Ill will and bad grace

The cast of Will and Grace

The NBC sitcom Will and Grace, which ran from 1998 to 2006, and returned to TV in 2017, profited from its timing. It centers on the friendship between Will, a gay man, and Grace, his straight best friend. Coming along at a time when gay rights was making immense strides, Will and Grace was widely viewed as helping to mainstream gay people in the minds of ordinary Americans and was thus described as “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary.” Its supposedly pivotal role in a major social movement helped overshadow the fact that it was, in fact, a third-rate, highly formulaic piece of work awash in gay stereotypes.

Eric McCormack

None of which, of course, mattered. Like Ellen Degeneres, whose own mediocre sitcom had made history when her character came out as a lesbian at the same time as Degeneres herself did so, the stars of Will and Grace, Eric McCormack (who is actually straight) and Debra Messing, came to be regarded in Hollywood circles – and by showbiz-obsessed gay-establishment groups such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign – as heroes of the gay-rights movement. And McCormack and Messing themselves, both middling actors whose lucky success on Will and Grace failed to translate into major careers in film or TV for either one of them, took in all the praise and eventually came to see themselves as heroes, too. Heroes – for playing roles on a sitcom! They also apparently became convinced that they are far more important – and far more intelligent – than they actually are.

Debra Messing

Predictably, both McCormack and Messing slavishly adhere to Tinseltown political orthodoxy – which is to say that they’re reliable Democratic partisans and reflexive Trump haters. So it is that on August 30, after news came of a Beverly Hills fundraiser for President Trump that was scheduled for September 17, McCormack took to Twitter to ask that the Hollywood Reporter “kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with.” Messing echoed his call. Doubtless both of them expected their showbiz friends and colleagues to rally round them and do the cyber-equivalent of patting them on the back – a response to which they are both surely accustomed, living as they do in the echo chamber that is LaLaLand.

Whoopi Goldberg

Instead, they actually got backlash. Not only did the right react. People on the left – including members of the showbiz elite – expressed their disagreement with McCormack and Messing. Now, as it happens, the powers that be in today’s TV and movie business do have something of an informal blacklist; actors, writers, directors, and others who have publicly identified as Republicans or conservatives do find it tougher to find work than it was before they outed themselves politically. But for showbiz leftists who have repeatedly denied the existence of this informal blacklist, McCormack and Messing were letting the cat out of the bag – openly calling, in effect, for the freezing out of Trump supporters in Hollywood. Even actress Whoopi Goldberg, who is famous for her consistently left-wing politics, served up a genuinely stirring speech on The View explaining just why McCormack and Messing were so off-base: “The last time people did this, it did not end well.…We had something called a blacklist, and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work.…In this country, people can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff, but we don’t print out lists.”

Tammy Bruce

So strong was the reaction that McCormack backed down – sort of. No, he didn’t withdraw his demand; he just insisted that he had been misunderstood. “I want to be clear about my social media post from last week, which has been misinterpreted in a very upsetting way,” he wrote in a statement. “I absolutely do not support blacklists or discrimination of any kind, as anyone who knows me would attest.” Messing concurred. In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Tammy Bruce thanked the two actors, “best known for a television sitcom that aired more than a decade ago,” for having “expos[ed] for all of us of the totalitarian instincts of liberals.” We don’t agree that all liberals are totalitarians, deep down, but it is definitely the case – as we’ve noted over and over again on this website – that many self-identified American “progressives,” including a number of big-name Hollywood types, are totalitarians in their hearts, knocking American liberties while praising and socializing with people like Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro. By revealing their totalitarian instincts, both McCormack and Messing did indeed do American a favor.

Paul Robeson, Stalinist

Paul Robeson

In a splendid article that was posted recently at the American Interest, historian Ronald Radosh provided a useful reminder of the career of one of the most prominent and hard-core Stalinists of yore: Paul Robeson, the great black American singer and actor who starred in the 1936 film version of the Kern/Hammerstein musical Show Boat and the 1933 film version of Eugene O’Neill’s play The Emperor Jones. Radosh began his article with a question: “Can a man endowed with genius squander it through extreme political blindness?” Radosh is not exaggerating when he describes Robeson as a genius; nor is he exaggerating when he goes on to state that “Stalin had few more loyal devotees in America than Robeson.”

The reason why Radosh’s article is so important is that Robeson, since his death in 1976, has frequently been memorialized as one of the major black American artistic figures of the last century. For example, since this year “marks the 100th anniversary of Robeson’s graduation from Rutgers University,” that institution “is pulling out all the stops to celebrate.” Now, there is no question but that Robeson was indeed one of the great American artists. Radosh sums up his rapid career rise:

Robeson with Hattie McDaniel in Showboat

As an undergraduate, Robeson was class valedictorian and a ranked All-American football player. After graduation, he went on to Columbia University Law School, where he earned his law degree while playing football in the NFL. He then became an actor, appearing in Emperor Jones and All God’s Chillun Got Wings, and used his remarkable bass-baritone to establish himself as a popular singer. After moving to Britain in 1928, he appeared in Jerome Kern’s Showboat, stopping the show with his famous rendition of “Ol’ Man River”; later, he played the titular role in Shakespeare’s Othello on Broadway. And he did all this while both suffering from and actively fighting the scourge of American racism.

Robeson as Othello

Robeson, then, assuredly deserves his tributes. But what is almost always ignored by those who celebrate his legacy – or, sometimes, mentioned in passing or even represented as some kind of virtue – is his reprehensible, undeviating devotion to Stalin. It was a devotion that persisted even though, as a frequent visitor to the USSR, he saw things that made it clear to him that it far from a paradise – that it was, indeed, a nightmare on earth. One American acquaintance of his who had relocated to Russia was executed by Stalin on trumped-up charges, but Robeson remained stalwart in his Stalinism. Other Americans who, seduced by Communist rhetoric, had foolishly moved to Russia but later realized their mistake, begged Robeson in vain to help them get out. Asked about Stalin’s show trials, Robeson said that “anyone who lifts his hand against” the Soviet government “ought to be shot!” He called Stalin “wise and good.” When his 11-year-old son asked him why he had not stood up for an innocent friend convicted in one of Stalin’s trials, Robeson explained that “sometimes great injustices may be inflicted on the minority when the majority is in the pursuit of a great and just cause.” Or, as Stalin put it, you’ve got to break eggs to make an omelet. And every time he returned from the USSR to the US, he dutifully parroted Kremlin propaganda.

There’s more, much more. Read Radosh’s entire piece. It’s devastating. And it’s important, because almost invariably, when Paul Robeson’s artistry is remembered, his chilling reverence for a totalitarian monster is dropped down the memory hole.

The Cuba-chavista connection

Hugo Chavez

For those fans of the so-called Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who have denied that chavismo is basically a Spanish word for Communism, the intimate ties between the revolutionary government of Hugo Chavez – and, subsequently, of his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro – with the frankly totalitarian Castro regime in Cuba has always been something of a stumbling block. In a recent article for Reuters, Angus Berwick provided a fascinating new trove of information that substantiated that nefarious link. “The Cuban government has relied on Venezuela for economic and political support for two decades,” Berwick wrote. “In return, Cuba has provided Venezuela with training and support that has allowed Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro to keep a tight grip on the military — and on power.”

Fidel Castro

Berwick revealed that in 2007, when Chavez lost a referendum that would have allowed him to keep running for re-election, he turned for advice to “a close confidant” – namely, Fidel Castro, who told him that if he wanted to stay in power indefinitely, whatever the results of elections, he should assume “absolute control of the military.” Chavez listened, and as a result ordered that Venezuelan troops be spied on. With the help of advisors supplied by Castro, Chavez oversaw the refashioning of a government agency that now goes by the name Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), and that had previously been tasked to spy abroad, into an organization whose primary mission was to conduct espionage within Venezuela’s own armed forces.

Nicolas Maduro

To this end, members of Cuba’s armed forces were brought into Venezuela to restructure the military and train spies. Under the instruction of its Cuban tutors, the DGCIM “embedded agents…within barracks,” tapped the phones of senior officers, put together “dossiers on perceived troublemakers,” and reported “any signs of disloyalty.” Non-chavista officers and enlisted men were duly arrested, imprisoned, tortured; one organization says that the number of former military personnel now in detention as a result of DGCIM investigations is over 300. Since its transformation, the DGCIM has been “accused by soldiers, opposition lawmakers, human rights groups and many foreign governments of abuses including torture and the recent death of a detained navy captain.”

Juan Guaido

For years, Cuban and Venezuelan officials have denied that the relationship between their militaries was anywhere near this intimate. But they were lying. While Venezuelan oil kept Cuba’s economy going, Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan military has kept the chavista government in power. It’s because of this arrangement, this deal between devils, that Juan Guaido’s bid to replace Maduro – a key factor of which was his expectation that many members of the armed forces would take his side – failed so ignominiously. Military officers and enlisted men who might indeed have been supporters of Guaido have long since been culled from the ranks, with the help of Maduro’s ruthless Cuban allies.

Sanders: praising China

The other day we wrote here about a prominent psychiatrist who, in an interview on CNN, maintained that President Trump is worse than Mao, Stalin, or Hitler. As we observed, to make such comparisons is irresponsible beyond measure, because it diminishes the scale of those tyrants’ destructiveness at a time when many Americans – especially young people – are poorly educated about twentieth-century totalitarianism.

Bernie Sanders

A few days later, a far more famous person than that psychiatrist made an equally outrageous statement. In a late August interview with The Hill, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, while acknowledging that China is growing “more authoritarian” in many ways, claimed that the Communist dictatorship has “made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization.”

Mao Zedong

Is this true? Well, first of all, let’s make two things clear: China is a massive country (it’s by far the most populous on earth, and has been for a very long time) and it has long been a very poor country as well. Yes, it has undergone a major economic transformation. But because it started at almost zero, in the wake of Mao’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, even achieving a middling level of prosperity per capita would have been a big deal. Yes, thanks to its gigantic population, China has managed in the course of a few decades to develop an economy that rivals the size of America’s; but that still means that the average inhabitant of China is nowhere near as affluent as his counterparts in the West.

Deng Xiaoping

In any event,what exactly changed? Well, let’s recall, to begin with, that Bernie Sanders loves Communism, and that when he celebrates Chinese accomplishment he is implicitly cheering on Communism. But China has experienced an economic boom not because it has clung to its Communist ideology and systems of social control but because, under Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, it abandoned its fierce devotion to Marxist economics and introduced elements of capitalism even as it remained a Communist dictatorship. It helped enrich itself, furthermore, by underpaying factory workers and selling its products abroad at dirt-cheap prices. This policy, which continued under Deng’s successors, was aided by the refusal of Western countries to impose tariffs on Chinese imports – a refusal that resulted in profound damage to large portions of the industrial base of the U.S. and other countries and great suffering on the part of blue-collar Western workers. China’s success also owed a great deal to its currency manipulation and its shameless theft of intellectual property from Western countries. Oh, and it also killed a lot of poor people, which of course is one easy way of eliminating poverty.

Xi Jinping

Hence, yes, poverty in China has declined to a considerable degree. Thanks to the spectacular growth of Chinese industries, the country now has a great many more very rich people than it had a few decades ago. But while its biggest cities now teem with gleaming skyscrapers and its richest citizens travel the world and send their kids to Harvard and Oxford, tens of millions of people in rural areas continue to live at a level of poverty that brings to mind the 1931 Pearl Buck novel The Good Earth. Indeed, the changes that Sanders so enthusiastically extols have resulted in what may well be the most formidable case of economic equality – a topic he frets over endlessly when talking about the American economy – in the history of human civilization. And let’s not forget this small detail: everyone in China is still unfree.

Nicolas Maduro

But of course that doesn’t matter to Sanders. He was a fan of the USSR. He loves Castro’s Cuba. Until recently, anyway, he was defending the Maduro regime in Venezuela. As Jim Geraghty noted in National Review, this is a presidential candidate who in 1985, while the USSR was still around, commented: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: The rich get the food, and the poor starve to death.” Well, the fact is that in cities like Shanghai and Beijing and Guangzhou, the new Party-connected super-rich managerial class enjoys a whole lot of first-class cuisine, while out in the sticks there are still millions who are, yes, starving.

Crazy, they call him

Dean Baquet

Recently, in what, in other times, would have been considered a sensational development, news media published a leaked account of an editorial meeting at the New York Times at which that newspaper’s top editor, Dean Baquet, essentially explained to his colleagues that since the Gray Lady’s all-out effort over the past couple of years to paint President Trump as a tool of Vladimir Putin had failed ignominiously, the paper’s new approach would be to intensify efforts to smear Trump as a racist. The account of the meeting underscored the already obvious fact that in the age of Trump, actual journalism, in many of the nation’s formerly most respected news media, has increasingly given way to the systematic distortion, suppression, and invention of facts in pursuit of a partisan agenda.

Brian Stelter

If the Times and the Washington Post, under the ownership of Silicon Valley mega-billionaire Jeff Bezos, have both been accused in recent years of choosing this kind of radical activism over reportage, so has CNN. In what may well be the most egregious example yet of CNN’s over-the-top approach to the Trump presidency, Brian Stelter, on last Sunday’s edition of his laughably named program Reliable Sources, had as his guests two psychiatrists who had been invited on to discuss the supposed problems with Trump’s psychiatric health. This topic seemed a particularly curious choice, especially at a time when 76-year-old Joe Biden, at present the leading candidate to challenge Trump for the presidency on behalf of the Democratic Party, seems daily to be showing signs of possible senile dementia, giving speeches in which, among much else, he has stated his preference for “facts over truth,” placed the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy in the “late 1970s,” and misidentified New Hampshire as Vermont. Admittedly, Biden has always been a gaffe machine (and a serial plagiarist of other hack politicians’ speeches), but the frequency and weirdness of his misstatements seems to have undergone a serious uptick during his current campaign. But the psychiatrists weren’t there to discuss Biden, of course; they were there to talk Trump. And to bury him, not praise him.

Bandy X. Lee

Both headshrinkers were highly credentialed. Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a psychiatry professor at Yale School of Medicine, complained sourly that “concerns” expressed by her and other psychiatrists about the mental state of President Trump had been routinely ignored by the news media and charged that the American Psychiatric Association, in its refusal to entertain diagnoses of Trump by professionals who had never met him – a violation of the so-called “Goldwater rule” – had become more or less a tool of the state. You would think that the news media had been walking on eggshells to avoid criticizing Trump’s often bumptious conduct, rather than highlighting it at every opportunity.

Dr. Allen Frances

What was stunning was that the other psychiatrist, Dr. Allen Frances, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University, who had been brought on purportedly to provide “balance” to Lee’s readiness to psychoanalyze the president, turned out to have an even more outrageous take on the issue. His line was that we shouldn’t call Trump crazy, because “medicalizing politics…stigmatizes the mentally ill.” Frances said that he had known thousands of such patients, and that most of them had been “well-behaved, well-mannered, good people. Trump is none of these. Lumping the mentally ill in with Trump is a terrible insult to the mentally ill.” A couple of points. First, to say that most people with serious psychiatric issues are “well-behaved” and “well-mannered” is to sentimentalize mental illness: a full-blown psychotic, for example, is rarely either “well-behaved” or “well-mannered.” Second, has Frances ever met Trump? If not, what business does he have pronouncing on his virtues or lack thereof?

Donald J. Trump

But Frances had more to say. “Calling Trump crazy hides the fact that we’re crazy for having elected him and even crazier for allowing his crazy policies to persist.” Some psychiatrist! We thought the word “crazy” was a no-no in the psychiatric game. But not, apparently, when you’re describing the millions of deplorables across the United States who put this reprehensible creature in office. Apparently in Frances’s view, actually calling actual crazy people crazy is insensitive, but calling people whose politics you disapprove of is not.

Josef Stalin

But Frances’s most extraordinary assertion was yet to come: “Trump is as destructive a person in this century as Hitler, Stalin and Mao were in the last century. He may be responsible for many more million deaths than they were. He needs to be contained, but needs to be contained by attacking his policies and not his person.” To call this hyperbole is to realize that sometimes even the word hyperbole isn’t strong enough. All told, Hitler, Stalin, Mao took over a hundred million lives. You can like or dislike Trump’s politics or his personal style, but to compare him to these three is, in a word, crazy. And to follow this flagrant personal attack by saying that we should attack Trump’s “policies and not his person” sounds, if we may join the club and start handing out diagnoses, like a contradiction that only some kind of schizoid wacko would be capable of.

Adolf Hitler

But insulting though all this nonsense is to the president of the U.S., we’re not offended on his behalf. He’s a big boy and this sort of thing rolls off his back like water off the back of a duck. No, what appalls us about Frances’s comparison of Trump to the three most murderous creatures of the twentieth century immeasurably diminishes the scale of their evil and destructiveness. At a time when so many Americans, especially younger Americans, know little about Hitler except that he was a bad guy who killed Jews, who know nothing about Mao, and who have perhaps been told by their history teachers and professors that the Soviet Union was a good idea and Stalin a well-meaning socialist who perhaps got a bit too carried away, nothing could be more irresponsible than Frances’s glib equation of Trump with this villainous trio.

Mao Zedong

To top it all off, Brian Stelter, who is, frankly, a buffoon, sat through Frances’s whole nutty rant without so much as offering up a mild challenge to Frances’s kooky claims. Later, when attacked widely for sitting there with his mouth shut, Stelter blamed his silence on some technical goof. Whatever. The mistake was inviting these two shrinks on in the first place to discuss such a topic. The whole thing was yet another a black mark on CNN’s record, and it must have caused many discerning viewers to wonder, and worry, about the kind of “education” in matters psychiatric being provided to med students at Yale and, especially, Duke.

David Karr, KGB creep

David Karr

In his new book The Millionaire was a Mole: The Twisted Life of David Karr, Harvey Klehr, the distinguished historian of Communism, recounts the colorful, sordid, and altogether unlikely story of a man who, born into an ordinary middle-class Brooklyn family in 1918, was, in turn, a writer for Communist newspapers like the Daily Worker, an employee of the Office of War Information in Washington, a flunky for the syndicated D.C.-based columnist Drew Pearson, a PR guy in New York, the CEO of a major defense contractor, a corporate raider, a Broadway and Hollywood producer, the general manager of the George V Hotel in Paris, and – finally, from 1973 until his mysterious death in 1979, which has been attributed variously to the CIA, the Mossad, the Mafia, and the KGB – a Soviet spy.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy

Along the way, Karr acquired a multitude of friends, enemies, and acquaintances in high places, becoming a target during his years with Pearson of Senator Joseph McCarthy and columnist Westbrook Pegler; after relocating to France, he became a business partner of Aristotle Onassis and a friend of Kennedy clan member Sargent Shriver, who introduced him to famous oil tycoon Armand Hammer. In turn, Hammer, who had enjoyed close ties to the Kremlin since 1919, and who helped fund Communist operations in the U.S. and Europe in exchange for business concessions in the Soviet Union, introduced Karr to Soviet officials and ended up with a lucrative job helping U.S. firms set up business in the USSR. It was Karr, for example, who set up the financing for the first Western hotel constructed in the Soviet Union.

Harvey Klehr

What exactly did Karr do during his brief stint as a KGB agent? He provided his Kremlin bosses with inside information on the presidential campaigns of several Democratic candidates – Shriver, Henry Jackson, Jerry Brown, and Jimmy Carter. “He tried to insinuate himself in the Gerald Ford White House,” said Klehr in an interview. “He probably also worked for the Mossad.” Was he a convinced Communist, betraying his country in the name of principle, however misguided? No. Throughout his life, Karr seems to have been a man who believed only in advancing his career and lining his pockets. Almost certainly, he committed treason – serving the interests of America’s totalitarian enemy – only because it was profitable. When you think about it, becoming a Kremlin pawn was the natural last act in the career of this sleazy, thoroughly unscrupulous character.

John Cusack, antisemite

John Cusack

Now 53, John Cusack has been a well-known film actor since he was a teenager. He’s starred in dozens of big pictures, including Grosse Point Blank, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Pushing Tin, High Fidelity, Runaway Jury, 1408, and The Butler.

But like many of the other actors we’ve discussed on this site, he’s also politically active. A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, he supported the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and backs him in the current presidential contest as well.

Philip Berrigan

He didn’t pick up the activist stuff in Hollywood; he was raised on it. His parents were political activists too; he has described himself as having grown up with Philip and Daniel Berrigan, the radical Roman Catholic clerics the latter of whom had the distinction of being the first priest on the FBI’s “most wanted” list and ended up behind bars. Cusack has spoken of them in such a way as to suggest that they were role models for him.

Cusack shares his views regularly on Twitter. He is not known, shall we say, for his subtlety of thought and expression. In 2017 he tweeted a photo of President Trump alongside the quote “YER DEAD – GET YERSELF BURIED.” When it caused something of a controversy, he took it down.

Then, a couple of months ago, he retweeted an image of a giant hand crushing a bunch of people; on the shirtsleeve from which the giant hand protruded was a Star of David. Accompanying this Der Stürmer-type image was the following quotation, which was attributed to Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Cusack supplemented the quotation with his own comment: “Follow the money.”

The point was clear: Jews run the world. Jews are all about money. Jews are crushing the rest of us. The tweet could hardly have been more stunningly antisemitic. Add to that the fact that the line he quoted about “find[ing] out who you are not allowed to criticize” was a statement not by Voltaire but by an American neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom.

Elad Nehorai

When he was widely denounced for this breathtakingly obscene tweet, Cusack doubled down. “You think Israel isn’t commuting [sic] atrocities against Palestinians?” he wrote. “What planet are you on?” Eventually, however, the criticism got to be too much. At first, bizarrely, and pusillanimously, Cusack blamed his retweet on a bot. “How,” wondered Jewish writer Elad Nehorai, “does a bot get you to write ‘follow the money’ after sharing an overtly anti-Semitic image?” Eventually Cusack owned up to having posted the retweet and issued a wimpy sort-of-apology that only served to prove that he really isn’t terribly sharp. That apology was so lame that he then issued another apology, which also was lame. The response from David Baddiel, a Jewish comedian in the UK, was succinct and right on the mark: “John Cusack says he didn’t at first realise that the image was anti-Semitic. My, it’s a troublesome old blind spot for progressives, isn’t it?”

Judy Bolton-Fasman at the Wailing Wall

Meanwhile, in a Boston Jewish publication, a woman named Judy Bolton-Fasman posted an open letter to Cusack. Confessing to having had a crush on him in the 1990s, she said that while she too was a critic of some Israeli actions, “it must be said that Israeli citizens have died in Palestinian suicide bombings on buses, in malls and cafes just because they were Jews. There are frequent rocket attacks out of Gaza.” She asked him: “Have you been to Israel?….I’m not happy about walling off the West Bank where it divides neighborhoods and families. However, Israelis call it a security barrier with good reason. Even the most dovish Israeli will tell you the barrier has drastically reduced the number of terror attacks in Israel proper.” She added that she had “met incredible Israelis and Palestinians who are dedicated to achieving peace” and encouraged him to travel to Israel and meet them instead of just demonizing Jews. Good advice. But since the politics of a man like Cusack have less to do with the real world than with blind, stubborn ideological devotion, Ms. Bolton-Fasman is likely whistling in the wind.

JCO, PC joke monster

Now 81 years old, Joyce Carol Oates has published 58 novels (or maybe even more by the time you read this), as well as scores of short stories, plays, poems, and essays. She has taught at Princeton for four decades and she has, presumably, a certain number of fans. She has certainly won a good many awards.

Joyce Carol Oates

But she also has more than her share of detractors. Critics have routinely pointed out that her prolificity is painfully evident in her work – that she seems so driven to churn out books that she doesn’t take the necessary time to craft her sentences, shape her plots, and develop her characters. When asked by an interviewer about Oates, a far more gifted author who was fourteen years her senior, Truman Capote, called her “a joke monster who ought to be beheaded in a public auditorium or in Shea [Stadium, the former home of the New York Mets] or in a field with hundreds of thousands. (Laughs.) She does all the graffiti in the men’s room and the women’s room and in every public toilet from here to California and back, stopping in Seattle on her way! (Laughs.) To me, she’s the most loathsome creature in America.”

Truman Capote

When Capote’s interviewer, Lawrence Grobel (from whose book, Conversations with Capote, these quotations are taken), asked Capote if he had ever met Oates, he replied that he had, “and to see her is to loathe her. To read her is to absolutely vomit.” Asked if she had “ever said or written anything about you to deserve such vituperation,” Capote said: “Yes, she’s written me a fan letter. She’s written me extreme fan letters. But that’s the kind of hoax she is. I bet there’s not a writer in America that’s ever had their name in print that she hasn’t written a fan letter to.” Capote’s words sound harsh, but other writers have testified to Oates’s brilliance at networking, brown-nosing, soft-soaping, and log-rolling – all of which may well explain why she has won so many prizes and been so amiably reviewed.

Peggy Noonan

Certainly she is no great writer. Even more certain is that she is simply not very intelligent. Like other successful mediocrities, she has cleaved long and loyally to the orthodox politically correct view on pretty much everything you can think of. We were reminded of this when we ran across an article the other day that reprinted a 2015 tweet by Oates: “All we hear of ISIS is puritanical & punitive; is there nothing celebratory & joyous? Or is query naive?” To which Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, who is far smarter and better informed than Oates (and also a more engaging writer), succinctly replied: “They feel celebratory & joyous when they behead a hostage, kill a confessed Christian or slay concertgoers, so yes.”

Elizabeth Warren

We wondered if Oates’s inane ISIS tweet was a one-off or if her Twitter feed contained a number of equally boneheaded comments. The answer was (b). In a tweet from last May she asked: “Is Elizabeth Warren just too brilliant, too deserving of the Presidency? Compared to many/ most candidates, isn’t she just simply the most qualified? And if so, what can possibly go wrong?” This about a woman who pretended to be an American Indian so she would enjoy career advancement and who, after taking a test that showed she had a negligible amount of American Indian blood, foolishly crowed that she had been proven right. But of course Oates’s enthusiasm for Warren is understandable: they have both lived for a long time inside the same Ivy League bubble, they both share the same standard-issue Ivy League politics, and if Oates considers Warren brilliant it’s because Warren, while certainly no genius, is probably a few points higher on the I.Q. scale than Oates.

Toni Morrison

As much as she loves Warren, Oates – unsurprisingly – hates Trump, attributing his popularity to “racism, misogyny, fear of change, wish to believe simplistic explanations for highly complex issues; novelty of an ignorant, anti-intellectual person jeering at his superiors, as (possibly) many others would like to do but dare not.” She blames Trump for mass shootings – never mind that they happened under his predecessors, too. She also blames him for ICE policies that date back to Obama, if not to Bush junior. When her friend and colleague Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, died, Oates’s take was that “it is just plain heartbreaking that she didn’t outlive loathed racist T***p Dark Age & welcome a new era.” Also, she’s apparently bought into the idea that if Trump loses the 2020 election the nation will be overrun with “#T***pTerrorists to fight for him.” Similarly, in her take on the HBO series Chernobyl, she managed to link it to gun control in the U.S.: “4,000 persons died as a consequence of the notorious nuclear accident; but nearly 40,000 persons die yearly in US from gun violence alone.” Truman Capote was right: she’s a literary lightweight and a cynical operator, cleaving with consistent fatuity to PC views on everything under the sun. Which is surely a big part of the reason why this literary mediocrity has received the approval of so many of the guardians of the literary pantheon.

Michael Buerk’s refreshing honesty

For decades, the British have been brainwashed by their government and media into revering two of their country’s biggest bureaucracies: the National Health Service (NHS) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Nigel Lawson

Retired Tory MP Nigel Lawson once said that the NHS is “the closest thing the English people have to a religion.” Google “our precious NHS” or “our beloved NHS” and you’ll get a gazillion hits. Grown people in responsible positions talk about the NHS as if it were a living creature…or a demigod. Last year, seven decades after its establishment, an MP wrote on Facebook: “Happy 70th Birthday to our precious NHS.” This June, when the prospect of a new US-UK trade deal raised fears of health-care privatization, Rachel Clarke, a famous doctor and writer, tweeted: “I can’t think of anything worse than our precious NHS in the clutches of American capital.”

Rachel Clarke

It’s one thing to appreciate your doctor or celebrate the advances of modern medicine. It’s another to talk in this borderline worshipful way about a government bureaucracy. This is especially the case when the bureaucracy in question is far from being all it’s cracked up to be. For all the glowing PR the NHS gets, a study last year showed that it “has among the lowest per capita numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital beds in the western world….only Poland has fewer doctors and nurses than the UK, while only Canada, Denmark and Sweden have fewer hospital beds.” Its record on treating people with potentially fatal maladies is nothing less than horrific: such patients often have to endure perilously long waiting times for urgently needed tests, treatments, operations, and follow-ups.

Admittedly, although America may have the best world’s doctors and hospitals, its health-care bureaucracy also has its problems – but you don’t find anybody in the U.S. crowing about it in the way Brits have been trained to crow about the NHS.

Michael Buerk

All of which brings us to Michael Buerk, a longtime newsreader for that other supposedly beloved British institution, the BBC, who said recently that fat persons with obesity-related ailments should be refused the care they need and should instead be allowed to die in order to save money for the NHS. “Who is to say longevity is the ultimate goal in life?” Buerk asked, and encouraged his fellow Brits to see the early death of their untreated overweight countrymen as “a selfless sacrifice in the fight against demographic imbalance, overpopulation and climate change.”

Such views, of course, are not unusual. Indeed, the NHS itself, like socialized medical systems in other countries, routinely refuses certain treatments to patients who, for reasons of age or weight or whatever, are considered expendable. When politicians and bureaucrats publicly discuss such matters, of course, they lean heavily on euphemisms and circumlocutions. What sets Buerk apart from them is the refreshing frankness of his macabre, Hippocratic Oath-defying enthusiasm for what we are not allowed to call “death panels.”

It is interesting, by the way, that neither Buerk nor any of his old colleagues at the BBC have suggested that that frankly superfluous and outrageously expensive broadcasting service, whose “news” programs have long since consisted largely of left-wing propaganda, be defunded as a “selfless sacrifice” and the money spent on more important things.

Snowflake warriors

A decade or two ago, few would have paid attention to any event held by the Democratic Socialists of America. For almost nobody took socialism seriously. People remembered the USSR; they remembered the captive countries of Eastern Europe; they remembered the Gulag; and the memories were not pretty ones.

Howard Zinn

But America has changed. Memories of the grim reality of twentieth-century socialism have faded, and the old utopian dreams have made a resurgence. In 2019, in many circles, being a socialist is sexy. Young people who were born after the fall of the Iron Curtain are especially susceptible to its dubious charms. No surprise there: a huge percentage of them have learned their “history” from A People’s History of the United States, a patchwork of anti-American slurs by Howard Zinn, a card-carrying Communist, that is the most frequently assigned textbook in that field. Bernie Sanders’s promises of free this and free that during his campaigns for the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential nomination brought him millions of followers who have been convinced that capitalism is a nasty, brutal, and heartlessly exploitative system while socialism is the political equivalent of unicorns and rainbows. A poll released in June showed that no fewer than forty percent of Americans prefer socialism to capitalism, and a majority of women aged 18 to 54 – the exact figure was 55% – said they would rather live under socialism than under the present American system.

So it is that when socialists get together nowadays, people listen. But what exactly are they listening to? On August 2-4, the Democratic Socialists of America held their annual convention. Writing in the Spectator, Will Lloyd provided the following summing-up:

How to give you a flavor of the event? Well, note the rules the convention followed:

Quiet rooms available for all attendees – but no aggressive scents in those rooms!

Use the proper doors and exits – no short cuts from the hall!

Wear proper credentials at all times – right-wing infiltrators might be trying to get in!

Try to be chill – take a deep breath!

Don’t talk to anybody – especially if they don’t have credentials!

Don’t talk to anybody from the press!

Don’t talk to the cops for any reason at all!

Please don’t clap – some comrades have sensitive hearing!

Warren Beatty in Reds

Warren Beatty’s 1981 movie Reds, the epic account of the involvement of American socialist John Reed in the founding of the Soviet Union, portrayed Communist Party meetings, both in the U.S. and Russia, at which actual revolutionaries – some of them highly articulate intellectuals, others tough-as-leather labor-union types – fiercely debated strategies and tactics. Whatever their foibles, many of the real-life men and women depicted in those scenes were selflessly (if naively) devoted to their shared ideology, and had no way of realizing just how tragic the ultimate consequences of that ideology would be.

To watch videos of this year’s DSA convention is to view something entirely different. This was a get-together of trust-fund babies – privileged, cartoonishly self-absorbed brats who were born in the wake of a century of horrors spawned by socialism but who have embraced that ideology nonetheless because, in their spectacular historical ignorance and all-around naivete, they think America under a socialist government would allow them to spend their entire lives enjoying the same kind of total dependence they have enjoyed as children. Whereas Lenin, Trotsky, and their crew were scrappy sons of bitches, the DSA whippersnappers are very much of their own generation: they pose as combatants who are ready to take up arms against the USA – veritable Navy SEALs for the socialist cause! – but in fact (as illustrated by those rules about “aggressive scents” and “sensitive hearing”) they’re a flock of lambs, Gen Z snowflakes preoccupied with such contemporary no-no’s as misgendering and microaggressions.

AOC

The whole thing came off like a parody, starting with the silliness of them all calling one another “comrade.” At one point some beta male from Sacramento stands up in the audience and says “guys, can we please keep the chatter to a minimum” because “I’m…prone to sensory overload”; then, because Mr. Sacramento said “guys,” another would-be warrior rises to complain about his “gendered language.” Somehow we have the feeling these kids aren’t going to be running the country any time soon. But excessive sanguinity in the face of this foolishness is inadvisable: as the presence in the House of Representatives of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other young socialists has demonstrated, a handful of aggressive young people of this ilk can shift the center of the Democratic Party considerably leftward. So we shouldn’t be too dismissive about the destructive socioeconomic potential of these puerile puppy dogs.