the Germans, by destroying the psychological and fertility health of their most vulnerable women, that gives birth to the next generation.
    It’s just copies of what they do in the US. When you see a Leftist love the Soviets, the human reaction isn’t to act surprised or despairing. The human reaction is to turn off the “human perception” filter and begin to see pigs as pigs, not as “pink humans”.

  • Call me Lennie

    Don’t get sloppy with your numbers, Bookie.  There weren’t tens of millions of victims of the Ukrainian famine.  There were perhaps 20 million victims of Stalin’s atrocities in total.  As for the Holodo Mor (Hunger Death) the absolute highest estimate is 8 million and the normal range of estimates is 3 to 5 million.
    I would have to take issue with the idea that Soviet weapons were bad.  Actually, they were quite good.  Soviet tanks weren’t as good as the Germans on an one to one basis, but they were far less expensive to make and they were better than  the American Sherman.  Soviet artillery and Katyusha rockets were really good, as were their infantry weapon.  One of the few things the USSR could do well is grind out huge numbers of pretty good weapons
    As for the stunning  USSR death total, (9 million military and 30 million total) of course a lot of the blame for the unbelievable early military losses falls on Stalin’s purge of the military in the Thirties.  As soon as promising young generals were identified to replace the doddering fools in charge at the beginning, the hemorrhaging stopped.  But don’t forget the role of Stalin’s drastic scorched earth policies which left the tens of millions of civilians in territory overrun by Nazis with very little to subsist on.  How many millions starved to death because of this?

  • Danny Lemieux

    Caped Crusader, I hadn’t forgotten: I lumped North Africa with the Southern Europe campaign. The North African British and American armies redirected to Sicily, then Southern Italy and then France. It was the 7th Army that saved my mother’s family (after her father and younger brother were killed by a B-24 accidentally dropping its bombs) and helped bring her to American with a scholarship (long story)…it involved her cousin’s leadership in the French Resistance. 

    • Ymarsakar

      There was some argument about why FDR and company chose France to invade via the beaches rather than transporting the material from North Africa to Italy, to the Balkans. Dana West seems to suggest it was because even though France was fortified, it was easier on the Soviets and the British, as it allowed the Soviets to grab Poland and put down their Iron Curtain.
      What’s funny is that the counter is when people think they know what the outlay is, by bringing up Hannibal’s difficulty in crossing the Alps. If I recall correctly from Rome Total War’s geography maps, one doesn’t need to go into the Alps to head to Poland and Germany/Russia. You need to go through the Alps to reach Switzerland and France. But France was supposed to be the road to Berlin. Bypassing France means we don’t need to go through the Alps to go through France and then Berlin, giving the entirety of East Europe to the Soviets.

  • Charles Martel

    Regarding Soviet weapons, I know many military historians consider the T-34 to be the finest tank of WWII—the Germans’ Tiger and Panther tanks notwithstanding. The Soviet tank was simple, both as a matter of being able to make as many of them as possible and teaching Russian farm boys in the shortest possible order how to drive them.
    Russian planes couldn’t match ours, but their purpose was entirely different: close-in support of ground troops (kind of like our modern A-10 Warthog). The Russians were content to let the Yanks and Brits bomb the German homeland, and understood that planes in that kind of warfare had to be heavily armored long-distance bomb carriers and the high-speed fighters that could protect them in massively defended airspaces. 
    I know that U.S. Sherman was no star. It was incredibly undergunned and stodgy compared to Russian and German tanks. But superior numbers and tactics often won the day for Americans when four or five Shermans would gang up on one German tank and pound the s**t out of it (kinda like how gangs and Democrats work).
    The reason the Shermans were so lightweight and lightly armored compared to their German and Russian counterparts is that the U.S. opted to favor abundance over sophistication. The Americans reasoned that if you could pack 100 relatively cheap Shermans versus 50 heavier, much more expensive tanks on a convoy that has to sail 3,000 perilous miles, eventually you can ship enough Shermans to take down lesser numbers of superior German armor.

    • Ymarsakar

      The Shermans were indeed light on armor and cannon strength, although US forces had specialized anti tank killer platforms. But under a competent general like Patton, the primary issue they faced was running out of fuel: logistics.
      Tactics and strategy both require logistics to work.

    • lee

      Don’t know much about WWII Soviet Tanks and US Sherman tanks. But the T-72, which was supposed to be so great because it had such a low profile, it made for a more difficult target, got that low profile by eliminating the turret floor. At least on the ones delivered to the Syrians. Also, (and perhaps related to this), in the time it took a Merkava to get off four rounds, a T-72 could only get off one round.
      I loved imagining what happened as the turret turned….

    • Ymarsakar

      Based on some WWII tank simulations, the Sherman was weaker in a platoon of pure tanks vs enemy tanks. But when you add in combined arms approach of infantry, shielding the infantry, it was much superior merely because there were a lot more shermans to support infantry than the Germans had.
      If you didn’t care about your infantry and used them up as fodder, like Hitler and Stalin did, you would never use the Sherman combined arms, numeral superiority and tactical flexibility approach. It’s better in terms of war power, if you combine your aristocratic heavy cavalry, the Panzers, together. Which the Germans didn’t do either, because they killed their best tank commanders… stupidly.

  • David Foster

    Since the discussion is touching on WWII weapons…there is a project to save part of the Willow Run Bomber Plant from demolition and turn it into a museum.  The plant was built for the single purpose of producing B-24 bombers, and it symbolized the application of automotive-style mass-production techniques to aircraft production (something believed by Hitler and Goering to be impossible.) The project is still $2 million short of what it needs. 
    I wrote about the plant here: Willow Run Plant Needs Help.