The Gray Lady – or the Lady in Red?

The headline could hardly have been more repulsive: “When Communism Inspired Americans.” It appeared in the New York Times on April 29. The article, by Vivian Gornick, was an unashamed exercise in nostalgia for the good old days of American Stalinism.

Vivian Gornick

The piece was reprehensible, but it should not have been surprising. After all, the Times, which is often referred to as the Gray Lady, has often, over the decades, seemed to deserve, rather, the nickname “The Lady in Red.” Recall, for example, that it was the home base of none other than Stalin-era Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty, this website’s own mascot, who, as we wrote in our mission statement, “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.”

Walter Duranty

Duranty, as we pointed out, “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.” Malcolm Muggeridge, who had been a Moscow correspondent at the same time, later maintained that the Times had published Duranty’s pro-Stalin propaganda even though it was “so evidently nonsensically untrue” not “because the Times was deceived” but because “it wanted to be so deceived.”

And Duranty was just the beginning. As Frances Martel noted at Breitbart, Duranty’s “style of fabrication” about Communism “continued well into the 1960s when writer Herbert Matthews leveraged his newspaper’s influence to promote the Cuban Revolution.” Throughout Castro’s reign, Martel observed, the Times “regaled Castro – who sent thousands, including Christians, LGBT Cubans, writers, and dissidents generally, to labor camps and killed thousands of others using firing squads – as a ‘victorious guerrilla commander in 1959’ and lauded the alleged ‘medical advances’ and ‘racial equality’ of communist Cuba in November when the Cuban government claimed Castro had finally died.”

Josef Stalin

The Times‘s publication of Gornick’s April 29 piece reminds us that the paper hasn’t changed its stripes. Nor has Gornick. The author of a 1978 book called The Romance of Communism, what she offered in her Times piece, all these decades later, was basically a thumbnail version of that book. She didn’t exactly defend or deny any of Stalin’s atrocities – she just swept them under the rug. Or, rather, she acted as if she and her family and their intimate circle of Communist Party members in New York had been totally unaware of all these well-publicized crimes against humanity until Khrushchev gave his so-called “secret speech” in February 1956. Yet despite those crimes, she sought, just as in her 1978 book, to depict mid-century American Communists not as totalitarians or world-class dupes but as moral exemplars – indeed, as the very noblest of souls.

Communism is every bit as vile an ideology as Nazism. Stalin took more even lives than Hitler. But while no self-respecting American newspaper would publish an old Nazi’s affectionate memoir of the Third Reich, the Times has always treated Communism differently. If Gornick’s piece wasn’t a good enough reminder of the Times‘s double standards on the Berlin and Moscow versions of totalitarianism, the newspaper actually published yet another such piece only a couple of weeks later. We’ll look at it tomorrow.

Halberstam: misrepresenting the Fifties

David Halberstam

This week we’re according long-overdue attention to the handful of sane voices that rose in dissent against the almost universal (and thoroughly nauseating and reality-challenged) reverence, in American establishment circles, for the supposed lifetime of accomplishments by journalist and historian David Halberstam, that manifested itself upon his death in 2007.

Yesterday we cited Mark Moyar, who in a well-informed necrology in National Review mad a convincing argument that outright lies by Halberstam and a couple of other influential Vietnam reporters had helped destabilize the South Vietnamese government, cripple its war effort, cause the ultimate failure of the U.S. endeavor to repel Communists from the South, and lead to the disgraceful mistreatment of GIs when they returned home from that tragically failed conflict. As we noted yesterday, while Vietnam vets were shunned and despised after the war, Halberstam, who had played as significant a role as any in causing them to be despised, himself became the postwar toast of the American cultural elite.  

Hilton Kramer

But it wasn’t all about Vietnam. Both before and after the war, Halberstam seemed determined to poison Americans’ minds, on every front, about their own country and culture. In 1993 Halberstam published a book called The Fifties. Reviewing it, the respected critic Hilton Kramer said that it “in many respects reads like an overloaded 1960s political cartoon-strip about the history of the 1950s.”

Josef Stalin

Although Stalin had still ruled the USSR during much of the 1950s, and although the Soviet invasion of Hungary – to crush an attempt at democratic reform – occurred in the middle of the decade, noted Kramer, Communism was mostly “kept safely offstage” in Halberstam’s account. No, instead of focusing on “the real presence of Communist power in the world of the 1950s,” Halberstam paid attention to what he apparently viewed as “misguided American responses to Communism.” Kramer noticed that the entry for Communism in the book’s “very detailed index” consisted entirely of the words: “see McCarthyism, McCarthy era; specific countries and conflicts.” In short, Halberstam, in a book about the 1950s, was less concerned with the massive and evil reality of Communism than with a small-scale and arguably misguided reaction to it in Washington, D.C. (Stalin himself, observed Kramer, got much less attention in the book than Marlon Brando.)

And what of Halberstam’s treatment of America in The Fifties? During that decade, the U.S. had by far the world’s strongest economy and its best schools and universities. As Kramer reminds us, America was “the unrivaled center of the international art scene,” was producing literature and works of modern dance that no other country could compete with, and enjoyed an intellectual life so rich that virtually no one in the Iron Curtain countries could even imagine it enough to envy it. (One might also mention American film, television, and popular music, which during that decade became, more than ever, the common, cherished possession of the entire world.)

But did Halberstam dwell on any of this in The Fifties? No. Instead, complained Kramer with absolute justification, he served up a “Left-liberal mythology,” a portrait of

an entire society in the grip of politically inspired paranoid fear, abject social conformism, empty-headed consumerism, and spiritual sterility….His is a mind so completely saturated with the cultural clichés of the 1960s…that no other ideas have ever been allowed to violate its shallow certainties. The sheer spaciousness that came into American life in the 1950s after the ordeals of the Depression era an the fearful trauma of the war years is a closed book to him.

Kramer is right on the money. The Fifties was an appalling book when it came out, and to page through it now is to be even more appalled than one was at the time by its lethal combination of naivete, dishonesty, and simplification, not to mention its fierce determination to embrace every last left-wing stereotype about the 1950s, however absurd. This readiness to blow with the wind and to give elite readers what they wanted was precisely what made David Halberstam a hero to so many of them.

More tomorrow.

Caleb Maupin, lackey for Putin and the mullahs

Working for the mullahs

We’ve spent the last couple of days exploring the career of Caleb Maupin, a small-town Ohio boy who became a Communist in fifth grade and went on to help organize Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in New York. The OWS movement, however, fizzled just as quickly as it had flared up. 

Maupin giving a talk

But if OWS was effectively dead, Maupin remained active. At some point he quit the Workers World Party, with which he had long been associated. In recent years, instead, he has appeared to be strongly aligned with the governments of Iran and Russia. In 2013 he appeared very briefly on CNN, speaking against U.S. participation in the war in Syria. The next year, he spoke at a conference in Iran. In 2015, he was on board an Iranian ship, the Shahed, claiming to be on a “humanitarian mission” to Yemen, although various countries charged that the ship was smuggling arms to the Houthi terrorist group. In addition, he has served as UN correspondent for Iran’s government-owned Press TV.

Venezuelans lining up for groceries

He has also been a reporter for RT (Russia Today), the English-language news, TV, and radio service of the Putin regime. In a December 2015 article for RT, he claimed that the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela was still alive and well: “Due to the policies of the Bolivarian government, it now costs less than $1 to fill a gas tank. Children in schools receive free breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Rural Venezuelans receive interest-free loans in order to buy their own land. Public transportation is extremely cheap – and free for senior citizens….In the Bolivarian neighborhoods of Caracas, one can have the kind of conversations about literature, world history, politics, religion and philosophy only found on college campuses in the United States.”

Ayatollah Ali Khameini

In another piece, he charged that “US society is based on money and capitalism with so much violence everywhere and so much state repression” and that it was thus “highly conducive to insanity; this is not a healthy society.” In yet another RT contribution, he spoke up for the Islamic Republic of Iran while smearing pro-democracy Iranian dissidents as liars and impostors.

Mao Zedong

In one September 2015 interview with Beijing-based Maoist Jeff J. Brown, Maupin praised Mao Zedong, celebrated the “great strides” China has taken in the last few decades as a (supposed) consequence of the revolution begun by Mao, and bonded with Brown over their shared contempt for America’s capitalism and “fascism.”

The fact that much of Maupin’s recent work has been published by the relatively obscure group Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), which will sponsor a debate on July 8 between Maupin and a member of the “alt right,” may indicate that his career is on the decline. But this seems improbable. Maupin is, after all, an ambitious and still very young man, and his association with SYNA more likely reflects his interest in mentoring a new generation of young American Communists to carry on the work of the revolution that has preoccupied him since his childhood.

From Ohio to Occupy Wall Street: Caleb Maupin

Yesterday we met Caleb Maupin, who became a Communist as a fifth grader in a small Ohio town and by 2010 was a prominent rabble-rouser in Cleveland and a leading local voice in the Workers World Party (WWP).

Maupin at a 2007 WWP conference

But the big city beckoned. A year later, Maupin was living in New York, and still an active WWP member. A July 2011 piece at the website of the International Communist Youth League (Fourth International) mentions Maupin’s attendance at a recent event held by the Spartacus Youth Club at the City College of New York. Maupin, identified in the article as “a writer for Workers World newspaper, the party organ of the reformist, pro-Democratic Party outfit of the same name,” was called upon at the event by Spartacists “to defend his party’s fawning over Obama and support to Democratic city councilman Charles Barron.”

Maupin did so by accusing the Spartacists of seeking “to be an isolated sect,” pure in its ideology but barren in its impact, whereas the WWP, in his view, were out to bring together diverse Leninist forces in an authentically productive class struggle “against a common enemy.” (The conflict, interestingly, is reminiscent of that which raged for many decades between strict Protestant fundamentalists – who out of a sense of theological purity chose to keep their distance from politics – and evangelicals, such as Jerry Falwell, who allied with Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, and others in the Republican Party in an effect to exert a degree of power in the mainstream culture.)

A 2011 Occupy Wall Street rally in New York

In New York, Maupin was involved in the 2011 planning of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and was also working, according to his profile at RT – the media empire run by the Putin regime in Russia – as “a youth organizer for the International Action Center.”

OWS at its height

Maupin turned up in a 2012 Reuters report about OWS’s first anniversary. It quoted Maupin, described as living in Queens, as follows: “A lot of media is saying that Occupy is dying down, but I think the fact that over 100 people were arrested this morning shows that Occupy is still part of the conversation.” He added: “We’ve been locked out, people my age don’t have much chance of getting a job, so we have to do something to get people’s attention.” A year later, Allison Kilkenny of The Nation took note of the second anniversary of OWS, which by this point was being described in the past tense. Again Maupin made an appearance, with Kilkenny describing him as having been “arrested during a couple Occupy Wall Street protests and participated in the original General Assemblies.”

Caleb Maupin, small-town Commie

Caleb Maupin

On May 19, we took a brief look at a collegiate Communist named Dakotah Lilly who, defending chavismo on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, was identified as a representative of Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA). In the article we mentioned one Caleb T. Maupin, who, on SYNA’s website, also championed Chavez-style socialism, actually claiming that “millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process.”

We were curious about this Caleb T. Maupin, so we looked into him. Born around 1988, he grew up in Orrville, a town of 8000 in Wayne County, Ohio, where, according to a 2010 profile in Cleveland Scene, he was converted to Communism in fifth grade – yes, fifth grade – after reading The Communist Manifesto. He soon “began contacting local socialist groups about how he could get involved” and before his teens were over had joined the Workers World Party.

Adam Gluntz

Studying political science at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, a Cleveland suburb, Maupin met Adam Gluntz, a fellow student who was then a conservative, and argued politics with him until he had turned Gluntz into a fellow Communist. Maupin thereupon “founded the local chapter of FIST,” a nationwide radical organization whose full name is Fight Imperialism – Stand Together. A 2008 article in Workers World recounted his participation in a recent debate at Baldwin-Wallace on the subject of “Socialism vs. Capitalism.” During the debate, Maupin argued that “socialist countries, particularly Cuba, have dealt with and rid themselves of the products of capitalism—including racism, sexism, homophobia, unemployment, and lack of healthcare, education, housing and social programs.”

Reinaldo Arenas

Anyone who knows anything about any socialist countries, especially Cuba, would be able to knock down every one of these assertions with dispatch. Just to choose one: to claim that Cuba has rid itself of homophobia is to spit on the lives of all the gay people whom the Castro regime imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Has Maupin, we wonder, ever read the late Reinaldo Arenas’s autobiography Before Night Falls, about the torment of being gay in Castro’s Cuba?  

At some point, Maupin “dropped out of school to focus full time on activism.” It was shortly thereafter that the piece in Cleveland Scene appeared. It begins as follows:

Caleb Maupin would like you to know he’s not a super-villain, despite what you may have seen on TV. A communist? Sure. But he’s not out to indoctrinate your children. Not yet.

The 22-year-old is chatty and affable, a skinny pale kid with a burning bush of unruly red hair. When it comes to talking politics, he’s obviously done his homework: facts, dates, obscure legislation, the fates of forgotten labor leaders, snippets of protest songs — in conversation he drops all forms of arcana from the annals of the American left. In part, he’s learned the game as a careful student of history, but he also sees himself as an inheritor of the radical tradition.

The article described Maupin and Gluntz as “a straight-faced Laurel and Hardy of liberal radicalism” who “attend nearly every public demonstration held in the area, from immigration rallies to protests against police brutality,” and had thereby “quickly become fixtures in this crowd.”

But that was only the beginning. Maupin was about to leave the small pond of Cuyahoga County for the big time.

Student fascism at Evergreen State College

Evergreen State College

Founded in 1971 and boasting an acceptance rate of 98.9%, Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, has welcomed fashionable radical thinking from the outset. Its official motto (we kid you not) is that tired Sixties mantra “Let it all hang out” (in Latin, Omnia Extares). It calls itself a “progressive college,” whatever that means. It prides itself on not giving out grades, on not requiring students to declare majors (it doesn’t have conventional academic departments), and on not having any required courses.

Mumia Abu-Jamal

In 1999, the commencement speaker at Evergreen’s graduation ceremony was cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose salvation from the death penalty was a trendy left-wing cause at the time. (In 2001, his death sentence was commuted to life without parole.) Among the college’s most famous alumni, meanwhile, is Rachel Corrie, the pro-Palestinian activist who, in 2003, while engaged in an aggressive International Solidarity Movement effort to prevent the Israeli Defense Forces from destroying a tunnel used by terrorists to smuggle weapons, was accidentally run over by a bulldozer. Her death under these circumstances made her an instant martyr to the anti-Israeli movement, and turned a photograph of her, screaming with rage and tearing up an American flag, into an iconic image.

Anyway, that’s the kind of student Evergreen produces.

Rachel Corrie

In recent months, U.S. campuses have been the center of a great deal of discord, with vociferous and sometimes violent groups of left-wing or anarchist students trying to shut down speakers they don’t like or have professors fired for making politically incorrect statements. In the process, these students have often caused harm to the targets of their wrath and committed acts of arson and vandalism. In late May, it was Evergreen’s turn to make national headlines. At the center of the story was biology professor Bret Weinstein. Now, one of the annual “progressive” traditions at Evergreen is something called the “Day of Absence,” when black students and professors voluntarily stay off campus and instead hold meetings and discussions elsewhere to discuss racism and tolerance.

Bret Weinstein

This year, however, the organizers of the “Day of Absence” decided to switch things around – instead of allowing blacks to skip class, they ordered whites to do so. Weinstein refused, and explained why: “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles…and a group encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.” He added that he would be on campus that day doing his job and that he would encourage other whites on campus to do the same. “On a college campus,” he wrote, “one’s right to speak – or to be – must never be based on skin color.”

Weinstein has also come under fire for opposing a recommendation by Evergreen’s Equity and Inclusion Council that all faculty hires be defended by the administration on ground of “equity,” a vague term apparently referring to racial balance or some such thing. Weinstein’s attitude toward this policy proposal was that it’s a mistake to place such emphasis on superficial attributes. “The most important thing,” he said, “is that the person in front of the room knows something about the subject and has insight in teaching.” In response to these thoroughly reasonable positions, Weinstein became the target of absolute rage on the part of a large group of Evergreen students. What exactly happened? Tune in tomorrow.

Osama’s favorite lawyer: Lynne Stewart

Lynne Stewart

As we saw yesterday, lawyer Lynne Stewart, who died on March 7, was caught passing messages between her client Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” and his terrorist followers. What happened next? Quite properly, she was arrested and charged with providing support to terrorists. And what happened after that? Quite predictably, a veritable army of far-left organizations, socialist publications, and terrorist front groups shrieked in protest. So did Pravda. Among the donors to her defense committee was George Soros’s Open Society Institute. And guess who recorded a videotape in which he championed her cause? Why, none other than Osama bin Laden himself.

Not surprisingly, the folks at The Nation were at the forefront of Stewart’s defense. David Cole wrote: “Stewart, a 65-year-old who has never committed a violent act, now faces twenty to thirty years in prison. Do you feel safer?” Cole accused the Justice Department of “turn[ing] an administrative infraction into a terrorism conviction that, unless reversed, will likely send Stewart to prison for the rest of her life.”

Judge John Koeltl

Stewart’s trial dragged on for years. She committed perjury. Her sentencing didn’t take place until 2006. At that event, the judge, John Koeltl, showed that he, too, had a soft spot for Stewart. Instead of sentencing her to 30 years, as required by official guidelines, he gave her 28 months and – perversely – praised her for her “public service…to the nation.” She promptly began gloating over her victory and resumed consorting with terrorists and other criminals.

Judge Robert Sack

Judge Robert Sack of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was not impressed. “From the moment she committed the first act for which she was convicted, through her trial, sentencing and appeals,” Sack wrote, “Stewart has persisted in exhibiting what seems to be a stark inability to understand the seriousness of her crimes.” In 2010, Sacks’s court asked Koeltl to reconsider the sentence. Koeltl, who himself had been appalled by Stewart’s appalling conduct and lack of contrition, agreed that he’d made a mistake and upped her prison term to ten years. “Lynne Stewart,” wrote Matthew Vadum, celebrating the tougher sentence, “is a terrorist and a traitor and ideally she should have received the death penalty.” His logic: by conveying instructions from Rahman to his followers, Stewart “became a terrorist in her own right and back in the good old days would have been put to death, as her fellow traitors the Rosenbergs were.”

Dick Gregory

But in 2013, when she said she was dying of cancer, Koeltl was pressured by the Obama Administration and by a bevy of Stewart’s radical allies to release her on “compassionate grounds.” Dick Gregory went on a hunger strike, vowing not to eat until Stewart was free. Koeltl caved. Stewart was allowed to go home. A socialist newspaper later recalled the joy this kindled among Stewart’s fans: “Our Lynne, the people’s lawyer, woman warrior and courageous freedom fighter, finally was coming home.” After her release, Stewart resumed her career of standing up for murderers. Indeed, last year Michelle Malkin reported that Stewart was “as unrepentant and unapologetic as the rest of her rotten hippie pals in the bloodthirsty Weather Underground, Black Liberation Army and Black Panther movement” and was continuing “to endorse murdering her ideological enemies in the name of peace and social justice.” In her last years, Stewart celebrated the new wave of cop-killers, calling them “avengers” whose actions “spoke for some of us” and who were “avenging deaths that are never and have never been avenged since the ’60s and ’70s.”

Rahman died only 18 days before Stewart did. “He was a personification of an American hero,” she told the New York Times.

Lynne Stewart & the “Blind Sheikh”: a love affair

Lynne Stewart

Over the course of her career, Lynne Stewart – who died on March 7 and whose career we began looking at yesterday – defended Weather Underground cop-killers David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin. Black Panther Willie Holder, and Mafioso Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. But she had her standards. She wouldn’t represent a Nazi or a white supremacist. But she admired Islamic radicals. She saw armed jihad as the solution to oppression in the Middle East, and had no problem with the prospect of victorious jihadists introducing sharia law into conquered territories. She even said she would have taken Osama bin Laden as a client. She came close: her most famous client was Omar Abdel-Rahman, the famous “blind sheikh” who plotted violent acts against the U.S. and whose own terrorist crew, the Islamic Group, was closely tied to al-Qaeda.

Omar Abdel-Rahman

Rahman was a key figure behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the USS Cole bombing in 2000. His public statements made clear his desire for the destruction of America and the killing of as many Americans as possible. When he was given life in prison in 1996 for his role in the World Trade Center attack and on unsuccessful efforts to blow up United Nations Headquarters and the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels in New York City, he vowed that “infidel” America would “be destroyed” and that “nothing [would] remain.” His life sentence caused Stewart to break into tears. She actually saw this bloodthirsty creature “as a fighter for national liberation on behalf of a people oppressed by dictatorship and American imperialism.” And she admired – believe it or not – “his honesty, his strength of character, his teasing humor.” (In 2003, she called Rahman “a very learned scholar” who “deserved to have a platform, deserved not to be entombed in the middle of America and not able to speak.”) In an effort to obtain Rahman’s release, his followers carried out the 1997 Luxor massacre in which, as Daniel Greenfield has noted, “European tourists had their ears and noses cut off before being killed.”

Remains of European victims of the Luxor massacre await repatriation.

After Rahman was locked up, Stewart was allowed to visit him on the condition that she not act as a conduit between him and anybody on the outside. But she was soon caught on tape transmitting coded messages to and from his jihadist comrades. Michelle Malkin has spelled out Stewart’s crimes: “Stewart ferried messages to the Blind Sheikh from fellow jihadist Rifa’l Ahman Tara urging him to support a new wave of Islamic violence in Egypt – and then smuggled out a coded order to his followers lifting a ceasefire between his terrorist group and the Egyptian government.” On surveillance videos, moreover, as the Middle East Quarterly explained, “Stewart could be seen shaking a water jar or tapping the table while [the translator] and the sheikh exchanged communications that were then later disseminated to the sheikh’s followers.”

In other words, Stewart made it possible for Rahman to send out the word to terrorists in Egypt to resume killing. What happened next? Tune in tomorrow.

The adorable Maoist: Lynne Stewart

Lynne Stewart

She was a fire-breathing left-wing radical who championed revolutionary violence and gave aid and comfort to Islamic terrorists. But when Lynne Stewart died on March 7 at age 77, many obituarists in the mainstream media strove to soften her image. Not all of them, to be sure. The article sent out by the Associated Press, to its credit, made a point of mentioning that Stewart’s clients “included members of the Black Panthers, Weather Underground leaders, a former hit man and a man accused of trying to kill nine police officers,” that Stewart “was a longtime believer in armed struggle as a way of fostering political revolution,” and that she had described “the killings of police officers…as ‘a deterrent’ against the killings of unarmed civilians by police.” Brief though it was, the AP obit provided a pretty good picture of the kind of woman Lynne Stewart had been.

By contrast, while telling much of the truth about Stewart, Joseph P. Fried, writing in the New York Times, seemed determined to avoid some of the most damning facts about her and to whitewash others, all the while stirring in as many heartwarming and humanizing details as possible: “A former librarian and teacher, she had taken up the law in the cause of social justice after seeing the squalor in the area around the public school in Harlem where she taught. She built a reputation for representing the poor and the reviled, usually for modest, court-paid fees.” And then there was this: “Belying the image of a dangerous radical, Ms. Stewart, a short, round-faced woman, often arrived at court wearing a New York Mets cap and a floral-print housedress, dangling a cloth tote bag rather than the lawyer’s typical briefcase and inevitably drawing a clutch of news photographers.” Adorable!

Neither the AP nor the Times mentioned Mao. They should have, for it is important to know that Stewart was a convinced, passionate Maoist. She spoke affectionately not only about Mao but also about Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh. There appears to be no record of her ever expressing concern about the millions of people murdered by Mao, or about the lower but still impressive death tolls racked up by Castro and Ho. “I don’t have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous,” she said in 2002. The road to utopia, after all, is a bloody one.

Nor did the AP or the Times mention Stewart’s take on 9/11. She defended the terrorists’ actions. She called the atrocity an “armed struggle.” The closest she came to criticizing any aspect of it was when she opined that the Pentagon was a better target than the World Trade Center. But she wasn’t making a moral judgment – just a strategic one.

More tomorrow.

Honoring a murderer in New York

The aftermath of the Fraunces Tavern bombing

Three facts. First, the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN) was a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group that was dedicated to Puerto Rican independence and that, between 1974 and 1983, killed several people in over a hundred bomb attacks within the United States. The most famous of these actions was a 1975 bombing that took four lives at the historic Fraunces Tavern in New York City.

Oscar López Rivera

Second, Oscar López Rivera was an FALN leader who was arrested in 1980, sentenced to 55 years in federal prison in 1981, and released on May 17 as the result of a commutation order issued by Barack Obama three days before the end of his presidency. President Clinton had offered to release him as far back as 1999 on the condition that he renounce violence – but López Rivera refused. Obama placed no such condition on him.

Third, the organizers of New York City’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade announced in early May that the parade, set to take place on June 11, would honor López Rivera as a “National Freedom Hero.”

Joseph Connor

Joseph Connor, the son of one of the four people killed in the Fraunces Tavern bombing, Frank Connor, responded to the news with a furious op-ed in the New York Post. “The idea is truly sickening,” he wrote. Reminding readers that New York City had been the setting for the “most horrific” of all of FALN’s bombings, he asked: “Why would anyone in New York salute this man — particularly in the midst of our nation’s war on terrorists?”

Melissa Mark-Viverito

Even more appalling, the announcement of this twisted tribute to López Rivera had been made by a public official, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, at “the very site of the most horrific terror attack in our nation’s history,” namely the 9/11 assault on the Twin Towers. Coincidentally, Frank Connor’s godson, Steve Schlag, was one of the over 3000 victims of that assault. And that wasn’t the only grim coincidence: the Twin Towers, Joseph Connor noted, was the location of a 1977 threat by FALN that “prompted an evacuation” of both towers.

So it is, wrote Joseph Connor, that “the city in which our father was born, raised, worked and was murdered — a city bloodied by the most savage of all terrorist attacks on 9/11 — will play host to honoring” a terrorist with the blood of New Yorkers on his hands.

Fraunces Tavern

As Connor pointed out, López Rivera’s terrorism never had the slightest thing to do with freedom. Puerto Ricans have frequently had the opportunity to vote on the status of their island – independence, statehood, or a continuation of its unique commonwealth status? “Never more than 5 percent of them have ever voted for independence from America,” wrote Connor, “and in 2012 fully 60 percent voted for statehood.”

No, what López Rivera was fighting for was not freedom but “subjugation in a Cuba-like state.” After all, another notorious FALN member, William Morales, “has been a guest of Cuba for over 30 years.” New Yorkers, maintained Connor, “should be fuming. The NYPD and FDNY should refuse to participate.”

As of this writing, there’s no news about the NYPD or FDNY pulling out of the parade. But on May 16, it was reported that Goya Foods, America’s “oldest and best-known Hispanic food company,” had withdrawn support from the parade because of the tribute to López Rivera. But Univision, Telemundo, SBS, JetBlue, Coca-Cola, AT&T, McDonald’s, and the New York Yankees all stayed on as sponsors.

As the date of the parade approaches, we’ll keep an eye on developments.