Eighty-four years ago, the Marx Brother’s film, Duck Soup (1933), premiered and despite being considered their masterpiece today, flopped. Its anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-politician message (if there can be a message in a Marx Brothers’ film), flew against the zeitgeist. Leader-worship was in vogue in 33, from Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany (both countries banned the film) to even FDR’s America. Satire and criticism, rampant in the 20s, which was really the Marx Brothers’ decade, was considered politically incorrect in “let’s pull together” ethos of New Deal America. Literally in Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers, un-plugged, un-policed, refuse to close ranks. There is no loyalty to any country. Chico only joins Groucho’s side because “the food is better over here.” Harpo switches sides constantly from spying on Groucho to recruiting soldiers for him. Groucho himself switches uniforms from scene to scene (Napoleonic one minute, Confederate General the next—there was no feverish debate of banning the Confederate flag in those days) as if to say it doesn’t matter who he represents.…
One of the oldest sayings is that there are “no atheists in foxholes.” But for those soldiers either wounded or hit with the body parts of their exploding friends, the more apt expressions were caught by Paul Fussell, forty-percent disabled World War II vet and the most articulate historian of war. Before combat, Fussell catches the mindset of the virgin soldier: “It can’t happen to me. I’m too clever/agile/well-trained/good-looking/beloved/tightly laced etc.” Then after combat, the realization hits: “It is going to happen to me, and only my not being there is going to prevent it.” Kurt Vonnegut, definitely “there,” amazingly, emerged from the war more optimistic and, although not believing in God, saw such faith as necessary.
During his lifetime, British writer George Orwell was characterized as a follower of exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky. H.G Welles dismissed Orwell as “a Trotskyite with big feet.” On a more lethal note, the Spanish secret police, on orders from Moscow, hunted Orwell during the Spanish Civil War for the crime of”Trotskyism” because he fought in a Marxist military unit at odds with Stalin. His “Trotskyism” even affected his livelihood; Orwell’s submission of Animal Farm to the publisher Faber and Faber was rejected by poet and employee T.S. Eliot for expressing “Trotskyite” views. At first glance, the literary evidence seems to bear this out. In both novels, Animal Farm, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Trotsky figure is the victim of the Stalin one. In Animal Farm, Trotsky appears as the pig “Snowball,” who initially rules the animal republic with the Stalin pig, aptly named “Napoleon” (in real life, Trotsky, exiled by Stalin, labeled the Soviet dictator and his military-style methods as the “Napoleon” of the Bolshevik Revolution); but “Napoleon,” craving power,…
Robert Benchley, humorist and member of the famed Algonquin Round Table, once said of writing for the New Yorker in the 1920s, “you could write anything you liked, as long as you did it in evening clothes.” Benchley, no radical, was likely referring to the magazine’s toleration of him skewering everything and anything with his lethal wit.
A cliche so overused it is at ad nauseam level is the one where villains tell heroes that “we are not so different, you and I.” But occasionally this rings true. A prime example is Richard Nixon and Alger Hiss. Despite then-Congressman Nixon being the one who, probably more than any other figure at the time, exposed former State Department official Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy (later re-confirmed by declassified Soviet documents), Nixon and Hiss, as the years rolled by had more in common than not.
For all of its conceits, the post-modernist treatment of narrative, which eschews a traditional beginning, middle, and end, does nevertheless convey the mindset of the tortured. Psychiatrists tell us that traumatic events are remembered, not in coherent order, but in jumbled flashbacks. The mind apparently cannot structure the unendurable into a story line. The figures most associated with flash-backing terror are the Vietnam Vet and the Holocaust survivor. It is, in reality, the former inmate of the Soviet gulag system, those graying figures who today jump at knocks on the door or accidental flashlights in the eyes, who has been ignored.
Conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke has been compared to journalist H.L. Mencken. But on closer examination, the comparison is not so apt; for Mencken’s attacks on white trash Southerners, Democrat and Republican Presidents, puritan-types, and “red scares,” was powered by a pro-German, even borderline fascist agenda. O’Rourke, although obviously conservative, has no grand vision, save that of human beings being retarded, especially when personified by liberals who believe they know what’s best for everyone else.
Attached to the Kennedy Assassination has always been what was lost when the President was murdered. For some, it was America’s innocence; for others, it was the center, which would no longer hold. Perhaps the most peddled of these answers comes from the Camelot camp. For them, what was lost when Kennedy died was the opportunity to end the Cold War, and thus, avoid the quagmire of Vietnam. In their history lesson, Kennedy, chastened by the Cuban Missile Crisis, became an American Gorbachev, attempting to normalize relations with Castro and withdraw troops from Vietnam.
Herman Mankiewicz, who, according to all evidence was the chief writer of the screen classic, Citizen Kane, was unusually well-informed politically for a Hollywood screenwriter in Golden Age Hollywood (and, given, the Meryl Streeps of the world, even more so, today). His huge library was composed almost primarily of political books, and his research on the thinly-veiled subject of Kane, William Randolph Hearst was impeccable. Although taking “progressive” stands, (he supported the ACLU, labor leader John L. Lewis, and despised conservative president Calvin Coolidge) Mankiewicz blasted born-again Communists in Hollywood as uninformed idiots, whose information came solely from The New Masses. A former member of the Algonquin Round Table (famed for its diners, George S. Kaufman and Dorothy Parker among them, trying to top each other in the wit category), the screenwriter/producer unleashed his lethal wit on them. Reds, he asserted, thought Woodrow Wilson “was someone who founded a high school in Glendale.” And four years before Reds “discovered” Hitler was a threat he was peddling a script attacking…
A picture of Hemingway, mere months from suicide, has him leaning drunkenly against a wall separating him precariously from a bullfight, guzzling a bottle. The immediate impression is one of pity toward an old man pathetically trying to recapture days of glory in a setting that once made such days possible. The same could be said of the photos of Hemingway with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro; one more last hurrah for an old man pining for Spanish Civil War days when he was relatively young and still capable of writing.
Asked before his death about his proudest achievement, liberal actor Paul Newman stated, “making Nixon’s enemies’ list.” And that is a view shared by many 70s-era liberals (their counterparts today are probably hoping that Trump keeps such a list and that they will soon be on it). But to my mind, the more dangerous list, given their penchant for overseas’ liquidations, at least during the 30s and 40s, would be that compiled by the Soviet Union. And the person who made the top of the list, a title he held from 1968 to 1989, from the Brezhnev era to the collapse of the Soviet Union, was not a Trotskyite, or a KGB defector but a British historian/poet.
It was more than fitting that Hugo Chavez died in 2013 on the 60th anniversary of Josef Stalin’s death. Although Chavez, with his relatively meager police apparatus, could not match the 20th-century leading mass murderer in body counts, he nevertheless emulated the Soviet leader. Both made themselves leaders for life, outlawed opposition, created a state-run media, and transformed formerly independent government branches into their yes men. Both manufactured trumped up charges against opponents.
In Oliver Stone’s wildly conspiratorial JFK, the chief plotter behind the Kennedy assassination, identified as “General Y,” is obscured by the shadows, and is identified with enough letters visible on his nameplate on the desk to reveal the identity of “Y.” “Y” is General Edward Lansdale, a counter-insurgency expert who, unfortunately for Stone’s thesis that Kennedy was killed by “Y” and his cohorts because the president was about to withdraw the American advisers from Vietnam, was actually less of a hawk on Vietnam than Kennedy; indeed, the more one looks at Lansdale the more apparent it is it that, among the hawkish Cold War establishment, he was a voice of reason.
Children of the blacklisted are usually associated with the Communist—if they bother to admit that—Left. From the undoubted suffering visited upon their parents by the red-hunting climate of the 1950s (but it should be noted that that their parents lost in effect their swimming pools, while the truly persecuted in the Soviet Union, the country the blacklisted defended, lost their lives), children like the late Christopher Trumbo, son of the Stalinist screenwriter who toppled the blacklist, strum the violin and attack all forms of anticommunists. But there were other children of the blacklisted, largely ignored by the mainstream media, because they and their parents don’t fit the Leftist agenda; indeed, they represent a danger to the standard liberal blacklist narrative by showing that their anti-communist parents were blacklisted by the very leftists who years later cloaked themselves in the Bill of Rights when it was their turn to be persecuted.
Historian Rick Perlstein has been criticized by historians and reviewers for using the internet for sources. But the real criticism ought to be directed at Perlstein’s method of editing out competing information, slanting the treatment toward a leftist agenda, and relying on dubious sources that bolster his side of the spectrum. This is never truer than with Perlstein’s treatment of Ronald Reagan.
Former Nation editor and anti-anti-Communist Victor Navasky may, with a few pathetic exceptions, be the last hold-out on the innocence of exposed Soviet spy Alger Hiss. Unconvinced to this day, despite the release of declassified Soviet documents from the 1940s describing Hiss in detail, Navasky has championed Hiss with a fervor bordering on the religious, and has used dated arguments, going back to the time of Hiss’ 1950s trial, that show a mindset trapped in the past.
To conservatives, film critic Pauline Kael will forever be known as the one who labeled the Silent Majority film, Dirty Harry as fascist, and for registering her confusion as to how Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972 since “everyone I know voted for McGovern (Nixon’s Democratic opponent).” But an examination of her career shows that she was far from being part of the mainstream media. This is particularly apparent when Kael reviewed films that peddled heroic views of American communists.
Holocaust-Denying historian David Irving has been activated into a lecture tour by the new film, Denial, which depicts his 1996 lawsuit against U.S. historian Deborah E. Lipstadt for charging him with denying the Holocaust. Even though Irving lost the case when the judge agreed with Lipstadt and deemed him a “Holocaust denier,” the far-right historian is nevertheless embarking on a month-long lecture tour to once again combat this accusation. In the past, he has stated that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis was greatly exaggerated, that Hitler was not involved in the Holocaust, and that Auschwitz did not employ gas chambers.
One of the reasons conservatives feel a kinship with British socialist writer George Orwell is that he was not afraid to embrace concepts of patriotism over cold empiricism or dialectical thinking. A good case in point was his taking to the woodshed Fabian Socialist writer H.G.Welles in a remarkable essay written while the Nazi bombs were blitzing England.
When I was a graduate student, my mentor of sorts, John Patrick Diggins, told me of an incident he had with blacklisted screenwriter Lester Cole, who along with nine others, testified before Congress 70 years ago, in 1947. Both were watching the Watergate hearings, when Cole exploded to Diggins, “See, it has to be done like Castro—democracy doesn’t work!” Whether true or not, this moment certainly fit Cole’s character. For, as the only member of the Hollywood Ten who remained a Stalinist, Cole hated till his dying day.
For 50 years, critics of the Warren Commission have usually been associated with the Left. From Khrushchev to Oliver Stone (hardly a leap) have obviously sought a more politically satisfying sniper than the grubby deadbeat Oswald. With regard to the Warren Commission, it is merely a cover job designed to misdirect attention from the true conspirators onto Oswald. But not all leftists attacked the conclusions of the Warren Commission. Two writers, a former Trotskyite, the other a former Communist supporter, came (sometimes reluctantly) to the conclusion that Oswald indeed acted alone.
When it was rumored that leftist actor Ed Asner was slated to play Stalin it was only natural, for although deprived of Stalin’s lethal tools, Asner has emulated all the left-wing hate and paranoia of the Soviet dictator. Serving two terms as president of the Screen Actor’s Guild in the 1980s, Asner sought to use the Guild to oppose then-President Ronald Reagan’s policies against the totalitarian Sandinistas in Nicaragua, who ruled the country with an iron fist, shutting down opposition newspapers, jailing critics, and beating up those who tried to vote.
Dwight MacDonald, defending the Warren Commission, once made the valid point that if rightists did kill Kennedy, the liberal Lyndon Johnson would have been delighted to expose them for political gain. Such an argument was ignored by Oliver Stone in his ultra-paranoid JFK, in which he accused “fanatical Cold Warriors” of killing JFK because he was seeking to end the Cold War; and of particular importance to the Vietnam-obsessed Stone, ending the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam.
Psychiatrists who deal with returning military veterans note that those who have seen almost constant combat have trouble switching off, and search for an outlet to satisfy their martial needs. This was never more true for Spanish Civil War veteran and Communist Party member Alvah Bessie. Whenever his Party needed a rigid enforcer of the Party line toward revisionist members, and a fighter against the “fascists,” represented by HUAC, Bessie was front and center.
John F. Kennedy’s 1957 book crediting a bi-partisan group of politicians who, as the title stated, exhibited “Profiles in Courage,” would later be revealed not to have been penned by the then-senator, but by his chief speechwriter (and later, Camelot spear-carrier Ted Sorenson). But that makes the inclusion of uber-conservative Republican Senator Robert Taft all the more remarkable. For Kennedy (actually more conservative than has been portrayed) was already strategizing how to garner support from the much-needed liberal groups in order to run for president. Taft was a hard swallow for liberals, who remembered the Senator’s initial support for Joseph McCarthy.
Liberals today smirk at American Cold War culture of the late 40s to early 60s with their typical moral vanity. Unable to avoid the failures and horrors of communism, they nevertheless try to salvage 1960s’ era views of American culture as hysterically misinformed about a superpower that had missiles pointing at the U.S. But upon examination, it is apparent that the Left has done considerable editing by halting history around 1970, thus skipping whole decades of Venona revelations, the Berlin Wall falling and workers in Red Square toppling Lenin’s statue, resuming it. Hence archaic terms like military industrial complex can seem fresh and applicable.
“I fear I am writing pornography.” So said former Communist and blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo about his on-again off-again attempt to address the Holocaust through the first-person narration of a concentration camp officer. When Auschwitz was liberated (ironically by the Red Army, which would soon institute a pogrom against Jews), a variety of writers tried to grapple with the Holocaust. Various interpretations of the Holocaust have been offered though out the years: Marxist (the Final Solution was the logical culmination of heartless capitalism and the fascism inherent in it); the banality of evil, the we-are-all-responsible school, etc.ect. ad nausaem.
Asked once toward the end of his life about what he was proudest of, liberal activist and actor Paul Newman cited his appearance on Nixon’s “enemies list.” The flip side to this occurred with conservative actor John Wayne making it onto Stalin’s enemies list, with much more lethal consequences than anything Nixon had at his disposal. According to those close to Wayne, Stalin ordered Wayne liquidated after learning of the outspoken conservative actor’s popularity and anticommunist beliefs from a Russian film-maker who visited New York in 1949.
Whenever the Grassy Knoll crowd needs a figure to represent the repellent seediness of JFK’s “actual” killers, they trot out David Ferrie. Dead for fifty years, the wigged, eyebrow glued macho homosexual has lived on in Kennedy conspiracy lore, memorably portrayed by a hyper-manic Joe Pesci in Oliver Stone’s laughable JFK, and is the pivotal figure that finally convinces Oswald to fire from the Texas School Book Depository at a president Oswald cannot muster up any feelings of hate toward in Don Delillo’s more sober Libra. Called in typically bombastic style by the headline grabbing, paranoid Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans who brought the case to court, “the most important man in history,” Ferrie was in point of fact a rather pathetic figure, who, without Castro, and Oswald would have been only a locally important figure in the New Orleans Mafia and the city’s homosexual underworld.
Actor Seth Rogen, who turned the usually well-trained Green Hornet character into a prat-falling clown, wants to turn the often violent, and masked, anti-Trump protesters into a “normal” part of daily life. Although not wanting to “insult people who voted for Donald Trump,” he wants to mainstream “the idea that a lot of people do not think that he is a good president, and do not think that he is bringing the country in a good direction, and not making it seem like some fringe, out-there thing that only really aggressive people who have whipped themselves into some sort of frenzy are expressing.”
When William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist (and whose screenplay for its adaptation won him the Academy Award), died in January, tributes poured in praising the former Jesuit student for creating the ultimate horror masterpiece. But now as then, people didn’t realize that despite the bull-bellowing blasphemies and head-spinning, Blatty had an ideological purpose in writing the book–a purpose that was socially conservative in nature.
For decades men, particularly of the white variety, have been blamed by feminists for everything wrong in society. But a lesbian/feminist writer is championing men. and is demanding that feminists do the same thing. In an interview with Broadly, Camille Paglia blasts those feminists who’ve taken over the women’s movement by “male-bashing” as “fanatics” and “borderline personalities.” Regarding the latter, Paglia cites the example of such “damaged” women as feminist Kate Millet for ruining feminist discourse (“her life has been an endless series of mental breakdowns”).
For those writers who began as conservatives on his magazine and graduated into liberalism, William F. Buckley of National Review called them the “apostates.” Probably the most notorious of these figures was Joan Didion, who, in the words of Buckley’s sister Priscilla, started as “a conservative” staffer and ended up a “flaming liberal.” At first glance, Joan Didion’s trajectory seemed to bear this out. She went from writing for National Review and voting for arch-conservative Barry Goldwater to defending Bill Clinton at the height of his impeachment proceedings, to lambasting George W. Bush, to voting for Barack Obama in 2008. She seemed to be that familiar figure of the Baby Boomer generation: a conservative pushed leftward by the sixties. But in her view, though, this “Goldwater girl” never really changed. Like Reagan (who Didion criticized and was alone in seeing him as too unprincipled to qualify as the heir to Goldwater), she stated that the “parties changed” and that her “unorthodox conservatism” hadn’t. She reminded readers into the 21st…
The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920, in response to the Woodrow Wilson administration’s jailing/and or deporting those who dared to speak out against World War I. Its focus was protecting freedom of speech, and in periods not amenable to such focus have defended striking workers, blacks, American Indians, Jehovah Witnesses, and even Nazis. But that was then. Now the ACLU has violated its history and gone partisan; in place of defending everyone’s right to protest, they have cherry-picked who should be afforded the most effort, and are selecting the issues that should be protested.
Despite the exposure of the Cambridge Spies, a group of Soviet moles operating out of British Intelligence, and their subsequent defection to the other side, the British have always boasted of not succumbing to a panic attack of McCarthyism. It was true that investigations into Soviet espionage were done quietly and almost exclusively directed at the employers of Philby, Burgess, McLean, and Blunt rather than any publicity-grabbing interrogations of the entertainment industry. To rescue some national pride for America, it should be noted, however, that unlike the Spies who settled any debate about their guilt by escaping to the other side, the American public was never allowed the luxury of such closure and the State Department officials denying everything (like Hiss) gave some credence to McCarthy’s conspiracy so immense charges.
Say what you will about former Democratic congressman and uber-leftist Dennis Kucinich he is at least consistent about his views on wiretapping, so much so that he is actually supporting Republican President Donald Trump. In contrast to Nancy Pelosi, who once said of wiretapping under Obama that “people don’t mind giving up some rights in exchange for safety,” Kucinich, in a–ye gods–column for Fox News refuses to split hairs. Addressing the “contempt” that has greeted the President’s “assertion that his phones at Trump tower were tapped last year,” Kucinich has defended the claim based on his own experiences: … “I can vouch for the fact that extracurricular surveillance does occur…I was wiretapped in 2011 after taking a phone call in my congressional office from a foreign leader.”
Of all the events that triggered mass defections by communists from their party, the military partnership between Hitler and Stalin in 1939 may have been that caused the most. Hitler and Stalin’s joint invasion of democratic Poland registered shock waves among the communist faithful who joined the Party out of the perception that the Soviet Union was against Nazism. Arthur Koestler, Jr. spoke for many when he documented his disgust with the agreement: “I remained in that state of suspended animation until the day when the swastika was hoisted on Moscow airport in honor of Ribbentrop’s arrival and the Red Army band broke into the Horst Wessel Song. That was the end, from then onward I no longer cared whether Hitler’s allies called me a counter-revolutionary.”
One of Ronald Reagan’s more obvious fallacies was his location of the date “the Democratic Party left me” as 1948. For this was during the reign of Harry Truman, a liberal anticommunist par excellence; indeed, Reagan’s strategy for causing a Soviet implosion in 1989 was partly traceable to Truman’s containment policy begun in 1947 (Reagan did contribute to this policy the crucial strategy of forcing the Soviets to compete in a costly arms race that assured the implosion courtesy of their flawed economic system). One could trace the Cold War, at least on the American side, to Truman’s meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, 50 years ago, two weeks after he became President upon FDR’s death. At Yalta, Roosevelt believed that if he gave Soviet Premiere Josef Stalin everything he wanted–in effect, undisputed control over the Eastern Europe he “liberated” from the Nazis–then the Russian’s notorious paranoia would be appeased and he would honor his promise to hold democratic elections in Poland. American officials at Yalta were disgusted…
Groucho Marx, a reluctant petitioner for the Hollywood Ten, once lamented that the 1947 HUAC hearings into Communist influence in Hollywood, had not been used as source material for a Marx Brothers’ film. The brothers’ unique brand of surrealist comedy would, he believed, found an ideal setting in the question-answer format and the perfect set of foils with the career politicians of HUAC. In a sense, one of the brothers did participate, and there was comedy, but not from him, nor of the intentional kind.
One of the charges lodged at Hollywood communists who voluntarily revealed their politics to Congress during the blacklist period was that said volunteers did it to avoid jail or get back on the studio payroll, or both. Director Edward Dymytrk has always been hard for them to spin. Originally one of the Hollywood Ten, the first set of communists in 1947 to testify, or in their case, not to testify by refusing to answer direct questions from Congress, Dmytryk, although having left the Communist Party two years before, nevertheless went to jail with the other 9 in order to prove that his future cooperation with Congress would not be to avoid jail time. Although not agreeing with the Ten’s legal strategy of refusing to directly answer questions from Congress but appearing to, Dymtryk closed ranks with them.
Before Watergate, Carl Bernstein was known among journalists as being a leftist son of blacklisted parents and a protege of the fellow-traveling journalist I.F Stone. When Watergate arrived, however, Bernstein became known as the epitome of the journalist speaking truth to power. But when he is confronted by the specter of Hillary Clinton, his post-Watergate persona is abandoned, and the protege of the biased Stone takes over. Rather than dilate on the recollections even of friends from the 1960s who regarded Clinton as power-hungry, more interested in the nuts and bolts of getting into office rather than any New Left ideals of shunning contact with the contaminating establishment, Bernstein strains to find something impressive in such cold calculation. The best he can do is celebrate her intellect at the age of 20, evidenced by her ability to “speak in complete sentences”—a skill acquired by most people at age 5.
In many ways, the father of the Atomic Bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, has long been portrayed by liberals as a figure horrified about what he unleashed on the world, particularly with regard to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, in one film, Fat Man and Little Boy, he was portrayed as conscience-striken from the get-go. But the reality was different. Initially Oppenheimer approached the project as a purely technical problem. It was only after the experiment worked that he allowed the moral dimension in. His background in literature—the choice of “Trinity” was his, after a John Donne poem that he liked—made Oppenheimer recall a verse from the Hindu bible: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
H.L Mencken’s reputation as an independent-minded journalist rests on his lampooning of American politicians, his championship of, but not political sympathies with dissidents prosecuted and deported by the American government during World War I, and his public role as a defender of Scopes during the Evolution vs Bible Monkey Trial in 1925. Conservatives today claim him for his libertarian opposition to the New Deal, his fierce commitment to civil liberties, and his denouncement of collectivism in all forms. Liberals adopt him for his attacks on Christian fundamentalism, his faith in science, and his opposition to World War I. But what powered all of the above was his less attractive traits, all traceable to his fervent support of Germany. Despite being born in America, Mencken did not consider himself an American and regretted that this was his homeland: “My grandfather, I believe, made a mistake when he came to this country [from Germany]. I have spent all of my 62 years here, but I still find it impossible to fit…
When the Left requires a distraction for their own bad behavior, they always cite the 1950s, a decade ingrained in even the most uneducated mind as owned by a censorious, hysterical Right. In their estimation, spearheaded by an anti-anti-communist Victor Navasky, the Right burned books, shredded the Constitution, and caused suicides with their fascist behavior. But even within this decade, there were challenges to this view that it was only the Right who acted undemocratically. Against the very real threat to free speech fostered by Senator Joseph McCarthy, in which books by communist authors were removed from overseas Army libraries (and in some cases burned), there was the Congressional campaign to censor comic books. It bore all the features attached to the Right: playing fast and loose with charges, censorship, books thrown into bonfires, hysteria, and causing mass firings of employees.
In his last great battle in a lifetime of dust-ups, the late Christopher Hitchens in the aftermath of Sept. 11th, coined the term “Islamofascists” to describe and denounce the Muslim world. Linking it to 20th-century fascist movements, Hitchens elaborated: “The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. (“Death to the intellect! Long live death!” as Gen. Francisco Franco’s sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined “humiliations” and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to…
In our era of mainstream media journalists, masquerading under the easily penetrable guise of objective reporting, it is refreshing to find a journalist upfront about their politics. Such a figure was I.F. Stone who made no bones about his Soviet sympathies. Despite this, or more likely, because of it, mainstream media journalists laud Stone as the investigative journalist par excellence. Stone became a radical early, joining the Socialist Party before the age of 18, and after that, doing public relations for Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas. Even earlier, Stone became a journalist, joining a liberal monthly at the age of 14.
Today, as the Left decries the lawful deportation of illegal immigrants and a ban temporarily halting their entry into the US it is telling that less than twenty years ago they backed the use of federal troops to extract an illegal from a private home and send him back to a totalitarian country his mother tried to escape with him from. Historians argue that events should be studied only after fifty years has passed. Only from that vantage point can all the complexities of the event be taken in. Not so with the Elian Gonzales case; its features were evident from day one.
Christopher Hitchens once wrote of George Orwell that “it is possible to reprint every single letter, book review, and essay composed by Orwell without exposing him to any embarrassment.” The same could be said of Clive James–essayist and poet–when examining his output. At first glance, knowing James’ politics (to this day he calls himself part of the “proletarian left,” despises the free market, and favors a state-run media—he should emigrate here), one would expect dreary repetition. Certainly, that is what we got from James’ contemporary Gore Vidal. No matter the topic, Vidal always steered it toward his military-industrial complex conspiracy. Even Christopher Hitchens didn’t completely give up the Trotsky ghost; in one of his last essays, Hitchens scrambled to find something of relevance about the Old Man and found it in Trotsky’s conclusion that communism had failed.
Stockholm syndrome is a term used by psychiatrists specializing in the study of terrorism to describe how a hostage falls in love with their captor. One could not find a better example of a group version of this syndrome than in Russia today. March 5th marked the 64th anniversary of Josef Stalin’s death, and scores of elderly Russians are already laying wreaths on the grave of the ruler who murdered 20 million of their countrymen. But this admiration goes beyond the aged; a recent survey commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment reveals that Stalin remains widely admired in Russia.
Toward the end of his life, liberal actor Orson Welles reported being told by Nikita Khrushchev on a Hollywood visit by the Soviet premiere that Stalin had once targeted conservative actor John Wayne for liquidation. Although not reaching this height and honor on Stalin’s “enemies’ list,” conservative matinee idol Robert Taylor was able to have the distinction of having his films banned in Communist Hungary and in Czechoslovakia. And, depending upon your point of view, Taylor had the distinction of organizing Hollywood anticommunists into a political group (The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals), and being the only major star to name names during the 1947 Congressional investigation into communism in the film industry.