In a 2001 interview with Ken Auletta of the New Yorker, Ted Turner articulated his principle of world diplomacy: “Just about everybody will be friendly toward us if we are friendly with them.” This is the kind of naivete with which Turner approaches the world.
Last week we looked at Turner’s career, with a special focus on his ardent defense of two of the world’s remaining Communist regimes, those of North Korea and Cuba. Today we’ll wrap up our report on Turner with a few additional observations and quotations.
In July 2015, Cristiane Amanpour of CNN interviewed Turner on a range of subjects. It was clear that his naivete was still fully intact. On Castro: “He had a lot of courage to tackle the United States.” On his own first trip to Cuba: “I flew home with a whole new desire to understand more about other cultures and political systems and to increase communication and dialogue between nations.” Turner told Amanpour that he seeks to “build bridges between nations” – and, as an example of this bridge-building, cited the Goodwill Games, which he founded, and which took place five times between 1986 and 2001. Turner has actually asserted that it was the Goodwill Games, apparently in combination with CNN, that brought down the Iron Curtain: “I thought, between sports and news and television and friendship, that you could end the Cold War and, by God, we did.” In the Amanpour interview, he also called for “total nuclear disarmament,” saying of the world’s nuclear arsenals that “we’ve gotta get rid of them” – as if this were as easily done as said.
The more Turner talked about “understanding” political systems and “building bridges,” the more obvious it was that he somehow just doesn’t grasp that some “systems” are cruel, oppressive, and bellicose and therefore need to be challenged and resisted, not “understood.” He plainly doesn’t understand that when dealing with aggressive ideological adversaries, being “friendly” is simply perceived as weakness and will be exploited. Nor does he recognize that nuclear weapons are more dangerous in some hands than in others. Back in 2001, Auletta summed up a few of what he called Turner’s “contradictions”:
He successfully opposed unionization at his company, yet he rails against élites. He has called himself “a socialist at heart” and a fiscal “conservative.” Turner speaks out on behalf of the rights of women but refuses to denounce Islamic states that suppress women’s rights. He has compared Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Fox network, to Hitler, yet when he is asked if he thinks Saddam Hussein is evil he says, “I’m not sure that I know enough to be able to answer that question.” And though he preaches tolerance, he has uttered some intolerant words; for example, on Ash Wednesday, seeing the black smudge on the foreheads of some CNN staff members, he asked them whether they were “Jesus freaks.”
And here are some more of Ted Turner’s opinions. 9/11? “The reason that the World Trade Center got hit,” said Turner a few months after the terror attack, “is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don’t have any hope for a better life.” Asked if he would let some of these desperately poor people live on his own land – which at the time was larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island put together – he answered: “Can I live in your home with you? We believe in private property in this country.” Or, to put it more correctly, Ted Turner believes in private property for himself, but not for the people of Cuba or North Korea.
Israel and the Palestinians? “The Israelis…they’ve got one of the most powerful military machines in the world. The Palestinians have nothing. So who are the terrorists?”
Global warming? “There’s too many people. That’s why we have global warming. We have global warming because too many people are using too much stuff. If there were less people they’d be using less stuff.” If we don’t act now, the world will be “eight degrees hotter in 10, not 10, but in 30 or 40 years, and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals.” Still, he has one of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world and spends much of his time burning jet fuel as he flies from one of his 28 homes to another.
Free speech? After John Hinckley tried to kill President Reagan to impress Jodie Foster, whom he’d just seen in Martin Scorsese’s movie Taxi Driver, Turner delivered an impassioned editorial on CNN. Scorsese and the others responsible for the making of Taxi Driver, he declared, were as much to blame for Hinckley’s assassination attempt as was Hinckley himself. Turner called for Congressional action to ban the production of such films.
Bottom line: the man doesn’t understand the first thing about freedom. Or the first thing about tyranny. Aside from that, he’s a genius.