Parents CAN rid campuses of Communists

by Kieran Healy on April 25, 2011

These days the bow tie signifies the opposite, of course. Which only shows their disguises have improved.

{ 228 comments }

1

Anderson 04.25.11 at 7:19 pm

Yeah, kinda looks like Ben Stein.

2

chris 04.25.11 at 7:20 pm

Something about that guy reminds me of Tom Tomorrow, like there’s a recurring character/archetype based on this guy.

3

BenSix 04.25.11 at 7:22 pm

Louis Burdenz (according to wikipedia) was author of a curious publication titled What every citizen can do for the good of his country: attack communism!. I guess nowadays it would be called Scarlet Fever: How Communism Corrupts And Why It Should Be Attacked.

4

bob mcmanus 04.25.11 at 7:35 pm

Are there any communists on campus nowadays? Looks like the right, and their methods as opposed to yours, succeeded.

5

roac 04.25.11 at 7:41 pm

“Asia,” check. “Imperialism.” check. “Lenin,” check. “Masses,” gotcha. All very bad things for an academic to talk about, no question about it. But what was this sinister “Sola__”? Surely not “solar power,” not in 1951. And who was “__ovak”?

Also: I see that Budenz’s problem with commie professors was that they were out to destroy the US government. It’s hard now to imagine a time when the right wing looked on the destruction of the US government as a bad idea.

6

ben a 04.25.11 at 7:45 pm

roac @5,

I’m guessing it’s actually “soli” and the first bit of a “d” for “solidarity.”

My other (boring, non-pundit-centered) guess is “Czechoslovakia.”

7

alph 04.25.11 at 7:46 pm

czechosl-ovak-ia?

soli-darity?

8

protected static 04.25.11 at 7:57 pm

‘u,’ not ‘a.’ Sol-u-tion…

9

ejh 04.25.11 at 8:05 pm

Can anybody show me any professor, ever, anywhere, whose blackboard handwriting has been that good?

10

Bill Gardner 04.25.11 at 8:26 pm

That is a terrible picture of me. Recommendations on a better tie?

11

mcd 04.25.11 at 8:54 pm

Budenz was a communist, who violently recanted and became one of Joseph McCarthy’s best witnesses.

12

Nathaniel 04.25.11 at 9:04 pm

Yeah, kinda looks like Ben Stein.

In a more general sense that’s definitely intentional, especially given the American Legion’s affinity for fascism.

13

Salient 04.25.11 at 9:16 pm

In a startling display of precognition, the blackboard behind his head actually reads Solution: Land War in Asia — more specifically, he’s prophesying lecturing on the Six-Day War, as covered by the Prince of Darkness himself, Bob Novak. There was apparently some discussion of, uh, the Marxist-Leninist DFLP and its alleged commitment to a revolution of the masses.

It’s the Re____ ? ? ?___are behind his shoulders that stumps me. Probably “Revolution” or “Revolt” … but then what?

14

Anderson 04.25.11 at 9:18 pm

In a more general sense that’s definitely intentional, especially given the American Legion’s affinity for fascism.

If this is a somewhat oblique reference to Stein’s being Jewish, as I suspect his doppelganger on the magazine is supposed to be, then yeah, just so.

15

y81 04.25.11 at 9:21 pm

@4: That’s a good question. I believe that, although lip service is still paid to the Pauline triad of gender/race/class, only the first two are of any real interest on the campus these days. However, as I mentioned in an earlier thread, as the father of a 17-year-old, I am in the course of visiting a lot of campuses these days. I will pick up some catalogues, check out the extent of Communist/Marxist influence, and report back to the group.

P.S. Maybe Brian Leiter?

16

Anderson 04.25.11 at 9:22 pm

Probably “Revolution” or “Revolt” … but then what?

Isn’t “revolution” un-American enough?

17

Aulus Gellius 04.25.11 at 9:56 pm

I thought Re- was the beginning of “Red [is what I am, in case you moron kids haven’t figured it out already]”

18

Anderson 04.25.11 at 10:06 pm

Or “Re-form Judaism.”

19

djw 04.25.11 at 10:10 pm

P.S. Maybe Brian Leiter?

His politics, from what I can tell, are: left-social democrat, European style and pretty strongly and reflexively anti-interventionist in foreign policy. Also, he’s rude and mean to conservatives, especially stupid and/or evil ones.

That sort of combination makes you a “Marxist” on Glenn Beck’s whiteboard, but not in the real world.

20

rfgs 04.25.11 at 10:48 pm

Is THAT the significance of “Land War In Asia”? Here, I thought it was:

“You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'”

21

Gilmoure 04.25.11 at 10:52 pm

Needs a fez.

22

y81 04.25.11 at 11:15 pm

djw: You may be right (although Leiter’s post of July 20, 2004 goes pretty far in the direction of defending mass murder). I guess the real question is, is that all there is? Are there really no tenured academics to the left of European-style left-social democrats? Is my upcoming critical analysis of course catalogues going to be fruitless? I’ll find out.

23

christian_h 04.25.11 at 11:43 pm

There’s a few Marxists left in academia (like me, although being in math what parent would notice or care…?) but in all honesty the idea that someone’s kids could be indoctrinated into communism is sadly even more absurd now than it was then. Anyway I’d guess that in 1951 there were even fewer communists on campus than today – the Legion didn’t need actual examples to create the spectre of the (Jewish, as has been mentioned) communist undermining the moral and character of American youth.

24

Gene O'Grady 04.25.11 at 11:57 pm

Given that the pictures I’ve seen of college kids from that era usually look older than equivalent students nowadays (or even in my own college years 1965-), those kids would be about high school sophomores from the appearance of things.

25

engels 04.26.11 at 12:09 am

being in math what parent would notice

Sounds like you need a bow tie. :)

26

Lemuel Pitkin 04.26.11 at 12:18 am

There are still some communists left on campuses, even in economics departments at a few places like UMass. Sometimes they even have Lenin on the syllabus.

27

William U. 04.26.11 at 12:20 am

‘ djw: You may be right (although Leiter’s post of July 20, 2004 goes pretty far in the direction of defending mass murder). ‘

It’s scurrilous to say this without providing a link. (I checked his philosophy blog; I don’t think ‘Law prof Ruger from Wash U to Penn’ is it.)

Oh, and of course there are Marxists in academia — it’s pretty much the only place to find them today. Speaking of Leiter:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2010/11/the-political-complexion-of-the-readership-of-this-blog.html#tp

28

Uneducated Guy 04.26.11 at 12:25 am

I assumed that was Kissinger lecturing against communism.

29

Kieran Healy 04.26.11 at 12:41 am

y81—I’ll disemvowel any further trolling of the sort found in 21.

30

y81 04.26.11 at 1:48 am

Do it now. I won’t be back for a few years.

31

roac 04.26.11 at 2:05 am

I just got around to looking at the students: Isn’t that Mickey Ro0ney and Judy Garland? If so, the Legion was passing off a picture from about 1937.

32

Kieran Healy 04.26.11 at 2:08 am

We’ll overthrow the ruling class right here!

33

Josh 04.26.11 at 2:10 am

I’ve only ever heard one professor say, “I am a Communist.” Unfortunately, it was Grover Furr, whose political loyalties are already quite public; so I could not claim to have ferreted him out.

34

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 2:28 am

mcd @ http://crookedtimber.org/2011/04/25/parents-can-rid-campuses-of-communists/#comment-356408“>#11 said:

Budenz was a communist, who violently recanted and became one of Joseph McCarthy’s best witnesses.

Budenz was definitely a fink for McCarthy and not an altogether reliable fellow, occupational hazard for apostates. But at least he knew what he was talking about, having been an active communist for half his adult life. As Chambers said, the hard core of the ideological Cold War was fought between communists and ex-communists.

We now know that so-called McCarthyite hysteria was grounded in the fact of Soviet penetration of the upper-reaches of the US government, although you would not guess that from the jeering tone of this discussion. None of the snarky commenters so far has seen fit to mention the declassification and publication of VENONA project decrypts in 1995, much of which more or less substantiated McCarthy’s early demand to purge the tonier parts of the US national security apparat.

For obvious reasons US national security officials were unable to verify McCarthy’s more substantial claims for fear of compromising their sources. Hence HUAC and other US government prosecutions (Hiss, Rosenburg) had to go on alot of hear-say evidence, with obvious adverse consequences as the purge degenerated into a witch-hunt.

This then gave communist apologists and fellow-travelers a PR gift which kept giving, which they cashed in from Watergate onwards. As Hayne & Klehr conclude:

There were sensible reasons…for the decision to keep Venona a highly compartmentalized secret within the government. In retrospect, however, the negative consequences of this policy are glaring. Had Venona been made public, it is unlikely there would have been a forty-year campaign to prove that the Rosenbergs were innocent.

But there is no excuse now to ignore the hard evidence. It seems that the Left’s media-academia complex would prefer the truth about Soviet penetration of the US government and academy to be flushed down a collective memory hole rather than own up to inconvenient truths.

35

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 3:05 am

Kieran Healy, apart for displaying monumental cheek, is opening up a can of worms if he wants to poke fun at Cold War fear-mongering given that this sort of thing was far closer to the truth than its opposite. The opportunity for tu quoque can make even Jonah Goldberg look sage.

He quotes Susan Sontag dilating on the relative veracity of publications like American Legion and Readers Digest versus the likes of the Guardian and Nation on the central political issue of the post-War age:

‘’Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader’s Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or The New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?’’

36

CBrinton 04.26.11 at 3:05 am

I think one of the phrases on the board, partially obscured by the professor, is “Solution in Asia”–the title of a book by Owen Lattimore.

37

Michael Bérubé 04.26.11 at 3:12 am

I suppose it falls to me to remind Mr. Strocchi that Dreyfus was guilty.

38

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 3:51 am

Michael Bérubé @ #37 said:

I suppose it falls to me to remind Mr. Strocchi that Dreyfus was guilty.

Not even wrong.

The attempt to portray anti-communists as morally equivalent to reactionary anti-semites might have had some legs when Hitler held the whip hand. Although it would have been rejected indignantly by the surviving Mensheviks. But this canard, largely the product of the tireless propagandizing from the Frankfurt school, grew old fast after WWII.

The most effective anti-communists were typically Jewish ex-communists and Cold War liberals (first generation neo-conservatives). Takes one to know one, so to speak.

The French Old Right’s honorable about-face on Dreyfus compares favourably to the the remainder of the Old Left, with its continual bad faith over its long apologetics for communism. After “J’Accuse”, and new evidence came to light, even the French reactionaries gave up and agreed to re-instate Dreyfus to the officer corps with rank and privileges restored. But progressives never tire of denouncing McCarthyism even when the substance of McCarthyite accusations has now been verified.

Oh, and I suppose it falls to me to remind Mr Berube that Hiss really was guilty.

39

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 4:13 am

Although it must be admitted that the French Old Right maintained its anti-semitic agenda right up until and through WWII. Petain’s Vichy regime was an enthusiastic franchisee of the Final Solution.

Proving that anti-Semitism was more dear to its heart than opposition to the hated Boche. Odd when you think about it, because Napolean was second to none as an emancipator of European Jewry.

Really, it takes a comprehensive defeat and humiliation to knock the bs out of an ideological movement. Intellectual argument is, by contrast, a very weak reed.

40

spyder 04.26.11 at 4:36 am

mmm… I think Angela Davis is still a full professor at UCSC, teaching in the same department that gave Marcuse some temporary relief. And Marcuse’s grandson is a professor at UCSB.

41

dswift 04.26.11 at 5:01 am

What was Robert Novak up to mid-1951?

42

Michael Bérubé 04.26.11 at 5:21 am

I suppose it falls to me to remind Mr Berube that Hiss really was guilty.

Yes, that certainly justified the purge of dozens of professors none of whom was ever charged with abuses of the classroom, just as it justified the suspension of the First and Fifth Amendments for professors asked to name names.

The line about Dreyfus being guilty, by the way, is an “allusion” or “quotation.” You never know — I might use it again when I make my picks for the second round of the NHL playoffs.

43

Gene O'Grady 04.26.11 at 5:45 am

About 1973 or so I had dinner with one of the most distinguished of the professors who was purged (the ancient historian Moses Finely). For some reason I expected him to be very bitter, and he was anything but.

At the risk of being accused of having a father fixation, I note that while my father prosecuted real subversives working in the Justice Department in the Truman administration, he utterly despised Joe McCarthy and found him an appalling charlatan whose only motivations were personal and whose ideological perspective led him to ignore the real reasons for most of the betrayals of the country.

44

Peter Hoh 04.26.11 at 5:53 am

I suspect that “Re” and “Masses” are connected.

“Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

45

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 6:45 am

Michael Bérubé @ #42 said:

Yes, that certainly justified the purge of dozens of professors none of whom was ever charged with abuses of the classroom, just as it justified the suspension of the First and Fifth Amendments for professors asked to name names.

Please, save bait-and-switch for the more easily misled.

I did not endorse the black-listing of American Leftists in the media-academia. Quite the opposite, I made an explicit point of acknowledging that McCarthy’s “purge [of] the tonier parts of the US national security apparat” did “degenerate into a witch-hunt” once it reached the media-academia fellow-travelers further down the food-chain. McCarthyite witch-hunts were a PR gift to the Left when the ideological wheel turned after Watergate.

My more general point is that Leftists, in their opposition to McCarthy’s throwing out of the witch-hunted (academic) babies, are far too sanguine about keeping the purged (official) bathwater. In the great scheme of Cold War things, the latter are far more important.

Do Leftists (or any ideologists) ever admit being wrong about history or science? Confession is good for the soul, you know.

Michael Bérubé said:

The line about Dreyfus being guilty, by the way, is an “allusion” or “quotation.”

Ironic quotations of Zola are a bit too subtle as allusions, even for me. Especially when the irony falls flat, given Dreyfus’s subsequent re-rehabilitation.

46

will 04.26.11 at 7:16 am

There’s a surprising number of communists (as in, I’ve met some, rather than none) in the student population. Haven’t really run across any professors, though

47

roger 04.26.11 at 7:20 am

Well, Jack Strocchi, you have a pretty simple task ahead of you. In his Wheeling Speech, McCarthy said: “I have here in my hand a list of 205 . . . a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”
List all 205. Don’t be shy! Since Hiss was not working in the State Department, I don’t imagine he counts.
Let’s start with the As.

48

Dr. Hilarius 04.26.11 at 7:20 am

I’ve never been able to figure out the obsession about communist academics. From all the fuss you might think that every other college student graduated with a tattoo of Lenin on his/her ass and a lifetime commitment to selling the People’s World on street corners.

49

Henri Vieuxtemps 04.26.11 at 7:34 am

Yeah, it would certainly make more sense for them to become kindergarten and elementary school teachers. University, it’s too late.

50

Smudge 04.26.11 at 7:38 am

Sadly I narrowly missed being taught by Eric Hobsbawm. now there was nothing crypto- about his Communism

51

maidhc 04.26.11 at 8:06 am

Is this going to be on the final?

52

Myles 04.26.11 at 8:13 am

Can we resolve the Rosenbergs debate once and for all by pointing out that the psychological sticking point here isn’t really the yes/not presence of treasonous acts per se? But rather the emotional feeling of what treason is? Sort the ontology of treason. I daresay that if you knocked enough drinks into some of their more rabid defenders, they would say that helping to establish Communism wasn’t treasonous as long as they weren’t doing anything actually horrific, like informing on people to be packed off to gulags or something.

I mean, I doubt that most of their defenders even thought that passing atomic info to the USSR was morally wrong, at least morally wrong in a capital-crimes way. People who were arguing whether or not the Rosenbergs committed treason aren’t, honestly, arguing whether or not they committed treason; they were likely arguing, in the hearts of hearts, about whether what they did counted as treason. We have objective standards, of course; it’s simply that at an emotional level everybody accepts those objective standards.

Trying to re-litigate the Cold War communist debate is pointless for exactly that reason: the argument isn’t about facts, it’s about emotion.

53

ajay 04.26.11 at 8:23 am

Is THAT the significance of “Land War In Asia”?

“The US has broken the second rule of war. That is, don’t go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia. Rule One is don’t march on Moscow. I developed these two rules myself.”
— Montgomery

The most effective anti-communists were typically Jewish ex-communists and Cold War liberals (first generation neo-conservatives).

Which I think means that Strocchi thinks that the collapse of Communism had more to do with a bunch of New York Times columnists and second-rate economics professors than with, say, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, etc.

54

Zamfir 04.26.11 at 8:29 am

Perhaps I am missing something, but the bad thing surely was spying for the Russians, not being a communist? With the latter only problematic if it leads directly and intentionally to the former?

Jack Strocchi, now that the Chinese are capitalist and clearly spying too, should we start defending witch hunts on capitalists? Or at least admit they are understandable given the circumstances?

55

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 8:39 am

roger @ #46 said:

Well, Jack Strocchi, you have a pretty simple task ahead of you. In his Wheeling Speech, McCarthy said: “I have here in my hand a list of 205…names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party”
List all 205. Don’t be shy! Since Hiss was not working in the State Department, I don’t imagine he counts.
Let’s start with the As.

Read what I wrote for comprehension, not misdirection. As I said McCarthy’s inquiries suffered from not being privy to the VENONA decrypts. Even Truman was not cleared for this stuff!

Fortunately Haynes & Klehr have already gone to the trouble of alphabetically listing the high-ranking Americans implicated in communist conspiracies, as revealed by VENONA projects revelations. Whether they were members of the Communist party or officers in the State Department was neither here nor there.

I have a simple task for you. Before you dismiss the US government’s purges in the 1940’s-50’s I suggest you read their list and think on it. “Start[ing] with the A’s…”

John Abt**[2]

Solomon Adler**[2]

Rudy Baker**[2][3]

Joel Barr[2]

Alice Barrows[2]

Theodore Bayer, President, Russky Golos Publishing[2]

Cedric Belfrage[2]

Elizabeth Bentley[2]

Joseph Milton Bernstein[2]

Earl Browder[2], American communist and General Secretary of the Communist Party USA from 1934 to 1945.

Paul Burns**[2][4]

Sylvia Callen**[2]

Virginius Frank Coe[2]

Lona Cohen**[2]

Morris Cohen**[2], Communist Party USA & Portland Spy Ring member who was courier for Manhattan Project.

Judith Coplon[2]

Lauchlin Currie[2], White House economic adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt.

Byron T. Darling**[2]

Eugene Dennis[2]

Samuel Dickstein**[2]

Martha Dodd**[2], .

William E. Dodd Jr.[2]

Laurence Duggan,[2] Head of the South American desk at the United States Department of State.

Eufrosina Dvoichenko-Markov[2]

Nathan Einhorn[2]

Jack Bradley Fahy[2]

Linn Markley Farish, senior liaison officer with Josip Broz Tito’s Yugoslav Partisan forces[2]

Edward J. Fitzgerald[2]

Charles Flato[2]

Isaac Folkoff[2]

Jane Foster[2]

Zalmond David Franklin[2]

Isabel Gallardo[2][5]

Boleslaw K. Gerbert[2][6]

Rebecca Getzoff[2]

Harold Glasser,[2] U.S. Treasury Dept. economist

Bela Gold[2]

Harry Gold,[2] sentenced to 30 years for his role in the Rosenbergs’ ring

Sonia Steinman Gold[2]

Jacob Golos,[2] “main pillar” of NKVD spy network, particularly the Sound/Myrna group,

George Gorchoff[2]

Gerald Graze**,[2][7]

David Greenglass,[2] machinist at Los Alamos sentenced to 15 years for his role in Rosenberg ring;

Ruth Greenglass[2]

Theodore Alvin Hall,[2] Manhattan Project physicist who gave plutonium purification secrets to Soviet intelligence.

Maurice Halperin,[2] American writer, professor, diplomat,.

Kitty Harris,[2]

Clarence Hiskey**,[2]

Alger Hiss,[2] Lawyer… establishment of the UN, U.S. State Department.

Donald Hiss**[2]

Harry Hopkins,[2] One of FDR’s closest advisers & New Deal architect

Louis Horwitz[2]

Bella Joseph**[2]

Emma Harriet Joseph[2]

Gertrude Kahn[2]

Joseph Katz[2]

Helen Grace Scott Keenan[2]

Mary Jane Keeney[2]

Philip Keeney[2]

Alexander Koral**[2]

Helen Koral[2]

Samuel Krafsur[2]

Charles Kramer[2]

Christina Krotkova,[2]

Sergej Nikolaevich Kurnakov[2]

Stephen Laird[2]

Oscar Lange[2]

Richard Lauterbach, employee at Time magazine[2]

Duncan C. Lee[2]

Michael S. Leshing[2]

Helen Lowry[2]

William Mackey[2]

Harry Samuel Magdoff[2][8]

William Malisoff, owner and manager of United Laboratories[2]

Hede Massing**[2]

Robert Owen Menaker[2]

Floyd Cleveland Miller[2]

James Walter Miller[2]

Robert Miller**[2]

Robert G. Minor,[2] Office of Strategic Services, Belgrade

Leonard Emil Mins[2]

Nichola Napoli[2]

Franz Neumann**[2]

David K. Niles

Eugénie Olkhine[2][9]

Frank Oppenheimer**[2]

Julius Robert Oppenheimer[2], director of the Manhattan Project.

Nicholas V. Orloff[2]

Edna Margaret Patterson[2]

William Perl[2]

Victor Perlo[2]

Aleksandr N. Petroff, Curtiss-Wright Aircraft

Vladimir Aleksandrovich Posner, United States War Department[2]

Lee Pressman[2]

Mary Wolfe Price[2]

Bernard Redmont**[2]

Peter Rhodes[2]

Stephan Sandi Rich[2]

Kenneth Richardson, World Wide Electronics[2]

Samuel Jacob Rodman, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration[2]

Allan Rosenberg[2]

Julius Rosenberg,[2] United States Army Signal Corps Laboratories

Ethel Rosenberg,[2] executed for role in Rosenberg ring

Amadeo Sabatini[2]

Alfred Epaminodas Sarant[2]

Marian Miloslavovich Schultz[2]

Milton Schwartz[2]

John Scott[2]

Ricardo Setaro[2][10]

Charles Bradford Sheppard, Hazeltine Electronics[2]

Abraham George Silverman[2]

Nathan Gregory Silvermaster[2], U.S. War Production Board (WPB) economist t.

Cary Hiles[2]

Helen Silvermaster[2], Leader of the American League for Peace & Democracy and the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties.

Morton Sobell[2][11]

Jack Soble[2]

Robert Soble[2]

Johannes Steele[2]

I. F. Stone[2], Investigative journalist whose newsletter, I. F. Stone’s Weekly, was ranked 16th out of 100 by his fellow journalists.

Augustina Stridsberg[2]

Anna Louise Strong[2]

Helen Tenney**[2]

Mikhail Tkach, editor of the Ukrainian Daily News[2]

William Ludwig Ullmann[2]

Irving Charles Velson[2]

Margietta Voge[2]

William Weisband**[2]

Donald Wheeler[2]

Maria Wicher[2]

Harry Dexter White,[2]

Ruth Beverly Wilson[2]

Ignacy Witczak**[2][12]

Ilya Elliott Wolston[2]

Flora Don Wovschin[2]

Jones Orin York[2]

Daniel Abraham Zaret, Spanish War veteran[2]

Mark Zborovski[2]

That should keep you busy.

56

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 9:01 am

ajay @ #42 said:

Which I think means that Strocchi thinks that the collapse of Communism had more to do with a bunch of New York Times columnists and second-rate economics professors than with, say, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, etc.

Again, read what I wrote, including the bits that pre-emptively deal with attempted snarks. I was careful to restrict the crucial role of ex-communists in the Cold War to their activities in the ideological sphere, which obviously had credibility that comes with experience (“witness”):

As Chambers said, the hard core of the ideological Cold War was fought between communists and ex-communists. [emphasis added]

So far as personalities are concerned Reagan, Thatcher & Pope John Paul on our side and Walesa, Havel and Gorby on their side all played decisive roles in the final act of the Cold War.

Ultimately Soviet communism fell due to vast impersonal forces. It failed to acquire legitimacy due to its relative economic poverty and it lost what legitimacy it won in WWII through its declining military capacity. The latter came about through the US’s resolute prosecution of the Containment strategy, including the Arms Race.

57

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 9:06 am

Zamfir @ #52 said:

Jack Strocchi, now that the Chinese are capitalist and clearly spying too, should we start defending witch hunts on capitalists? Or at least admit they are understandable given the circumstances?

Perhaps a little bit. The PRC certainly does on its side.

But obviously the stakes are much lower in this particular sphere of system rivalry. There is a big difference between bankrupting companies and under-mining civilizations.

58

roger 04.26.11 at 9:25 am

Well, let’s begin with your number one, Soloman Adler. Are you claiming he worked in the State Department? Because of course, he didn’t – he worked in Treasury .
Number 2, Rudy Baker was… wow, an avowed communist in the U.S. What a catch! Tell me, what did he convey secretly to the USSR – the address of the Daily Worker’s subscription office?
No 3 worked as a private defense contractor, connected with the Rosenbergs. Again, nothing to do with the State Department.
Going further into this list, you list the very interesting Joseph Milton Bernstein – who, again, was a translator and editor, and was accused of helping the Soviets spy on the … Library of Congress. Heavy stuff, that! Even the authors of the “Librarian Spies” could only make that sound important by claiming that these librarians had access to war material captured from the Germans – although exactly what that means they leave to the reader’s discretion. More interestingly, Bernstein was friends with James Jesus Angleton.
Here we do come across a man who conveyed nuclear material and illegal information to a foreign country from the U.S. The country was Israel, which has even erected a statue to him. If you want to list his associates and who was in on that caper, feel free.
Otherwise, though, you have just listed random junk from the Venona transcripts. An impressively McCarthyite response, I must say.

59

Henri Vieuxtemps 04.26.11 at 9:31 am

Well, it seems to me that the witch-hunt phenomenon (including McCarthyism, and, in fact, the whole concept of Cold War) is a testimony to the weakness of the civilizations practicing this sort of thing. A healthy one, faced with an attempt to undermine it, would just shrug it off.

Seriously, spies? There are always spies, that’s normal. Hysteria is not.

60

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 10:52 am

roger @ #57 said:

Well, let’s begin with your number one, Soloman Adler. Are you claiming he worked in the State Department? Because of course, he didn’t – he worked in Treasury …No 3 worked as a private defense contractor, connected with the Rosenbergs. Again, nothing to do with the State Department…Otherwise, though, you have just listed random junk from the Venona transcripts. An impressively McCarthyite response, I must say.

Again, read what I wrote. I explicitly stated that “[w]hether they were members of the Communist party or officers in the State Department was neither here nor there”. My original point explicitly referred to “the tonier parts of the US national security apparat”, which includes the State Department and lots of other departments and agencies.

What matters is whether the VENONA decrypts credibly link these parties with communist conspiracies, at least with more substance than McCarthy’s wilder claims. It does for me and other non-partisan scholars.

I see your objections way before they occur to you, set-up the obvious defence. And yet you still blunder into them.

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the Left’s resistance to acknowledging communist conspirators in the US government is intellectual rather than ideological. Remedial comprehension lessons are indicated.

61

Jacob Hartog 04.26.11 at 11:02 am

Oppenheimer? Why, because he didn’t want Teller to develop the hydrogen bomb?

62

roger 04.26.11 at 11:15 am

Right, you see my objections like a chess master! By culling an index of the Venona transcripts that includes the vast conspiracy to ship the Library of Congress index to Stalin – those devious communists!
I have accepted yolur identifications and even that the Venona decrypts automatically translate into spying, although, in truth, talking to a soviet citizen or government employee is not spying in U.S. terms. In the Soviet Union, you could get executed for spying if you talked to a U.S. reporter, but as I recall, the U.S. found this an instance of Soviet oppression.
As for the identifications you present, like that of Blin as I.F. Stone, this was long exploded. Nor has the definition of Ales as Hiss ever been proven.
Finally, your “the tonier parts of the US national security apparat” – apparently includes teaching in a minor post at USC, and working as a translator in San Francisco. Do tell us of Augustina Stridsberg’s tony foreign policy advice, no doubt delivered secretly to Eleanor Roosevelt herself – all as part of the aparat.

63

roger 04.26.11 at 11:23 am

ps – I suppose I should also mock the inclusion of Harry Dexter White on this list. James Broughton took care of this back in 1998 – White’s job was, after all, to talk with his Soviet counterparts. We actually were subverted into allying with the Soviet Union – no doubt due to the apparat. There’s no evidence whatsoever that White was a communist spy, and that he had a nickname in the Venona cables only means that he shared a distinction with FDR.
The single and only “tony” Soviet spy in the 30s and 40s in foreign affairs was Alger Hiss. The rest were minor characters at best.

64

Steve LaBonne 04.26.11 at 11:24 am

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the Left’s resistance to acknowledging communist conspirators in the US government is intellectual rather than ideological.

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Strocchi is an idiot troll who’s crusin’ for a bannin’.

65

Zamfir 04.26.11 at 11:56 am

But obviously the stakes are much lower in this particular sphere of system rivalry. There is a big difference between bankrupting companies and under-mining civilizations.
That’s the part I don’t understand. Stealing military or economical secrets can be nasty. And it’s perfectly fine to police against it with a level of seriousness that depends on how important the secrets are.

But “undermining civilization”? What’s that? If it doesn’t involve selling state secrets to the Russians, what is wrong with it? And if it does involve selling secrets, how is it worse than selling secrets without undermining civilization?

66

Michael Bérubé 04.26.11 at 11:58 am

Ironic quotations of Zola are a bit too subtle as allusions, even for me. Especially when the irony falls flat, given Dreyfus’s subsequent re-rehabilitation.

The allusion was, of course, not to Zola but to a very famous film, specifically to the character of the General, who continues to insist on Dreyfus’s guilt long after his re-rehabilitation. And the point was, of course, to mock the folly of people who try to justify the long-discredited purge of leftist college professors in the postwar US.

I am not surprised that you didn’t get that part.

67

ajay 04.26.11 at 12:08 pm

Especially when the irony falls flat, given Dreyfus’s subsequent re-rehabilitation.

“Re-rehabilitation”?
Wait, I missed this the first time round: is Strocchi actually now suggesting that Dreyfus was guilty?

68

Michael Bérubé 04.26.11 at 12:29 pm

He was considered guilty for a while, but was then rehabilitated. Then he was convicted on appeal by the High Court of Voices in My Head, then re-rehabilitated.

69

LFC 04.26.11 at 12:29 pm

Strocchi @44: “when the ideological wheel turned after Watergate”
It wasn’t a very long (or a very sharp) ‘turn’. Reagan was elected in 1980, Thatcher the year before that.

Re the Rosenbergs: My impression is that the consensus (widely, though presumably not universally, accepted) is that Julius R. did pass photos of various things to the Soviets (though nothing that caused any severe damage to the U.S.), whereas Ethel R., by contrast, was not guilty of anything. So Ethel’s execution was a miscarriage of justice and Julius’s execution was punishment disproportionate to the crime.

70

Kieran Healy 04.26.11 at 12:31 pm

Weeeel, this thread took an odd turn overnight, I must say.

71

rea 04.26.11 at 1:01 pm

I doubt that most of their defenders even thought that passing atomic info to the USSR was morally wrong, at least morally wrong in a capital-crimes way. People who were arguing whether or not the Rosenbergs committed treason aren’t, honestly, arguing whether or not they committed treason; they were likely arguing, in the hearts of hearts, about whether what they did counted as treason.

(1) It didn’t seem as much like treason at the time, when we were allied with the Soviets, as it did latter, when the Soviets became the enemy.

(2) The actual “secrets” leaked by the Rosenbergs were pretty pathetic–not very important.

(3) There was a bloodthirstiness about the Roseberg prosecutions (particularly in respect to Mrs. Rosenberg) that is hard to justify in terms of anything the Rosenbergs actually did, or the situation of the country at the time. An early example of security theater . . .

72

ajay 04.26.11 at 1:57 pm

67: to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised. Given that FDR caused the Great Depression, McCarthy was a hero, the South was in the right and global warming doesn’t exist, it makes sense that Dreyfus should be guilty.

73

Kieran Healy 04.26.11 at 2:02 pm

You forgot that you are the real racist, ajay.

74

ajay 04.26.11 at 2:13 pm

72: oh, good point. I suspect I may also be the real anti-semite.

75

MarkUp 04.26.11 at 2:42 pm

@72: If that’s the case then should you not start using the shift key?

76

Jack Strocchi 04.26.11 at 3:06 pm

roger @ #61 said:

Right, you see my objections like a chess master! By culling an index of the Venona transcripts that includes the vast conspiracy to ship the Library of Congress index to Stalin – those devious communists!

I suppose sending A-bomb secrets to Stalin barely rates as a misdemeanour then.

Its easy to poke fun at Cold War anxieties from the safe distance of the Anglo-American empire in the autumn years of its ascendancy. But at the time these fears were well-grounded in a reality which intellectuals have since taken some pains to ignore.

After WWI more pretty much all of Western Eurasia fell to communists bent on genocide. After WWII pretty much all of Eastern Eurasia fell to communists bent on genocide. The only power barring the way to further communist expansion and the totalitarian crushing of civilized values was US military power and security policies.

McCarthyism was one aspect of this power and policy. It went a little too far on some occasions and some people lost their jobs. That’s a pity but in the world-historical scheme of things it should hardly rate a mention.

Yet now, more than two decades after communism’s establishment has collapsed – and after the basis of McCarthy’s core accusations have been substantiated – we are still moaning over the occupational inconveniences of a few hundred pinko intellectuals.

Some rational perspective is indicated.

77

rea 04.26.11 at 3:11 pm

“After WWI more pretty much all of Western Eurasia fell to communists bent on genocide.”

WTF is he talking about?

78

Uncle Kvetch 04.26.11 at 3:35 pm

Some rational perspective is indicated.

Irony just dug itself out of its grave, just so it could kill itself again.

79

roger 04.26.11 at 3:40 pm

Mr. Stracchio, you are an intellectual giant, and we exist in your shadow – with your concerns about Eurasia and all. But on the earthly level, where mere mortels ask for, like, proof of an accusation, you are doing badly. After culling some index of the Venona transcripts in which we are supposed to believe, a., that the FBI has correctly connected the code names to the people, b., that the people mentioned are all spies, and c., that the spies prove a conspiracy among ‘tony foreign policy people, you fail to defend a, you are surely wrong about b, and you red herring c – one notices that Klaus Fuchs is not on your list. Plus, of course, Fuchs wasn’t a tony foreign policy person.
Thus, as a prosecutor of a case requiring some evidence and a hestitation to slander, you fail absolutely. But as a dark foreboder of the communist conspiracy in which, well, McCarthy was just a little pea in the face of the immensity of it all, you do have down the fifties flatshoe vibe. Styles change – that whole vibe, plus the tabloid version of world history, became mockable in the late fifties, and has been enshrined as a moral mania in the sixties, where it remains to this day, save for the Texas State Schoolbook committee.
This has just been another exciting case of… red scare hysteria 2!

80

William U. 04.26.11 at 3:43 pm

‘Susan Sontag dilating on the relative veracity of publications like American Legion and Readers Digest versus the likes of the Guardian and Nation on the central political issue of the post-War age’

In the same speech, Sontag collapses the distinction between Communism and Fascism — something not only indicative of analytical confusion, but morally suspect, as it implicitly denies the singularity of the Holocaust. Similarly, Strocchi thinks communists were ‘bent on genocide,’ which suggests a very expansive definition of ‘genocide.’

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Anderson 04.26.11 at 3:44 pm

70: Yeah, I was “how could this possibly have hit 78 comments?” Then I saw where Strocchi chimed in.

People who were arguing whether or not the Rosenbergs committed treason aren’t, honestly, arguing whether or not they committed treason

Really? I’m no expert on that body of law, but the crime is defined in the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” In what sense was the Soviet Union our “enemy”? I don’t think we can have “Enemies” without a “War,” myself.

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Anderson 04.26.11 at 3:46 pm

In the same speech, Sontag collapses the distinction between Communism and Fascism—something not only indicative of analytical confusion, but morally suspect, as it implicitly denies the singularity of the Holocaust.

Is that a parody?

83

William U. 04.26.11 at 3:50 pm

Anderson: No. See Žižek: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n06/slavoj-zizek/the-two-totalitarianisms

Liberals are characteristically confused on this question.

84

ajay 04.26.11 at 4:03 pm

“After WWI more pretty much all of Western Eurasia fell to communists bent on genocide.”

Michael Moorcock’s “A Nomad of the Time Streams” is not an entirely reliable source on European history, you know.

85

Michael Bérubé 04.26.11 at 4:05 pm

Irony just dug itself out of its grave, just so it could kill itself again.

But first, it was re-rehabilitated.

Weeeel, this thread took an odd turn overnight, I must say.

That’s what happens when you start a thread about bow ties, Kieran. Without fail, it produces a comment thread full of fail.

86

chris 04.26.11 at 4:15 pm

But at the time these fears were well-grounded in a reality which intellectuals have since taken some pains to ignore.

No, they were grounded in a paranoid fantasy which subsequent events have exposed as such. Intellectuals, being what they are, have mostly acknowledged this. Political hacks, being what they are, have not (if their partisan orientation so dictates).

Espionage is not, and never has been, an existential threat to any nation-state. Even in the case of nuclear weapon designs.

and after the basis of McCarthy’s core accusations have been substantiated

No, they haven’t. You’re the one holding up a handful of guilty people in an attempt to vindicate a moral panic and accusing *others* of bait and switch. One of the main bases for condemning McCarthyism is that it failed to separate the innocent from the guilty (and, indeed, wasn’t even really trying to). Pointing out that a few of the accused actually were guilty isn’t a refutation at all.

Calling the correct accusations “core” in hindsight (and dismissing all the others as acceptable collateral damage) is the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. If McCarthy was 90% wrong, then he was 90% wrong, and pointing at the other 10% is not a vindication. Even a stopped clock, etc.

87

Anderson 04.26.11 at 4:21 pm

William, you criticized Sontag for “moral confusion” and then, when I asked if that was a joke, you linked to something by Žižek.

I’m still not clear whether I’m being had or not. But the Z. piece is plenty confused, morally or otherwise:

It is necessary to take sides and proclaim Fascism fundamentally ‘worse’ than Communism. The alternative, the notion that it is even possible to compare rationally the two totalitarianisms, tends to produce the conclusion – explicit or implicit – that Fascism was the lesser evil, an understandable reaction to the Communist threat.

Uh, no? Somehow, I’m able to rationally compare the two, and to find Nazism (his real target, I suppose) worse. But “collapsing the distinction” matters only in some contexts; I doubt the distinction made much difference to their victims.

88

Sev 04.26.11 at 4:30 pm

“Seriously, spies? There are always spies, that’s normal. Hysteria is not”

Hysteria is as American as cherry pie. I almost think it is a defining feature of our civilization. Granting that, anything which threatens it undermines the latter. It is how we do things here, just as consensus is how the Japanese do things. Enthusiasms and hysterias.

89

William U. 04.26.11 at 4:38 pm

So, Anderson, would you have been indifferent as to the winner of a war between the USSR and the Third Reich, supposing the liberal democracies managed to stay out? After all, “Stalin killed more people,” as some of my liberal friends like to say.

While I relish Žižek’s style of provocation, I really think this is a litmus test for moral (and historical) seriousness.

90

Anderson 04.26.11 at 4:44 pm

William, were you to at some point divert yourself by reading what I wrote, you would see that I consider Nazism “worse” than Communism.

Personally, I consider reading before responding to be a litmus test of moral (and rhetorical) seriousness.

91

Malaclypse 04.26.11 at 4:49 pm

That’s what happens when you start a thread about bow ties, Kieran. Without fail, it produces a comment thread full of fail.

That LGM thread allowed me to link to both Doctor Who and Bugs Bunny. I’m sorry, but that to me is chock full of win.

92

ajay 04.26.11 at 4:58 pm

Espionage is not, and never has been, an existential threat to any nation-state.

That’s arguable. British and French and Polish espionage (specifically, on Enigma) was an existential threat to Nazi Germany.
And British espionage helped to bring the US into the First World War (via the Zimmermann Telegram) and that turned out to be an existential threat to Wilhelmine Germany.

93

christian_h 04.26.11 at 4:59 pm

Espionage is not, and never has been, an existential threat to any nation-state.

Are you saying the glorious Soviet Union was not brought down by a conspiracy of imperialist spies instigating a counter-revolution??

94

christian_h 04.26.11 at 5:02 pm

ajay, there’s a difference between war time intelligence and peace time espionage of the “undermining” variety.

95

William U. 04.26.11 at 5:17 pm

Anderson: Whatever. Since you acknowledge that the distinction is morally important, I will leave for lunch satisfied. For her part, Sontag’s record of spotty political engagements (from the left-liberal Third Worldism of “the white race is the cancer of human history” to the speech Strocchi so likes) is made up for by her work in Bosnia, but (and here’s what I suppose you found objectionable) a moral exemplar she was not.

96

Mrs Tilton 04.26.11 at 5:40 pm

rea @(for the moment)77,

“After WWI more pretty much all of Western Eurasia fell to communists bent on genocide.”

WTF is he talking about?

Oh, don’t worry if it makes no sense. Just wait a month or two, then it’ll read “Western Eastasia”.

97

Myles 04.26.11 at 5:57 pm

@Zamfir:
Perhaps I am missing something, but the bad thing surely was spying for the Russians, not being a communist?

Hardly. If they were spying for the French or the British or something I doubt anyone would have given a toss (other than exactly the same people who don’t really think the Rosenbergs were treasonous). It would still have been just as illegal, but it wouldn’t be that big of a problem.

@rea:
(1) It didn’t seem as much like treason at the time, when we were allied with the Soviets, as it did latter, when the Soviets became the enemy.

I doubt anyone was that utterly stupid as to believe that we were actually allied with the Soviets out of anything other than completely circumstantial reasons. They were always the enemy; they were just less of an enemy while the Nazis were around. If anyone tries to justify their actions on this basis, they are either disingenuous or stupid. I don’t think the Rosenbergs were the latter.

(3) There was a bloodthirstiness about the Roseberg prosecutions (particularly in respect to Mrs. Rosenberg) that is hard to justify in terms of anything the Rosenbergs actually did, or the situation of the country at the time. An early example of security theater . . .

The problem wasn’t what they did, the problem was who they did it with. The fact that they did it to advance Soviet Communism was the problem, and it was punished according to that moral scale. It’s basically exactly the reverse moral scale as possessed by their defenders.

I think the obvious right-wing comparison here is Iran-Contra: left-wingers yelled for the Constitution! Treason! Congress! so on. Right-wingers thought they were fighting communism. We shouldn’t be confused by the semantics; it’s not about treason to America, it’s about treason to Western liberal society as a whole. The real question isn’t legal; it’s ideological. In this debate, the first-order priority of almost nobody was the actual American Constitution.

98

monboddo 04.26.11 at 6:07 pm

Wait–Earl Browder was a communist?

99

Malaclypse 04.26.11 at 6:19 pm

We shouldn’t be confused by the semantics; it’s not about treason to America, it’s about treason to Western liberal society as a whole.

Where is “treason to Western liberal society as a whole” defined? What country’s judges will sit in judgment? Why do I suspect that the borders of Western liberal society as a whole will resemble medieval Christendom, plus the whiter portions of the ex British Empire?

100

chris 04.26.11 at 6:29 pm

British and French and Polish espionage (specifically, on Enigma) was an existential threat to Nazi Germany.

Not remotely. It was a small part of a *war effort by multiple Great Powers* which was an existential threat to Nazi Germany. Certainly war can threaten states, but espionage isn’t war.

101

geo 04.26.11 at 6:47 pm

Seems to me there’s something to be said for Sontag’s judgment about the white race being the cancer of human history. What she said was: “”Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Balanchine ballets, et al. don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history. It is the white race and it alone – its ideologies and inventions – which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.”

To begin with, this is obviously not a racialist assertion. What Sontag is weighing in the balance is European civilization and the ideals of autonomy, mastery, detachment, and instrumental rationality that played so large and essential a part in its conquest of the world, at least as of 1967, when she wrote. It is a valid — in fact, an urgent — question whether these ideals were and are on the whole benign, or even compatible with the continued existence of the species. Since she wrote, innumerable people have questioned those ideals and deplored their expression in the form of imperialism, environmental destruction, patriarchy, exploitation, technological fetishism, weapons of mass destruction, etc. Very few of them have written a sentence as eloquent and powerful as this one of Sontag’s.

102

bianca steele 04.26.11 at 6:50 pm

Re. Strocchi: I once attended a thesis-writers’ group, one of the members of which was an older woman to whose life experiences the rest of us listened with great sympathy, if not always agreement. Then she said, “Of course McCarthy was right.”

103

MPAVictoria 04.26.11 at 7:10 pm

“Very few of them have written a sentence as wrong as this one of Sontag’s.”

Fixed that for you.

104

christian_h 04.26.11 at 7:30 pm

I’m having flashbacks to the eighties and my high school teachers’ “Perestroika is a communist ploy” fear-mongering following this thread. I thought it was by now abundantly clear that the Soviet Union had, by 1945, essentially become a conservative force internationally. There is certainly no evidence of any kind that it ever intended, during the Cold War, to attack the West militarily or help overthrow Western governments – this danger has always existed only in the minds of anti-communists.

It follows that spying for the Soviet Union was in fact absolutely no different than spying for any other geopolitical rival – it was unique only in the respect that in 1945 there was no conceivable such rival to the US except the Soviet Union.

To the extent that American communists failed to notice the essential conservatism of Stalinist communism and spied out of a conviction that they were doing so for the advancement of a more just society globally, theirs is a sad story. The resulting witch-hunt, the red-baiting, the permanent war state and economy created on the back of the illusion of the Soviet threat – those were and still are much more sinister and dangerous than some pretty amateur spying.

105

ajay 04.26.11 at 7:34 pm

100: no Enigma break, no Second Front in 1944 and possibly not in 1945 either (see: Kahn), and no (or much reduced) Western support to the USSR. I’m not saying that would have inevitably meant German victory but it would have rather improved their chances, don’t you think?

To begin with, this is obviously not a racialist assertion.

OK, I admit I chuckled at the “obviously”.

106

chris 04.26.11 at 7:36 pm

It is the white race and it alone – its ideologies and inventions – which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads

The Ainu might disagree, if they were around to do so. Also regional ethnic groups in China vis-a-vis the notably nonwhite Han (IIRC). Several different groups in India have had imperialist periods, none of which were white at the time. And although there are few or no records, I highly doubt that the Native American empires of Central and South America were built without eradicating some autonomous civilizations along the way.

which has upset the ecological balance of the planet

Strictly speaking true, but many nonwhite societies have upset the ecological balances of *the places where they lived*. It’s just that they lived on substantially less than the whole planet. I don’t think that’s an argument for moral superiority.

The idea of, say, Native Americans living “in harmony with nature” takes on a new meaning when you realize that their ancestors’ arrival in the Americas coincided with a wave of extinctions of large, possibly tasty animals. They lived in harmony with nature because the only parts of nature that weren’t in harmony with them had already gone extinct by the time the white men showed up (to drive to extinction the parts that weren’t in harmony with *them*).

which now threatens the very existence of life itself

Melodramatic and false. Lots of individual species are threatened by human civilization, but life itself is not. (For that matter, as long as humans survive, life itself survives in the form of humans, at least one food species, and probably various parasites.)

If she had said “the human race”, she’d have been right up until the last overdramatization, but it’s pretty clear in the light of history that the white race isn’t any different from any other race, except for having been in the right place at the right time w.r.t. a bunch of technological change. Any of the others would have done the same thing given the chance.

107

ajay 04.26.11 at 7:52 pm

For her next trick, geo will consider the “very valid question” of the threat posed by the International Jewish-Bolshevik Financiers’ Conspiracy.

108

Malaclypse 04.26.11 at 8:01 pm

Chris, Chris – it was clearly Not Intended As A Factual Statement.

109

Lemuel Pitkin 04.26.11 at 8:30 pm

There is certainly no evidence of any kind that it ever intended, during the Cold War, to attack the West militarily or help overthrow Western governments – this danger has always existed only in the minds of anti-communists. It follows that spying for the Soviet Union was in fact absolutely no different than spying for any other geopolitical rival

No. I have to disagree with you here, Christian.

Regardless of what the leadership of the Soviet Union *intended*, the existence of a military superpower comparable to the US and a visible alternative ideology to that of capitalism (however honored in the breach in the USSR itself) was immensely valuable to anti-capitalist movements all over the world, both anti-colonial in the South and social democratic in Europe. If you think that the end of European rule in Africa and Asia and the consolidation of the welfare state in Western Europe would have happened in a world without the alternative model and implicit threat of the Soviet Union, you’re quite mistaken. (Or for that matter, if you think there would have been industrial unionism and a civil rights movement in the US without the American CP — in that sense McCarthy was right, Communists really were a threat to the American way of life. And so much the better for them.)

It’s usual among liberals — and very common here on CT — to respond to attacks on Communism from the right by saying, oh how silly, the people they’re calling communists don’t matter, or if they do they’re no different from liberals or social democrats. I don’t agree; on this one point I have to go with Strocchi and Myles, there was something important at stake in the conflict between communism and anti-communism.

110

Michael Bérubé 04.26.11 at 8:32 pm

I’m having flashbacks to the eighties and my high school teachers’ “Perestroika is a communist ploy” fear-mongering following this thread.

Um, Christian, Perestroika was a Communist ploy. Look what’s happened since 1989 and the pretend-fall of the USSR: the United States has gone into a tailspin, and is now deep into Teetering Empire territory. Economic inequality is at its highest level in 80 years, the financial system is a rigged casino, the political system is rigged still worse, un- and under-employment at anywhere from 15 to 20 percent, and the infrastructure, from schools to bridges, is crumbling. If you think Gorbachev didn’t foresee — and plan! — all this in 1986, you’re in even worse denial than the delusional leftist intellectuals who still can’t see that McCarthy was right.

111

geo 04.26.11 at 8:40 pm

Thanks, Malaclypse, but that’s not the line of defense I would have chosen. Sontag is right on the facts. Chris points out this or that example of destructive behavior by non-white cultures, as though Sontag had said something like: “Whites and only whites have been guilty of imperialism, cruelty, environmental pillage, etc. Non-white races are, by contrast, always nonviolent, benevolent, and in harmony with their environment.” Of course she said nothing of the sort. What she said is that although European civilization had generated some of the supreme achievements in humankind’s history, it had also inflicted some of the supreme barbarities, and that the horrors, in fact, outweighed the glories. In particular, the chance that nuclear and/or environmental apocalypse might extinguish, or drastically impoverish, life on earth was/is so great that we might, if we could rouse ourselves, consider fundamentally reorienting our culture/economy/technology away from growth, mastery, consumption, instrumental rationality, etc. Adorno, Foucault, Ivan Illich, and many, many others have said similar things. I suspect even chris and ajay believe something of the sort, in their more reflective moments.

112

MPAVictoria 04.26.11 at 8:48 pm

Geo you are now backtracking and miss quoting Sontag. When you are in a hole stop digging.

113

Malaclypse 04.26.11 at 8:58 pm

My statement was not a defense of Sontag.

Of course she said nothing of the sort.

But she did say “It is the white race and it alone – its ideologies and inventions – which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads.” That is not a factual statement. There is a long and sad history of cultures destroying other cultures, given the opportunity. Read 1 Samuel 15, then tell me that modern Europeans are the only group prone to wanton destruction of other groups.

Basically, what chris said.

114

Substance McGravitas 04.26.11 at 9:01 pm

Whites get a special kind of guilt that no other race can have because it’s ours.

115

geo 04.26.11 at 9:10 pm

Malaclypse: To refute the assertion that European civilization alone — its ideologies and inventions –“eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, … has upset the ecological balance of the planet, [and] now [1967] threatens the very existence of life itself,” you would need to show that some other civilization and its ideologies and inventions “eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, … has upset the ecological balance of the planet, [and] now threatens the very existence of life itself.” It may be, as chris observed, that other civilizations simply haven’t had — or made — our opportunities. But that doesn’t change the fact that we alone have done those things on the scale Sontag alleges.

116

Henri Vieuxtemps 04.26.11 at 9:11 pm

Personally, I don’t find much of redeeming value in Boolean algebra.

117

Bogolov 04.26.11 at 9:16 pm

Any idea of who the artist for the cover was? Kinda cool. It’s Norman Rockwellish but- could it be? A lost NR masterpiece?

118

Substance McGravitas 04.26.11 at 9:19 pm

“eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, … has upset the ecological balance of the planet, [and] now threatens the very existence of life itself.”

Why doesn’t China count? They have nukes, a gigantic population, they’re just getting started with enormous amounts of pollution, and they like eradicating cultures.

119

Henri Vieuxtemps 04.26.11 at 9:28 pm

Bastards, they invented gunpowder.

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chris 04.26.11 at 9:32 pm

“Whites and only whites have been guilty of imperialism, cruelty, environmental pillage, etc. Non-white races are, by contrast, always nonviolent, benevolent, and in harmony with their environment.” Of course she said nothing of the sort.

Except for what she said, and what you quoted her as saying, which was very much of the sort. Well, the second part was unstated, but I assume you have some minimal familiarity with the concept of implication.

The phrase “the white race and it alone” was Sontag’s exact words, not a strawman. You’re the one trying to construct and defend something other than what Sontag said.

And I do, in fact, agree that something other than what Sontag said may be defensible. But the cancer on human history, if it exists, has nothing to do with the white race, or any other race. It’s a set of behaviors that humans short-sightedly engage in. Discussing it in terms of race is inflammatory and misleading.

Furthermore, the destructive tendencies of some human societies don’t do much (or really anything) to rehabilitate the concept of the noble savage, which seems to be present by implication in a catalog of horrors explicitly attributed to *only* the white race.

What she said is that although European civilization had generated some of the supreme achievements in humankind’s history, it had also inflicted some of the supreme barbarities, and that the horrors, in fact, outweighed the glories.

It’s easy to say that when you haven’t died of smallpox. People who *have* died of smallpox might have a higher opinion of the importance of not dying of smallpox. For example.

One of the leading achievements in the history of civilization is *life itself*. Human lives are not just more numerous, which may be of arguable value, but also longer and healthier, the value of which is hard for the living to dispute without looking like monstrous ingrates, and even harder for the dead to dispute at all.

Another is the education Sontag relied on to formulate and disseminate her ideas, let alone the Internet we’re using to discuss them now. Did she put down her pen and head straight for the savannah to take up a new life as a hunter-gatherer? Because I sort of doubt it. It would likely have killed her to try. (Partly because she hadn’t learned the necessary skills from childhood, but also partly because it always did kill a lot of people who tried it, and that was why hunter-gatherer populations weren’t that dense.)

In particular, the chance that nuclear and/or environmental apocalypse might extinguish, or drastically impoverish, life on earth was/is

…zero. Life on Earth is more widespread, varied, and persistent than you or Sontag seem to realize. Nothing humans can do to life on this planet will be worse than it has endured multiple times in the past. Humans just aren’t that important in a truly large-scale perspective.

The chance that we might upset the ecology enough to endanger *ourselves* is significant, though, and we definitely should take thought as to how not to do that. But melodrama and a lack of appreciation of the scale of Earth life isn’t going to help.

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chris 04.26.11 at 9:35 pm

Personally, I don’t find much of redeeming value in Boolean algebra.

Very apropos, coming just after a comment in which geo appears to be claiming that because nonwhites may do *each* of those bad things *individually*, but don’t do them *all at once*, Sontag is right after all.

122

bianca steele 04.26.11 at 9:39 pm

chris,
Another is the education Sontag relied on to formulate and disseminate her ideas, let alone the Internet we’re using to discuss them now. Did she put down her pen and head straight for the savannah to take up a new life as a hunter-gatherer?

This paragraph is just silly.

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christian_h 04.26.11 at 10:18 pm

Lemuel (109.), I happen to agree with most of what you say (except as see below) – but not with your contention that it contradicts what I wrote. The question I was addressing was, did spying by American communists for the Soviet Union endanger liberal democracy (taking the myles’s here at face value that defending the latter was their concern). And no, it did not.

Did the socialist and later communist movements – mass movements that they were – impact the way class power was negotiated in the US and Europe, and was this shaped by the success of the Bolshevik revolution? Yes of course – although both the “mass” part of the mass movement consequently and the impact of it was waning very much in 1950 even without McCarthyism and cold war red-baiting (the main impact of it from a class perspective was likely the AFL-CIO’s anti-communist purge). So, mass movements yes – spies, not so much.

That the existence of an alternative political model, however deeply flawed, had historical impact on, for example, decolonization, is not something I would ever deny. Although it’s important not to throw the child out with the bath water and pretend decolonization was a process dependent on the existence of world communism in the first place. That to me is a bit, pardon the accusation, Euro-centric. And the anti-revolutionary impulse of the Soviet Union, whose leadership viewed third world revolutions through the lens of geopolitical advantage in the cold war, is a matter of record. They may have support Cuba, for just one example, but were less than happy with Guevarist ideas of global revolution.

To sum up all I am saying is that on the terms used here to defend McCarthy (“Soviet spies! They were everywhere in the tony establishment!”) the defense falls completely flat.

Michael (110.): I stand corrected. This is what “pathological non-conformism” (to quote one of my teachers) gets me – I miss the important stuff.

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christian_h 04.26.11 at 10:22 pm

What Sontag said (in that one instance to be clear) is wrong not because its offensive to white people (poor oppressed us), but because it ignores class as the determinate completely. It is therefore reliant on cultural essentialism. Or maybe it’s tautological, if the definition of “whiteness” as privilege is used, but either way it is not enlightening, nor showing a way of action.

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Harold 04.26.11 at 10:52 pm

Don’t forget Harry Hopkins, he too was a well-known communist, according to noted Air Force Historian, Eduard Mark. And also British Labor leader, Michael Foot and democratic candidate George McGovern. Since intellectual argument is such a weak reed and we don’t have definitive evidence for these accusations that would stand up in the law courts, it is only proper defeat and humiliate these people and their decendents to the third and fourth generation, and treat as pariahs anyone who thinks differently.

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geo 04.26.11 at 11:20 pm

Chris:

“Discussing it in terms of race” is not at all what Sontag does. What she says (as I’ve pointed out several times now) is: “Look, my fellow Americans, you who are currently attempting to bomb Indochinese peasants back into the Stone Age, you’re a danger to the planet. The civilization you’re so proud of has indeed produced ineffable glories — Mozart, Newton, the emancipation of women, smallpox vaccine, etc. — but it has also wrought unspeakable havoc — the mass slaughter of your country’s original inhabitants, a singularly malignant and entrenched form of race-based slavery, chemical poisons that, because they are manufactured and not evolved, cannot be adapted to; and weapons of mass destruction that could obliterate all primate life [you’re right, Chris, she overlooked insects and bacteria] many times over. Do, I implore you, pause and consider, before assuming you have the right (much less the duty) to propagate your inventions and ideologies without limit, how much damage your undeniably glorious civilization has done.”

That’s what the passage I quoted says. She’s not hymning the superiority of hunter-gatherers (quite a large leap of implication, that); she’s not asserting the genetic or biological inferiority of Caucasians (christian_h, I’m surprised at you); she’s not doing Boolean algebra; and she’s certainly not exaggerating the destructive potential of all-out nuclear war, which was right up there with meteors and volcanic eruptions, and a lot more likely in 1967.

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Malaclypse 04.26.11 at 11:30 pm

and weapons of mass destruction that could obliterate all primate life [you’re right, Chris, she overlooked insects and bacteria]

I sense an excluded middle here. If all primate life went extinct tomorrow, that leaves what? 95% of species remaining? 99%?

And while your summary is quite eloquent on the dangerous arrogance of empire, it was not what Sontag said.

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Bloix 04.26.11 at 11:58 pm

This is an immensely fun thread, with the added bonus of the delightful participation of my hero, Prof. Berube (accent aigu – accent aigu – how do you manage that, cher professeur?). It’s like being back in a dorm room at 2 am arguing and toking and arguing some more. Even the most moronic word salad (e.g. Sontag) gets impassioned opposition and then temperate, reasoned support. I’m tempted to trot out my theory that the greatest threat to humanity and the planet, from anyone of any race, was the invention and commercialization of nitrogen fixation by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch in 1909-1913 – but no, maybe we’ll leave that for another day.

What I really stopped by to say was that lo these many years ago, I studied under Prof. Eugene Genovese, who at the time (late 1970’s) was a proud academic Marxist and an only slightly veiled Stalinist even as he managed to be an extraordinarily fine historian of American slavery. There were students in that program, at that late date, who were open apologists for the Soviet Union and would argue with you that with all its faults the Soviet system would eventually lead to socialism and would – well, whatever, I’m having trouble reconstructing the jargon but you get the point.
Genovese himself, of course, eventually abandoned Marxism, became a practicing Roman Catholic, and now deploys his slashing rhetorical wit in the service of ultra-conservatism.

Years ago I concluded from this that all of those former American Stalinists and Trotskyists and other -ists of the communist left who jumped to the far right were really just totalitarians all along. When left-wing totalitarianism seemed to be the sort of oppressive ideology that was likely to prevail, they were leftists. Eventually the smart money – hell, eventually even the dumb money – moved away from the left, and they became right-wing totalitarians. Genovese was slower than most but he got to the same place. Neo-cons are just arrogant bastards who want to run everyone else’s life for them – left or right doesn’t matter much.

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christian_h 04.27.11 at 12:05 am

geo: she’s not asserting the genetic or biological inferiority of Caucasians (christian_h, I’m surprised at you)

To use a slightly annoyed tone, you wouldn’t be if you had read what I wrote.

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christian_h 04.27.11 at 12:07 am

Hmm maybe it’s a case of irony being difficult to read. So to be clear: I do not believe that what Sontag said is racist (I thought the “poor oppressed us” phrase gave that away). I reserve the right to not find it especially enlightening or insightful, however.

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Jack Strocchi 04.27.11 at 12:10 am

ajay @ #67 said:

“Re-rehabilitation”?
Wait, I missed this the first time round: is Strocchi actually now suggesting that Dreyfus was guilty?

You missed something. Dreyfus acted with honour throughout the whole sordid affair.

You don’t have to be guilty the first time around to be rehabilitated. In fact rehabilitation is proof beyond shadow of a doubt that you were innocent. As most Stalin’s purge victims would testify, if they could beyond the grave.

The anti-McCarthyite hysteria which still grips the intelligentsia is basically about rehabilitating the victims of McCarthy’s purges and purging the McCarthyites, starting with Nixon. It’s always pay-back time.

VENONA and subsequent revelations about Soviet penetration of the Manhattan Project are stumbling blocks to this Left-liberal revisionist history.

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Bloix 04.27.11 at 12:17 am

#130 – “rehabilitating the victims of McCarthy’s purges and purging the McCarthyites, starting with Nixon”

This really does step over the line. The only people currently engaged in attempting to purge anyone are the latter-day McCarthyites headed by David Horowitz and his shadowy corporate supporters. And the notion that Nixon was “purged” by “the intelligentsia” is Through the Looking Glass history. We’re now in Rush Limbaugh argumentation territory, folks.

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Malaclypse 04.27.11 at 12:24 am

You missed something. Dreyfus acted with honour throughout the whole sordid affair.

I believe the comment referred to the curious neologism “re-rehabilitated.”

The anti-McCarthyite hysteria which still grips the intelligentsia is basically about rehabilitating the victims of McCarthy’s purges

The victims of McCarthy being innocent and all, that hardly seems unreasonable.

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Bloix 04.27.11 at 12:28 am

Also note the equivalence of “Stalin’s purge victims” who would testify from the grave, and Nixon, the “purge victim” who walked away scot-free from his crimes, spent the rest of his life as a respected elder statesman, and was honored with a state funeral attended by the then-current and four former presidents. Anyone who favored Nixon’s resignation is morally equivalent to Stalin!

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Jack Strocchi 04.27.11 at 12:36 am

rea @ #77 said:

““After WWI more pretty much all of Western Eurasia fell to communists bent on genocide.”

WTF is he talking about?

“Western Eurasia”, including Russia and associated bordering states, was the Soviet sphere of hegemony after the Revolution. The geo-political concept of the Eurasian “pivot of history” originally comes from Mackinder’s Heartland Theory”. It was picked up by Burnham and applied by most Cold War US national security strategists (Kennan, Nitze, Rostow etc). Orwell used it in 1984.

Whether this geo-political theory is ultimately true or not is irrelevant. It was certainly believed to be true by Anglo-American, Nazi and Communist strategists. They acted on it and it became a reality. (The Nippons had a similar idea with their “East-Asian co-prosperity sphere”. People thought Big in those days.)

Obviously, the fall of China to the CCP just about completed the communist conquest of Eurasia. The loss of China triggered massive alarm bells throughout the US national security apparat, hence the need for a purge of some sort. Which did degenerate into a witch-hunt where New Deal scores were settled.

But obviously all these guys are complete know-nothings and knaves because…McCarthy (wrongly IMHO) threatened the academic tenure of some pinkos!

Is it just me or is there a class interest lurking in this discussion?

136

Lemuel Pitkin 04.27.11 at 12:41 am

Is it just me or is there a class interest lurking in this discussion?

Well yeah. Some of us are trying to be on the side of the working class. You’re on the side of the exploiters.

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bianca steele 04.27.11 at 12:49 am

Strocchi @ 130
Re. “anti-McCarthyite hysteria”: Senator McCarthy believed President Eisenhower was a Communist. Does that go over better in Australia?

As for VENONA, many of the identifications I’ve seen would not pass any decent magazine’s fact-checking department.

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rea 04.27.11 at 12:57 am

“Western Eurasia”, including Russia and associated bordering states, was the Soviet sphere of hegemony after the Revolution.

So, the explanation is that you don’t know east from west?

139

rea 04.27.11 at 1:01 am

Or maybe I wrong you–maybe it’s the concept of “Eurasia” that’s giving you difficulties.

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geo 04.27.11 at 1:07 am

Apologies, Christian, I now see you were objecting to “cultural essentialism” rather than racism. As I understand cultural essentialism, though, it usually means deducing something invidious about an individual from his/her membership in a culture. (Just as racism usually means deducing something invidious about an individual from her race.) That’s not what Sontag was doing. She was saying that as a historical matter, the white race (by which I take her to mean “Europeans and North Americans”) have deployed violence and greed on a scale that, if continued, threatens the continuance of civilization, and that not all their contributions to civilization can outweigh that danger. It’s true, of course, that the horrifically greedy and marauding Europeans and North Americans referred to in the first part of that sentence are not the same individuals as the gloriously civilized and moral Europeans and North Americans referred to in the second part. (Does that need saying?) It follows that we should try to figure out what, if anything, about the culture that produced both kinds of individuals is responsible for the outsized character of both the marvellous benefits and the potentially lethal, world-destroying barbarities.

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Jack Strocchi 04.27.11 at 1:29 am

chris @ #86 said:

No, they were grounded in a paranoid fantasy which subsequent events have exposed as such. Intellectuals, being what they are, have mostly acknowledged this. Political hacks, being what they are, have not (if their partisan orientation so dictates)….You’re the one holding up a handful of guilty people in an attempt to vindicate a moral panic and accusing others of bait and switch.

There were more than a “handful of guilty people”. The trouble is that the guilty people tended to avoid the purge whilst there were many innocent victims of the witch-hunt.

Nor is this suspicion a “paranoid fantasy”, unless you believe the Soviet archives were doctored by McCarthy. As material seeps out we continually find stories like George Koval, a Soviet mole who gave away secrets of the A-bomb project. The NYT reports that Koval’s espionage activities were hushed up at the time:

Washington has known about Dr. Koval’s spying since he fled the United States shortly after the war but kept it secret. “It would have been highly embarrassing for the U.S. government to have had this divulged,” said Robert S. Norris, author of “Racing for the Bomb,” a biography of the project’s military leader.

Obviously this security breach caused plenty of red faces in the higher-levels of the US government. To me this indicates that evidence of communist conspiracy in the US government might have been under-stated rather than over-stated, as critics of McCarthy never tire of harping.

Thus there was a genuine need for a proper purge. After WWII the UK never properly purged its security apparat and as a consequence suffered the likes of Burgess & Maclean for far too long.

Its way past time for some re-revisionism of the McCarthy episode.

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christian_h 04.27.11 at 1:54 am

Geo, it’s capitalism, and imperialism, we are talking about. Neither of those are “cultural” issues. This kind of culturalist approach to issues of oppression has done much to undermine the left; it’s ultimately defeatist.

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christian_h 04.27.11 at 1:58 am

Koval, as you quote, left the US shortly after the war. So how does he justify McCarthy’s witch hunt years later? (Even assuming there was anything wrong with giving nuclear secrets to the Soviets, which there clearly wasn’t quote the contrary.)

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Harold 04.27.11 at 2:22 am

The point is not to try and understand the world, the point is to change it, and you can change it by saying things like “China is not in Asia but in Eastern Eurasia” and bingo! Everyone acts as if it is. That is how it is done. Through shaming people in the press. It’s neither here nor there if they were in the State Department or actually communist party members or spies. If a few pinko professors got hurt, they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s no use for liberals to keep harping. Nixon was right to purge people. He knew about Venona and Truman didn’t. Unfortunately, there were many innocent victims — while the guilty got away. You know who I mean: — those Traitors to Western Civilization, or rather, “To Their Class.” — the tony people in the Democratic White House, who wanted to help black sharecroppers, I mean.

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Lemuel Pitkin 04.27.11 at 2:28 am

What Sontag said (in that one instance to be clear) is wrong not because its offensive to white people (poor oppressed us), but because it ignores class as the determinate completely.

Exactly.

Substitute “capitalism” for “the white race”, and you’ve got something true, and important. But there’s no sense in holding that argument hostage to Susan Sontag’s poor choice of words 40 years ago.

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Jack Strocchi 04.27.11 at 2:34 am

Bloix @ #133 said:

Nixon, the “purge victim” who walked away scot-free from his crimes, spent the rest of his life as a respected elder statesman, and was honored with a state funeral attended by the then-current and four former presidents./

Come now, Nixon was impeached for a third-rate burglary and spent most of his retirement in disgrace. He is being posthumously rehabilitated because, belatedly, people are starting to realise that he was not the comic book villain of anti-McCarthyite legend.

After the US’s ignominious defeat in the Vietnam War the anti-McCarthyites regained the whip hand and began to settle scores with the remnants of the McCarthyites by conducting their own un-official purge of government offices, academia and the media. Nixon was the first such victim. The CIA & FBI were torn to shreds by the Church Committee. Lots of old Cold Warriors got their pink slips. but no one makes films about guys like that, who tend to keep this stuff bottled up inside, a lifetime habit.

True, the Cold Warriors made a come-back under Reagan. But they never recovered the legitimacy they lost with the defeat in Vietnam. No one likes a loser.

Undoubtedly Nixon & the national security apparat committed crimes. But these were mainly for for reasons of state, basically to avoid a repetition of the “Who lost China” trauma.

And pretty clearly it was the tonier parts of DC & NYC that were most loudly baying for his blood and the rest of the McCarthyite remnant. Like I said, alot of this stuff is tribal pay-back, getting mixed up with world-historical geo-politics.

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christian_h 04.27.11 at 2:55 am

Hey, we had those Black Panthers assassinated for reasons of state. No biggy.

148

mds 04.27.11 at 2:58 am

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Strocchi is an idiot troll who’s crusin’ for a bannin’.

I hope you’ve reconsidered the latter part of this, Mr. LaBonne. This has been comedy gold.

That LGM thread allowed me to link to both Doctor Who and Bugs Bunny.

The Doctor and Bugs Bunny never have been seen in the same place at the same time, have they? And they’re both tricksters with magical powers. Coincidence? No wonder these two rootless cosmopolitans are probably additional entries on Mr. Strocchi’s list of proven Soviet plants inside the State Department. If the latest season premiere is any indication, one of them might even have had something to do with the Stalinist purging of Nixon from the presidency.

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Aulus Gellius 04.27.11 at 2:59 am

The turn of this discussion toward things that people actually care about is disastrous and depressing. Shame on you all!

Worst of all, we didn’t even get to move past the writings on the blackboard and discuss the books on Professor Marxbolshowitz’s desk. The large red (of course!) tome titled “Revolt of. . .” is of course appropriate, regardless of how the phrase ends. But what about the innocuous volume below it, which appears to be called “Good[?] American. . .”? Is there some deceptively/sarcastically titled bit of Soviet propaganda that that could be? Or is it a book that the students are going to burn together in a final project?

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geo 04.27.11 at 3:06 am

Christian and Lemuel: not so fast. The history of Western barbarism that Sontag is referring to predates capitalism. It includes the murderous exploits of 16th-century Spain in the New World and the extermination of the original inhabitants of North America by English and American settlers, beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Soviets were no slouches, either, at wrecking the environment and massacring subject populations. And though Nazi Germany may have been a capitalist society, the Holocaust was not an expression of capitalist rationality, unlike, say, the depredations of Belgium in the Congo.

In the sentence following the infamous ones we’ve been discussing (from her essay “What’s Happening in America” in Styles of Radical Will), Sontag laid the blame: “What the Mongol hordes threaten is far less frightening than the damage that Western “Faustian” man, with his idealism, his magnificent art, his sense of intellectual adventure, his world-devouring energies for conquest, has already done, and further threatens to do.” This is a bit more complicated and a lot more interesting than “it’s all capitalism’s fault” (though of course an immense amount of what’s wrong with the world certainly is capitalism’s fault).

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Malaclypse 04.27.11 at 3:10 am

Undoubtedly Nixon & the national security apparat committed crimes. But these were mainly for for [sic] reasons of state, basically to avoid a repetition of the “Who lost China” trauma.

Yep, breaking in to McCarthy’s campaign headquarters was done entirely out of a sensible fear of Chinese Communism. Same with bugging Kissinger and his staff. You just never knew who was in thrall to Mao.

152

LFC 04.27.11 at 3:13 am

After the US’s ignominious defeat in the Vietnam War the anti-McCarthyites regained the whip hand and began to settle scores with the remnants of the McCarthyites by conducting their own un-official purge of government offices, academia and the media. Nixon was the first such victim. The CIA & FBI were torn to shreds by the Church Committee. Lots of old Cold Warriors got their pink slips. but no one makes films about guys like that, who tend to keep this stuff bottled up inside, a lifetime habit.

So much is wrong here. For one thing it implies that “old Cold Warriors” equals “McCarthyites”. False. All McCarthyites were Cold Warriors, but not all Cold Warriors were McCarthyites. Cold Warrior liberals, of whom there were many, had little use for him. Read David Milne’s book on Walt Rostow, or anything by a decent historian about the relevant period. And Nixon was not the victim of a purge; he largely brought his fate on himself by his paranoia and his cavalier attitude (to put it mildly) toward the Constitution. Once he started to self-destruct, his old enemies, of whom there were many since aspects of his early career had been quite vicious, no doubt were pleased, but Nixon’s downfall was mostly his own doing.

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Jack Strocchi 04.27.11 at 3:14 am

rea #137 & #138

So, the explanation is that you don’t know east from west?…Or maybe I wrong you—maybe it’s the concept of “Eurasia” that’s giving you difficulties.

You seem to be confused with the concept of Eurasia itself, and the subsidiary notion of dividing the Eurasian land mass into Western and Eastern spheres. Most people instinctively grasp that Western Eurasia is basically Caucasian, the largest nation of which is Russia. Likewise it follows that Eastern Eurasia is basically Asian, the largest nation of which is China. The border-line between West & East is kind of fuzzy, most people are happy with hand-waving gestures made towards the Urals and Himalayas.

I hope this clears up your world-historical confusion.

The Cold War geo-political dynamic was driven by the communist takeover of the Eurasian heartland, which took about 30 years. After the post-WWI civil war, Western Eurasia came under the hegemony of (Soviet) Russia. Likewise, after the post-WWII civil war, Eastern Eurasia came under the hegemony of (Red) China.

People like McCarthy can be forgiven for getting a little anxious at this world-historical turn of events, especially considering the genocidal tendencies of communists in power.

And lets not forget that at the same time the internal and external communist agencies seriously menaced the shattered former Axis powers, in Berlin, Korea and so on. It does not take much imagination to get worried about what would happen if Germany and Japan fell to the communist system.

Of course after the death of Stalin fractures started to emerge in the communist monolith. Correspondingly, this took a bit of the heat out of the US government’s legitimate paranoia about communist conspiracies. And of course there was McCarthy’s over-reach into media-academia and the Presidency itself.

What annoys me is that the charge of “McCarthyism” still carries such weight two generations after he fell from grace, one generation after his allies were disgraced and his victims mostly rehabilitated. And a decade or more after the truth about communist conspiracies was declassified from both US & USSR archives.

Like, do Leftists ever admit it that they got things wrong?

154

LFC 04.27.11 at 3:19 am

Malaclypse at 150 of course refers to Eugene McCarthy, not Joseph. And Kissinger bugged his own staff.

155

LFC 04.27.11 at 3:23 am

I doubt Joseph McCarthy had ever heard of Halford Mackinder (though I might be wrong). If you had talked to McCarthy about Heartland and Rimland he would have looked at you blankly. So much for trying to use “The Geographical Pivot of History” to retrospectively paint McCarthy as a geopolitical wizard.

156

Fats Durston 04.27.11 at 3:27 am

No, Jack, you seem to be confused about what Eurasia is. It’s the big continent that extends from Iberia to Korea. “Western Eurasia” happens to include Portugal, Norway, and Britain (if you count nearby islands). You’ll have to forgive me if I can’t recall the Soviet hegemony over Belgium in 1927.

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Bloix 04.27.11 at 3:33 am

Strocchi is no fun anymore.
And Sontag never was any fun to begin with.
Come on, isn’t anyone going to ask me about nitrogen fixation?

158

Malaclypse 04.27.11 at 3:36 am

Most people instinctively grasp that Western Eurasia is basically Caucasian, the largest nation of which is Russia.

I do not think this word means what you think it means.

Malaclypse at 150 of course refers to Eugene McCarthy, not Joseph

Yes, apologies in hindsight for not specifying.

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Jack Strocchi 04.27.11 at 3:38 am

Fats Durston @ #155 said:

No, Jack, you seem to be confused about what Eurasia is. It’s the big continent that extends from Iberia to Korea.

Try to get your head around the concept of “pretty much all of”. This should clear up your confusion.

160

John Quiggin 04.27.11 at 3:40 am

Jack, you’re flooding and derailing the thread. Take a break for a while, please.

161

Harold 04.27.11 at 3:45 am

You Leftists will never understand that the point is not to understand geography . . .

162

LFC 04.27.11 at 4:03 am

Not to be pedantic and it’s late in the evening here, but Nixon wouldn’t have broken into Eugene McCarthy’s h.q. anyway. The explanation would take too long but short version is the chronology doesn’t work. The Watergate office that was broken into belonged to the Democratic Natl Committee.

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Jack Strocchi 04.27.11 at 4:28 am

LFC @ #155 said:

Nixon was not the victim of a purge; he largely brought his fate on himself by his paranoia and his cavalier attitude (to put it mildly) toward the Constitution. Once he started to self-destruct, his old enemies, of whom there were many since aspects of his early career had been quite vicious, no doubt were pleased, but Nixon’s downfall was mostly his own doing.

I will concede that Nixon’s own wrong-doings played a critical part in his downfall. But lets face it, Watergate was a third-rate burglary and the cover-up was not exactly diabolic by most standards. Lets not forget that Kennedy pretty much stole the 1960 election by getting the Daley & the Chicago Mob to stuff ballot boxes. So who is kidding who about “dirty tricks”?

If things had been going smoothly elsewhere, and if he did not have an endless list of enemies harking back to McCarthy, Nixon would have rode out Watergate standing on his head. So the political context of Watergate was far more important than the legal text, so to speak.

Basically in the US, the Cold War era (fall of China to Watergate) was dominated by two of the savvier proteges of McCarthy: Nixon and the Kennedys. Both rode to power on McCarthy’s contrails, but survived and prospered after JMcC crashed & burned.

Both supported the Vietnam War. Both wanted to oust Castro. But Kennedy’s administration bungled both conflicts. Nixon’s administration cobbled together various patches which did not stick. The vultures started to circle as Nixon’s foreign policy started to fall apart.

The WDC WASPs & NYC Jews never really accepted Nixon, even though he was on the popular ticket in five national elections. They never forgave him for his conduct of their “best & brightest” war. And they never forgave him for his opportunistic alliance with McCarthy. Both had plenty of reasons to hate what Nixon represented to them, which was basically Southern populism with a Machiavellian face.

So Watergate was the perfect pretext for pay-back.

Nixon surely spoke from the heart when he said “I gave them a sword”. Of course he lived by that sword, so…

164

Jack Strocchi 04.27.11 at 4:33 am

Got the memo too late. I think I’ve made my point, in any case.

165

Harold 04.27.11 at 4:48 am

If Kennedy had been caught on tape admitting repeatedly that he had hired people to stuff ballot boxes, he wouldn’t have had to resign?

Too bad for all those henchmen who got pink slips just for trying to prevent the Democratic Committee losing another China — but no one will ever accuse Jack Strocchi of keeping things “buttoned up.”

166

christian_h 04.27.11 at 9:49 am

Geo (149.) [with apologies as this is getting more and more off-topic Kieran feel free to shut me up], come on. You know as well as I do that Marxist analysis isn’t reducible to the sentence “it’s all capitalism fault”, crucially because there is no agent called “capitalism” for one thing.

The problem with Sontag’s choice of words in that instance, and the problem with your defense of it, is the analytical categories employed: there’s “white people” (Sontag says “white race” but I’ll reformulate to clarify I’m not accusing her of racism) and “non-white people”. All this does is invert the “civilization-barbarian” categories of traditional history. This may be good pedagogy on occasion; good history or politics it ain’t. To make the point one way, Charles V. may well have ruled an “empire where the sun never sets” – the (white) peasant in the Steiermark who was his subject, and bound to the land, or the indentured servant in Castilia, had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Even more importantly, what’s the political action that can arise from such an analysis? Hope for introspection by white people until they see the error of their ways?

167

ajay 04.27.11 at 11:06 am

Sontag says “white race” but I’ll reformulate to clarify I’m not accusing her of racism)

As a rule, if people go around saying that particular ethnic groups are “the cancer of history”, then you shouldn’t worry too much about accusing them of racism because they are, basically, being racists, and pretty nasty ones at that.

Come on, isn’t anyone going to ask me about nitrogen fixation?

Haber-Bosch process gives you artificial fertilisers (bad because of runoff and eutrophication), and also artificial nitrogen-based explosives (bad because of prolongation of First World War, mass slaughter, impoverishment of Europe, seeds of future wars), and – indirectly – another Haber development, cyanide-based pesticides as used for mass murder.

On the other side of the war, meanwhile, the supply of explosives for the British guns was being assured by biotechnological means (use of bacterial fermentation of horse chestnuts to produce acetone, which you use to make cordite), a process discovered just before the war by Chaim Weizmann. Out of gratitude, the British government offered Weizmann a peerage; he turned it down in favour of a declaration of British support for a Jewish homeland in Israel.

168

engels 04.27.11 at 12:06 pm

This is a bit more complicated and a lot more interesting

Doubtless it is. And have you ever heard of Occam’s Razor?

169

mds 04.27.11 at 12:58 pm

And have you ever heard of Occam’s Razor?

If I recall, William of Ockham approved of some degree of church / state separation, so in 1951 he would have been on the American Legion’s shitlist too.

170

chris 04.27.11 at 1:33 pm

As a rule, if people go around saying that particular ethnic groups are “the cancer of history”, then you shouldn’t worry too much about accusing them of racism because they are, basically, being racists, and pretty nasty ones at that.

Yeah, that’s pretty much my interpretation too. geo’s protestations that when Sontag says “the white race”, of course she doesn’t actually mean the white race, don’t have a lot of persuasive effect. If her point is that certain deeds were evil and destructive and she *doesn’t* believe that has anything to do with the race of the doers, why bring race up at all, let alone hang her whole argument on it? “Western civilization is the cancer of human history” would still, IMO, be deeply wrong, but it wouldn’t be racist, at least.

There’s also an extra special warning bell that goes off in my head when groups of human beings are described with metaphors involving disease, vermin, or filth, and Sontag definitely sets it off. She’s not in a position of sufficient power to make her an *actual* danger in that way, but the rhetoric itself is noteworthy.

bianca steele: This paragraph is just silly.

Why is that? You don’t think there’s a contradiction in a beneficiary of Western civilization using the skills she learned in a Western school to denounce Western civilization? It’s easy to say that the bad sides of Western civilization outweigh the good sides if you’re taking all the good sides for granted and weighting them at zero. Without Western civilization Sontag might well not have lived to the age at which she wrote this passage at all, let alone have had the intellectual background to write it, a factor she seems to have not considered at all, or not considered worthy of weighing in her analysis. Is it really silly to point that out? Or do you only object to the snarky way in which I did so?

171

ajay 04.27.11 at 1:36 pm

Personally, I don’t find much of redeeming value in Boolean algebra.

The irony is that this comment was typed on a computer.

172

Harold 04.27.11 at 1:39 pm

“Nixon was the victime of a purge” — live by the purge, die by the purge.

173

roac 04.27.11 at 1:59 pm

After the post-WWI civil war, Western Eurasia came under the hegemony of (Soviet) Russia.

And in 1968, Northern North America came under the hegemony of (Trudeauist) Canada.

And who on earth thinks today that the US “lost” China? That China was ever”ours” was always an absurd delusion, as anyone who has read Barbara Tuchman’s book on Joe Stilwell understands. Unfortunately one of the people who shared the delusion happened to own some magazines.

174

roac 04.27.11 at 2:06 pm

In support of Aulus Gellius, who tried @150 to revive the spirit of good clean fun in which this thread was launched, let me suggest that that title might be “Good Americans Who Will Have to Be Shot or Sent to the Gulag, Comes the Revolution.” Though fitting all that on the spine might be problematic.

175

alph 04.27.11 at 2:14 pm

The spine reads not “Good” American…, but rather (I think?) “1000 American….”

176

Substance McGravitas 04.27.11 at 2:17 pm

How thick would this “Good Americans” book be?

177

alph 04.27.11 at 2:26 pm

So I went to Google Books and typed in “1000 American”.

The first hit is awesome. Too bad it was published too late:

http://books.google.com/books?id=B89ZAAAAMAAJ&q=1000+american&dq=1000+american&hl=en&ei=DSe4Tb_zGoOx0QGUzZ3iDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA

178

sg 04.27.11 at 2:28 pm

This has been great. Comedy gold.

179

Aulus Gellius 04.27.11 at 2:29 pm

Ha! good call, alph. A quick amazon.com search turns up “1000 Americans: The Real Rulers of the USA,” by George Seldes, published 1947. Exactly the sort of thing Ivan there would be exposing his innocent students to.

180

geo 04.27.11 at 2:36 pm

OK, chris and ajay, I give up. Sontag was a racist, which means she must have believed that a white person, by virtue of membership in a biological group called the “white race,” was irredeemably inferior to non-whites. The fact that she spoke in the same breath of the sublime, unsurpassed achievements of many members of the “white race,” and the fact that she referred to their “idealism … magnificent art … sense of intellectual adventure” is just so much hand-waving. After all the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan lauded Jews and blacks, and enumerated their incomparable contributions to civilization, in exactly the same degree. And chris is certainly right to be grateful that Sontag was not “of sufficient power to be an actual danger” — she would certainly have legislated inferior treatment, or even persecution, for white people if she’d had the power.

Christian: I’m baffled that Sontag’s point about “Faustianism” seems so hard to grasp. The whole of Western Marxism, beginning with the Frankfurt School and the “dialectic of enlightenment,” tries to come to terms with the seeming paradox that the same cultural ideals and aspirations — detachment, mastery, instrumental rationality, “Faustianism” — has given rise both to magnificent achievemnts and to stark barbarism. The discovery of culture by Marxism is one of the great intellectual developments of the 20th century. As for the political implications: yes, introspection is certainly an excellent place to start, though not to end.

181

roac 04.27.11 at 2:41 pm

Oh — Bogolov at 118 asked who the artist was. If you click on the picture, you get to a Flickr page which says it was John McDermott. Wikipedia tells us nothing about this person, unless he was als0 an American athlete, a former Grimsby Town footballer, a former Meath Gaelic footballer, a, British boxer, an American golfer, or a Scottish-Canadian singer.

182

Harold 04.27.11 at 2:42 pm

The problem with Susan Sontag was her rhetorical flair and gift for the memorable phrase.

There was just enough truth in what she said to be very irritating.

183

roac 04.27.11 at 2:44 pm

184

Kaveh 04.27.11 at 2:56 pm

Jack’s definition fits the standard term Central Eurasia, but that really only includes the W and N parts of China (even including Beijing), and not anything south of the Yellow River’s watershed, so by 1500 or so it really doesn’t make sense to say that China is in C Eurasia.

185

Uncle Kvetch 04.27.11 at 2:59 pm

True, the Cold Warriors made a come-back under Reagan. But they never recovered the legitimacy they lost with the defeat in Vietnam.

Well, at least they got a consolation prize, in the form of several hundred thousand dead Iraqis. Surely that must count for something.

I think I’ve made my point, in any case.

Abundantly.

186

Harold 04.27.11 at 3:15 pm

“We shouldn’t be confused by the semantics; it’s not about treason to America, it’s about treason to Western liberal society as a whole.”
“. . . . Why do I suspect that the borders of Western liberal society as a whole will resemble medieval Christendom, plus the whiter portions of the ex British Empire.”

Treason to the “white race”, perhaps? Touché Miss Sontag.

187

ajay 04.27.11 at 3:58 pm

181: yes. If you say that an entire ethnic group is “the cancer of history”, then, even if you also say “but they’re very clever with money/have natural rhythm/ are great basketball players /produce terrific architecture”, you are a racist, and a pretty nasty one at that.

188

Substance McGravitas 04.27.11 at 4:06 pm

I don’t mind epithets directed at whitey so much as the implication that only white people are special and powerful enough to do this much damage. It’s as condescending to non-whites as any “white man’s burden” formulation.

189

Harold 04.27.11 at 4:27 pm

Well, there’s no such thing as a “white race” — so the whole thing is much ado about a little over-the-top rhetoric. It’s not as if Miss Sontag was launching missiles, breaking into offices, tapping phones, or handing out pink slips.

190

grackle 04.27.11 at 4:43 pm

Highly entertaining thread! Isn’t there a Jack Strocchi in Wodehouse? And Susan Sontag, God rest her soul, pecked to death by chickens, apparently.

191

christian_h 04.27.11 at 5:11 pm

Geo (181): There isn’t anything hard to grasp about it, except that it surely doesn’t apply to, say, the Spanish conquest of the Americas brought up by you. Since, you know, it happened long before the enlightenment.

Also “Western Marxism” didn’t start with the Frankfurt school, and “the discovery of culture” (as if it hadn’t been known before… read Trotsky) has produced some brilliant theory (Raymond Williams comes to mind) but not much practice – and what it has produced is often a liberal, idealist culturalism and glorification of “oppositional culture” etc. (how about a good nice general strike instead?) Williams for one wouldn’t recognize as being at all connected with his work.

192

bianca steele 04.27.11 at 5:41 pm

chris @ 171
I admit that the hunter-gatherer comparison threw me (extreme comparisons tend to have that effect), and I didn’t quite grasp your point. I don’t know whether Sontag rejected any significant part of the education she’d received, whether it was logical for her to do that, or whether it was admirable for her to do that. In fact I don’t know exactly what Sontag’s education was designed to equip her to do. I would guess that Sontag would find it acceptable either that she ended up convincing enough people to overthrow “western (white) civilization” that they did it once and for all, or that she ended up convincing enough people to find the problem areas that they eradicated these. Or maybe she found it enough just to speak her mind and to have the resources to do so.

geo @ 151
Sontag’s using the words “Mongol hordes [sic]” is kind of a tip-off, don’t you think? It does seem she’s saying like, “white people are the best and that’s why we are so dangerous and have to be reeducated.”

Harold @ 143
Exactly. She’s an easy target, and it isn’t at all clear what is accomplished by criticizing her.

193

Gene O'Grady 04.27.11 at 6:07 pm

The definition of Faustianism, surely a well known concept?, probably should be traced to Goethe, not the Frankfurt School. I believe that when Rosa Luxemburg was taken away to be murdered she carried with a copy of Goethe’s Faust.

Drawing on my elderly life experience, my response to Strocchi’s historical model is that my youth and education were dominated by adults who were (a) big anti-Communists and supporters of the cold war in a way that even in 1963 I thought a little overly-schematized and (b) opponents of Joe McCarthy and despisers of Richard Nixon and the domestic reaction agenda they tried to sneak in.

In context it is a little interesting that this is the American Legion magazine. A while ago Brad DeLong posted some UC regent meeting stuff about loyalty oaths, and two figures from the Catholic Bay Area of my youth featured prominently — John Francis Neyland (I may have misspelled that) and Chester Nimitz (not a Catholic, apparently an agnostic like most military officers of his day, but his daughter was a nun who for a while lived next to my parents). Neyland, who was William Randolph Hearst’s attorney, was pushing the loyalty oath, whereas Nimitz, the greatest American military leader of World War II was looked to for opposition to it.

If you were around in 1967 and saw and heard the racism promoted along with the Viet Nam war (I remember one of my friends who was drafted telling me about a marching song that involved mowing down the little yellow bastards with a forty milimeter — not an infantry weapon, I should have thought, but that’s beside the point) you would probably be more forgiving of Sonntag’s remarks.

194

geo 04.27.11 at 6:12 pm

christian: it happened long before the enlightenment

The “ideals and aspirations” I’ve been invoking repeatedly — what Sontag characterized as “Western “Faustian” man, with his idealism, his magnificent art, his sense of intellectual adventure, his world-devouring energies for conquest” — did not suddenly appear, fully developed, in the 18th century. Nor did Adorno and Horkheimer think so. Nor has anyone else ever thought so.

how about a good nice general strike instead?

Why “instead”? Can’t we think and strike at the same time?

bianca: Sontag’s using the words “Mongol hordes [sic]” is kind of a tip-off, don’t you think? It does seem she’s saying like, “white people are the best and that’s why we are so dangerous and have to be reeducated.”

Sontag is addressing a cultural/political elite that thinks of itself as defending Western civilization against Mongol hordes — literally: this is the height of the Cold War, remember. And yes indeed, she is telling them: “Even though you get some props for fantastic cultural achievements, you are nonetheless — and in fact, by virtue of some of the very same cultural propensities that have produced some glorious results — dangerous and need to reeducate yourself.”

Perhaps, though, we should at length lay aside these trivialities. I, for one, find it hard to focus on the fate of civilization in the wake of the miraculous appearance of the Birth Certificate.

195

bianca steele 04.27.11 at 6:27 pm

geo:
She gets no free pass regardless of her rhetorical purpose, her audience, or whom she might be quoting (or for any other reason).

196

Harold 04.27.11 at 6:29 pm

George McGovern (not Gene McCarthy), the war hero who ran for president in 1972, was the one whose campaign headquarters was broken into by Nixon’s dirty-trickster squad, giving him a unique perspective of what his political opponents were capable of. McGovern, who is also a historian, as late as 1996, asserted to a meeting of the American Historical Association that he had “always believed that Hiss was a victim of the ‘Red Scare’ and of Nixon’s political rapacity.” “It is a national outrage,” he went on, “that this essentially decent man went to prison as a consequence of the demagoguery of Nixon and the ignominious House Committee on Un-American Activities.”

Also in 1996, National Security Advisor Tony Lake, when chosen by President Clinton to head the CIA, had to withdraw his nomination under pressure, after he had stated in a television interview that, in his opinion, the guilt of Alger Hiss had never been conclusively proven.

Commenting on this in an article on intelligence studies posted on the American CIA website, John Ehrman, described as a “member of the CIA Directorate”, had this to say:

“The pro-Hiss view, consistent with Progressive views from the late 1940s through the present, fixed responsibility for the start of the Cold War squarely on the United States, argued that the government greatly exaggerated internal and external dangers, and claimed that the Hiss case started the McCarthy period. Should this view gain ground in the academy and in popular accounts of the late 1940s and 1950s, debate on current issues will be affected. Intelligence and security agencies may find their analyses of threat under intense suspicion–if the government framed Hiss as a spy and covered it up for six decades, why should Washington’s current claims of internal threats be believed?–because of suspicions that old hysterias are returning. That would be a sad and dangerous development.”

197

Harold 04.27.11 at 7:38 pm

The Faustian position, as expressed by Pericles

Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. [It] . . . favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. [Our laws] . . . afford equal justice to all . . . class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way. If a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. . . . We do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbour for doing what he likes . . . . But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace.
….

You cannot decline the burdens of empire and still expect to share its honours. [Remember] that what you are fighting against is not merely slavery as an exchange for independence, but also loss of empire and danger from the animosities incurred in its exercise. . . For what you hold is, to speak somewhat plainly, a tyranny; to take it perhaps was wrong, but to let it go is unsafe. –Pericles’ words to the Athenians in Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War.

198

CJColucci 04.27.11 at 8:37 pm

McCarthyism was one aspect of this power and policy. It went a little too far on some occasions and some people lost their jobs. That’s a pity but in the world-historical scheme of things it should hardly rate a mention.

Yet now, more than two decades after communism’s establishment has collapsed – and after the basis of McCarthy’s core accusations have been substantiated – we are still moaning over the occupational inconveniences of a few hundred pinko intellectuals.

Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

199

Kraneo 04.27.11 at 8:44 pm

the wit and wisdom of Anne Coulter as portrayed by ……one Jack Strocchi…? CT continues its decline

200

roac 04.27.11 at 8:48 pm

I remember one of my friends who was drafted telling me about a marching song that involved mowing down the little yellow bastards with a forty millimeter

I had to look this up. The famous 40 millimeter weapon is the Bofors, which was primarily an antiaircraft weapon. One thing the NVA didn’t have was aircraft. I find that the US Army did have a light tank called the Chaffee that used twin Bofors; it was used in Korea, but never in Vietnam AFAIK. I guess a Jody call with a 40 millimeter in it might have survived from an earlier war (it is amazing, looking back, to realize to what extent the Army that fought in Vietnam was a WWII leftover) but I never heard it.

201

Salient 04.27.11 at 8:49 pm

I’m pretty sure this Sontag back-and-forth is well-summarized by saying, “sure, I’ve said some pretty silly and stupidly evocative things in heated circumstances too.”

Am I the only person who’s been seeing red for days at this, not because of the white-race nonsense (emphatically seconding Harold at 190, but also, heylet’sbehonesthere, we all know those white serfs over the generations were such abominable folk!) but because Sontag quietly filed the emancipation of women alongside what, pretty ballets, formal rules for filing and seconding a motion, base-2 arithmetic?

Fuuuuuuck you, Sontag.

202

LFC 04.27.11 at 8:55 pm

Harold at 197 wrote: George McGovern (not Gene McCarthy), the war hero who ran for president in 1972, was the one whose campaign headquarters was broken into by Nixon’s dirty-trickster squad….

It’s a very minor point, but I’m quite certain this is incorrect. As I said at 163 above, the Watergate office that was broken into in June 1972 was that of the Democratic National Committee; it was, I believe, distinct, both physically and formally, from the national headquarters of the McGovern campaign, which was located in D.C. but not at the Watergate complex.

203

Salient 04.27.11 at 8:56 pm

Seriously, it’s like making this list of perils one might encounter growing up in various developing countries: little to no exposure to internationally recognized literature, insufficient access to Internet resources, dependence on unsustainable agricultural practices, rape and female gential mutilation, lack of access to higher education facilities, few opportunities to attend the opera.

204

CJColucci 04.27.11 at 8:59 pm

roac:
A few weeks ago, I saw in a war memorial in Buffalo a patrol boat used in Vietnam — possibly the sort of thing John Kerry commended — armed with a Bofors.

205

roac 04.27.11 at 9:06 pm

Didn’t know that. Thanks.

206

JM 04.27.11 at 9:19 pm

ps – I suppose I should also mock the inclusion of Harry Dexter White on this list. James Broughton took care of this back in 1998 – White’s job was, after all, to talk with his Soviet counterparts.

Do you expect that idiot to actually read what he cuts and pastes? If so, we would have to wonder why WWII-era life boats and fire extinguishers are so important to him.

207

Harold 04.27.11 at 9:26 pm

I guess the Democratic Committee was separate from the McGovern campaign, but he was the candidate of the Democratic party and more of a New Dealer than JFK, even (or at least that is my impression).

I do agree with Salient that the quotation by Sontag looks amazingly stupid (and dated) at this point. But she did file women’s rights along with Marx and Mozart, whom I suppose she greatly admired, and Balanchine — not regarded as merely a maker of “pretty ballets” but a highbrow superstar of the period. She leaves out printing, gunpowder, and the compass, invented by the Chinese who would have belonged to separate fictional “race,” by the lights of the era, and which have been not insignificant in advancing human civilization.

208

geo 04.27.11 at 9:44 pm

Here, from a Google Books preview (if it works), is most of Sontag’s essay (just a response to a questionnaire, actually), for those who haven’t given up on her. By the way, the piece has more than ten thousand Google entries associated with it — apparently quite a few people have thought it worthwhile weighing in on this amazingly stupid (and dated) piece.

http://books.google.com/books?id=cHoIAP6CTkoC&pg=PA193&lpg=PA193&dq=sontag+%22what's+happening+in+america%22&source=bl&ots=s3dw0J1Zh3&sig=eB7HZChd6kAWWq8d6Y9CvafgQH4&hl=en&ei=DYy4TezhOsOTtweY4OHeBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=13&ved=0CGUQ6AEwDA#v=onepage&q&f=false

209

JM 04.27.11 at 9:44 pm

None of the snarky commenters so far has seen fit to mention the declassification and publication of VENONA project decrypts in 1995, much of which more or less substantiated McCarthy’s early demand to purge the tonier parts of the US national security apparat.

If, by “more or less,” you mean, “not even remotely,” then yes.

By which I mean no.

210

sg 04.28.11 at 12:56 am

Salient, do you think there’s anything wrong with decrying Sontag’s racism in the same comment (almost) as you describe growing up in the developing world in terms of “rape and female genital mutilation”?

211

Salient 04.28.11 at 3:33 am

Salient, do you think there’s anything wrong with decrying Sontag’s racism in the same comment (almost) as you describe growing up in the developing world in terms of “rape and female genital mutilation”?

Eh, if someone says “this ridiculous list is as ridiculous as this other obviously horribly ridiculous list” the proper response is probably not, “don’t you think your second list was horribly ridiculous?” Of course it was! It was meant to be as mindbogglingly jawdroppingly offensive as Sontag’s list, which shrugs off the emancipation of women as if it’s worth about as much as the Marriage of Figaro. Perhaps I made a mistake in attempting to construct something ridiculous enough that I could legitimately compare Sontag’s comment to it. (Though Harold’s got a point — perhaps Sontag was trying to reach an odious audience that would shrug off women’s emancipation but shudder at the thought of losing opera season tickets.)

212

Harold 04.28.11 at 4:15 am

Uh, Salient, the plot of “The Marriage of Figaro” is about the rights of women.

213

Joanne 04.28.11 at 4:48 am

From my experience there’s often an inverse relationship between people’s fondness for communism in theory and their experience of it in reality.

214

Mrs Tilton 04.28.11 at 7:07 am

Harold @197,

“…Intelligence and security agencies may find their analyses of threat under intense suspicion—if the government framed Hiss as a spy and covered it up for six decades, why should Washington’s current claims of internal threats be believed?—because of suspicions that old hysterias are returning. That would be a sad and dangerous development…”

A sad and dangerous development indeed. One might go so far as to call it an appalling vista.

215

ajay 04.28.11 at 9:57 am

201: M79.

215: yes, the Birmingham Six is exactly what that made me think of too. Grotesque lack of intellectual courage.
But oh the innocent 1990s, when the CIA’s credibility was under threat only from relatively unimportant and peripherally-related events like a reappraisal of the Alger Hiss case (which would have hit the FBI harder, surely) rather than “getting the US involved in a $3 trillion eight-year war through their own gutless incompetence”.

216

roger 04.28.11 at 11:51 am

joanne at 214: you know, that is also my experience with McCarthyism.

217

roac 04.28.11 at 1:23 pm

201: M79.

Well, so it is (or was — I gather it’s no longer in the arsenal). And to think I actually fired one, though only in training. Did the troops who actually used these call it a forty-millimeter, though?

218

Harold 04.28.11 at 1:35 pm

To the mind of the commisar, the tony people who read and write books and like opera or “pretty ballets” somehow always end up as the chief enemy to be combatted. In the words of Turgenev’s character, Bazarov, “A decent chemist is twenty times more useful than any poet.”

Then there was Borodin, who happened to be both a chemist and a composer, prompting a friend to say, “There are many chemists in Russia but there is only one composer like Borodin.” http://www.turgenevmusica.info/en/borodin.html

219

roac 04.28.11 at 2:50 pm

I had understood that Borodin had the office next to Mendeleev, but on inquiry it turns out they were never on the same faculty. They were close friends, though.

Now Mendeleev, it seems, left his wife and married a much younger woman, on the basis of a suspect divorce. Which led the Czar to say, “Mendeleev may have two wives, but I only have one Mendeleev.” So take that, Fine Arts types.

Also: Borodin was illegitimate, and his father was a Georgian noble.

220

bianca steele 04.28.11 at 5:28 pm

In Sontag’s defense, she wrote very well on things like Camp where she obviously had a personal appreciation of the matter.

221

Harold 04.28.11 at 5:43 pm

It’s probably an old fill-in-the-blank, all purpose Russian saying. And Sontag was right to be upset about 5 million dead Vietnamese, napalm, & agent orange, however she may have expressed it.

222

Salient 04.28.11 at 6:17 pm

Uh, Salient, the plot of “The Marriage of Figaro” is about the rights of women.

Well, sure. And perhaps you could say the plot of Lysistrata is about the political power that women may wield, but I wouldn’t file it under the same category of social good as, say, actual real suffrage actually being granted to women — one of these things is not like the others, they shouldn’t be treated equally dismissively as interchangeable human accomplishments. Anyway, I’ll go along with what you said in #183 and #190: too much ado about a bit of successful pre-internet trolling heated-until-molten passionate rhetoric, which I’m reading too much into.

223

kishnevi 04.30.11 at 4:12 am

Flinging out one question here: has it occurred to Mr. Strocchi that, since Joe McCarthy did not have access to the Venona files, he had no idea of who or how many people were on there? That the Venona files are therefore completely irrelevant to McCarthy’s accusations? And that his accusation was actually made from thin air? Just because there were Communists in the US government then does mean that McCarthy was not making wild accusations he could not substantiate; they were true but he had no reason to know they were true.

224

Minor nonsense 04.30.11 at 2:22 pm

Wow, with all of this high powered thinking, I can hardly wait for the comment string when someone posts an article on the birthers.

I notice that this little pastiche of nonsense does not cross over to the special relationship with Great Britain where the head spy was a communist. Like it or not, but dear old Maggie Thatcher actually had to get up in Parliament and admit that in the late 1980s.

Yes, the man that the character “M” was based on in the spy novels about James Bond was the “fifth” man. He was a true absolute spy. He was allowed to quietly retire and draw his pension to cover up that tiny little scandal.

Whatever he dribbled across to the “communists” definitely dwarfed any of the people accused in the US.

The brain power wasted on this could much better be used to track back the members of the Supreme Joke and find out how it came to be that there are 6 Roman Catholics and 3 Jews but no other religions on the Joke.

Now that would be productive if the Baptists, Mormons, and other assorted snake handlers and witch doctors in the US don’t find out first. They get that little nugget of information in their tiny little delusional brains and you are going to see what a real “witch hunt” is.

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JP Stormcrow 04.30.11 at 3:31 pm

Gene O’Grady@193: In context it is a little interesting that this is the American Legion magazine.

As an organization they really went far to the right of most ex-military (especially most WWII vets at the time). My grandfather joined up my father and paid for his membership so we got the magazine in the ’50s and early ’60s–interesting reading for a kid. This is a great story about a 1950 American Legion-sponsored staged takeover by Russians of a town in Wisconsin.

During the elaborate street theater production, the Mayor and Police Chief were “forcibly” relived of their posts, members of the clergy were taken to a barbed wire encampment, the Mosinee Times newspaper was “nationalized” and re-dubbed “The Red Star.” Even the local movie theater was forced to stop showing its current feature (GUILTY OF TREASON) and begin running Russian propaganda movies

It had a bizarre twist as the mayor suffered a heart attack during the event and later died.

MOSINEE MAYOR DEAD AFTER MOCK RED COUP

The one-day occupation of Mosinee under “red” rule ended with a note of tragedy when Mayor Ralph Kronewetter, 49, was stricken with a heart attack while enroute to the park for the concluding meeting of the day, a patriotic rally. He was removed to a hospital at Wausau, where his death occurred on the night of May 6th.

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JP Stormcrow 04.30.11 at 3:35 pm

roac@183: Here’s a sampling of John McDermott’s work. Mostly manly-man stuff for men’s magazines and paperback covers.

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Gene O'Grady 04.30.11 at 3:44 pm

#225, Yeah, I know about the legion. Practically no one I knew from the World War II generation (this is upper middle class SF suburb, so not necessarily representative) wanted anything to do with them, certainly not my Purple Heart veteran father. Suspect, as you say, it was in large part a generational thing, plus my milieu was basically Catholics and Jews, both groups that may not have been welcome in the Legion.

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Harold 05.02.11 at 1:02 pm

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