A Peek at the Past

by Jay Nordlinger

I have an item in Impromptus today about the Berlin Wall, and I wanted to jot an addendum here in the Corner. Earlier in the week, I did some Googling about the wall, and came upon this: an Associated Press report published in the Milwaukee Sentinel on November 20, 1961. It tells us something about what mainstream journalism once was, and what it became.

The headline is “Reds Rush to Shut Berlin Wall Gaps.” The report opens, “The communists turned out hundreds of men and dozens of machines Sunday night to work feverishly on closing the last gaps in the red wall dividing Berlin.”

Later, we read that “[t]he burst of red construction activity appeared to be in defiance of demands by Western leaders that the wall must be torn down as part of any Berlin settlement.”

Have another excerpt, please:

East German police, aided by two cranes, rammed steel girders into the street to form a four-foot high tank barrier. A typical propaganda sign on the spot proclaimed: “Anyone Who Attacks Us Will Be Annihilated.”

Communist loudspeakers at other points along the wall blasted out the phrase: “You are going to experience an eventful night.”

Suffice it to say, when I started reading newspapers, there was nothing like this in them. The Left was on its “long march through the institutions,” nearing the completion of that march. Tom Hayden was not some odd, pestiferous red. He was Joe Mainstream. Saul Alinsky was smiling down on (up at?) the America he helped create.

November 20, 1961, in the Milwaukee paper; Associated Press reports before the New Left took over. What a different world that was!

P.S. Compare the AP report I’ve cited with a headline in the New York Times, less than 15 years later, when the Khmer Rouge — who would go on to kill between a fifth and a quarter of the Cambodian population — seized power: “Indochina without Americans: For Most, a Better Life.”

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