Gazeta Wyborca traces its lineage to what was the leading underground newspaper in Poland of the 1980s, Tygodnik Mazowsze. The clandestine title appeared under the noses of Poland’s communist authorities, week after week, from 1982 to 1989–some 290 issues in all.
Tygodnik Mazowsze was run almost entirely by women affiliated with Poland’s then-banned Solidarity opposition. When the country’s communist rulers permitted Solidarity candidates to stand in elections in 1989, one of the conditions was that the movement be permitted to publish an above-ground newspaper.
So the staff of Tygodnik Mazowsze moved up from the underground to launch Gazeta Wyborca, which means “electoral newspaper.” In the years since, Gazeta has become the dominant news outlet in Poland, which now is a thriving democracy.
Gazeta noted that U.S. news media “triumphantly” mentioned “cases in which journalists have changed the course of history” and referred to Murrow’s “instrumental” role in ending Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communists-in-government witch-hunt.
It also noted CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite’s criticism of the Vietnam War in 1968, which supposedly forced President Lyndon Johnson to realize his war policy was a shambles.
It’s too bad Gazeta didn’t point out that both cases are media-driven myths.
“To be sure,” I write in Getting It Wrong, “it wasn’t as if Americans in early 1954 were hoping for someone to step up and expose McCarthy, or waiting for a white knight like Murrow to tell them about the toxic threat the senator posed.”
By then, they knew all too well.
Nor was Cronkite at the cutting edge of criticism of the U.S. war effort in Vietnam.
The CBS anchorman declared in a televised special report on February 27, 1968, that the U.S. military was “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam.
But that scarcely was a remarkable assertion.
But in fact, Johnson wasn’t in front of a television set that night. He didn’t see the Cronkite program when it aired.
At the time Cronkite was intoning his “mired in stalemate” assessment, Johnson was offering light-hearted banter in Austin, Texas, at the 51st birthday party of one of his longtime political allies, Governor John Connally.
So it’s difficult to fathom how Johnson could have been much moved by a program that he hadn’t seen.
Recent and related:
- Two myths and today’s New York Times
- Invoking the ‘Cronkite Moment’ in Canada
- Murrow the brave? Not in McCarthy days
- Spiegel thumbsucker invokes Watergate myth
- ‘Follow the tenspot’
- ‘Follow the money’: A made-up Watergate line
- ‘Newspapers must learn from their history’
- Jimmy Carter fumbles Watergate history
- Media myths, the ‘junk food of journalism’
- Gotham’s remarkable New Year’s Eve
- ‘Commentary’ reviews ‘Getting It Wrong’