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The Reader's Digest, "Dangerous Leaders," And The Little Man Who Wasn't There

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In one of the more ludicrous distortions in the history of magazine publishing, The Reader’s Digest(RD) in an article titled “World’s Most Dangerous Leaders” by Dale Van Atta names three regional leaders as “dangerous”--- but leaves out global bruiser George Bush.

Yet pollsters repeatedly are being told by people the world over they regard Bush as more dangerous than any one but Osama bin Laden, and much more dangerous than RD’s nominees -- Kim Jong-il of North Korea, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

One survey was made by the UK daily The Guardian with the Toronto Star and La Presse in Canada and Reforma in Mexico. Guardian reporter Julian Glover wrote British voters see President Bush “as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by (Bush) as part of an ‘axis of evil’, but it is Mr. Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the U.S.”

In Britain, 69% of those questioned said U.S. policy has made the world less safe since 2001. And 62% of Canadians and 57% of Mexicans felt the same way. In England, only bin Laden outranked Bush as “a great or moderate danger to peace” at 87%, compared to Bush, at 75%. 

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 Brits said Bush tops North Korea’s Jong-il, feared by 69%, and Iran’s Ahmadinejad, feared by a mere 62%.  But RD’s 10-million U.S. subscribers didn’t read nary a critical word about Bush from Van Atta.

Another survey, by Ottawa-based EKOS Research, reported similar results, according to an Associated Press report of Nov. 3, 2006. AP quotes Paul Adams, EKOS executive director, as saying his survey of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, finds people saying: “Whoa, this guy (Bush) is a danger to the world.” 

Adams added, “These are allies and if the populations of their countries are saying George Bush is a threat to peace, that’s a pretty damning statement about Bush’s public diplomacy in the world.”  

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And speaking of polls, 79% of Iraqis surveyed opined recently the U.S. is having “a negative influence on the situation in Iraq” and 58% percent said violence would decrease if the U.S. got out. Too bad the one million Iraqis killed since Bush invaded weren’t asked their opinions before they were blown up on whether Bush is more dangerous than Hugo Chavez. 

Of course, many of the two million Iraqis wounded since Bush started a war there to improve their lives might care to utter a few choice words about him. Van Atta could visit Baghdad to make his own survey of who folks there regard as dangerous.

Like Fox News, you can count on RD to give readers a “fair and balanced”  picture of events---except some itty-bitty pieces might be missing. In his indictment of Kim Jong-Il in his RD piece , published last July, Van Atta said Kim has turned North Korea into the third-largest exporter of opium.” 

But what country conquered by George Bush is in first place as global opium grower ---a country that in 2006 hit an historic high for excellence in poppy cultivation? According to the December 2, 2006, Washington Post, Afghanistan poppy acreage grew by 61% that year and total production jumped 26%, so that today it accounts for more than 90% of the world’s opium crop. 

In days of old, when he was accused in the press of robbing banks, Jesse James would drop editors a note saying "I wasn't there." By not including him on its "most wanted" list, RD is performing a similar press agentry service for Mr. Bush. If you think this comparison is a bit unfair, remember the James Gang killed a grand total of 14 people.

(Sherwood Ross has reported for major dailies, radio stations, national magazines, international wire services, and the Voice of America. Reach him at


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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)

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