COMMENTS: Tanks on Tiananmen

NBC anchor Brian Williams and his predecessor Tom Brokaw were in Tiananmen Square for their Beijing Olympics coverage. NBC did not actually file a sports-related feature--of the three newscasts only ABC's David Muir covered the competition proper but because of copyright issues there is no link to his story on the famous come-from-behind freestyle relay victory by USA's male swimmers. Williams' closing feature instead focused on the city's efforts to welcome Olympic visitors: "The government office of Capital Spiritual Civilization Construction has printed a booklet on how to behave."

Williams showed us the massive wonders of Tiananmen, its history from Ming to Mao, and its environs, the Forbidden City and the Great Hall of the People. The square's slogan du jour is Opening Up and Reform. Harmonious Society. Brokaw relived his previous visits as a correspondent, in 1974 and 1982 and after the crackdown of 1989 when he bicycled through the square with a secret cameraman to document the tanks arrayed under Mao Zedong's giant portrait, "a scene only an authoritarian could love." Williams reminded us of that lone protestor standing in front of the line of oncoming tanks. Curiously he called it "the picture that became synonymous around the world with people power"--curiously, because it actually depicts personal impotence.


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