Readers with a long memory may recall Vladimir Pozner, the native English speaker who served in the United States as a spokesman for the Soviet Union during the 1980’s. With the Reagan administration undertaking the policies that ultimately brought us victory in the Cold War, Pozner was an incredibly popular voice of opposition here. In Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First, Mona Charen recalls that Pozner was all the rage on American television during the 1980s:
He became a regular on ABC’s Nightline, made dozens of appearances on Donahue, and was interviewed for countless news programs. ABC even gave him eight minutes of uninterrupted airtime following one of President Reagan’s speeches….When the magazine Media Watch examined the way Pozner was identified, they found that he was referred to as a “Communist” only once out of 157 references. Most called him simply a “commentator,” which was misleading…
Because, you know, the guy was a paid propagandist for our number one enemy.
The Soviet Union’s chief propaganda campaign of the 1980’s involved the nuclear freeze movement. ABC (“The Day After”) and Democrat State Television (“Testament”) broadcast movies that promoted the themes of the Soviet Union’s campaign. NBC also got on board with its own “scaremongering documentary called ‘Facing Up to the Bomb,'” as Charen also recalls:
It was advertised with promos like “The Nuclear Strategy Game: Are We Nearing Checkmate? Watch this Broadcast as if Your Life Depened on it. It may.”
For some reason I was wondering last week whatever happened to Pozner following the dissolution of his former employer. Thanks to Ed Driscoll, I have learned the answer. Ed cruelly headlines his PJ Media post on Pozner: “NBC goes full Commie. Never go full Commie, man.” Reading Ed’s terrific post, I feel young again.
Ed’s post might have a similar impact on President Obama. A few years back the New York Times reported that in 1983, as a Columbia undergraduate, Obama was among the “useful idiots” expressing high-minded disparagement of Reagan’s defense policies. That’s not exactly how the Times put it, because Times reporters William Broad and David Sanger failed to supply the missing historical context that Charen’s book provides, and because the Times itself figures prominently among the “useful idiots” chronicled by Charen.
The Times article reported on Obama’s March 1983 article “Breaking the war mentality.” The Times noted that in the article Obama railed against discussions of “first-versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.
In his article Obama praised the nuclear freeze movement and celebrated the work of two groups: Arms Race Alternatives and Students Against Militarism. By Obama’s description of them, the groups were among the “useful idiots” promoting the Soviet line on Reagan’s build-up: “These groups, visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are shifting their weight into throwing America off the dead-end track.”
Obama dismissed a possible reservation regarding the “narrow focus” of the groups, citing the deep wisdom of Peter Tosh that “everybody’s asking for peace, but nobody’s asking for justice.” Heavy, man.
But if Peter Tosh was heavy, he had nothing on Obama himself. Obama decried “the most pervasive tendency of the collegiate system specifically, and the American experience generally.” Obama described this “tendency” as the disembodiment of “elaborate patterns of knowledge and theory from individual choices and government policy.” According to Obama, Arms Race Alternatives and Students Against Militarism had come “to save us from the twisted logic of which we are today a part.”
The Times chose to portray Obama’s 1983 article as the early expression of his continuing pursuit of “a nuclear free world.” That’s one way to put it. While others may hope that Obama has outgrown his youthful radicalism, the Times suggested that he is fulfilling it. The Times appears to have gotten that right.
STEVE adds: I haven’t given that human worm a thought in a long time, but I actually debated Pozner once on a local TV show in Los Angeles around 1987 or so. Long story how a mere graduate student such as myself (I still had all my hair!) came to get the nod to smack that guy around; basically they couldn’t find anyone who was able to do the show, and I’d been on before about something else. He’s very slippery of course, but I got in some heavy blows finally about the the Soviet Union’s anti-Semitism and opposition to any freedom of thought. The Claremont Institute transcribed it at the time, but that was in the pre-internet days, so I don’t know if it survives anywhere.