Category Archives: Gorbachev

U.S. Media: Unending Frustration (Part 2)

Bernard Lown, MD

A quarter-century later I am still bristling with anger that the American mainstream media went stone deaf, blocking my informative discussion with Mikhail Gorbachev from reaching the public (Part 1). Though the press conference held in Moscow immediately after the meeting was crowded with journalists, including the entire American press corps, only the Boston Globe reported on the three-hour conversation.

This blackout was astonishing. Gorbachev was not just any world leader; he was the czar of an empire brimming with nuclear overkill, able to reduce the United States to a radioactive pyre. The CIA, at the time, was hungry for information, spending $2 billion annually to gather scraps of gossip and collect every twitter emanating from the Kremlin. Gorbachev’s views were unknown. Had the public been informed of his readiness for compromise revealed in our discussion, that knowledge might have hastened ridding the world of genocidal weapons. Why had the U.S. establishment wished to keep his views secret?

Of course, censorship and the doctoring of events is a daily occurrence in the mainstream media. I learned this intimately during 10 years as co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. IPPNW struggled mightily with but limited success to reach the American public. Our meetings, briefings, and press conferences were consistently ignored by the U.S. media. We doctors are reputable members of society, well-regarded professionals, constantly sought out by the media for our medical views. But on the life-and-death issue of the nuclear arms race, our expert information and informed views were consigned to a black hole.

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U.S. Media: Unending Frustration (Part 1)

Bernard Lown, MD

Imagine a new head of state rising to absolute power in a country threatening our extinction. Imagine further that an American doctor enters that leader’s inner sanctum and that the two hold a lengthy conversation. Would the American media not widely report the meeting and besiege the physician?

Such an event actually took place. The country was the Soviet Union, then targeting the United States with a vast nuclear arsenal. The new leader was Mikhail Gorbachev, and I was the American doctor. We met in the Kremlin on December 18, 1985, and conversed for three hours.

Outside Russia little was known about Gorbachev. He had unexpectedly been anointed general secretary of the Communist Party, the highest office in the USSR. Before that he was the minister of agriculture, a dead-end position that in the past had led to political oblivion. Gorbachev, who unlike any of his predecessors was born after the October Revolution, had not been part of the Moscow Communist Party bureaucracy. In further contrast to the ossified gerontocracy that had dominated the Politburo for decades, Gorbachev was in his early 50s, highly intelligent, well educated, brilliantly articulate, and bursting with charisma.

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