Saturday, July 2, 2011

Getting a Prize for Lying

Scholars have arrived at slightly different numbers when they research how many millions of people starved to death when Joseph Stalin created famines in parts of his Soviet Union in the early 1930's. The famines, created in order to subdue regions which might question Stalin's authority, killed somewhere between four and ten million people. The numbers will remain forever approximate.

New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, who was in Russia at the time, at a dinner party with staff from the British Embassy, said that his own travels caused him to estimate between seven and ten million deaths.

Why, then, would Duranty write in his articles, published in the New York Times, that "there is no actual starvation," and again that there had been no "deaths from starvation"?

It became clear that Duranty was a big fan of Stalin's, and of their "planned system of economy." He wanted to give the Soviet Union a good image around the world, and so deliberately lied to millions of American readers. It later became clear that he was one of network of Americans who sympathized with the Soviets, and would manipulate information to keep the Soviet Union strong - while making America vulnerable in what would later become the Cold War.

Duranty wrote well, so well that he earned Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Both the New York Times and the Pulitzer committee would later publicly acknowledge that they had been fooled, and that Duranty was writing, not accurate and objective reports, but rather propaganda for Moscow.