Back in the disco party days of the late 1970′s, a civic minded group of Cambodians known as the Khmer Rouge managed to kill off, depending how you count and calculate, somewhere between 20% – 40% of their fellow countrymen. So we’re talking about 1.5 to 3 million people — including outright murder, and avoidable famine and disease. Not a bad record for a small country. And, wouldn’t you know it, the Khmer Rouge were dedicated communists. So they were following in the hallowed footsteps of Uncle Joe Stalin and dear old pudgy Chairman Mao, those bright stars of the 20th century mass murder spectacular.
I happened to notice that four of the chief monsters of that brigade of demons — who for some reason have been walking around alive all this time — have just been indicted by a tribunal in Cambodia for genocide and an impressive menu of other atrocities. So I decided to have a quick look at how the legacy press was writing about this event.
What quickly became clear, was that unless you happened to be one of those odd people who have already noticed the connection between communism, mass death and widespread suffering, the accounts in the big name, mainstream media would do almost nothing to help you notice that relationship.
And, of course, nowhere is it frankly stated that wherever implemented, communism kills.
Here’s a little table of what I observed:
|AP/Washington Post||“radical communist rule”||“rule during which … died”|
|CNN||0||“… died under the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge”|
Although, as expected, most news sites simply reprinted one or another of the wire stories, this set were fairly distinct pieces of writing. Nonetheless, they shared a couple of things in common. Most striking was that the word murder doesn’t appear anywhere other than in the recounting of legal matters, charges, indictments and such. The more neutral word kill fared a little better, popping up here and there, mostly in the passive voice, “were killed” or “killings”. Bloomberg and CNN came the closest to accusatory statements with “the 1970s regime may have killed as many as” and “Tracking Khmer Rouge killers“, respectively. Death itself is referred to in the passive voice, several publications referring to a period of time during which people died — as if by coincidence.
To be fair, here is the surrounding text for the phrases shown above. From CNN:
At least 1.7 million people, nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population, died under the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge as a result of execution, starvation and overwork … The Khmer Rouge were ultra-Maoists bent on realizing their vision of an agrarian utopia in Cambodia. … The Regime called the period “Year Zero” and abolished money, private property and religion and regular schooling.
… Video: Tracking Khmer Rouge killers
And from the Washington Post:
The defendants, now frail octogenarians, deny any guilt for their roles in the radical communist rule during which about a quarter of Cambodia’s population died due to starvation, overwork or execution.