In April of that year, two days before the first “Earth Day” Cronkite began a regular series on the CBS Evening News portentously titled, “Can The World Be Saved?,” as the American left first began to dial up the volume of its eco-crankery to 11. To accompany those segments, Bonn created a backdrop consisting of the legendary photograph the astronauts of Apollo 8 took of planet earth, with his hand placed in front of the photo clutching the globe. “We were trying to show humanity squeezing the Earth to death,” according to Bonn.
Brinkley notes that this photo quickly became informally known as “The Hand Job” amongst the backstage production crew of Cronkite’s broadcast, much to its true-believer host’s chagrin. “We’ll need the hand job, tonight!” Which in retrospect, seems like the perfect description of the masturbatory nature of radical environmentalism. (Outside of Earth Day master of ceremonies Ira Einhorn deciding to implement his own version of population control by killing his girlfriend, of course.) Certainly, it’s a given that the more strident the rhetoric of a self-professed environmentalist, the bigger his carbon footprint.
Cronkite was no exception — a decade after declaring the earth’s ecology so fragile that he would ask if the planet could be “saved,” he thought nothing about hopping on the gas-guzzling supersonic Concorde to fly from Paris to the Middle East to cover the death of Anwar Sadat.
Similarly, in 1970, Brinkley writes that Cronkite believed that “the U.S. government needed to regulate polluting corporations and force them to prioritize environment over profit.” But Cronkite chose to commemorate the arrival of the year 1984 and its Orwellian implications by starring in a special for CBS and drafting a column for the New York Times in which he wrote:
“The total absence of privacy the idea that the government is (or may be) always watching, means, most of us would agree, the ultimate loss of freedom.” Without the implied method of force, how did Cronkite imagine government would regulate corporations “to prioritize environment over profit”?
It’s during this passage of Cronkite that Brinkley concocts a smear of his own, by writing:
Reading George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, published in 1949, had been a revelation for Cronkite. He was stunned by Orwell’s raw insights into both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. To Cronkite, the dystopian 1984 was prescient in showing that America’s civil liberties were being gutted by a right-wing agenda.
Gee, wait ‘til Brinkley discovers what Orwell’s Ingsoc stood for, let alone where national socialist Germany and the international socialist Soviet Union were on the ideological spectrum.
And as Joseph Epstein wrote in his review of Brinkley’s book in the September 2012 issue of Commentary (subscription may be necessary to read), Cronkite himself wrote an introduction to a paperback edition of 1984, in which he seemed to think that modernism itself was Orwell’s chief concern:
I read a preface Cronkite wrote to a paperback edition of George Orwell’s 1984, and discovered he thought that the target of the novel was not the brutal devastation of life, private and public, under totalitarianism, but chiefly the danger posed by the technology of modernity. “1984 is an anguished lament and a warning that vibrates powerfully when we may not be strong enough nor wise enough nor moral enough to cope with the kind of power we have learned to amass,” Cronkite wrote. Throughout this preface, the Soviet Union and China, whose governments treated their respective populations as conquered nations, go unmentioned.
As Epstein notes, Cronkite’s preface to Orwell’s epoch-defining novel was written in 1983, “and by then Cronkite had entered that phase of liberalism that finds no country more dangerous than one’s own.”