The scourge of NYC, the pride of NYU

Sometimes it can seem as if the major institutions of higher education in the northern and southern parts of Manhattan, namely Columbia University and New York University, are locked in an intense competition – not to produce the most important scientific research or to turn out the best educated students, but to be the Big Apple’s undisputed hub of inane and anarchic academic radicalism.

Amin Husain

On February 15, the New York Post reported that one of the co-founders and leaders of Decolonize This Place, a gang of misfits who created havoc in the New York subways on January 31 – “destroying turnstiles, stranding thousands of commuters and spray-painting ‘F–k Cops’ on station walls “ – is an NYU professor named Amin Husain. (In fact, Husain’s Wikipedia page identifies him as the “lead organizer” of the group.) The eloquently stated goal of this initiative was to “f-ck sh-t up,” and it must be said that they succeeded: damages came to around $100,000. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is not exactly famous as a crime-fighter, pronounced himself “repulsed” by the group’s actions, the ultimate goal of which is to obtain free public transport with no cops.

The professor in action

To be sure, the group, which has been described as carrying out “direct actions targeting five issues: Free Palestine, Indigenous Struggle, Black Liberation, Global Wage Workers, and de-gentrification,” didn’t accomplish everything it intended to do. Communicating with one another on social media, members encouraged one another to bring knives and “blind police officers.” The group’s website, as the Post noted, features information on “How to Shut Down the City,” how to kick people “in the face and groin,” and how to make use of nails and glass bottles.

OWS, 2012

Who is Amin Husain? That Wikipedia page calls him “a Palestinian-American activist” whose courses at NYU focus on “resistance and liberation and postcolonial theory.” For example, he teaches a workshop called “Art, Activism, and Beyond” in which he “interrogates the relationship between art and activism.” (“Interrogates” is a currently fashionable academic synonym for “examines” or “discusses.”) Like many such academic radicals he has founded or been involved with a long list of activist organizations, publications, and movements, among them the Global Ultra Luxury Faction, the magazine Tidal: Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy, NYC Solidarity with Palestine, NYC Students for Justice in Palestine, Occupy Wall Street, the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment movement. Oh, and Fatah. Yes, at a 2012 OWS rally, he stated that in the Palestinian territories, where he grew up, he was a member of Fatah and took part in the anti-Israeli “resistance” – throwing “rocks, Molotov cocktails, the like” at IDF members – after which “I came over here, searching for an American Dream that has never existed.”

That Whitney dustup

The subway hooliganism wasn’t Husain’s first attempt to create mayhem in New York City. In 2006 he took part in a demonstration at the American Museum of Natural History that “demanded the removal of the now-controversial statue of a horse-borne Theodore Roosevelt flanked by two standing Native Americans at the entrance.” Last year he led a series of weekly protests at the Whitney Museum in an ultimately successful attempt to oust Whitney board vice-chairman Warren B. Kanders, whose company manufactures supplies for law enforcement and military uses.

Will NYU investigate, discipline, or fire Husain? Somehow it seems unlikely. The faculties of both NYU and Columbia are overflowing with haters of Israel, apologists for terrorism, and participants in violent protest. One can’t help getting the impression that it’s easier to get a teaching job at these places – and at many other supposedly distinguished American universities – with a rap sheet than with an award-winning work of scholarship. Husain, alas, is a very little piece of a very big problem that is infecting higher education from sea to shining sea.

American professors, Chinese spies

We already knew that countless American professors in the humanities and social sciences encourage their students to despise the US while cultivating in them an admiration for Marxist ideology, the Castro revolution in Cuba, and other totalitarian regimes, past and present. But that, it turns out, is just the tip of the iceberg. For In recent months, as Kyle Houten noted earlier this month at Campus Reform, it has become increasingly clear that a whole lot of faculty members and students at some of America’s top universities have been literally working for the most dangerous of all foreign Communist governments – namely, that of China.

Yi-chi Shih

Last July, for example, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of Yi-Chi Shih, an electrical engineer and professor at UCLA, who had been convicted on 18 federal charges. Yi-Chi, reported Newsweek, was involved in “a plot to illegally obtain microchips from an American company” that supplies parts to the US Air Force and Navy. These microchips, which can be “used in missiles, missile guidance systems, fighter jets, electronic warfare, electronic warfare countermeasures and radar applications,” were sent to a Chinese firm called Chengdu GaStone Technology, of which Yi-Chi had previously served as president. Yi-Chi, who was found “guilty of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, mail fraud, wire fraud, false tax returns, false statements to a government agency and conspiracy to commit cybertheft,” faced “a statutory maximum sentence of 219 years in prison.”

We wonder: did anyone at UCLA know that Yi-Chi had been president of a Chinese technology outfit – one that, as Newsweek noted, is listed by the Commerce Department as a threat to US national security? Did officials at UCLA know of Yi-Chi’s connection to the firm when they hired him? If so, did it cross their minds that his history of loyalty to America’s principal foreign adversary might be problematic?

Bo Mao

Also last year, Bo Mao, who is on the permanent faculty at Xiamen University in China, was arrested for stealing proprietary technology from a Silicon Valley startup while serving as a visiting professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Arlington. Bo turned the technology over to a subsidiary of Huawei.

Charles Lieber

Late January saw the arrest of Charles Lieber, who is nothing less than the chairman of the chemistry and chemical biology department at Harvard University. Lieber, it appeared, had accepted huge sums of money to build and maintain a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Technology, where he worked as a “Strategic Scientist from 2012 to 2017, and was allegedly involved in China’s “Thousand Talents” program, which “recruits overseas scientists and induces them to sign secret contracts” that “violate U.S. standards of integrity.” He is accused, moreover, of engaging in “economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, and grant fraud,” and of having lied about his nefarious activities on behalf of China to the administration of Harvard, to the National Institutes of Health, and to the Defense Department.

Joseph Bonavolonta

There have been other such cases at the University of Kansas, at UCLA, at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and at other institutions of higher education, with researchers being found guilty of stealing research materials, of sending technology to China, of recruiting spies, and of concealing their Chinese ties. “No country poses a greater, more severe or long-term threat to our national security and economic prosperity than China,” FBI agent Joseph Bonavolonta told the Associated Press. “China’s communist government’s goal, simply put, is to replace the U.S. as the world superpower, and they are breaking the law to get there.”

Lee Bollinger

The threat is clear. And yet many universities piously refuse to take it seriously, and take appropriate action, on the ridiculous grounds that it would be racist to do so. “No, I won’t start spying on my foreign-born students” read the headline of an August 2019 Washington Post op-ed on the subject by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger. The irony here, of course, is that the admissions policies of some of these same universities systematically discriminate against Asian-Americans.

Another honor for Ms. Davis

Angela Davis in her youth

Yale University is widely considered one of the world’s leading institutions of higher education. When it wants to celebrate Martin Luther King Day by inviting a prominent individual to give a keynote speech, it presumably has its pick of illustrious black thinkers and civil-rights activists. This year, it chose Angela Davis. Specifically, Davis was selected by Risë Nelson, the assistant dean of Yale College and director of its Afro-American Cultural Center, which co-sponsored the event along with the Department of African American Studies, the Yale College Dean’s Office, and Dwight Hall.

Davis was the CPUSA’s candidate for president

Regular readers of this site will know that this is far from the first time in recent years that Davis has been honored by a major cultural or educational institution. In 2016, the Brooklyn Museum awarded her a major prize for supposedly being a role model for women. In 2017, an Alabama group planned to give her an award for her purported contributions to civil rights, but changed its mind after a Holocaust Education Center, also in Alabama, pointed out that Davis supports the movement to boycott Israel. In 2019, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution honored Davis with a special screening of a film that whitewashes her life story. These were far from her first awards. In 1979, the Soviet Union presented Davis with the Lenin Prize.

We’ve covered the details of Davis’s story more than once on this site. We’ve done it because few Americans are more emblematic than Angela Davis of the perverse post-1960s practice by establishment institutions of honoring thugs, bigots, enemies of freedom, and enthusiasts for totalitarianism as heroes of freedom and human rights. We’ve also returned repeatedly to Davis’s story because, despite all the attention we’ve accorded to the truth about her, mainstream media organs have sugarcoated the reality and millions of Americans remain ignorant of it.

How she became famous

The facts of Davis’s life are incontrovertible. As a young member of the Black Panthers, she acquired the guns carried by a fellow Panther, Jonathan Jackson, when he walked into a California courtroom where yet another Panther, James McClain, was on trial. Jackson handed guns to the defendant and to two convicts who were serving as witnesses, and the four of them then took the judge, prosecutor, and three jurors hostage in an effort to free Jackson’s older brother, George, from prison. There ensured a shootout in which the judge and three of the hostage-takers were killed, the prosecutor paralyzed, and a juror wounded. Placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for her role in this crime, Davis took it on the lam. She was eventually captured, but thanks to a campaign funded by an international network of Communists she ended up being freed by a northern California jury containing more than its share of sympathetic radicals. Thanks, moreover, to the leftist slant of the hiring committees at many American universities in recent decades, Davis has been able to make a career in the academy.

A recent picture of Davis

We’ve mentioned the widespread tendency to whitewash Davis’s background. In reporting on Davis’s speech at Yale, Ella Goldblum of the Yale Daily News quoted her as saying that “People of African descent in the Americas have embodied the quest for freedom for five long centuries,” but didn’t mention that, back in the day, she was a big fan of the USSR, not known for its freedom, or that she remains an admirer of the Castro regime in Cuba. No, Goldblum chose instead to describe Davis as “a leftist activist, academic, philosopher and author of over ten books on class, feminism and the U.S. prison system,” as a “star of the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s,” and as a sometime member of the Black Panther party, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the American Communist Party. Here’s how the Goldblum described the episode that defined her life: “She was imprisoned for 16 months for her alleged involvement in the armed seizure of a Marin County Courthouse in California and was released on bail and eventually acquitted.” Ironically, Goldblum’s whitewash of Davis described her as criticizing “the tendency to whitewash [Martin Luther King’s] struggle against ‘unjust peace.’” Goldblum’s article concluded with glowing comments by people who had attended the event. One of them liked how Davis “placed feminism as a central part of all freedom movements”; another said that Davis made her feel “empowered to be more active in her community.” Was any of these people aware of the precise way in which Davis, when she was much closer to their own age, chose to be “active in her community”? Is it really possible to graduate from Yale University believing that Angela Davis is a pillar of freedom?

A Romanian rediscovers Communism – at Columbia University

Columbia University

If the name of Columbia University has cropped up so often on this website, it’s because few American institutions of higher education are so crammed with tyranny-loving ideologues. It was Columbia, let’s remember, that invited then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address its students. Columbia economist Joseph Stiglitz has enriched himself by serving as a “consultant” to corrupt regimes such as the Kirchner thugocracy in Argentina – regimes that, in turn, he has then publicly praised as being on the up-and-up. (Can you say “quid pro quo”?) Hamid Dabashi, who teaches Middle East and Asian Languages, equates Gaza to Auschwitz, downplays the Holocaust, and calls Zionists “hyenas.” Sociologist Saskia Sassen, an outspoken enemy of capitalism and Israel, commutes weekly between her luxurious homes in New York and London while also flying constantly all over the glove to scold audiences for the size of their carbon footprints. As we noted the other day, Kathy Boudin, the cop-killing mother of San Francisco’s newly elected DA, teaches at Columbia. So does Jamal Joseph, who was sentenced to over a decade for his role in the same crime. Joseph Mossad is a gay man who serves as an apologist for the brutal treatment of gay man in the Muslim world. And Gil Anidjar teaches a course in which, ignoring Arabic autocracy throughout the centuries, and dropping down the memory hole the monstrously aggressive Muslim wars of conquest against Europe and other Christian lands, he presents Arabs as having consistently, throughout history, been Europe’s victims – period.

Andrei Serban

It’s gotten so bad that Andrei Serban, a film, theater, and opera director who in 1969 fled communism in Romania – where he was director of the Romanian National Theater – and who is a longtime tenured professor in Columbia’s theater department, has now decided that it’s time to flee Columbia, too, which he describes as being “on its way to full-blown communism.” One example: he had felt pressured to cast a male-to-female transgender student in the female lead of Romeo and Juliet, even though he felt the individual in question wasn’t up to the job. One example: during a departmental search for a new faculty member, a dean insisted that the vacancy couldn’t be filled by the person Serban considered most qualified, because the candidate in question was a white male heterosexual. “I felt like I was living under communism again,” Serban commented.

Meryl Streep in The Cherry Orchard

Serban is hardly an old fogy. In Paris he studied under Peter Brook, whose radical, experimental stagings of new and classic works of theater revolutionized the art of modern theater directing. Serban brought his innovative approach to the U.S., where he directed Meryl Streep in a Lincoln Center production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Liev Schreiber in a Public Theater staging of Hamlet. Serban has also directed numerous classics, ranging from The Merchant of Venice to Lysistrata, at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, directed operas at the Met in New York and the Opéra Bastille in Paris, and plied his trade at other prestigious venues around the Western world. Throughout his career, his name has been a byword for cutting-edge theater, making him a darling of the high-cultural establishment. All the more ironic, therefore, that such a figure should feel compelled to quit a plum job at an American academic institution because he felt that the guiding political ideology of that institution had shifted too far away from classical liberalism in the direction of the lockstep collectivist groupthink that he thought he had escaped half a century ago in totalitarian Romania.

A further irony: Serban he explained his decision to quit Columbia in an October 26 interview with a TV station in his formerly Communist homeland, which is now a free country.

The making of loyal Chinese Communists – at Morningside Heights

Joshua Wang and Brian Leung at Columbia

We’ve been writing a great deal lately here about the pro-Beijing stooges who have come out of the woodwork in recent weeks, standing up for totalitarianism and smearing the freedom marchers in Hong Kong because doing otherwise might adversely affect their income. Several of these defenders of Chinese Communism have been people connected to the NBA, who make a lot of money, one way or another, on the popularity of American basketball in the world’s largest dictatorship. But it’s not just sports people who are on the Chinese government’s payroll. As we saw last week, the bigwigs at New York University, which has a branch in Shanghai, have stayed silent about the Hong Kong protests. Then there’s that equally cash-crazy institution a few miles north, Columbia University, where, as Richard Bernstein reported in October, a presentation the previous month by two democracy activists from Hong Kong, Brian Leung and Joshua Wong, was disrupted by a group of foreign students. Students, of course, from China. Standing up at their seats, they belted out the Chinese national anthem and another patriotic ditty, “Song of the Motherland.” As Bernstein observed, the incident was rich in irony: “Here were Chinese students, living and studying in the West, exercising the freedom to raise a ruckus at an academic conference and implicitly to denounce the pro-democracy yearnings of their Hong Kong counterparts.”

Chinese grads at Columbia University

Bernstein proceeded to make some exceedingly canny points. This episode, he observed, reflected the “general readiness of many Chinese people, at home and abroad, to express their outrage against what their government deems to be ‘anti-China’ opinions in other countries.” In turn, Bernstein pointed out, this readiness was illustrative of “a broad generational cultural shift in China, mostly unexpected and little noticed in the West.” Three decades ago this year, after all, Chinese people turned out in massive numbers to protest the system under which they lived. The Soviet Union was crumbling, the Berlin Wall was about to fall, and in China, too, millions of subjects of totalitarianism, students especially, were aching for liberty. “Occupying Tiananmen Square for two months,” recalls Bernstein, “they held hunger strikes, displaying a statue they called the Goddess of Liberty, before hundreds of them gave their lives when the army opened fire.”

The now-iconic image of the unknown Tienanmen Square protester standing up to tanks, June 5, 1989

But that was then and this is now. In 2019, writes Bernstein, the younger generation of Chinese citizens are the ideological opposites of their 1989 counterparts. In China today, sending your kid to study at an American university is one of the most prized objectives; but this ambition, in most cases, has nothing to do with a regard for American freedom. For both the parents and the children, it’s about prestige, the potential economic value of an Ivy League diploma, and having the opportunity to see the world. But seeing America doesn’t seem to have turned many of the Chinese students at U.S. universities into critics of Beijing’s tyranny or fans of Western liberty. Hence, writes Bernstein, “[i]nstead of educating a new generation of leaders who might make China more liberal, U.S. schools may be training an oppositional cadre more interested in acquiring American know-how than American values.” Moreover, “[t]his is occurring against a larger backdrop in which a resurgent China aggressively trumpets its cultural norms, demanding that foreign businesses – from Google to the NBA – play by its rules.”

Echo Wang

Yes, some of the 300,000 Chinese nationals who are currently studying at U.S. colleges may harbor a secret fondness for Western values – but they don’t dare say so. Yet close observers suggest that there are relatively few closet fans of America in this immense cohort. “I think that even compared to 10 years ago, the whole vibe among Chinese students has changed,” Echo Wang, a recent graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, told Bernstein, adding that she’s heard from several sources that the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2008 Western financial crisis boosted a lot of these students’ enthusiasm for their own country’s political system and severely weakened whatever admiration they might have had for capitalism.

NYU, PRC, and $$$

NYU Shanghai

In August 2015, we wrote here about several major U.S. universities that have established lucrative branches in less than free countries – such as the United Arab Emirates and other lands awash in petrodollars – and that, in order to be able to operate in those countries, have felt compelled, by their sheer pecuniary interests, to make major compromises when it comes to living up to the idea of a free university.

As we noted, a number of these institutions have branches in China. And that’s not all: there are universities in the U.S. that contain so-called “Confucius Institutes,” centers for the study of China that are essentially sources of propaganda for Communist China.

Che Guangcheng

These cozy relationships between major American universities and the People’s Republic of China have many ramifications for the education of students at those universities. Colleges that play host to “Confucius Institutes” are forbidden by contract from recognizing Taiwan as an independent nation. They are under pressure not to arrange lectures or debates involving China scholars who don’t toe the Beijing line. The agreements with China also prohibit those American universities from sponsoring honest discussions of Tibet or the Tienanmen Square massacre. China scholars at U.S. institutions that have these sorts of links to the PRC dare not criticize China in the classroom or in their writings because they may find their Chinese visas revoked, which, of course, would make it impossible for them to pursue their scholarship. As we noted in 2015, one Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, who had been tortured in China and who went on to have a fellowship at NYU had suddenly, in 2013, found that fellowship cancelled because the honchos at NYU were afraid of offending the Chinese leaders who had ordered his torture.

Jon Levine

On October 19, Jon Levine wrote in the New York Post about the NYU branch in Shanghai, where the fall term had begun but where “one subject that won’t be on the syllabus is pro-democracy protests sweeping Hong Kong.” Levine explained that “NYU faculty in China and New York say the issue is a third rail” and quoted an NYU-Shanghai faculty member as saying that “Everyone is under a bit of a cloud of fear…..We don’t walk around trembling like rodents, but there is a general idea that there are certain topics you don’t discuss….We all learn over time how to self-censor.” Levine noted that young people enrolled at this campus, who receive NYU degrees at the end of their period of study, are “required to take classes like ‘Mao Zedong Thought,’ ‘Introduction to the Communist Party of China’ and courses in political education routinely mandated at other Chinese universities.” This is disgusting, but none of it should be surprising to anyone who is aware that NYU, founded in 1831 and once a revered center of liberal learning and a source of American pride, has long since gotten into the habit of accepting cash from the biggest bidder, however odious.

Hating Israel

Some facts are plain. Israel is a tiny democratic country surrounded by entities whose people live in various degrees of unfreedom, under dictators, kings, emirs, and terrorist groups. Arabs in Israel are better off than their coreligionists in Israel’s Arab neighbors. While some of those nations are rich because of their oil resources, they make very little in the way of a positive contribution to modern civilization; many of them have sponsored terrorists who have committed acts of jihad in the Western world, and have funded madrasses and mosques that promote the poison of supremacist Islamic ideology in cities throughout the West. Meanwhile, little Israel has accomplished scientific and technological advances that rival the achievements of some of the world’s largest and richest lands.

Jeremy Corbyn

And yet Israel-hatred thrives. In Western Europe, a large cohort of the leftist elite, as exemplified by politicians like British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has aligned itself with European Muslims who share its contempt for Israel, to say nothing of its outright antisemitism.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Still, not all that long ago it would have been incredible to hear that Israel was actually losing support among American Jews. This, alas, is the sad case. Since 2010, according to a non-profit called the Brand Israel Group, support for Israel among Jewish college students in the United States has declined from 84% to 57%. That is a massive drop. As one commentator put it, these students “appear to be abandoning support for Israel in droves.” Viewed from one perspective, this alarming development is nothing short of a shock – how, only three-quarters of a century after the Holocaust, can young Jews, presumably brought up to be intensely aware of that massive atrocity in which many if not most of them lost family members, turn against the Jewish state that was founded in its wake?

A gathering of Students for Justice in Palestine

From another perspective, of course, the hostility of so many young Jewish Americans toward Israel is no Asurprise at all. Like most other American college students, they have been fed a diet of ant-Israeli propaganda, both by their professors and by groups of their fellow students. They have learned to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a black-and-white affair, with the Israelis always being the bad guys and the Palestinians the victims. They have been taught to parrot the idea that Zionism is racism and to call Israel an apartheid state. Their campuses have been the sites of anti-Israeli events, rife with the vilest of propaganda that whitewashes Hamas, Fatah, and Hezbollah while depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as the most monstrous of men. A couple of generations ago, the Jewish group Hillel was very active – and very high-profile – at colleges around the U.S.; now one hardly ever hears mention of it, while the endless mischief-making of organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine is frequently the stuff of headlines. The pressure on some Jewish students must surely be considerable, but it is nonetheless scarcely short of tragic that so many of them should disavow their own people by rejecting the state founded in the cause of their preservation.

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.

More laurels for Angela Davis, thug

She’s a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with America in the last half-century. There’s no reason to go over every detail of Angela Davis’s criminal history here: we already did that in a couple of pieces in 2016. But here’s a brief summary: Communist Party and Black Panthers member; secretly married to a gangster; supplied guns for a courtroom hostage-taking that ended in several deaths; took it on the lam, was finally arrested and tried, and – thanks to the radical sympathies of at least some of the jurors – was found not guilty.

She was plainly a criminal. But the times being what they were, she was seen as a political prisoner, a warrior for civil rights. A covert campaign by the USSR played a key role in shaping this image. Musicians like John Lennon and the Rolling Stones wrote songs about her; writers like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison sung her praises.

After her release, she was awarded prizes in Communist countries; supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and hung around in Cuba with Fidel Castro himself; in the US, she twice ran for vice president on the Communist Party line and became a professor at a California state university. And, thanks to a leftist media and academy, her name shone ever more brightly in the pantheon of supposed cultural heroes. Our 2016 pieces on her were occasioned by the news that she was about to win a major prize from the Brooklyn Museum for being a role model for women; we revisited her story in 2017 when she was scheduled to be awarded a human-rights accolade by an Alabama civil-rights group. Earlier this year, we noted Davis’s participation in a rally to support Ilhan Omar, the blatantly anti-Semitic Congresswoman from Minnesota.

Well, here we go again. In July, Ron Radosh, an expert on the history of American Communism, reported that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution – the Smithsonian! – was planning to honor Davis this September by showing an old “documentary” entitled Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners. In fact, according to reliable accounts, this documentary is a whitewash of Davis’s career as a Communist thug. After the screening, one Rhea Combs “will interview and question Ms. Davis.”

Radosh quoted from a press release issued by the museum: “we all recognize that Prof. Davis is a figure for the ages, as fascinating to us now as she was at the height of her incarceration and trial.” The release called Davis’s life “a quintessential American story of activism” and claimed that she had been “criminalized and named on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list” not because she had supplied guns for a crime but “because of her activism in support of social justice.”

As Radosh writes, this is an outright lie. And it’s a lie being told by one of America’s premier cultural institutions about one of America’s most despicable public figures.

Putting the pink in Pinkham

Sophie Pinkham

When we wrote on Tuesday about a recent New York Times piece praising the Soviet Union’s space program for its supposed sensitivity to questions of sexual and racial equality, we frankly didn’t know much of anything about the piece’s author, Sophie Pinkham. So we looked up her archive at The Nation. Wow.

In a 2015 piece, she wrote about commemorations in eastern Ukraine and Moscow of the 70th anniversary of Germany’s 1945 surrender to the Soviet Union. Her point of view on matters Ukrainian and Russian was crystal clear – and downright appalling. Pinkham cited with obvious sympathy a comment made that day by Aleksandr Zakharchenko, then head of the “Donetsk People Republic,” a part of eastern Ukraine that declared its “independence” in 2014 after being “liberated” by Russia: “Seventy years ago, Soviet heroes had defeated the fascists, he declared, and now their children and grandchildren were fighting fascists once again; the generation of victors had raised a generation of heroes.”

Vladimir Putin

Meanwhile, in Moscow, Vladimir Putin “was surrounded by veterans and foreign dignitaries from China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, Cuba, and Egypt,” but “[m]ost European leaders skipped the parade to protest Russia’s actions in Ukraine.” Here’s the key part: “For many Russians, it looked as though the once-Allied nations had forgotten that it was the Soviet Union that rescued them from Nazism, at the cost of tens of millions of Soviet lives.”

Again, wow. Pinkham, plainly, is one of those Soviet sympathizers who always love casting the USSR as a “liberator” of Europe and as having played a far more crucial war in the Allied victory than the US or UK. In fact, of course, Stalin and Hitler – or, more specifically, Molotov and Ribbentrop – signed a cynical 1939 pact in which they agreed to carve up Poland, and Stalin didn’t go to war against Germany until the Nazis violated the agreement by invading Soviet territory. Stalin’s subsequent conquest of the countries that became the Warsaw Bloc wasn’t a war of liberation; it was a war of defense that ended up turned subjects of one kind of totalitarianism into subjects of another. Finally, despite the sheer size of the Red Army that admittedly made a huge difference in the victory over Hitler, the best historians of the war agree that if America hadn’t invested so much of its resources in providing massive supplies of materiel to Stalin, the Western Allies would have made it to Berlin before the Soviets, and it would have taken the Soviets a lot longer to push back the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front.

But hey, don’t get Pinkham wrong. She’s no Putin fan. Putin, she complains, “is continuing the process of privatization that began with Yeltsin. Even as the Russian government insists on its symbolic association with the Soviet past, it is moving toward a neoliberal social model antithetical to Communist ideals.” Don’t rush past that one: “Communist ideals”! Pinkham also takes seriously all the Soviet-era rhetoric about “friendship” between Soviet republics (“Stalin died in 1953, but the friendship of the peoples lived on”).

Vladimir Lenin

Likewise, she buys all the bushwah about the dictatorship of the proletariat. In a 2017 piece, Pinkham wrote that after the Bolshevik Revolution, “Lenin was virtually alone in his insistence that power pass into the hands of the workers immediately.” Her whole understanding of the early history of the USSR, indeed, is founded on the rock-solid belief that Lenin was a supremely good guy, devoted to “a utopian philosophy that sought to eradicate human suffering.” How, then, she wonders, could he have taken such an “insouciant attitude toward mass death”? Even after a century during which Communism has been put into practice all over the world, and always with disastrous results, Pinkham has still somehow failed to grasp that it’s not about eradicating human suffering but about eradicating humans.

Later in 2017, Pinkham reviewed Red Famine, Anne Applebaum’s history of Stalin’s deliberately engineered famine in the Ukraine. The book, complains Pinkham, “is distorted…by [Applebaum’s] loathing of communism.” Imagine writing that sentence! Imagine a graduate student at Columbia University (that’s what Pinkham is) complaining in a respectable publication that some book is marred by its author’s “loathing of Nazism.” But needless to say, Pinkham is hardly an exception to the rule in the academic history field. Her number is legion. This is the kind of history that is being taught to college kids nowadays. And it’s a big reason why they react to far-left presidential candidates not with horror but with hosannahs.