June 27, 2020

THE 1932 PROJECT:

The Media's Role in Concealing Stalin's Evils Exposed in Mr. Jones: Walter Duranty and The New York Times have blood on their hands in this historical re-enactment. (GLENN GARVIN, 6.27.2020, reason)

At the forefront of Mr. Jones are two reporters. One, Gareth Jones (British television actor James Norton), an ambitious rookie freelancer for what was then called the Manchester Guardian, is so inexperienced he forgot to bring his typewriter on the trip. The other, Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard, Wormwood), The New York Times' Moscow bureau chief, is fresh off a Pulitzer prize for his fawning coverage of Stalin's command-and-control economic policies.

Jones has been told Duranty is the man to see to arrange an interview with Stalin. He explains what he wants to ask: "So how are the Soviets suddenly on a spending spree? Who's providing the finance?" Duranty is noncommittal about the interview, but does have an answer about where the money is coming from: agricultural exports. "Grain is Stalin's gold." He also offers some bad news--a German reporter who's a friend of Jones and had promised to show him around Moscow has been murdered, apparently during a mugging--almost unknown in the stringently locked-down Moscow of the 1930s, particularly in the area where journalists and other necessary foreign evils lived.

Nosing around while he waits to see what will happen with his Stalin interview, Jones learns that his German friend thought something fishy was going on in the Ukraine, the Soviet Union's breadbasket region, which had recently been placed off-limits to foreigners, and was planning to sneak in. Jones decides to do the same, arranging a tour of a German-built factory on the other side of the Ukraine from Moscow, then ditching his Soviet minder to spend a couple of days wandering alone on foot.

Even before he leaves the train, Jones has clues that something has gone deeply wrong. When he offers to buy an overcoat from a Ukrainian passenger, the man begs to be paid in bread rather than currency. When Jones pitches a gnawed apple core into a wastebasket, another man dives into the trash to retrieve it.

But nothing can prepare him for what he sees when he gets off: Stiffened corpses scattered around the train station. Corpses in empty, deserted farmhouses. Corpses stacked on carts moving along village streets. Corpses being chewed on by starving children, who afterward trill a mournful ballad: "Hunger and cold are in our house, nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep and our neighbor has lost his mind and eaten his children... ."

Jones is eventually picked up by Soviet security forces and returned to Moscow, where he's warned never to tell anybody what he's seen. The "or else" will be the life imprisonment of half-a-dozen British phone company engineers who've been arrested on trumped-up spying charges. As he prepares to leave, he's ostracized by other reporters, including the sneering Duranty. "There comes a time in every man's life when he must choose a cause greater than himself," Duranty lectures him with, yes, moral clarity.

Back in London, Jones discovers Duranty has filed a New York Times story dismissing him as a credulous amateur. There may be a bit of hunger in the Ukraine, Duranty writes, but absolutely no famine. And anyway, what if there was? "You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs."

One great moral crime we never reckon with is anti-anti-Communism.
Posted by at June 27, 2020 7:34 AM

  

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