The Campaign Spot

Do NBC Sports Anchors Know Anything About Communism?

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Communism Was the Worst Mistake in Human History. Do NBC Sports Anchors Know This?

What you think depends upon what you know.

You’re a smart, well-read, well-educated audience. (And handsome, too!) When I say “Communism,” or more specifically, the “Soviet Union,” a lot probably comes to mind.

You may think of the occupation of Eastern Europe. Or the massive internal forced migrations. Or the Ukrainian famine, which killed 7 to 11 million people in a two-year period. Or the system of several hundred gulags and labor colonies, which imprisoned and in many cases killed 14 million people. Or the extensive, brutal, far-reaching and ruthless secret police, the KGB, the NKVD and others. Or the Katyn Massacre, killing about 22,000. The treatment of German civilians after World War Two. The deployment of nuclear missiles to Cuba, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear conflict in 1963. The KGB’s active support of terror groups around the world. The unprovoked invasion of Afghanistan. Or the shooting down of KAL 007. Or their callous attempt to cover up the catastrophic disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, not mentioning anything to the public for nearly three days.

I’m sure you can think of other glaring examples of the Soviet Union’s epic, unparalleled, brutal reign of terror over a large chunk of the globe for decades. The point is that a LOT comes immediately to mind.

Friday night’s opening ceremony of the Olympics in Sochi offered a ludicrously rewritten version of Russian history, in which some of humanity’s most bloody chapters were reimagined as Mardi Gras in Candyland.

I remember Red Square being more . . . red.

After a lot of agriculture and farming in a stage full of red representing what we usually think of as the Cold War, the program came to the late 1980s. At that moment, a little girl let go of a red balloon, symbolizing the end of the Soviet Union:

“A bittersweet moment,” declared NBC anchor Meredith Vieira.

And I lost it, needing to break character on Twitter from my persona of a staunchly loyal Russian apparatchik.

Can it really be that Vieira genuinely believes the end of the Soviet Union was a “bittersweet” moment? If one of Putin’s goons was in the booth with her, glaring at her menacingly with his hand on the grip of his silenced pistol, I’ll forgive her. Otherwise, this is may be the dumbest statement ever uttered on television, and mind you, this is the network that employs Chris Collinsworth.

Was she so sucked into the imagery — a girl is losing her balloon! — that she forgot what the whole thing was supposed to symbolize? If so, mission accomplished, Vladimir Putin. The end of the Soviet Union — which Putin called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” — has now been transmogrified into a sad passing of a simpler, happier era.

A lot of folks jumped on Bob Costas for an unidentified NBC narrator referring to communism as “one of modern history’s pivotal experiments,” and that deserves its own rebuke. But the problem with that is that it’s a bloodless, anodyne phrase, designed to avoid offending the hosts. Vieira’s comment was worse because it suggested there was something sad about the greatest retreat of oppression in modern history. The phrase “pivotal experiments” is cowardly in its unwillingness to judge, but “bittersweet” is worse because it’s the inverse, saluting the oppressor and lamenting his departure.

Costas is currently suffering from pinko-eye — er, excuse me, pinkeye — and Vieira apparently fell in a toilet, so maybe the poor choice of words represented some sort of health-related mental lapse. I can’t be surprised that the Russians are airbrushing their history with wind-tunnel force, trying to persuade themselves that the years of the A-bomb, the Korean War, Soviet troops crushing the uprising in Hungary, etc., mostly looked like Mad Men with a different color palette.

That’s Putin’s Russia being Putin’s Russia, and we’re naïve if we expected otherwise. But NBC, the first “N” in your name is “National.” As in “Nation.” You’re ours, not theirs, and that means you’re free to call them as you see them. Just because they put on ludicrously inaccurate propaganda in amongst some genuinely impressive singing, dancing, and floor projections doesn’t mean you have to nod in agreement to the propaganda.

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