Keep the pressure on
By now, every reader of The Ukrainian Weekly, we are sure, is aware of how CBS did a number on Ukraine and Ukrainians during its October 23 broadcast of "60 Minutes." (After all, so much space was devoted to this matter in the last two issues of this newspaper. Ditto this week.) To put it simply, the segment titled "The Ugly Face of Freedom" was a cleverly crafted piece of propaganda. Journalism it was not.
Wrote Dr. George Grabowicz of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute: " ... your depiction of western Ukrainian society as generally anti-Semitic can only be characterized as slanderous and inflammatory. To achieve your prejudged goal you seem ready to sacrifice every aspect of journalistic objectivity - accuracy, context, evidence."
Areta Pawlynsky of the Ukrainian American Professionals and Business Persons Association of New York and New Jersey wrote: '60 Minutes' has exceeded all reasonable boundaries of responsibility. ... We are convinced that only prejudiced individuals will be able to consider '60 Minutes' malicious and imbalanced segment acceptable as investigative reporting.
And there is evidence that "60 Minutes" did indeed have a prejudged goal and was malicious in presenting its report on alleged anti-Semitism in Ukraine, on this newly independent state's "binge of ethnic nationalism."
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, an American who is the chief rabbi of Ukraine has protested that his remarks in the segment were taken completely out of context and that the report did not reflect the true state of affairs in Ukraine. This week he says in an interview with The Weekly that "...the whole thing was sick. The whole broadcast. It just shows the sickness of journalism."
Rabbi David Lincoln of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, one of the many viewers who denounced CBS for the distortions contained in "The Ugly Face of Freedom," told The Weekly that he received a conference call from the producer and reporter of that piece, respectively, Jeffrey Fager and Morley Safer. The two, he said, tried to cajole him into accepting their position that Jews in Ukraine live in great fear. "I had to be exceedingly careful with them," he said, pointing to Rabbi Bleich's experience of having his words distorted.
And so it appears that CBS is feeling the heat.
Another indication that the network is feeling pressure is that last week "60 Minutes" ran an excerpt from Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky's letter and prefaced that excerpt with a comment about numerous angry letters, noting that many had pointed out the segment did not reflect the policies of the current Ukrainian government. That presentation contrasted sharply with the previous week's presentation of viewers' reaction, when CBS gave short shrift to two letters from the UCCA and the Embassy of Ukraine and then concluded with a letter that underlined that some fragments of Ukrainian society still have not admitted complicity in Nazi atrocities.
Now, three weeks after the slanderous broadcast, Ukrainian communities in the United States and Canada, and the government of Ukraine are continuing their efforts to have CBS set the record straight. Numerous local groups have pressed local affiliates for equal time, and countless individuals have phoned, faxed or written to CBS. Some communities have picketed CBS affiliates and several groups are to demonstrate in front of the network headquarters on Monday. Ad hoc committees are springing up in various locales, among them the New Jersey/New York metro area, to deal, in a coordinated and professional manner, with this blatant example of defamation and hate-mongering.
Groups of professionals/businesspersons have stepped up their efforts to hit CBS where it hurts, in the pocketbook, by contacting corporate sponsors of "60 Minutes" and suggesting that they take another look at what they are sponsoring and pressure CBS to retract the inflammatory segment. Meanwhile, the UCCA has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission in which it said that CBS impugned Ukrainians to be "genetically anti-Semitic," which constitutes "a personal attack on an identified group, persons of Ukrainian ancestry."
Thus far, CBS has avoided any statements that would indicate it had erred. Clearly, the network hopes we Ukrainians will run out of stream and the whole issue will simply wither away. But, the fact is that CBS owes Ukrainians an apology and a retraction. It owes its viewers a balanced report about the true state of affairs in Ukraine. Thus, now is not the time to ease the pressure on CBS.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, November 13, 1994, No. 46, Vol. LXII
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