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.

More praise for the USSR at the Times

Walter Duranty

On this site, where our task is to record the antics and inanities of those who have taken it upon themselves to defend the indefensible, all roads, or at least so it can sometimes seem, lead back to the New York Times. It was the Times, after all, that gave us our mascot, the world-class lickspittle (and Pulitzer Prize winner!) Walter Duranty, who while serving as the Gray Lady’s Moscow correspondent during the Stalin era shamelessly defended Uncle Joe’s evil Gulag, his brutal policy of farm collectivization, and his outrageous show trials – and, not least, covered up his deliberately engineered Ukrainian famine, the Holodomor. Millions died; Duranty lied. And what makes things all the worse is that, far from being an exception to the rule at the Times, which countless low-information readers continue to view as a newspaper of record, Duranty was a proud and consistent exponent of an ignoble and longstanding Times tradition: the reflexive whitewashing of totalitarian regimes.

Herbert L. Matthews and friend

The Nazis, too, benefited from the Times’s weird compulsion to sugarcoat monstrous tyranny – reports on the Third Reich’s treatment of Jews were routinely suppressed, softened, and relegated to short articles in the newspaper’s back pages. Decades later, similarly, Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews gave so much positive coverage to Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution that the National Review, borrowing a familiar classified-ad tag of the day – “I got my job through the New York Times” – ran a parody ad featuring El Comandante himself; in 2007, Reason ran a piece about Matthews headlined “Fidel’s Favorite Propagandist.”

Vivian Gornick

Three decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Times hasn’t stopped looking for aspects of Soviet life to hold up for praise. A couple of years ago we took note of a sickening Times piece by Vivian Gornick entitled “When Communism Inspired Americans” – a serious effort on Gornick’s part to paint American Stalinists as heroic believers in noble ideals, rather than as the unquestioning toadies of (and lying apologists for) a mass-murdering dictator. Also in 2017, we commented on an instant classic entitled “Why Women Had Better Sex under Socialism.” In this masterpiece of buffoonery, Kristen R. Ghodsee, a professor (what else?) at the University of Pennsylvania, maintained that women in the Soviet Union not only had more rights than women in the democratic West but also had more orgasms.

Sophie Pinkham

Gornick’s and Ghodsee’s pieces were part of a Times series commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Now, to celebrate the fiftieth year since Apollo 11, the ever-reliable Times has run a piece by one Sophie Pinkham arguing that, even though America beat Russia in the race to put a man on the moon, the U.S.S.R. won what she calls “the Space Race for Equality.” Meaning what? Quite simply, that the Soviets “sent women and people of color to space years before the U.S.” As Pinkham explains: “The Cold War was fought as much on an ideological front as a military one, and the Soviet Union often emphasized the sexism and racism of its capitalist opponents — particularly the segregated United States. And the space race was a prime opportunity to signal the U.S.S.R.’s commitment to equality.”

Hero of equality

Pause for a moment, if you will, over those last words: “the U.S.S.R.’s commitment to equality.” Not its alleged or claimed or supposed or pretended commitment. Pinkham – a grad student at Columbia University who has written for such far-left organs as The Nation and London Review of Books – is apparently trying to sell the Soviet Union to us as a beacon of equality. Yes, in a way we suppose men and women were equal under Soviet Communism – equal, that is, in their utter lack of human rights and democratic freedoms. Men and women alike were woken in the middle of the night by KGB agents and beaten, tortured, or imprisoned, without being officially charged or tried, for having been overheard voicing some complaint or for having otherwise found their way onto the government’s radar. Men and women alike were condemned to death by starvation in the Holodomor, were sent away for years at a time to the Gulag, or were simply lined up against walls and shot in cold blood.

That’s Soviet equality, folks. Yet after Columbia awards a Ph.D. to Pinkham – who, in her recent photos, appears to be too young ever to have experienced Communism firsthand in the U.S.S.R. or its European satellites – she will earn a living telling generations of students at some prestigious college or other that Soviet Communism was synonymous with social equality. Caveat emptor.

A Hobsbawm hagiography

E.J. Hobsbawm

Back in 2016 we spent five full days on the British historian E. J. Hobsbawm, who had died four years earlier at the age of 95. As we noted then, Hobsbawm’s demise was followed by a tsunami of praise. In the Guardian he was described as “arguably Britain’s most respected historian of any kind”; the New Yorker called him “refreshingly serious—intellectually curious and politically engaged,” a man who “was in it to change the world.” The Independent told its readers that he was “one of the greatest British historians of the 20th century.”

The obituarists for these and other prominent media did not ignore the fact that Hobsbawm was a lifelong Communist – a passionate admirer and fierce defender of Stalin who even, in a 1994 TV interview, expressed support for Stalin’s murder of millions. What they did was find ways to minimize it, or excuse it, or even praise it. One necrologist spoke of Hobsbawm’s “Marxist ideals.” Another depicted him as a victim of anti-Communist prejudice. Can you imagine any of these publications referring seriously to “Nazi ideals” or “anti-Nazi prejudice”?

A.N. Wilson

The novelist A.N. Wilson was almost alone in explicitly condemning Hobsbawm for his politics, pointing out that “if some crazed Right-winger were to appear on BBC and say that the Nazis had been justified in killing six million Jews….We should be horrified, and consider that such a person should never be allowed to speak in public.” But what happened to Hobsbawm after that interview? As we wrote in 2016: “His career soared. He was offered (but rejected) a knighthood. Later he accepted from Tony Blair the title Companion of Honour. Oxford gave him a prize worth half a million pounds. As Hobsbawm got older, the media increasingly described him as the country’s greatest living historian. All this despite the fact, as Wilson pointed out, that Hobsbawm never learned the lessons of the century he had lived through.” Nor was he even a good historian: his books, as Wilson bluntly put it, were Communist propaganda. He “quite deliberately underplayed the Soviet Union’s attack on Finland in 1939-40.” He was silent on the Katyn massacre, in which the Soviets murdered 20,000 Polish soldiers. And he “deceitfully downplayed the grim role of the Communists in Spain in the Thirties” and “the forcible nature of the coups the Soviets carried out in Eastern Europe after 1945.”

Richard J. Evans

If we’re returning now to the subject of Hobsbawm, it’s because another famous historian, Richard J. Evans, FBA, FRSL, FRHistS, FLSW, has published an 800-page biography of him. Evans is best known for his three-volume history of the Third Reich – which has been described as definitive – and for his court testimony defending a writer’s characterization of David Irving as a Holocaust denier. In all his writings on Hitler’s regime, Evans has made it clear that he is not a fan. He sees Nazism for the evil that it is. He does not buy into the notion that, in writing about a Nazi, you can set aside his Nazi beliefs, or contextualize them or relativize them, depicting them as just a minor or incidental part of his personal makeup. You can’t conclude that, his Nazi convictions notwithstanding, the most important thing about him is that he was a devoted husband and father, a good friend and neighbor, a man who loved his pets and was, as the British say, clubbable. No, a Nazi is, first and last, a Nazi. Evans understands that.

David Pryce-Jones

Confronted with the case of Hobsbawm and Hobsbawm’s Communism, however, Evans is able to take a totally different approach. In a blistering review of Evans’s book for the June issue of the New Criterion, yet another historian, David Pryce-Jones (who, as it happens, is also an FRSL), laments that Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History makes Evans “look either a dupe or a fool of the higher sort, in any case earning him a reputation no historian would want to have.” Describing Hobsbawm as “the foremost Communist apologist in the Britain of his day,” Pryce-Jones observes that if Hobsbawm had been a Nazi, “Evans surely would have thrown his doctrine back into his face. Instead, he defends the indefensible with this hagiography.” Although Hobsbawm, after joining the Communist Party as a student at Cambridge, “never deviated from the Party line,” Evans “can still write this utter absurdity: ‘there was no sense in which [Hobsbawm] was an active or committed member of the Party.”

Josef Stalin

As for Hobsbawm the man, Pryce-Jones, who is now 93 and who actually knew Hobsbawm, provides a valuable corrective: “In my experience, Hobsbawm was nothing like the genial and popular figure depicted by Evans.” At one dinner they both attended, Hobsbawm sang the praises of Castro’s Cuba; another dinner guest, a former British ambassador to Cuba, demurred, providing chapter and verse on Cuban perfidy, but to no avail. “All American propaganda, according to Hobsbawm.” There was more: Hobsbawm and Pryce-Jones just happened to be neighbors in a certain Welsh village, where, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Hobsbawm, like any half-mad local crank, “would stop to tell me at the top of his voice with expletives in front of surprised farmers how superior Communism was to the nationalism that replaced it.” Pryce-Jones concludes by underscoring a point that is somehow missed by people like Evans and the writers of Hobsbawm’s admiring obituaries: namely, that this was a man who, if the Soviets had conquered Britain and given him the power to do so, would have ordered them all sent to their deaths.

Shame on Cambridge!

Guy Burgess

What is it about Oxford and Cambridge? England’s two great universities have had their moments of glory, but they have also played an outsized part in the history of useful stoogery. In 1933, just a week after Hitler became chancellor of Germany, the members of the Oxford Union proclaimed, by a vote of 275 to 153, that they would “under no circumstances fight for…King and country.” During the next few years, five Cambridge students – Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross – were recruited as Soviet spies, and over the succeeding two decades or so they passed a remarkable amount of sensitive information to their KGB handlers.

Mahathir bin Mohamad

Both the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Union routinely invite famous figures from around the world to address them. Sometimes the guests are showbiz figures; sometimes they’re controversial leaders. In January, the Oxford Union welcomed Mahathir bin Mohamad, the prime minister of Malaysia. As Douglas Murray pointed out at the website of the Spectator, Mohamad, age 93, “is an exceptionally happy and virulent anti-Semite.”

Abraham Foxman

Indeed, Mohamad has said that the word “antisemitic” is “an invented term to prevent criticizing Jews for doing wrong.” Back in 1970, he wrote: “The Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.” In 2010, as Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League noted at the time, Mohamad “accus[ed] the ‘Jewish lobby’ of preventing the U.S. from ending the war in Afghanistan.”

“I am glad to be labeled antisemitic,” Mohamad stated in 2012. “How can I be otherwise, when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness towards not just their enemies but even towards their allies should any try to stop the senseless killing of their Palestinian enemies?”

Cambridge University

The Oxford Union event came and went without making major headlines. But on June 16, it was the Cambridge Union’s turn to host Mohamad. First Mohamad spoke for about twenty minutes. This was followed by an exchange with one of the student hosts, who deserves credit for challenging Mohamad. Right off the bat, he asked him about same-sex marriage, to which Mohamad, unsurprisingly, expressed opposition. Then the student queried Mohamed about his government’s past incarceration of people without trial.

Then came a question about Israel. Why did Mohamad ban Israeli athletes from an international swim meet in his country? Mohamad replied that Israel failed to show “respect” for other people. The Jewish state, he charged, had “stolen other people’s land, killed a lot of people, broken international laws, and done all kinds of things that have never been done by other countries.”

Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia

The interviewer did not let up. “Going beyond Israel,” he went on, “you’ve said some pretty hateful things about Jewish people in general.” He cited remarks Mohamad had made to the effect that the scale of the Holocaust had been “overstated” and that “Jewish people control the world by proxy.” Did Mohamad, the young man asked, still stand by those statements? Mohamad’s answer was, in effect, yes.

After a brief detour into the subject of Sudan, the interviewer returned to the subject of Jews. Was it fair, he asked, to blame all Jews for “the alleged crimes of the Israeli state”? Yes, said Mohamad, unless they explicitly distanced themselves from Israel’s actions. Confronted with his description of Jews as “hook-nosed,” Mohamed refused to apologize, explaining that it was natural to generalize about races and that only Jews seemed to resent this fact. On the positive side, Mohamad was willing to acknowledge that “not all Jews are bad” and even professed that he had “Jewish friends in Britain.” Lucky them!

Mohamad at Cambridge

Mohamad then took questions from the audience. Several topics were covered. Finally one of the audience members brought the conversation, once again, back to Jews, suggesting that Mohamad’s generalizations about Jews were unfair. Mohamad again defended his right to generalize. When the interviewer pushed him on this, Mohamad, at about forty-six minutes into the Cambridge Union’s YouTube of the event, came out with the statement that made the news. “I have some Jewish friends, very good friends,” he said. “They are not like the other Jews. That’s why they are my friends.”

And the reason this statement made the news is that the audience – or at least a sizable portion of it – laughed. Actually laughed. It did not sound like derisive laughter. It sounded like appreciative laughter.

Jeremy Corbyn

Now, imagine if the interviewee had been, say, Donald Trump, and he has said something similar about blacks: “I have some black friends. They’re not like other blacks. That’s why they’re my friends.” Would the Cambridge audience have laughed? Surely not. They would have booed, hissed, walked out en masse. But in response to Mohamad’s ugly comment about Jews, they laughed, and proceeded calmly to the next question.

Alas, it is not really all that surprising to encounter such behavior on the part of privileged young people in the Britain of 2019. This is a time and place, after all, where the head of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is, like Mahathir bin Mohamad, an outspoken anti-Semite, and where the Jew-hatred of Muslims is routinely granted a pass.

Angela and Ilhan: birds of a feather

Angela Davis in her youth

In June 2016, as we reported here at the time, Angela Davis was celebrated by a feminist art center at the Brooklyn Museum for being “first in her field.” What field would that be? Diehard Communism? As a young woman she joined the American Communist Party and studied at Humboldt University in what was then the Soviet puppet state of East Germany, and has remained a devotee of Marx and Engels ever since. Or is her field domestic terrorism? In the incident that made her famous, she bought a bunch of guns that were used several days later by some pals of hers who invaded a courtroom, took the judge, prosecutor, and three jurors hostage, and ended up in a shootout with cops in which the judge was killed, the prosecutor paralyzed for life, and one of the jurors injured – the perpetrators’ goal having been to compel the release of Angela’s then husband, a Black Panther, Communist, and armed robber named George Jackson, from Soledad State Prison.

Arrested for her role in this atrocity, Davis, despite massive evidence against her, was acquitted by a jury that was plainly swayed by dishonest propaganda that painted her as a victim of racial prejudice.

Angela and Fidel

Thus began her career as a public figure – specifically, as a full-time critic of democratic capitalism, booster of Communism, and outspoken anti-Semite. She palled around with Fidel Castro in Cuba and accepted the Lenin Peace Prize in Moscow. She publicly supported the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. Twice in the 1980s, she ran for Vice President of the United States on the Communist Party line. Meanwhile she pursued an academic career, and the American university having undergone a political sea change in the 1960s and 70s, her hard-line Communist credentials only helped her advance: from San Francisco State, where she taught Ethnic Studies, she proceeded to UC Santa Cruz, where she taught in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments and was appointed to the UC Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies. The website of Santa Cruz, where is now listed as a “Distinguished Professor Emerita,” provides a sugarcoated version of her criminal past and calls her “a living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era.” Nor has her fanatical Communism kept her from being a darling of the American left, which has promoted her tirelessly as a heroine of rights for women and black people.

She stood with Fidel. She stood with Brezhnev. Now she stands with Ilhan.

Which brings us to her latest activities. On April 30, Davis joined “scores of other black women” at a Capitol Hill rally in support of Ilhan Omar, the hijab-wearing, Somali-born freshman Congresswoman from Minnesota. As the website of the left-wing TV/radio program Democracy Now put it, Omar had “been at the center of numerous right-wing attacks since taking office.” Translation: since her election in November, Omar had made a series of chillingly anti-Semitic comments, and a great many decent-minded people had had the audacity to take offense. There had been an effort to pass a resolution condemning her, but members of her own party had circled the wagons and rewritten the resolution so that it made no explicit mention of Omar and was at least as much a statement about “Islamophobia” as about anti-Semitism. Speaking to Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, Davis maintained that Omar had been “targeted because she is an immigrant, because she is Muslim, because she is a courageous, bold black woman who speaks out in defense of Palestinians.” She added: “I am extremely proud that finally we’ve elected someone to Congress who speaks out in such a powerful way on behalf of black women, on behalf of Palestinians, on behalf of all people who are oppressed.” Birds of a feather flock together.

Angela (gray hair) seated behind Ilhan at the big rally

Davis’s support for Omar made headlines. The Huffington Post, describing Davis as a “civil rights icon,” whitewashed the comments that had gotten Omar in trouble and took Omar’s word for it that she had received a mountain of death threats. At The Nation, one Rebecca Pierce celebrated Davis and her confreres for creating “a force field of support” around Omar “in the face of Islamophobic incitement from the Trump White House.” UPI bought the death-threats claim too, running a piece under the headline “Activists rally in support of Rep. Ilhan Omar after death threats.”

As for the rally itself…well, stay tuned. We’ll get to that on Thursday.

The man who was America’s “most dangerous Communist”

Herbert Aptheker

Very few members of the general public remember him now, but in his time Herbert Aptheker (1915 – 2003) was a very big deal indeed, and to this day he is a revered figure in the academy. He is considered a pioneer in the historical study of slavery in America – more broadly, in the general history of black Americans, and, more narrowly, in the history of slave revolts.

But he was not just a scholar. He was a devout Communist. David Horowitz called him “the Communist Party’s most prominent Cold War intellectual.” J. Edgar Hoover once said that the FBI considered Aptheker “the most dangerous Communist in the United States.” In 2015, Harvey Klehr, the historian of American Communism and of Soviet spying in the US, described him as “an ideological fanatic who squandered his talents as a historian, gave slavish devotion to a monstrous regime, and lacked the intellectual courage to say publicly what he wrote privately.”

Harvey Klehr

Indeed, as Klehr noted, Aptheker “joined the American Communist party (CPUSA) in August 1939, after the Nazi-Soviet pact, just as thousands of other disillusioned Jewish Communists were leaving.” And good Stalinist that he was, he parroted Uncle Joe’s calls for peace with Germany and, when the Nazis violated the pact in 1941 by invading the USSR, immediately reversed his position, calling for the US to fight shoulder to shoulder with the USSR and UK.

Aptheker’s whole adult life revolved around the CPUSA. As a student he was active in CPUSA front organizations, taught at the CPUSA’s New York Workers School, and was a regular reader of the CPUSA’s Daily Worker and New Masses and a contributor to other CPUSA rags. After the war, in which he fought on the European front, Aptheker settled in the American South, becoming an “education worker” (which is something like a “community organizer”) and working for yet another CPUSA front. From 1948 to 1953 he was a staffer at the CPUSA’s literary journal, Masses and Mainstream; from 1953 to 1963 he edited the CPUSA’s ideological monthly, Political Affairs; and from 1957 to 1991, he was a member of the CPUSA’s national committee, on which he was considered was the party’s leading “theoretician.”

Aptheker, Hayden, and other Hanoi travel companions

While the USSR lasted, nothing shook his devotion to it. He was always prepared to defend Stalin’s atrocities, and when the Soviets invaded Hungary in 1956, he wrote a book justifying the invasion. He also penned a defense of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. If the Kremlin was incapable of doing anything of which Aptheker would not approve, the U.S., in his view, could do no right. For him, the Marshall Plan amounted to “renazification.” And of course the Vietnam War was, in his eyes, a pure act of imperialist aggression. In 1966 he and Tom Hayden – the California radical who was then Jane Fonda’s husband – made “solidarity” trips to Hanoi and Beijing.

Eldridge Cleaver

In 1966, while remaining a CPUSA stalwart, Aptheker ran for Congress as a member of the Peace and Freedom Party, whose candidate for president of the U.S., two years later, was Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panther leader and convicted rapist who would later become involved in a shootout with Oakland police and flee the country to escape a murder rap.

Eugene Genovese

Under the pro-Marxist dispensation on post-Vietnam American campuses, Aptheker’s academic career thrived: he taught at Bryn Mawr, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, at CUNY, at Yale, at Berkeley, and at Humboldt University in Berlin. Yet he should never have been considered a serious historian: he consistently twisted or suppressed or invented facts to suit his ideological purposes. (Recall that a habit of focusing on the worst of America, including its history of slavery, was a key CPUSA activity.) Klehr acknowledges that “Aptheker deserves credit as a pioneer in the field of African-American studies,” but notes that “his work later came under sustained attack by far more accomplished historians who argued that he had overemphasized the significance of slave revolts and misjudged the militancy of most slaves. Even his fellow Marxist, Eugene Genovese, who praised Aptheker and sought to integrate him into the historical profession, offered a devastating critique of his thesis.”

Bettina Aptheker

Aptheker did not quit the CPUSA until after the Soviet Union had fallen, leaving him without a lodestar. To be sure, once the USSR was dead, and exposed to the world as, indeed, an Evil Empire, he felt obliged to cough up a few public recriminations, admitting, for example, that the CPUSA (contrary to his decades-long claims) had always been controlled and funded by the Kremlin. “In short,” wrote Klehr, “he confirmed much of what the ‘right-wing reactionaries’ had said about the CPUSA and the Soviet Union for decades.”

There was more. After his death, in 2003, it emerged that this man who had spent most of his life celebrating a monstrous tyranny had himself, in his private life, been a monster: his daughter, Bettina, in a memoir, revealed that he had sexually abused her from the time she was a three-year-old toddler until she was thirteen years old.

Evil takes a variety of forms.