In her speech to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation on November 12 (it was released on November 23), ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose decided it was appropriate to have a few parting shots at the (almost certainly) outgoing US President.
Having favourably quoted The New York Times as asserting that Australia’s “conservative government” would go to any lengths “to scare officials and reporters into submission”, Buttrose turned her attention on Donald J. Trump. In fact, this comment appeared in a report by Damien Cave — not in a New York Times editorial.
The ABC chairwoman said some leaders did not need much encouragement to oppress the media. She added: “Outgoing US President Donald Trump declared journalists to be the enemy of the people. Dare I say, Mr Trump — that’s fake news. Journalists are truth tellers.”
It so happened that Buttrose’s declaration that journalists are truth tellers coincided with the apology issued by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour for comparing Trump’s term in office with Nazi Germany.
On November 12, Amanpour said on CNN: “This week, 82 years ago, Kristallnacht happened. It was the Nazis’ warning shot across the bow of our human civilisation that led to genocide against a whole identity and, in that tower of burning books, it led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and proof. After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden-Harris team pledges a return to normal.”
Amanpour is an intelligent, well-informed and much travelled journalist. So how did she go as a truth teller? Not well at all. For starters, Kristallnacht had nothing to do with a “tower of burning books”. It would seem the CNN correspondent confused Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938, with the massive book burnings undertaken by Nazis on May 10, 1933 — not long after Adolf Hitler’s regime came to power.
Certainly the works of Jewish writers went up in flames in German cities and towns in May 1933. But so did books written by liberal, social democrat and left-wing authors who were not Jewish.
On Kristallnacht, however, Nazis attacked hundreds of synagogues and Jewish homes and businesses. Around 100 German Jews were murdered. This was an attack on Jews and was the forerunner to Hitler’s genocide directed at European Jewry.
Amanpour’s comments on Kristallnacht itself were well meaning. But they were not accurate. In any event, there was a bigger truth that she missed; namely that this was an attack on Jews, not books. That’s why her attempt to link the Trump administration with the Nazi regime was misleading, and dangerously so. Which is why she felt the need to apologise.
At the end of CNN’s Amanpour on November 16, the presenter said: “I observed the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, as I often do — it is the event that began the horrors of the Holocaust. I also noted President Trump’s attacks on history, facts, knowledge, and truth. I should not have juxtaposed the two thoughts.” Even Amanpour’s apology is hopelessly inadequate. The problem was not merely that Amanpour juxtaposed the events in Germany in 1938 and those in the US between January 2017 (when Trump came to office) and November this year. Rather, the error was that Amanpour believes that Trump and his supporters share the “same values” as Hitler and his supporters.
This is not a truthful statement. As writer Richard J. Evans has documented in his books The Coming of the Third Reich and The Third Reich in Power, Hitler came to power following widescale violence and intimidation. And he remained in power by establishing a ruthless totalitarian dictatorship — until defeated on the battlefields of eastern and western Europe.
Trump, on the other hand, won a democratic election in November 2016 and his administration has governed in accordance with the requirements of the US Constitution.
Amanpour apologised to Jews — but not to Trump. She could have gone further.
It does a grave disservice to history to compare like with unlike. However emotional the citizenry of social democratic or conservative run countries may feel, their circumstances cannot be compared with those who suffered and died at the hands of fascist, Nazi or communist dictatorships.
It is simply ahistorical for someone living in the US or Canada to compare their plight with those who lived in Hitler’s Germany or Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. With respect to the latter, anyone who has read the disgraceful work of Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times journalist Walter Duranty would know he was not a truth teller, just a pro-communist liar. The likes of Buttrose would be well advised to read SJ Taylor’s Stalin’s Apologist, if they have not already done so.
The historical hyperbole of an Amanpour encourages the likes of other Trump haters such as actor Alec Baldwin. On November 16 he tweeted: “Bury Trump in a Nazi graveyard and put a swastika on his grave. The majority of Americans made the right choice. Trump is a maniac.” The evidence suggests that Baldwin is into projection — in that it is the actor, not the President, who is manic.
Look at it this way. No US president has made himself as available to the media as Trump. And no US president has experienced such a hostile media as Trump. During the Trump administration, more journalists than usual became activists in the political contest — overwhelmingly on the anti-Trump side, led by CNN with a little help from MSNBC.
If Trump shared the same values as Hitler, he would have closed down CNN and Amanpour would have been incarcerated and possibly murdered. Baldwin would have suffered a similar fate. Hollywood would have been shut and its actors, directors and producers purged. Or else the film industry would have been compelled to make Leni Riefenstahl-style propaganda documentaries in support of the Trump regime.
Sure, Trump at times engaged in fake news. But not as much as Amanpour, whose critique of the US President involved a complete misreading of the history of the 20th century.