About Useful Stooges

The term “useful idiot,” which is generally attributed to Lenin, was used during the Soviet era to describe Western authors, journalists, activists, and others who lent support to the Kremlin, either because they were getting paid, in some way or other, for their perfidy, or because they sincerely thought they were standing up for something admirable – even though, in fact, they were being exploited and manipulated by tyrants who held them in utter contempt.

duranty
Walter Duranty, stooge extraordinaire

The quintessential “useful idiot” of the Stalinist era was probably Walter Duranty, the New York Times‘s longtime correspondent in Moscow, who did more than any of his contemporaries to spread Soviet propaganda under the guise of news – and to discredit colleagues who dared to tell the truth about the brutality of Stalin’s regime. Duranty defended the Gulag (in which millions died), the forced collectivization of peasants (ditto), and the 1938 show trials (used by Stalin to wipe out potential opponents). He also vigorously denied the reality of the Holmodor, the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine, which was deliberately engineered by Stalin and which also resulted in millions of deaths.

Today, a quarter century after the USSR ended up on the ash-heap of history, there are still autocratic leaders around the globe who enrich themselves by raiding the public treasury even as most of their subjects wallow in poverty, and who stay in power by suppressing freedom of speech and assembly and by imprisoning, torturing, and murdering their critics; and there are, alas, still plenty of persons in positions of respect and influence who, for a variety of reprehensible reasons, are eager to defend them.

We’ve given this site the name “Useful Stooges” instead of “Useful Idiots” because some of the unsavory characters discussed here are not, strictly speaking, idiots: as was the case with Duranty and many other foreign lapdogs of Lenin and Stalin, a number of the pawns of tyrants in our own time are highly shrewd but morally bankrupt people who, quite simply, either admire despotism or have figured out ways, sometimes quite ingenious, to profit from their cynical support for it. Although not technically fools, then, they are definitely stooges, in the sense of “persons used by criminals in perpetrating their crimes.”

On this site, the criminals we’re most concerned with are heads of state, from Asia to Africa to Latin America, who practice corruption and oppression on a colossal scale – and the stooges are those, either domestically or internationally, who serve them, praise them, and provide them with positive PR even though they know better, or should.

 

 

6 thoughts on “About Useful Stooges

  1. Thank you very much for your great work! You are returning my ckracked believe in Western journalism that loooks as the combination of morons and dodgy rogues.I`ll be your faithful reader.

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  2. I just read your critique of RealPolitik and have to take issue. Throughout the Cold War America would not tolerate Soviet allies on its borders. We almost went to nuclear war over it in fact. And that’s the thing. Unlike Chamberlain’s appeasement politics of 1939 (and not just poor old Neville it should be noted), today we do have to tread carefully. Russia may only be a “gas station” but it’s a gas station with nuclear missiles. That’s reality. Russia has never approached the US in global reach and involvement. However, it has always been famously paranoid about meddling in its “near-at home” – countries like the Ukraine and Georgia. That’s reality too. So we can play brinkmanship and stir things up in Kiev and admit Montenegro to NATO – if that’s what the democratically elected governments of candidate countries want then that’s the noble and idealistic thing to do. On the other hand, as we saw with Crimea and lately in Syria, Putin may not be a Krushchev and blink at the crucial moment. It’s harsh : leaving Georgia etc in Russia’s ambit but at risk is not simply the freedoms of a single nation but the survival of our race. I care passionately about our freedoms and democracy and one of the ways of preserving them is to avoid nuclear war. In our era Realpolitik is not appeasement, it is a necessary evil.

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  3. “The term ‘useful idiot,’ which is generally attributed to Lenin”. Do you think Lenin actually used that term or not? If yes, when and where did he use it? If not, why link it with his name?

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